A tribute to the 46 who came from the same village - and all died in battle

A Wearside man has embarked on a mission to pay tribute to 46 village residents who died serving their country.

Tuesday, 23rd January 2018, 10:00 am
Kevins photo of the statue to commemorate the miners of South Hetton.

The South Hetton 46 have grabbed the attention of Kevin Dance, who is a former resident of the village himself.

Kevin now lives outside the North East but remains fascinated by his place of birth.

Kevin Dance.

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He said: “I’m currently researching the names of the 46 men from South Hetton who lost their lives during the First World War.

“There are some amazing stories I’ve uncovered already that I’m sure will interest your readers.”

Kevin explained why he has such an interest in the men who perished.

“I was born and raised in South Hetton where my father was a miner. When I was 10-years-old we moved away to Stoke-on-Trent. I have many happy memories from this time and would like to give something back to the local community.

A muddy First World War battlefield.

“My interest in research began with my own Great Grandfather who was killed in the First World War. Most of my extended family still live in the North East.”

Over the coming weeks, Kevin will be sharing the intriguing stories behind the men who went to war and never came back.

Today, he starts with Arthur Wright and he already knows quite a bit about Arthur.

He was born on July 6, 1891, and stood 5 feet 5.5 inches tall. He had dark brown hair with brown eyes and a fresh complexion.

Kevin Dance.

His parents were Robert (who was a colliery banksman above ground) and Jane Elizabeth. His brothers were Thomas Maddison, Robert Norman, Albert Ernest, and Harold.

In 1911, Arthur was a resident of Silverdale Street in South Hetton. And by then, he had already enlisted into the Royal Navy, which he joined on December 15, 1909.

Arthur joined up for a 12-year period and gave his occupation as an accountant clerk.

But by the time he had taken up service with the Royal Navy, he had started serving as a Stoker 2nd class.

A muddy First World War battlefield.

But Arthur was good at his job and within 18 months he was promoted to Stoker 1st class.

His Navy career saw him working on ships such as the Roxburgh, Achilles, and Assistance. He then transferred to the Royal Navy Air Service and by July 1914 he was an Air Mechanic 1st class and then a Leading Mechanic by June 1916.

It was in April 1918 that he transferred to the RAF as a Sergeant Mechanic and was then almost immediately promoted to Flight Sergeant.

But his luck was beginning to run out and on August 19, 1918, at RAF Turnhouse (in Edinburgh) he suffered an extensive scalp wound and shock in an air accident.

Kevin said: “The Court of Inquiry decided that the cause of the accident was due to the pilot stalling the machine when attempting to do a climbing turn after take-off and nosedived into the ground. The type of aircraft was a DH9.”

Less than a month later, tragedy struck. Arthur was flying in a Strutter 9894 when he was killed as a result of a mid-air collision over the Firth of Forth.

The date was September 4, 1918.

Kevin told us: “The pilot, Lt R Pyne, was injured but survived the crash. Arthur’s body was never recovered.

“He is remembered with honour at the Holybrook Memorial Southampton.

“To have achieved what he did – starting as a stoker and working his way up – was a truly remarkable achievement for a young man from such a humble background.”

According to the 1939 census, his brother Thomas became a Police Inspector at Billingham, said Kevin. Robert Norman was working as a General Manager at a food factory in Beckenham, Kent.

And Albert Ernest was working as a locomotive fitter in Darlington while Harold was employed as a miner in Sedgefield.

But Kevin would love to know more about Arthur and the other South Hetton tragic casualties of the global conflict.

Do you have any information about the South Hetton men who died in the First World War?

If so, send your information to [email protected]

l Is ther another aspect of Wearside history you would like to share – from a favourite school to an event in the area’s past?