Remarkable family archive will aid project’s research

A large collection of written material relating to a North Shields man who fought through and survived the First World War has been deposited recently at Newcastle University Library - Special Collections where it is being catalogued and digitised for eventual public and academic access.

The material includes letters, official forms and diary extracts of the man, who was also incarcerated as a prisoner of war.

Project co-ordinator Alan Fidler was privileged to meet recently with the donor of the materials, the son of the local soldier who was decorated for bravery.

He had the opportunity to view many of the fascinating materials in what will be an important deposit of detailed notes and observations of a front line soldier, revealing his feelings and observations on some of the major actions of the war in which his units were engaged.

Serving as a battalion signaller, he had responsibility for repairing damaged telephone lines, and his was one of the most dangerous roles in the war.

His cramped notes, squeezed into the pages of a tiny address book, describe the date of his capture on the first day of the German Spring Offensive – March 21, 1918.

Material such as this shows the importance of this archive; soon to be available for researchers and those interested in the conflict.

Donations towards placing of blue plaques on the former homes of the war’s casualties and the completion of our Memorial Garden have now passed £2,500 – 25 per cent of the target.

A substantial donation was received from a family group in Canada in memory of four men who were former residents of Walker Place – all killed in the Great War.

The project hopes more readers will wish to sponsor either a man from their family or merely in gratitude for the sacrifice of the more than 1,700 men of the borough killed in the conflict.

A donation of £6 will help to meet the cost of remembering every man including the creation of the Memorial Wall with plaques listing every casualty ‘street by street’.

Donations can be made by post or in person at the offices of the project treasurer at Essell, 29 Howard Street, North Shields NE30 1AR.

Online donations can be made through the website using a PayPal facility – see the Memorials page at

Death at Dawn, by Peter Mortimer, telling the story of local man William Hunter, of Coronation Street, executed in France in February 1916, will be premiered at Linskill Community Centre on six evenings from September 1 to 6.

The professional production is sponsored by the project with support from North Tyneside Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England.

Produced by Cloud Nine Theatre Company and directed by Jackie Fielding, this is a full length play which will illuminate some of the issues in a controversial topic through a fictional drama rooted in the known facts of Hunter’s early life and subsequent military history, up to his execution.

Tickets can be bought from the Linskill Centre reception; Keel Row Book Shop; North Shields Library (Discover section) and the project’s Information Centre in Front Street, Tynemouth (next door to the library) - open daily throughout the school holidays from 1pm until 4pm.

Telephone ticket bookings / purchase can be made through Linskill Community Centre (8am to 9pm – 0191 257 8000) and Essell Accountants (9.30am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday only – 0191 259 1871).

To access the project database visit

Anyone with information about 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 1pm each weekday for visitors and for anyone interested to learn more about the project or how to get involved.

The correspondence address is c/o Essell, 29 Howard Street, North Shields NE30 1AR.