Newcastle project uncovers the stories of Armstrong College's fallen soldiers

Histories of the 223 names on the Armstrong Building's plaque are unveiled as digital memory book

Senior Lecture in Historical Archaeology and Head of Archaeology Dr Jane Webster
Senior Lecture in Historical Archaeology and Head of Archaeology Dr Jane Webster

If there is one overall impression which emerges from the stream of rediscovered stories of those who died in the First World War, it is that of the colossal waste of potential of young lives cut short.

Once again, this is what emerges from the 223 names on the memorial in the Armstrong Building at Newcastle University.

Armstrong College, as it was known then, was part of Durham University, and many of its students served as officers. A total of 276 individuals who attended or worked at Armstrong College and the University of Durham College of Medicine - both of which eventually became Newcastle University - lost their lives in the war.

The memorial remembers the 223 who attended Armstrong College. The names are inscribed on a stone tablet at the foot of the stairs in the Armstrong building, and their average age was just 26.

But their stories had been largely forgotten.

Dr Jane Webster, head of archaeology at Newcastle University, sought to remedy this through original research by undergraduate Sophie Anderton, as part of her dissertation which shone a light on many of the personal stories.

The Newcastle Institute for Social Renewal recognised the importance of making this research available to the widest possible audience. It awarded the project a grant to create a digital memory book, working in conjunction with the university library, which shows what has been discovered about the names on the memorial.

Dr Webster said: “Most people don’t even look at the plaque when they walk past it in the Armstrong Building. It has just become part of the furniture. This seemed a real shame to me and that’s where the idea for the digital memory book came from.

“Most of the men named on the plaque came from within 30 miles of Newcastle and the stories we’re uncovering also tell the story of the area at that time.”

Senior Lecture in Historical Archaeology and Head of Archaeology Dr Jane Webster
Senior Lecture in Historical Archaeology and Head of Archaeology Dr Jane Webster
 

Archaeology students Ben Howson and Holly Johnson carried out further research on the names.

Ben said: “It felt like an honour really. The way we were able to learn about the staff and students who came before us and made that sacrifice. Armstrong College was quite small at the time so for 223 to die in the war would have had a huge impact.”

Among the stories the project has uncovered is that of Capt Henry Clifford Stroud, son of Armstrong College physics professor Henry Stroud. He studied for a degree in engineering at Armstrong College and went to fight in France in January 1915 with the 1st Field Company Northumbrian Royal Engineers. He was severely wounded in both legs shortly afterwards and returned to Armstrong College, by then operating as a hospital for the war wounded.

Henry was one of 4,050 men to enter the hospital in 1915. He recovered and eager to play a more active part in the war, joined the Royal Flying Corps in 1916 and went on to play a part in repelling almost every German air raid on London.

There was no moon the night of the Germans’ penultimate attack and Henry collided with another aircraft piloted by Captain Alexander Bruce Kynoch. He was just 24 when he died on March 17, 1918 and he is remembered with an inscription on a propeller where his plane came down at Dollymans Farm, in Essex.

The university’s Henry Clifford Stroud prize for physics was set up in his name.

William Lawson, from Boldon Colliery, gained a BSc at Armstrong College. He was the brother of Jack Lawson, MP for Chester-le-Street, who would become the first Baron of Beamish.

William described the war as a “permanent industry for making death” in a letter home and was killed in action while serving with the Durham Light Infantry.

As part of the project, staff at the university’s Robinson Library have been developing materials so schoolchildren can learn how to research the names themselves and contribute to the digital memory book or go on to research names from their area.

The Armstrong WWI Memorial Digital Memory Book is located at the entrance to the Armstrong Building on Newcastle University campus. Alternatively, people can visit the website www.memorial.ncla.c.uk to see the entries.

Senior Lecture in Historical Archaeology and Head of Archaeology Dr Jane Webster
Senior Lecture in Historical Archaeology and Head of Archaeology Dr Jane Webster
 

Among the Armstrong College names whose stories have emerged are:

Gordon Allison, lieutenant, died aged 20.

He was the son of Dr Thomas Moffatt Allison and Frances Sarah Allison, of Eldon Place, Newcastle.

Gordon joined the 1st King George’s Own Gurkha Rifles and was killed in action outside Fort Sandeman, in north-west India.

He is buried at the Political Agent’s Garden, Fort Sandeman, Baluchistan in modern-day Pakistan.

Andrew Angus, sergeant, died 1916, aged 53.

Andrew was born in Tynemouth and lived in Fifth Avenue in Heaton, Newcastle. He was killed on the Somme while serving with the Northumberland Fusiliers.

Wallace Moir Annand, lieutenant commander, died 1915, aged 27.

Wallace was born in South Shields, the son of Robert Cummings Annand, managing director of the Northern Press and Engineering Company.

He married Dora Elizabeth Chapman in January 1914 and had one son, Richard Wallace. He never met his son, who fought in the Second World War and was awarded the Victoria Cross aged 25.

Wallace was attached to the Collingwood Battalion, Royal Naval Division. He was killed in the Gallipoli campaign.

Gilbert Atkinson, lieutenant, died 1918 aged 35.

Gilbert was the son of John Boland Atkinson and Jane Atkinson who lived at St George’s Terrace, Newcastle.

He was a member of staff at Armstrong College, lecturing in accountancy, and was secretary to the City of Newcastle Golf Club and the Northumberland Union of Golf Clubs. He joined the 8th Battalion Durham Light Infantry, was wounded in March 1916, and after a second period of service in France was sent home in November 1917.

He returned to the front line again in June 1918 to serve with 20th Battalion Durham Light Infantry near Ypres, where he was killed.

Thomas Lindsay Bainbridge, lieutenant, died 1915 aged 33.

Thomas was the son of Mr and Mrs Thomas Hudson Bainbridge of Eshott Hall, Felton, Northumberland, and the grandson of the founder of the Bainbridges department store, Emerson Muschamp Bainbridge.

He qualified as an electrical engineer and joined Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson where he was an assistant manager. Thomas’s brother Wilfred Hudson Bainbridge was also killed in the war in 1916.

Thomas, serving with the Northumberland Fusliers, was killed in an attack on St Julien, near Ypres.

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