Group of history buffs release book celebrating lives of fallen Houghton soldiers

The lives of Wearside men who died in the First World War are being celebrated thanks to a group of history buffs.

Thursday, 21st July 2016, 11:00 am
Houghton War Memorial Group new book. Front organiser Fay Judson

Six ladies from Houghton formed the War Memorial Family History Project and have worked together to trace the history of the 237 men named on the Houghton War Memorial, which stands in St Michael’s Churchyard.

They’ve now compiled their findings into a book, Houghton-le-Spring: Our War Memorial, Our Families which fellow history buffs can buy.

Houghton War Memorial Group new book. Organiser Fay Judson

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Fay Judson, one of the organisers, said: “Over the past three-and-a-half years we have worked our way through the 237 men named on the Houghton War Memorial and traced their families, wherever possible, through to the early 1920s.

“We were finally able to research 221 of them, unfortunately the other 16 had very common surnames and it proved impossible to established who they were. The aim was to show just how much these men still have a connection to families in this area and, indeed, to other parts of the world, and to pay our respects to them and their families for enduring the Great War.

“Thanks to various articles in the Sunderland Echo, we have had some very generous help from relatives of the men and have some lovely photos, 15 of which have been included in the book.

“What we are not researching is the men’s military journeys, but we are including their rank, service number, regiment and where they are commemorated or buried.

Houghton War Memorial Group new book. Organiser Fay Judson

“Since the launch of the book, people have been in touch with us to say that they have found other relatives in the book that they were unaware of and some have been in touch with each other.

“I always said there was another book in this one tracing the marriages of the folk in Houghton at that time – and it continues to this day.”

The book is on sale for £4.99, with £4 going to the armed forces charity SSAFA, and the rest being donated to the Houghton Racecourse Community Association, where the ladies are based.

Freda Doyle, whose uncle John Mallen and great uncle Walter Scarth are included in the book, said: “The older I get the more I appreciate the heartache that the people left behind endured.

“Some families had multiple losses, my own grandfather lost a brother and son in a matter of months. Many women were left to bring up families on their own, without much support.

“I think that this group of ladies have recognised that the men, suitably honoured on the War Memorial, had relatives, who suffered immense grief, yet carried on with their lives.

“This book is a fitting tribute, a century later, to both the men and their families. Thank you ladies, I hope that the book is a success and I know that the full cost of the book is to go to two very worthwhile causes.”

To order a copy of the book, go to, email [email protected] or call 07751 159104.