More than 120 descendants of some of the former Borough of Tynemouth’s 1,800 casualties in the Great War attended a service of dedication when a unique war memorial in the UK was unveiled in the Memorial Garden at the Linskill Centre on Sunday, October, 25.
Set in a restored internal quadrangle garden, the Memorial carries the names of more than 1,500 men lost in the war. What makes this memorial unusual, and probably unique in the United Kingdom, is the listing of men by their last known home address at the time of the war.
This recording of the borough’s tremendous loss ‘street-by-street’ allows the full impact of the community’s sacrifice to be illustrated.
Many of the long demolished terraced streets, almost lost to living memory or completely rebuilt with modern housing, are featured in the four large memorial boards, showing streets that lost upwards of 20 or 30 men of all ages, from late 60s to boys barely 14 years old, killed serving in Merchant Navy vessels.
Many of these men lived at addresses for which we are not able now, 100 years on, to place one of the Blue plaques we have been installing since 2014. More than 150 of a possible 560 have been fixed on men’s former homes. The remainder will be installed as we get permissions from current house owners and funds can be raised to realise the full programme. All men are listed on the new memorial.
In his address to those gathered in the Memorial Garden, Dr Dan Jackson, of the project, said: “Tynemouth’s losses, as staggering as they are, are in one sense typical of the huge sacrifices made by north east England in the Great War.
“Yet, as our research has revealed these men were more than just numbers – they were real people, with real families; families who loved them and grieved for them for decades. They were men from Addison Street above the docks in North Shields, and men from the leafier streets of Tynemouth village.
“They were privileged young men, like the two officer sons of Sir James Knott (James and Basil), but they were also ordinary working men, like the dockyard worker, Robert Hogg, a Northumberland Fusilier, killed in 1916, whose officer wrote to Robert’s wife after his death to say that, ‘he was loved here by every one of us and was surely the coolest and most cheery man in the trenches, always chatting cheerily to those whose nerves had given way under the strain. I was near him before he died and heard him say to someone, keep your heart up, lad, you’ll pull through this all right; what has to be will be. Then he was hit. I took hold of his hands and asked if he knew me, but he only murmured, my poor wife, my poor bairns.’ He left his wife Sarah and their six children in Chirton West View.
“This is the calibre of the men that Tynemouth lost.”
The Memorial garden is open to the public from 9am to 5pm every day at the Linskill Centre. Royal British Legion poppy crosses can be obtained at the project workroom.
The Northumbria project’s information centre in Front Street, Tynemouth, is open on Sundays for the autumn.
Anyone with information about anyone killed or died as a result of the war from across all areas of the modern borough of North Tyneside is asked to contact the project. The Project Workroom at Room B9, Linskill Community Centre, Trevor Terrace, North Shields is open from 10am to 4pm each weekday for visitors and anyone interested to learn how to get involved. Our address for correspondence is c/o Essell, 29 Howard Street, North Shields NE30 1AR.