The Northumbria World War One Commemoration Project aims to identify more than 5,000 of the conflict’s casualties from North Tyneside.
Nearly 2,000 deaths from the old borough of Tynemouth have already been researched as part of an earlier project. The research is conducted by volunteers to create a free and accessible database of Great War victims from the borough.
A couple of volunteers have recently tracked down two memorial plaques that contain names of men who had attended two local schools who were killed in the war.
Plaques of this kind are dotted throughout the borough, often in churches, schools and community halls, and they help add to the record of those who died.
These two plaques are very similar. Both are dedicated to the grateful memory of former pupils of the schools and are probably produced by the same hand, or at least to a format, which begs the question of whether there are any more.
The first was located at the small housing office at Palmersville and lists the names of 11 men who attended Benton Square Council School. The plaque was originally affixed to the wall at the entrance to the building, but is not displayed at present due to office refurbishment. However, plans are under way to relocate it somewhere inside soon.
Among those listed on the plaque are brothers John and Henry Bennett, from Palmersville or Forest Hall.
Elder brother John was a sergeant in the 1st/5th Northumberland Fusiliers, a territorial battalion, who died on the Somme on October 1, 1916, and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing in northern France.
His grieving parents Thomas and Ellen Bennett were to suffer another blow. Younger son Henry, a lance-corporal in the 8th battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers, died 14 days later. Henry is buried in St John’s Churchyard in Killingworth.
The other plaque was located at Burradon Primary School. This one contains 26 names, many of whom were in the Northumberland Fusiliers.
Intriguing for me is the name of John T Melvin of the Royal Irish Fusiliers. It’s not a usual surname, and it’s one with a possible local connection to my own Irish family. Further research should determine the truth.
John died on August 16, 1917, and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial in Belgium.
These plaques can be seen as small yet important parts of a much larger jigsaw puzzle, which may never be fully completed, seeking to compile a picture of casualties’ lives here.
Other sources, such as outdoor memorials, cemeteries, newspaper clippings, military diaries, census records, family diaries and letters, all play their part in giving back to the casualties their place in history.
The names on these plaques are currently being researched by volunteers who have developed an expertise in family and military research and are on hand to pass on this knowledge to new volunteers.
A fuller understanding of the project can be gained by a visit to the project website, northumbriaworldwarone.co.uk
Anyone interested in helping with this research, or anyone with information about any victims of the war, is asked to contact the project via its website or by sending an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
If that is not possible the project workroom at Room B9, Linskill Community Centre, Trevor Terrace, North Shields, is open from 10am to 4pm each weekday.
Tommy McClements (Project Research Co-Ordinator)