Project prepares for a busy year ahead of anniversary

Few people can have failed to notice the upsurge in media coverage of the government’s plans for the marking of the forthcoming centenary of the First World War.

It will be commemorated at key dates over the four anniversary years of the conflict.

Here in North Tyneside, the Tynemouth project is launching its commemorations with a series of lectures beginning on October 9 at Northumbria University.

In conjunction with the history department, the project will welcome Professor Sir Hew Strachan, a member of the government’s commemorations working party, who will deliver the first lecture.

He is perhaps the leading authority on the history of the conflict alive today and the project said it is delighted he will give a lecture.

Further lectures will follow at monthly intervals – with full details on the project’s website.

The project has a number of outreach activities and these have been enhanced recently by the decision of Norham High School to dedicate a week of study to the war in all its aspects for students from certain year groups, which will take place in the autumn term.

The project will be working with the school to deliver a programme which puts the war into the context of North Shields – the area in which many of Norham’s pupils live today, in some cases in the houses of men who died.

Local playwright Peter Mortimer is writing a play concerning 19-year-old William Hunter, who was shot for military offences in 1916.

Peter hopes to be working with pupils from Norham as part of the development of the work and may be able to involve some pupils in the production planned for September 2014.

The play will be staged at the Linskill Community Centre in North Shields, only a few hundred yards from Hunter’s home in Coronation Street.

The project has plans for a major exhibition of stories of local men and materials collected from relatives and other sources; to be staged over three months starting in July 2014.

This is to be held in the exhibition area of the newly refurbished customer service centre and library in Northumberland Square.

The major focus of 2014 for the project will be the launch of the database of biographical data on the almost 2,000 casualties of the war, which will be open to public access on the internet from June 28, 2014 – the anniversary of the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria.

This will be the culmination of more than three years of effort by more than 50 local volunteers, who have painstakingly researched the stories of the men of the town who lost their lives through the war.

The culmination of the coming 12 months will be a public service of commemoration in Northumberland Square on August 3, 2014, and planning for this is now well in hand.

The next in the series of talks will be at the Low Lights Tavern and will take place at 7.30pm on Tuesday, August 20, featuring the origins and deployment of the Royal Naval Division.

Tickets are free but are limited. They can be obtained from the Low Lights Tavern, Keel Row Book Shop, Fenwick Terrace, Preston Road, and the project workroom.

Anyone with information on anyone killed or died as a result of the war 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 for anyone interested to learn more about the project or how to get involved.

Tynemouth World War 1 Commemoration Project, c/o Essell, 29 Howard Street, North Shields, NE30 1AR.