A poignant message which has lasted the years

The memorial shelter to Fulwell's fallen.
The memorial shelter to Fulwell's fallen.
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In a matter of days, Britain will mark the 100th anniversary of the First World War Armistice.

The 1914-18 war wreaked havoc on families across Britain. Wearside was no exception.

Private William Brown (son of the mayor) who died at Ypres in 1915.

Private William Brown (son of the mayor) who died at Ypres in 1915.

Today, we begin a series of articles which look at the heroes who died and those whose lives were changed forever.

And to start it all, local author Norman Kirtlan has focused on every Fulwell man to die in battle, and whose name appears on the tablet at the Seaburn Memorial Shelter.

At 2pm on June 16, 1930, Seaburn was bathed in sunshine.

And with ordered precision, the band of the 7th Durham Light Infantry Territorials struck up the first notes of ‘Oh Lord our help in ages past, our hope for years to come’.

There is a generation growing up which cannot be expected to share in the same way the feelings and responsibilities which we felt in those dark days of the War, and so that they will not forget them, we erect and dedicate this shelter

Rev Johnson, 1930, Fulwell

It led a large congregation from Saint Andrew’s Church Hall out towards Mere Knolls Road. The occasion was the opening of the Memorial Shelter – an iconic landmark with so much significance.

Clergymen from Saint Andrew’s and Sidecliffe Road Presbyterian churches walked alongside the Mayor, Dr Modlin, and many local dignitaries, some clothed in uniforms of office and others respectably dressed in black tailed coats.

But, perhaps the most important people in the procession were those who followed on behind or who lined the streets.

They had caps in hands and heads bowed in solemn remembrance. They were the men and women of Fulwell, Seaburn and surrounding areas.

Those who had lost sons and brothers, husbands and friends in the Great War and indeed, those who had themselves fought on foreign fields and whom God had spared to return home to loved ones.

As the procession passed Ramsey’s Buttercup Farm, it must have been especially poignant. Many years before, one young soldier was born in that very building.

He’d said goodbye to his parents at those very gates, turned his head and marched off, never to come home.

There was hardly a soul in the village who had been spared the pain of loss, but at least in 1930 – after three long years of planning – Fulwell, Seaburn and Roker would at last have its Sacred Shrine.

The building, costing £250, was eventually raised and the brass plaque with the names of the fallen was funded by John Tough, a public works contractor from Fulwell and himself a serving First World War soldier.

Dr Modlin stood before the crowd who had gathered around the new shelter, and urged them: “I trust those using the shelter will give a thought to the reason for its erection. And as they look out to the sea and the view which can never be shut out, I hope they will remember that it is a memorial erected by the people of Fulwell to the men of Fulwell who gave their lives for their country.”

Rev Johnson reminded the people of the “great responsibility” on them. “There is a generation growing up which cannot be expected to share in the same way the feelings and responsibilities which we felt in those dark days of the War, and so that they will not forget them, we erect and dedicate this shelter.”

Following more hymns, a bugler sounded ‘The Last Post’ and the ‘Reveille’, before the National Anthem signalled the end of the ceremony.

Hundreds paid their respects to the fallen of Fulwell and Roker by standing humbly before the memorial plaque and remembering those who gave their lives for our Freedom. A scene repeated on Armistice Day, ever since.