Project research uncovers coincidence

The horrendous conditions at Passchendaele in August 1917 with men waist deep in mud carrying a wounded comrade through the appalling mire that was the battlefield.
The horrendous conditions at Passchendaele in August 1917 with men waist deep in mud carrying a wounded comrade through the appalling mire that was the battlefield.

THE casualties list for this week from the Tynemouth World War One Commemoration Project has brought to light a fascinating connection between two men of very different family origins who, by a strange twist of fate, came together in war, when their social origins would otherwise have meant they would have been unlikely ever to have had any contact.

Kenneth Gordon Garnett MC, who died of wounds on August 22, 1917, was born in Tynemouth in 1892 and went off to a famous public school before entering Cambridge University, where he distinguished himself both academically and in the sport of rowing, being a member of the winning team in 1914 in the annual varsity rowing match against Oxford.

During a period serving as a volunteer on a luxury yacht, HMY Zarefah, employed on minesweeping duties, he would have become aware of another local man – Percy Main – who was serving as a member of the crew.

Project volunteers will now research the circumstances which brought these two natives of the borough together.

The men featured this week include many who fell in a ‘bloodbath’ of the war which rivalled the Battle of the Somme for the sheer horror and ferocity of the fighting and appalling conditions in which they were expected to fight.

The third battle of Ypres, which commenced in June 1917 following on from the battle of Arras, started optimistically with the massive attack on the enemy positions along Messines Ridge in the Ypres sector.

However, the second phase of the battle in August 1917, which came to be known as the Battle of Passchendaele, exceeded, if that were possible, the futile and hopeless ‘attritional’ tactics of the British High Command on the Somme in 1916.

The battle claimed the life of the borough’s highest ranking officer to die in the war, as far as can be seen from the Roll of Honour.

Lieutenant Colonel Francis Dawson Blandy, MC, died as a result of wounds sustained whilst tending to injured men out on the battlefield.

He was a resident of Tynemouth who is recorded in the historical records of the Royal Army Medical Corps relating to the war.

A former student of Middlesex Hospital in London, he had qualified in 1900 and was a member of the Territorial Forces at the outbreak of war, and in practice in Tynemouth where he held several local medical appointments.

He served with the 1st/1st Wessex Field Ambulance having enlisted for war service on June 26, 1915.

He was killed whilst tending to the wounded under intense shell fire on August 14, 1917.

The citation for the posthumous award of the Military Cross was as follows: ‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He worked continuously for 36 hours under heavy shell fire and adverse conditions of weather, not only collecting the wounded of his own brigade, but also those of another who were lying in an advanced position. To do this he collected all the bearer parties that he could find and personally led them to spots under heavy shell fire. By his gallant conduct in going forward again and again, regardless of his personal safety, he undoubtedly saved many lives’.

He is buried at Reninghelst New Military Cemetery in the Ypres salient.

The project has now arranged a further series of induction sessions at the Local Studies section of North Shields Library.

Anyone interested in joining the project is welcome to visit the workroom at the Linskill Community Centre any day from 10am to 4pm (Mondays to Fridays) where volunteers will give information on working with the project and registration for the induction sessions.

THIS week’s casualty list gives details of men who were killed or died in the month of August, 1917.

Bewick, John Winship, age 35, Sergeant ‘D’ Battery, 311th Brigade RFA, KIA, 12th, husband of Lily, of 125 Seymour Street.

Blandy, Francis Dawson, Lieutenant Colonel, 24th Field Ambulance RAMC, KIA, 14th, 3 Allendale Place, Tynemouth. He is the highest ranking officer shown on the Tynemouth Roll of Honour – see article at foot of page.

Cairns, James, Private, 2nd Battalion West Yorks (Prince of Wales Own), KIA, 16th, 5 Wellington Street West.

Garnett, Kenneth Gordon, MC, Croix de Guerre (France), age 25, Lieutenant, RFA, DOW, 24th, son of William and Rebecca, of 1 The Chestnuts, Branch Hill, Hampstead, London, formerly of Tynemouth – see article at foot of page.

Gray, Edward George, Lost at sea in enemy action, 24th, 38 Drummond Terrace – details needed.

Marshall, William Barber, age 41, Sergeant, ‘A’ Battery, 180th Brigade RFA, DOW, 22nd, husband of Mrs E Marshall, 16 Middle Row, Bates Cottages, Seaton Delaval, buried at Mendinghem Military Cemetery.

Peterson, Lawrence, age 22, Private, West Yorks Regiment (POW), KIA, 27th, 29 Camden Street, son of Peter and Amelia, Tyne Cot Memorial – Flanders.

Robson, James Harvey, Private, 10th Battalion DLI, KIA, 5 Cross Street, Milburn Place.

Sparham, Thomas Henry, Private, 20th Battalion NF (Tyneside Scottish), 29th, Brittania Bank.

Stephenson, George, Private, age 24, 2nd Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers, 16th, 7 Norfolk Street, son of Mrs Kitty Spence (formerly Stephenson).

Taws, Joseph Cay, age 37, Private, 8th Battalion NF, KIA, 31st, 41 Dene Street, son of William and Elizabeth, husband of Annie.

Turner, Joseph, age 24, AB RND (RNVR), KIA, 14th, 36 Back Row, Cullercoats, son of Andrew Hunter Turner and husband of Mary Ann.

Weir, Colin, Private, 6th Battalion Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, DOW, 24th, Tyne Cot Memorial.

Yeaman, John Henry, age 32, Private, 11th Battalion NF, died of injuries, 26th, 46 Camden Street, husband of Florence Wilhelmina, son of James and Martha Ann, buried, Preston Cemetery.


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.