Plans for photographic memorial of World War One heroes

John Scollen - who died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme - is pictured fourth from left on the middle row in this photo of a church band.
John Scollen - who died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme - is pictured fourth from left on the middle row in this photo of a church band.
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An appeal has been launched to honour dozens of World War One heroes with a photographic memorial.

Sixty-two Seaham men lost their lives on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916 – the worst day in the town’s military history.

Patrick McCabe with his wife and some of their children. He was killed on July 1, 1916.

Patrick McCabe with his wife and some of their children. He was killed on July 1, 1916.

Now East Durham Heritage Group has joined forces with ex-serviceman David McKenna to create a memorial featuring photos of the fallen.

“Memories of these heroes have faded as their loved ones have died. But we want them to live on,” said member Brian Scollen.

“We know the names of all those who perished on July 1, 1916, but now we want to put faces to names. Can you help?”

Seaham was a thriving pit community when World War One broke out. Within months, hundreds had downed tools to fight for King and Country.

The Tynside Irish Regiment Band - of which John Scollen was a member.

The Tynside Irish Regiment Band - of which John Scollen was a member.

“The male population was only around 7,000 in 1914, including children and pensioners. But more than 2,000 men joined up,” said Brian.

“Almost 650 were killed or died of wounds during the war, but the first day of the Somme was the worst day in Seaham’s military history.”

Among those to die was Brian’s grandfather John Scollen, 40, a miner from 9 Maria Street. He left a wife, Tina, and seven children. A letter sent by John to Tina just before the Somme reads: “It is with regret I write my last words of farewell to you.

“It is hard to part from you, but do not grieve for me, for God and his Blessed Mother will watch over you and my bonny little children.”

Part of the letter John Scollen wrote to his wife Tina just four days before he was killed on July 1, 1916, on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

Part of the letter John Scollen wrote to his wife Tina just four days before he was killed on July 1, 1916, on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

John’s brother-in-law, Patrick McCabe, also lost his life on the same day. The Seaham pitman left a grieving widow and five children.

“We want to remember all 62 men on our memorial,” said Brian. “If you have any photos of them, we would love to hear from you.”

l Photos can be dropped at the Heritage Centre at Seaham Marina or emailed to bscollen@yahoo.com