Remembering a Sunderland war hero who died 100 years ago today

The 160th (Wearside) Brigade Royal Field Artillery. Lt Wallace is pictured far right in the middle row.
The 160th (Wearside) Brigade Royal Field Artillery. Lt Wallace is pictured far right in the middle row.
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One hundred years ago today, a truly brave Sunderland man died.

Lieutenant William T. Wallace, MC, was killed doing what he’d done throughout his short-lived life in the First World War - courageously doing his bit for his country.

The cover of the book.

The cover of the book.

It was a day when the British military were advancing.

He was ahead of the British Army, serving as a forward observer as the Allies moved their guns closer to the enemy line.

But it brought him into the sights of the foe and he was hit - killed in the snowbound fields of Arras, hundreds of miles from his home in Roker.

Today is the 100th anniversary of his death and it will not pass unnoticed.

He was 24 when he died. He had no children, but his father was very affected by it. He went to France and chose the words on his headstone.

Simon Wright

Simon Wright, a teacher formerly from Chester-le-Street, will lay a single flower on the grave of his great-great-uncle at the St Catherine British Cemetery, northern Arras, Pas de Calais, France.

He will also sign the visitors’ book there.

He also plans to visit the spot where he fell, at Point du Jour, just north of Athies, near Arras.

Simon was taking with him a copy of the book Idle and Dissolute, The History of the 160th (Wearside) Brigade Royal Field Artillery.

Simon Wright.

Simon Wright.

It was penned by Philip Adams and tells the story of the brigade William T. Wallace served with.

It is a fascinating account of life in the First World War and has been an invaluable source of help to Simon in his investigations.

Simon, who has been researching William’s history for two years and said: “He was my mam’s great-uncle. Mam researched her side of the family and I did research myself as well.

“It has been a couple of years of looking specifically into that.

“I find family history very interesting, and it is nice to find interesting people and characters.”

What he found out about Lt Wallace was heroic and tragic.

William T. Wallace - born in Sunderland in 1893 and later a resident of Roker - was killed at the First Battle of Arras in 1917, aged just 24.

He had only been in the Army for two years.

He was an accountant in civilian life, but he was enlisted as an officer with the 160th (Wearside) Brigade Royal Field Artiller on the first day of recruitment, March 1, 1915.

He served with great distinction. In fact, the term hero was never more aptly applied.

He won the Military Cross in October 1916 when he ran to a burning pile of artillery ammunition to put out the fire.

By April 1917, he was on the front with the 160th (Wearside) Brigade Royal Field Artillery and not even the weather gave them a helping hand.

Even though it was April, it was snowing. And the men in the advanced positions were so cold, many were called back by officers.

But W.T. Wallace was the first officer was still ahead of the main force when he died in service of the Brigade, and the first man to lose his life in the Battle of Arras.

His own brigade would go on to serve on that battlefront for five solid months and lend support to no less that seven different Divisions.

Their own Division (Thirty-Fourth) recalled the Brigade’s action as follows: “The strain on the personnel was very great and yet when called on, day or night, they never failed us”.

Lt. Wallace, MC – buried at the St. Catherine British Cemetery in northern Arras – was also remembered at St Andrew’s Church, Roker, and the Fulwell Memorial in Seaburn, Sunderland.

He is remembered just as importantly in Philip’s book Idle and Dissolute.

For those wanting more, visit the website at www.160wearsidebrigade.co.uk.

Alternatively, more details can also be found on the Facebook page Idle and Dissolute - The History of the 160th Wearside Brigade RFA.

Each is worth a closer examination.

* In the meantime, Echo readers may also be able to play their own part in this story.

Simon also believes that a Sunderland person still has the Military Cross awarded to Lt Wallace. If so, he would love to get in touch with them.

If you can shed more light on this - or if there is any other aspect of Sunderland history you would like us to examine - get in touch and tell us more. Email chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk