A DOUBLE tragedy almost 100 years ago is the subject of today’s Wearside Echoes
THE sounds of shellfire and the moans of wounded men rang out as Wearside miner Arthur Terrell fought for King and Country on the battlefields of France.
More than a million men died or suffered terrible injuries as Allied and German soldiers fought for territory along the River Somme in the bloodiest of all battles.
New Herrington-born Arthur was one of those casualties – killed in action on January 22, 1917. Tragically, his youngest son Jim passed away weeks later, aged just two.
“Losing both her husband and son within such a short time must have hit my grandmother Sally very hard at first,” said Arthur’s grandson Allan Spencer.
“But she later remarried and not much was said about what happened to my grandfather during the war after that.
“I just wish I knew more about what he did.”
Arthur, son of Cornish tin mine labourer James Terrell and his wife Louisa, was born in New Herrington in 1879 and later moved to West Herrington with his family.
By 1891, however, Louisa had been left a widow and the family had moved again, this time to Penshaw Village where 13-year-old Arthur was a brickworks labourer.
“My grandfather lost his father at a very young age,” said Allan.
“Sadly, history would repeat itself – as his death in the Great War left his four children fatherless.”
By the time of the 1901 census, Arthur was living with his mother and two brothers at Winter Terrace, Penshaw – having swapped labouring for work as a colliery hewer.
And in 1906, he married his sweetheart Sally Allan.
The young couple moved to 31 Victoria Terrace, in Penshaw, and went on to have two daughters and two sons.
The outbreak of the First World War found Arthur still working as a miner but, as the conflict continued to rage in Europe, so he opted to down tools and sign up to fight.
“The story I’ve heard is that Arthur and some miner friends were drinking at The Prospect in Penshaw when they all decided to join up,” said Allan, a retired social worker.
“Apparently it was too late to join the Durham Light Infantry, as they had just gone to France, so he was drafted into the 1st Battalion Royal Inniskillings Fusiliers instead.”
The 1st Battalion had been stationed in India when war first broke out but, in late 1914, the men were recalled to England before being deployed to Gallipoli in 1915.
Action against the Turkish Army followed at the First, Second and Third Battles of Krithia, as well as the battles of Gully Ravine, Krithia Vineyard and Scimitar Hill.
In January 1916, however, the battalion was evacuated to Egypt after losing scores of soldiers to combat, disease and harsh weather.
In March 1916, they arrived in France.
On July 1, 1916 – the first day of the Battle of the Somme – Arthur faced the fight of his life.
Thousands of men died that day, but he survived almost against the odds.
Action at the Battle of Albert and Battle of Transloy Ridges followed, but when British attacks resumed in Ancre Valley in January 1917, Arthur was killed in action.
His comrades fought battle after bloody battle over the next two years, but Arthur’s war was over. Today he is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to Missing of the Somme.
“His body was never found and he has no known grave,” said Allan.
“I’ve been over to France a couple of times to visit the cemeteries, which is always a moving experience.”
News of Arthur’s death would have reached the Terrell family within days, leaving his children Louisa, Arthur, Jenny and toddler Jim to mourn the loss of their father.
Sadly, by the end of March 1917, the youngsters were in mourning again – following the loss of baby brother Jim. It is not known how he died.
“A family photo was taken in February 1916, while Arthur was away fighting, to be sent to him for his birthday.
“It shows all the children and my grandmother,” said Allan.
“I only found it recently, and it was the first I’d heard about having an Uncle Jim – none of the family knew about him. I suppose they were too young to remember him.
“I wonder if my grandfather ever saw or even knew about his fourth child. I don’t even know if the photo reached him before he died. I suppose I never will now.”
Arthur’s widow Sally went on to remarry and have more children after the war.
The topic of Arthur’s death was rarely, if ever, mentioned in the years that followed.
“My mother, Louisa, was the eldest of Sally and Arthur’s children, but she was still a young child when she lost her father and never really spoke about him,” said Allan.
“I always thought my step-grandfather was my real grandfather, growing up. Arthur wasn’t mentioned and I know very little about him – but I’m still very proud of him.”
•WEARSIDE Echoes readers are being offered a sporting chance to help out with an appeal.
Hall Farm resident Eric Ward is hoping to track down information on an old medal featuring the words: “Silksworth Junior League – 1921-22.”
“The medal has been in a friend’s possession for many years, yet they have no knowledge of its origin. Perhaps someone can shed light on this mystery,” he said.
Anyone with information can contact Eric on 522 8457 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.