North East remembers the men who died in the First World War

Parliament has heard the moving realities of the North East men who left jobs and pit villages to serve their country in a war from which many never returned

PA Wire British soldiers negotiating a shell-cratered, Winter landscape along the River Somme in late 1916
British soldiers negotiating a shell-cratered, Winter landscape along the River Somme in late 1916

Stories of everyday men destined to share their deaths on foreign battlefields have been recalled by North MPs as the country prepares to mark the 100th anniversary of the First World War.

Parliament has heard the moving realities of the North East men who left jobs and pit villages to serve their country in a war from which many never returned.

From across the region North MPs have paid tribute to those who served, telling the House of Commons of the individuals who went from an ordinary life of work and family to one of World War horror.

Among those whose story was heard is that of Matthew Brown, who served in the 12th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry.

Tynemouth MP Alan Campbell told the House: “He was one of seven children. He became a stonemason. He never married. He had no children. He was killed during the later stages of the battle of the Somme in October 1916.

“He was just 27 years old, which is less than half my age. He was blown to pieces near the village of Le Sars, along the Albert-Bapaume road, and his body was never recovered. His name, with those of thousands of his comrades, is inscribed on the great and moving memorial to the missing at Thiepval.

“I do not know what went through Matthew Brown’s mind when he enlisted or in the hours and days before he died, but I doubt very strongly that he would ever have imagined in a million years, let alone a hundred years, that his name would be mentioned in this great House of Commons, let alone by his great nephew, but I am proud to do so.”

Tynemouth MP Alan Campbell
Tynemouth MP Alan Campbell
 

The MP was joined by Sedgefield’s Phil Wilson, who revealed the impact of the war on the Trimdon villages and pits.

Using research from Trimdon-born Oxford University student Adam Luke, Mr Wilson spoke of the 199 men who died in the war from the 1,000 households in the Trimdons who sent husbands and sons to the battlefields.

Mr Wilson said: “At the battle of the Somme, 11 sons from the Trimdons were killed on that first day of July. By the end of the Somme campaign, 39 families had lost a son, husband, brother or father, half of them with no known graves.

“The horror of the Somme went on until mid-November. Private Fred Shorthouse was killed at the Somme on November 8 1916, just days before the end of the campaign. Fred was the second son of Mr and Mrs Shorthouse of 7 Pringle Street in Trimdon Colliery to be killed in the space of six months.

“His brother had been wounded at Gallipoli and died earlier that year on 29 May.

“Private Fred Shorthouse was also married. He lived with his wife Mary at Lawson street, Trimdon Colliery. Their son Arthur, was born on April 4, 1914. Fred joined the 1st Battalion DLI in 1915. Shortly after, he wrote home to his mam and dad.

“He wrote: ‘I was out to tea and supper on Saturday and was at a concert at the Chapel, and last night again at a lecture, so you see mother I am not wasting my time. The battalion is going foreign in a week or two, but it is not to fight, we are for garrison duty abroad. We have not to fight so you see everything works together for good. The only thing that will trouble me will be leaving the old homestead and the faces I love because you have been a good mother to me. I will never forget you but we just have to hope for better days to come...’

Private Fred Shorthouse has no known grave.

Phil Wilson Member of Parliament for Sedgefield
Phil Wilson Member of Parliament for Sedgefield
 

Mr Wilson added: “The horizons of the men from the Trimdons during those years were limited to going down the pit or going to war. All that lay on the horizon for the women of the Trimdons during those years was inevitably to live in a pit village and marry a pitman. In 2014, all the pits have closed and there is no world war. The horizon for the young people of Trimdon is broad and, for many, is lit with optimism.

“Adam Luke is the grandson of a bus driver and is now at Oxford university, something that could never have been dreamed of during Fred Shorthouse’s short life. The aspirations of our young people in the second decade of the 21st century are many and varied. It is down to us to ensure those aspirations are fulfilled in a world where neither death by coalfield disasters or world wars will ever happen again.”

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