No respite in the maritime toll

The shrapnel damaged galley chimney of the ST Ranter which is displayed in the Brigade Watch House at the Spanish Battery, Tynemouth
The shrapnel damaged galley chimney of the ST Ranter which is displayed in the Brigade Watch House at the Spanish Battery, Tynemouth

A PARTICULAR feature of the enormous loss suffered by the community in Tynemouth borough during the First World War was the significant loss of life at sea amongst men serving in the Royal Navy as well as with the merchant navy and fishing fleets.

This also meant that many of those killed were well beyond the age for military service but still found themselves in the ‘frontline’ at sea.

William Dixon, on the ss Ilvington Court, was 63 when he lost his life, and a member of the crew of the ST Ranter, Robert Newson, was aged 61.

1917 had been the year of the greatest loss of merchant shipping (by tonnage), as the U-boat menace threatened the very continuation of the war and forced the introduction of the convoy system to stem the unsustainable loss of merchant vessels.

The casualties list for this week shows the scale of loss in just one month, when men from several merchant ships were killed.

In addition, two trawlers fishing ten miles north east of the mouth of the Tyne were attacked by a German torpedo boat destroyer on December 12.

The steam trawler John M Smart was lost with all hands but the North Shields vessel ST Ranter got back to port though badly damaged.

Unfortunately three crew members from that Shields fishing boat were killed by gunfire at sea and have graves in Preston Cemetery, pictured.

Robert Newson was the husband of the late Margaret and father of seven children.

A copy of the family tree and other information held by the Local Studies Section of North Shields Library shows that he was to be buried on the following Saturday with the funeral cortege leaving from the residence of his daughter, (probably Priscilla Wright) at 4 Laet Street.

Robert was the second member of his family to be lost in the war – his son, also named Robert, aged 34, of 73 Howdon Road, was lost in the Admiralty trawler John High on the Russian convoy service in August 1916, (News Guardian, August 18, 2011).

The Tynemouth Roll of Honour also shows Joseph Newson, of the Northumberland Fusiliers, who died at home at 4 Laet Street on August, 23, 1918 – the residence of his sister.

No record for him is shown on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission registers and it may be that he died after discharge from the army.

The project would be grateful to receive any information about him from relatives of the family with knowledge of the history of this sad loss of three loved ones.

The project is grateful to Chris Lambert, historian of the Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade, for information about the crews of the two trawlers and the photograph of the shrapnel damaged galley chimney of the ST Ranter, inset below, which is displayed in the Brigade Watch House at the Spanish Battery, Tynemouth, and is a potent reminder of the conflict almost 100 years ago.

If anyone wishes to get involved in the project they are welcome to attend the workroom at Linskill Community Centre and see some of the materials already being built up into what it is hoped will be a comprehensive record of the contribution and sacrifices of local families in the First World War.

The workroom will be closed from noon on Friday, December 23, until 10am on January 3.

To find out more about the project and how you can assist, call into the workroom on weekdays from 10am to 4pm at Room B9, Linskill Centre, Trevor Terrace, North Shields.

THIS week’s casualty list gives details of men who were killed or died in December 1917.

The following were lost in an attack by a German destroyer on two trawlers on December 12, 1917 – see story.

St John M Smart – lost all hands. Commemorated Tower Hill Memorial.

Coulter, George Wharton, age 43, deckhand, son of George and Harriet, born Limerick.

Kenny, William John, age 28, 2nd Engineer, 2 Pant Street, son of William John and Mary Elizabeth, husband of Thora Kenny (nee Pedersen), 4 Beacon Street.

Muddle, George Owen, age 53, 1st engineer, son of the late Charles, husband of Joanna (nee Smith), 35 Coburg Street, served under alias as Reuben Morley.

Walkington, Alfred, age 41, cook, son of George William and late Isabella, husband of Annie Maria, 7 Howard Street, born Bridlington.

ST Ranter – returned to port badly damaged, three fatalities buried in Preston Cemetery.

Newson, Robert, age 61, 2nd hand, son of Benjamin, of Lowestoft, husband of late Margaret Agnes, born Lowestoft.

Taylor, John, age 41, deckhand, husband of Margaret Jane Taylor, 19 Dockwray Square.

Waddell, James Robert, age 29, chief engineer, RNR, son of Robert and Sarah Ann, husband of Mary Ann (nee Harding), 27 Upper Queen Street.

Other casualties:

Cooper, Arthur Edward, age 21, sailor, ss Euphorbia (North Shields), LAS, 1st, son of late Frank Sphor Cooper and Amelia, born Malta.

Dixon, William Henry, age 63, carpenter, ss Ilvington Court, 6th, (Liverpool), son of late John and Elizabeth, husband of Isabella (nee Bell), 47 Norfolk Street, born Penshaw. Tower Hill Memorial.

Lillie, John Usher, age 23, 4th engineer, ss Earl of Elgin (Glasgow), torpedoed, 7th, 53 Brinkburn Street, East Howdon, son of John William and late Katherine. Tower Hill Memorial.

Mather, James, Trimmer, RNR, HMT Apley, KIA, 12th, 24 Front Street. Chatham Memorial.

Muckle, Thomas, age 35 carpenter, ss Euphorbia, LAS, 1st, son of the late William Peter and Catherine. Tower Hill Memorial.

Redford, Ralph, age 19, trimmer, Merchant Marine Reserve, HMS Stephen Furness, LAS, 13th, son of James and Bella, adopted son of Mary Murphy, of 104 Vine Street, Wallsend.

Ridley, Cuthbert John, age 20, 3rd mate, ss Santa Amalia (London), LAS, 28th, son of the late Cuthbert Weatherby Ridley and Harriet Emma (nee Murray). Tower Hill Memorial.


KIA – killed in action

DOW – died of wounds

LAS – lost at sea

NF – Northumberland Fusiliers

DLI – Durham Light Infantry

RND – Royal Naval Division

RNR – Royal Naval Reserve

RFA – Royal Field Artillery

n Anyone with information on this week’s list or who wants to find out more about the project, should visit, e-mail or write to Tynemouth World War 1 Commemoration Project, c/o Essell, 29 Howard Street, North Shields, NE30 1AR.