Film captures sights and sounds of Wearside at war

From Sunderland's female shipyard workers to prisoner of war camps near Stanhope - a new film follows the path of the Wear to shine a light on war stories.

Thursday, 3rd November 2016, 11:29 am
Updated Wednesday, 16th November 2016, 3:09 pm
Marie Gardiner / Lonely Tower Film

With contributions from Sunderland-born broadcaster Kate Adie, alongside local historians and re-enactment features shot at Beamish Museum and Tanfield Railway, The Wear at War paints a vivid picture of how Wearside communities coped during the Great War and beyond.

True stories highlighted include the hundreds of women who went to work in Sunderland shipyards while men were fighting on the frontline, the Zeppelin raid in Sunderland in April 1916 and the tragic story of Joseph William Stones from Crook who was shot at dawn for allegedly casting away his weapon.

A scene from the film. Marie Gardiner / Lonely Tower Film

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The film was commissioned by the Wessington U3A, based in Washington, who’ve been working with history and community groups along the Wear and was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Film-makers Lonely Tower have brought the stories to the silver screen and say the true tales help to shine a light on how the North East responded to war.

Mark Thorburn said: “Wessington U3A have been doing a lot of research into the period and have been working with other history groups in the area, so it was their research that kicked the project off. The river is a way of threading these stories together and sees massive changes geographically, from the shipbuilding landscape of Sunderland up to the quarries in Weardale.

“Kate Adie is one of the contributors and she gives a fascinating insight into women’s role in war. This was a time when women were doing jobs they had never done, and had never been allowed to do, before.

Jack Simm plays William Noel Hodgeson killed at war

“But when war was over it wasn’t an easy transition for them to have to give up these roles and go back to normal life.”

He added: “In upper Weardale we look at the Prisoner of War camps. At this time communities were getting telegraphs about their men fighting in the Somme, they would then look out of their windows and see German soldiers marching past to work in the quarries. It must have been surreal for them.”

Marie Gardiner, who co-owns Lonely Tower Film & Media, added: “With the centenary commemorations, there’s been a lot of focus on the Great War and the majority of that is in the south of the country. As we reach the half way point, it’s important to bring fresh new ways to introduce people to our rich local history and highlight the essential role our region played.”

The pair have also produced hour-long film Always Remembered – The North East Memorials of The Great War, which investigates the aftermath of the war and how communities and individuals across the region expressed their grief in monumental form.

Filming on location at Tanfield Railway.

Interviewees include James Ramsbotham from the North East Chamber of Commerce, a retired senior army officer who explains the impetus behind North East war memorial. The Response in Newcastle, celebrating the raising of the 16th Northumberland Fusiliers from the ranks of Tyneside businesses.

The film was commissioned by The North East War Memorials Project who work tirelessly to investigate and catalogue these memorials between the Tweed and the Tees.

Both films will be premiered this month as part of the season of remembrance in a series of free screenings.

•Local screenings include noon on November 15 at the Masonic Hall in Beamish; noon on November 18 at North Biddick Club, Washington and 7pm on November 26 at Durham School.

David Little plays Joseph William Stones, shot at dawn

•For the full list and more information visit

A scene from the film. Marie Gardiner / Lonely Tower Film
Jack Simm plays William Noel Hodgeson killed at war
Filming on location at Tanfield Railway.
David Little plays Joseph William Stones, shot at dawn