Their days were numbered

William Godfrey Charlton.
William Godfrey Charlton.

By the end of August 1918 it was clear to the German High Command that their days were numbered and that they were losing the war.

The ground gained during the Spring Offensives of only a few months earlier had been slowly trickling back into Allied hands...and would soon become a torrent in the coming months.

General Ludendorf had already declared August 8 as the “black day of the German Army” as the reserves were eaten up in costly gambles that had nearly succeeded, people were dropping dead with starvation on Berlin streets as the British shipping blockade tightened it’s grip and rumblings of discontent were evident in the German Navy and would culminate in mutiny at the start of November.

In short, the Germans were on the run.

Still though as the death rattle of war was beginning to sound, servicemen were still dying on land, sea and in the air.

The Northumbrian World War One project has been researching over 4,000 combatant casualties connected to North Tyneside who died in the Great War.

A number died this week as the end of the month approached and the season moved into autumn.

Between now and the end of September over 130 men from the borough would pay the ultimate price for service to their country.

They were from all walks of life and from all parts of the borough.

William Godfrey Charlton was a 21-year-old lieutenant in the 15th Durham Light Infantry and before the outbreak of war was working at Lloyds Bank in North Shields – indeed he had only started work there on November 11, 1913. He was killed in action on August 26 and is buried at Warlencourt. An officer wrote to his family shortly after, describing him “as brave as a lion”.

In contrast, 34-year-old Sergeant James Mathers had been a professional soldier when war came and although from Leeds had settled down with his wife in Whitley Bay. He died on the 30th from wounds received from a German gas shell.

Private George Paley Appleby hailed from Seaton Burn and he commemorated on the Seaton Burn Memorial and on a plaque at the local Wesleyan church. He died of his wounds on the 27th.

The former minister at North Shields Presbyterian Church the Reverend David Christie took his family, including his son Andrew Fleming Christie, to a church posting in Canada before the war. Andrew rose to become secretary of the famous Canadian Pacific Railway.

When war came, Andrew joined up with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces becoming a lieutenant in the City of Winnepeg battalion. While directing operations for a trench raid he was machine gunned through the heart on the 26th.

Plans have now been finalised for the culmination of the centennial commemorations of the war and the end of the Northumbria project. The Memorial Hall in Wallsend will host a week of exhibitions outlining the project’s achievements over the last number of years. The Armistice weekend will see a ceili on the Friday night.

The Saturday is devoted to talks with specialist speakers invited including Newcastle United historian Paul Joannau. Tickets for the concert are £7 and available from the Memorial Hall and the Linskill Centre in North Shields.