Project looks into anniversary of sea battle

An image depicting the Battle of Jutland in May 31 to June 1, 1916.
An image depicting the Battle of Jutland in May 31 to June 1, 1916.

THIS week the names featured in the Tynemouth World War 1 Commemoration Project’s list of casualties from the Tynemouth Roll of Honour have been drawn from those who died at the battle of Jutland on May 31 to June 1, 1916.

That battle was the greatest naval engagement of the First World War.

Although the outcome was seen as a victory for the Royal Navy – the German High Seas Fleet never came out again to fight a major engagement, and remained ‘bottled up’ in port – the Royal Navy’s losses far exceeded those of the German fleet.

More than 6000 British sailors were killed or drowned and six capital ships totally lost.

Amongst those casualties were a number of men from Tynemouth, including former boys who had been educated on the training ship Wellesley.

The Wellesley, a redundant Royal Navy hulk, was destroyed by fire at her moorings off the Western Quay at North Shields in March, 1914, with the boys being accommodated on land thereafter.

One of several training ships for young boys, she was a part of a Victorian tradition of taking youths, some at risk of falling into criminal ways, and giving them an education from which many would graduate into a career in the navy and merchant fleets.

The Wellesley would, over many years, be transformed into an ‘Approved School’ operated by Sunderland Borough Council and was finally housed in the former naval base at Blyth.

Recently, following Wellesley’s closure some years ago, Sunderland City Council put up for auction a collection of artefacts and memorabilia related to the Wellesley.

Fortunately this was saved from being broken up when two local men purchased the bulk of the collection.

One of them, Anthony Smithson, is a member of the commemoration project and proprietor of the Keelrow Bookshop in North Shields.

At present the artefacts and materials are in the care of Tyne and Wear Museums and Archives Service with a view to being exhibited in 2014.

The Tynemouth World War 1 Commemoration Project hopes to be able to link into that proposal and include the results of its research and enquiries into the many Wellesley boys who were recorded in a special section of the Tynemouth Roll of Honour.

There are wide-ranging origins of some of the casualties who were connected to the Wellesley, and information is sought to fill in missing details of the histories of the men and boys lost in a naval engagement which could have had dramatic consequences for the British and allied war effort had the German fleet been victorious.

As was said at the time by Winston Churchill of the senior British naval commander – Admiral of the Fleet and First Sea Lord, John Rushworth Jellicoe – he was the one man who could “lose the war in an afternoon’’.

THIS week’s list is drawn from men on the borough Roll of Honour who were killed or lost at the Battle of Jutland on May 31 to June 1, 1916.

W – Atkinson, William, age 23, Stoker 1st Class HMS Queen Mary, Royal Navy, son of William and Sarah, of 203 Westmorland Road, Newcastle.

W – Bennet J, HMS London, no other details.

Cross, Frederick, age 27, Leading Stoker, HMS Defence, Royal Navy, 33 Easten Terrace, East Howdon, husband of Katie.

Graham, James F, age 24, Able Seaman, HM Queen Mary, RNVR, son of late James and Isabella, husband of Margaret H, 4 James Square, Hudson Street.

Gunn, William Foster, age 25, Stoker, HMS Defence, RNR, 31 North Street, Milburn Place, son of late William Foster and Margaret Gunn.

W – Hold, Albert, age 17, Boy 1st Class, HMS Invincible, Royal Navy, son of Mrs M Hold

Eston, North Yorkshire.

W – Houghland Ernest, Able Seaman, HMS Indefatigable, Royal Navy.

W – Keithley, N, HMS Indefatigable, Details needed.

W – Kelly, James (?), Able seaman, HMS Queen Mary, No. J/20255. Positive identification required. One of 3 named ‘J Kelly’ on the ship, also John Patrick and James Patrick

W – Michaux, James, age 18,

Able Seaman, HMS Indefatigable, Royal Navy, adopted son of RJ Walker, of 25 Argyle Street, Oxford.

Smith Francis, age 24, Leading Stoker, HMS Defence, Royal Navy, husband of Daisy Winifred.

W – Tate, Edward, age 19, Able Seaman, HMS Queen Mary, son of late Robert and Isabella, of Byker.

Thomas, Thomas John T, age 25, Naval Schoolmaster, HMS Defence, Royal Navy, son of John and Margery of Bangor, Carnarvonshire.

Weatherstone, Robert Hunter, age 21, Able Seaman, HMS Indefatigable, RNVR, son of Joseph Aaron, of 55 Appleby Street.

White, Frederick Ernest, age 32, Warrant Engineer, HMS Queen Mary, RNR, son of F and E White, of 26 Column Road, Cardiff, born Middlesbrough – what connected him to North Shields?


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

W – Former Wellesley Boy

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.