Wearside families show their pride in tragic Somme heroes

The Battle of the Somme which left more than one million men wounded or killed. Photo courtesy of PA.
The Battle of the Somme which left more than one million men wounded or killed. Photo courtesy of PA.
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They were heroes all - the thousands who fought and died at the Battle of the Somme.

Our stories of the Wearside and East Durham men who fought in the First World War attracted huge interest.

The name of Peter Blythe forever remembered at Thiepval.

The name of Peter Blythe forever remembered at Thiepval.

Lots of you wanted to share your own details of relatives who bravely served.

The effect they had on future generations is profound.

They included Dr Jarrod Bailey, from Northumberland, who told us about his Great Uncle, Peter Blythe, who was in the 2nd Tyneside Irish of the Northumberland Fusiliers.

Peter died in 1916 at The Somme and lived in Lawrence Street, Hendon.

He was 36 and left behind a number of children including my grandad, also Alexander McGeever, who served in the Second World War. Sadly Alexander senior didn’t meet his son as he was already in France when he was born in 1915

Martin Gill

Dr Bailey told us he received a commemorative Somme 100 pin which was one of 19,240 made - the number of first day dead.

They were created from brass recovered from Somme battlefield shells that had been ploughed up, and painted with red paint made with earth from the battlefields too.

Dr Bailey added: “All I know of Peter is that he was of Irish stock which was one of the main reasons for men of the North East joining the Tyneside Irish.

“Though I don’t know his occupation, many of the family were miners.”

In another twist, it seems highly likely that Great Uncle Peter would have known another soldier whose name was commemorated in the Echo recently, that of Peter McQuillan.

Dr Bailey said: “He was also a soldier in the Tyneside Irish battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers; both died on the same day.

“Both are commemorated at Thiepval and both lived directly opposite each other on either side of the mouth of the River Wear in Lawrence Street and Hardwick Street. They almost certainly will have known each other.”

Pictured is Great Uncle Peter’s name which will be forever remembered at Thiepval.

We are happy also, to share the name of 21115 Private John Newton of the 7th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment.

Like so many others highlighted to us - Peter Blythe included - he died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme on July 1, 1916.

Private Newton’s name came to us via his great grandson John Usher who told Wearside Echoes: “I didn’t know this until by chance my niece was doing a school project a couple of years ago and my uncle who married John’s granddaughter (Mary), provided her with what looked like a campaign medal and said he had been killed there.”

Private Newton’s grave is at Fricourt in Picardie in northern France.

John added: “They buried the soldiers two in a grave, or the remains they couldn’t identify were marked with the large crosses in mass graves.

“It is a very strange feeling indeed when you are in your 50’s and find something like this out. They never spoke about it yet I think he was in his late 30’s and left six children I think.

“I only know Mary, Margaret and Robert’s names but there were others.

“They all lived around the Gladstone Street area in Monkwearmouth, Sunderland.”

Martin Gill is another who wishes to pay tribute to a relative. His great grandfather was Alexander McGeever - born and bred in Ryhope and who also died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

Martin tells us: “He was 36 and left behind a number of children including my grandad, also Alexander McGeever, who served in the Second World War.

“Sadly Alexander senior didn’t meet his son as he was already in France when he was born in 1915.

“Alexander was in the Northumberland Fusiliers, Tyneside Irish and is remembered on the Thiepval memorial and the memorial in Ryhope.”

The Somme is regarded as one of the bloodiest battles in history with more than one million men wounded or killed.

We would love to hear from anyone who can tell us more about those who gave their lives for their country.

Email chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk