Plaque returned to family of war hero

Alan Fidler, project co-ordinator, Northumbria World War One Commemoration Project, returning the Death plaque for Peter Smith to his great nephew, Peter Smith, of North Shields.
Alan Fidler, project co-ordinator, Northumbria World War One Commemoration Project, returning the Death plaque for Peter Smith to his great nephew, Peter Smith, of North Shields.

A memento of a family’s loss more than 100 years ago was re-united with relatives after being found in a North Shields scrapyard in 2012.

Peter Smith was reported as missing in a trench raid on the eve of the great battle of the Somme in 1916, with his death only presumed in April 1917 after no trace of him had been found.

Families of men and women who died in the war were issued with a printed illuminated scroll from the Kin and a substantial bronze plaque, known as ‘The Dead Man’s penny’.

Peter’s plaque, inscribed ‘Peter Atkinson’ as he had taken the name of his stepfather before enlisting, was affixed to his family’s home in Lansdowne Terrace, North Shields, until the new owners replaced the door, with the plaque consigned to a scrapyard.

It was found by a resident in 2012, who took it to the Tynemouth World War One Commemoration Project and after a mention in the project’s weekly article in the News Guardian in May 2012, a relative of Peter Smith came forward with a lot of information about his great uncle.

Now, along with 300 other local men of Tynemouth Borough, Peter Smith (Atkinson) has had one of the project’s blue memorial plaques placed at his former home.

Last Sunday, three of Peter’s family gathered as the blue plaque was placed on the former North Shields home, and the Project returned to their care the bronze plaque that had so nearly been lost forever from family possession.

In a final twist of fate and co-incidence the current owner of the house in Lansdowne Terrace, who only moved in recently, and who had no knowledge of the story of the bronze plaque, remarked, after checking the Northumbria WWI project’s database, that she had been amazed to find that she was born (in 1984) exactly one hundred years to the day after Peter Smith. The Northumbria Project will be at the Victorian Christmas Market in Northumberland Square this coming weekend with WW1 publications and products, including bottles of its Tyneside Tommy Ale that carry the now famous ‘dog tag’ labels telling of individual men with interesting war histories.