Sunderland prepares for First World War centenary with posters exhibition

A selection of First World War recruitment posters are on show in Sunderland to mark the centenary

Leigh McDade, from South Shields, looks at the World War One posters on display at the Monk Wearmouth Station Museum, Sunderland
Leigh McDade, from South Shields, looks at the World War One posters on display at the Monk Wearmouth Station Museum, Sunderland

First World War recruitment posters which were used in a North East town have gone back on show almost a century later.

The posters are believed to have been displayed in Sunderland Museum and were put into storage at the end of the war.

Now they have been retrieved and are open to inspection at Monkwearmouth Station Museum in Sunderland until November as the city prepares for the centenary of the outbreak of the war.

Most of the posters were commissioned by the Parliamentary Recruitment Committee to appeal to people’s sense of duty, patriotism and outrage at events such as the German naval shelling of Hartlepool.


Localised posters in the exhibition include one for the 160th Wearside Brigade Royal Field Artillery, based at Houghton Hall in Houghton-le-Spring.

The brigade was first raised in 1915. Of the 766 soldiers recruited at that time about half were from Sunderland with the rest coming from other parts of County Durham.

Another poster is headed Our Boy and includes the verse:

“He’s with the Wearsiders

The boys who do or die

He wears a khaki tunic

in the 20th DLI”

The 20th Battalion was one of two DLI battalions with close links with Sunderland. The poster was produced by local printer Hills and the artist, Caroline Hall, was also from Sunderland.

“The posters are absolutely stunning and in superb condition, and we can only thank whoever had the foresight not to throw them away at the end of the war,” said Sunderland museums manager Jo Cunningham.

As part of Sunderland’s contribution to the centenary, a range of other projects are being developed through the city council and voluntary and partner organisations.

The council’s heritage team is working on a project to collect memories, stories or photographs connected to Sunderland and the war.

Council heritage officer Janet Robinson said: “The impact of the war was felt everywhere. In Sunderland alone over 25,000 men served from a population of 151,000, of which approximately one third was killed or wounded.

“As part of the war effort shipbuilding in Sunderland increased dramatically and it also suffered from the Zeppelin attack in the Monkwearmouth area on April 1, 1916.”

The attack resulted in Usworth Air Field being constructed in October 1916.

As part of the war effort Sunderland raised its own Brigade, consisting of approximately 800 men that went on to become the 160th Wearside Brigade.

“There are many interesting stories and facts about Sunderland during the war, and we would like to hear from anyone who may have more to tell. People kept diaries, sent letters and postcards from places they visited, and some may have photographs or drawings,” said Janet.

“We have already received some fantastic stories and images and we would be very interested to hear from more people.”

Materials such as photographs of Sunderland people in the Armed Forces, diaries, postcards, letters home and drawings are all welcome. Contact 0191 561 8413 or email

Sunderland’s links with the war include local engineer William Mills, who set up the first aluminium foundry in Britain in Monkwearmouth and invented the Mills bomb grenade .

The 1916 raid by German Imperial Navy Zeppelin L11 rained bombs on both sides of the River Wear, killing 22 people,

The only Victoria Cross to be awarded to a member of the Royal Army Medical Corps on the Western Front in 1915 was won by Temp, Lt George Allan Maling, a doctor’s son from Sunderland.

Maling, 26, won the VC at the Battle of Loos for working “incessantly with untiring energy collecting and treating in the open, under heavy shell fire, more than 300 men.

“He was flung down and temporarily stunned by the bursting of a large high explosive shell which wounded his only assistant and killed several of his patients. A second shell soon covered him and his assistants with debris, but his high courage and zeal never failed him, and he continued his gallant work single-handed.”


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer