Whitley Bay school pupils plot impact of First World War on the community

Pupils at Rockliffe First School in Whitley Bay have researched fallen First World War soldiers from neighbourhood streets

Part of the Rockcliffe Remembers project
Part of the Rockcliffe Remembers project

Youngsters have investigated the impact of the First World War on the community surrounding their school.

Research by pupils at Rockliffe First School on the seafront at Whitley Bay has revealed that 49 men from neighbouring streets died while serving in the conflict.

The initiative was part of Rockcliffe Remembers, a project to create an online history of the school and the local area, backed by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant.

Memories have been collected from older residents and log books from the school, which opened in 1906, have been digitised.

Pupils from Rockcliffe First School, Whitley Bay who took part in a project entitled "Rockcliffe Remembers"
Pupils from Rockcliffe First School, Whitley Bay who took part in a project entitled "Rockcliffe Remembers"

A website, www.rocklifferemembers.co.uk has been set up.

The school joined with Rockliffe Community Association to hold a Last Post event at which the Whitley Bay ukulele band performed First World War songs.

Poppies were created for the school railings bearing the details of each of the 49 men, and 49 pebbles were painted with the flowers for the community garden outside the school.

The Last Post was also played on a saxophone.

Reuben Waters from Rockcliffe First School who took part in the Rockcliffe Remembers project
Reuben Waters from Rockcliffe First School who took part in the Rockcliffe Remembers project

The upstairs of the school was used as a barracks during the war by the Sherwod Foresters, and pupils have compiled details on some of the soldiers.

The log book for August 17, 1914, reads: “ School has not resumed today owing to the building being requisitioned by soldiers on account of the outbreak of war.”

During the Second World War the school was used as an evacuation centre.

Rockcliffe First School pupils who took part in a project entitled Rockcliffe Remembers
Rockcliffe First School pupils who took part in a project entitled Rockcliffe Remembers

Teacher Karen Robinson, who is leading the history project, said: “ The children have developed a huge understanding of the sense of community and their history, and how the children who have gone before them at the school had different experiences.”

The research has shown that Albert Anderson Fell, of Edwards Road, was only 15 when he lost his life after the ship on which he was a steward, SS Euphorbia, was torpedoed in the English Channel on December 1, 1917.

The 3,109 ton cargo ship was owned by the Stag Line of North Shields and had been built earlier that year by the William Doxford yard in Sunderland.

It had replaced another SS Euphorbia, built by Doxfords in 1907 and owned by the Stag Line, which had also been torpedoed in 1916.

The Stag Line went to Sunderland once again in 1924 for a third SS Euphorbia - which again was torpedoed in 1940 by U-100, commanded by Joachim Schepke, who had already sunk 34 allied ships.

Some of the Rockcliffe First School pupils involved in the Rockcliffe Remembers project
Some of the Rockcliffe First School pupils involved in the Rockcliffe Remembers project

He himself was killed on March 9, 1941.

Six of the men who died in the First World War came from Victoria Avenue near the school, and included brothers Ernest Alfred Robson, 29, who died in July 1917, and Charles Henry Robson, 30, a captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps who was killed in December 1917.

The others from Victoria Avenue were George Russell Brown, 22, a lieutenant in the Northumberland Fusiliers, Wilfred Taylor Thompson, 20, a Durham Light Infantry lieutenant, James Arthur Hopper, 33, a second lieutenant in the Northumberland Fusiliers and Norman Poole Brown.

Another local man, William Charlton, was lost when his ship Stuart Prince, owed by James Knott’s Tyneside Prince Line, was torpedoed in 1917.

Pupils also remembered the man living closest to the school in Windsor Crescent, Henry Ridley, a second lieutenant in the DLI, who died in May, 1918.

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