Tragic consequences for borough man in Churchill’s Antwerp intervention

AS the First World War progressed into its third month the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was rapidly losing the greater part of its trained manpower through deaths and injuries.

As territorial soldiers were not held in high regard by the senior commanders they were rushed out to the colonies and regular garrison battalions brought back home to reinforce the BEF.

As the Royal Navy had a surplus of reservists and RNVR volunteers, Churchill – then First Lord of the Admiralty – got agreement to the formation of a number of naval brigades who would be trained to fight on land.

In early October, as the Germans began to besiege Antwerp, the last major Belgian city and of strategic importance on the Scheldt estuary, Churchill got agreement to send a force of Royal Marine Light Infantry and some men of his new Royal Naval Division (RND) to reinforce the city’s defence.

In another controversial and colourful chapter of his life he took himself off to Antwerp and began to interfere and advise the military on the tactics to be followed.

He realised the importance of holding out as long as possible, as every day allowed time for the promised French reinforcements and some British divisions released from the south to reach the channel ports area and hopefully prevent the channel coast falling into German hands.

The sailor-soldiers were often raw recruits or reservists, with many from Tyneside, with no training for fighting.

A remark was passed that they were Winston’s ‘naval rabble’ and should not be placed in harm’s way.

There were few losses amongst the naval brigade but unfortunately as they retreated towards the coast some strayed into Dutch territory – see map – and were interned for the rest of the war.

One local man interned in Holland was Matthew Cranston, of Dockwray Square, an apprentice plumber at Smiths Dock Company Ltd and the son of a well-known family. He was in the Collingwood Battalion of the RND.

During the period of their internment, until the armistice in 1918, many of the internees were permitted by the Dutch to work in towns and on farms to replace their own men serving in their armed forces.

It seems Matthew Cranston met a Dutch woman and they were married. He returned with his new wife to North Shields but then went back to Holland and settled there.

Unfortunately, as the Germans overran Holland in the Second World War (1940) he was again interned as an enemy alien (he presumably never took Dutch citizenship).

Although his three sisters in England re-established contact with him after 12 years, through the Red Cross at the end of the war, he died on November 5, 1945, before they could meet up with him.

His death was attributed to malnutrition and poor treatment in a concentration camp in Holland during the war.

October also saw the loss of another old cruiser, HMS Hawke crewed by many local reservists from Tyneside and young cadets.

Four men connected to Tynemouth were lost when she was torpedoed on October 15.

Anyone interested to find out more about the Tynemouth World War One Commemoration Project can call into the workroom any week day from 10am to 4pm – Room B9 – Linskill Centre, Trevor Terrace, North Shields.

The project is also holding an open forum at 7pm on Tuesday, October 11, in the Linskill Community centre for all existing volunteers and anyone interested to learn about progress of the project.

New volunteers who wish to participate in the three-year project can find out about a range of new activities planned for which more help is needed.

THIS week’s casualty list gives details of men from the Borough of Tynemouth who were killed or died in the month of October, 1914.

Darnell, George Robert, age 34, Private, 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, KIA, 29th, 7 North Church Street, son of Robert and Martha, of Drill Hall Cottage, husband of the late Rebecca.

Evans, Frederick James, Lance Corporal, 2nd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, KIA, 24th, 45 Lansdowne Terrace.

Herdman, Arthur Widdrington, age 28, Lieutenant, 1st Battalion King’s Own Shropshire Light Infantry, KIA, 25th, only son of the late Revd R M Herdman, vicar of Holy Trinity Church, and Mrs Herdman, of Crescent Parade, Ripon.

Parker, William Mitchell, age 25, Private, 2nd Battalion Border Regiment, KIA, 25th, son of Matthew W and Mary E Parker, of 112 Adelaide Street, South Shields.

Quinn, James, Private, age 27, 2nd Battalion King’s Own Scottish Borderers, KIA, 25th – CWGC records say died September 14 – son of Mr and Mrs James Quinn, of 78 Stephenson Street. Was he reported missing then presumed killed?

Schuberth, Edgar, Private, 2nd Battalion Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment), KIA, 11th, 3 Kitchener Terrace.

Wood, Septimus, age 34, Private, 2nd Battalion Border Regiment, KIA, 26th, 3 Cecil Street, son of Septimus and Mary Ann, of 5 Lovaine Place.

The following were lost in the torpedoing of HMS Hawke on October 15, 1914, all are recorded on the Chatham Naval Memorial.

Henly Frank, Boy First Class, Royal Navy. Details needed.

Kipping, John William, age 41, Chief Engine Room Artificer, RN, husband of Ann Kipping, 96 Balmoral Road, Gillingham.

Landells, John Oliver, age 38, Engine Room Artificer, RNR, son of John Oliver Landells and Rose Landells, of 7 Surrey Street, South Bank – he was an employee of Smiths Dock Company.

Mountain, George, age 30, Leading Stoker, RN, 3 Thomas Street, Craghead, connection to Tynemouth needed.


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.