April 6, 2015

Northumberland history. Bellingham (North Tyne) war memorials

By Donald Clegg and Clive Dalton

The Boer War
Wikipedia provides a full history of the first Anglo Boer or Transvaal war from Dec 1880 to March 1881, and the second Anglo Boer war from October 1889 to May 1902.  The plaque on the memorial to the Bellingham men states that they lost their lives in 1900, 1901 and 1902.

The Boer war memorial in Manchester Square

The memorial was originally positioned in the middle of the road at the intersection of the Otterburn and Reedsmouth roads, and opposite Lloyd’s bank and Dobbin’s shop where it acted as a roundabout for the limited amount of village vehicle traffic up to the 1950s.  

 It had a water fountain and had metal railings around it for protection. It also has a metal door, presumably to service the plumbing.
Then for it’s own safety and that of motorists, especially the turning buses and stock wagons going to the marts, it was removed to a safer place for all concerned in Manchester square behind the town hall.

 It would be interesting to know who made the memorial - especially who carved the soldier and the wreath around the top. The light was not part of the original design but clearly now serves a valuable purpose. 

Fortunately the names of the 33 who died were carved on marble so have not deteriorated in the weather, as the names of the dead from later wars have which were carved in local sandstone.

 It is interesting to see the names on a smaller plaque. Perhaps they were added later, possibly for those who died as a result of injuries sustained in the war. It's also interesting to see that the men were divided into yeomanry who presumably were regular army, and volunteers who joined to go to this war.

The Great War 1914-1918

The lych gate into the Bellingham cemetery built for the 1914-1918 war dead.
It was built by Anthony (Anty) Charlton.
This war,  deemed to be ‘the war to end all wars’ took 32 young men from the Bellingham area to their foreign graves, and in this centenary of their deaths (2015), it’s especially fitting to remember who they were, as by now, there must be few who will remember them in person, and who would even remember hearing about their exploits from others.  Fortunately 33 others returned to carry on their lives and it is good that their names are listed.  This was not done on many other memorials according to Alan Grint.

1914-1918 eroded names on wall

Sadly their names carved on the wall of the stone lych gate of the Bellingham cemetery are weathering badly, and some are now very hard and even impossible to read. 

This is a tragedy for those who died and for their relatives.

The mistake was to use local sandstone as it absorbs moisture unlike marble, and expansion and contraction due to frost disintegrates its structure. 

But this should not allow the memory of their sacrifice to fade away. Their names need urgent 
attention and preservation.  Who has the responsibility for this and who could obtain some funds?

Good news 2018
Work will start in April 2018 to restore the 72 names which were fading away on to new plaques, thanks to a donation of ten thousand pounds from the Northumberland Freemasons.
 Shocking numbers
As with all WWI memorials, it is shocking to see the high number of young men (many presumably from the same family) who left the valley’s farms, estates, coal pits, quarries and shops for what looked like a short adventure, and to be ‘home by Christmas’ which was highlighted in the misguided propaganda to get them to volunteer.

Their names on the cemetery lych gate need to be recorded again in some more weatherproof form for all to see in future.  They also need to be recorded in some public archive or museum database, so they are not forgotten and can be accessed for further research by families in years to come as access to genealogy data via the Internet develops.  Otherwise all this valuable local history recording the shocking waste of young Bellingham mens’ lives will be lost forever.

It was a miracle that so many (61) returned to make a major contribution to village life and work.  It's a sad situation that those with a memory of them have almost all gone too.

Poor state of names on wall damaged by weather (frost) and mould
 You can see from the photograph some eroded  names, so here’s a list from what could be deciphered.  Details of who these people were would be welcomed by the authors.  

 Men who served and did not return - 32 now resting in some far off field
J Stanley Allen
G Armstrong
W Armstrong
E Armstrong
A Bowes
J R Clapperton
J Daley
Paxton Dodd
J Brown
J Fletcher
W Foreman
W Fox
R Glendinning
J Grieve
R Hedley
E Johnson
T Lauderdale
M Martinson
D McKie
T Robson
J Rae
A Rutherford
W Ninian Robson
T Storey
R Storey
J G Southern
T Spencer
Jos Turnbull
J P Waugh
T Wright
Basil White
J H Temple 

On a separate list: The 61 who served and returned.
R Allen
J Aggas
J Anderson
J Armstrong
J R Armstrong
Robt Armstrong
M Armstrong
? Armstrong
? Armstrong
A Andison
G Bell
R Brown
R Burn (? RJ Burn who was a farrier in the war and was the local blacksmith)
R E Charlton (? Bob Charlton of Hesleyside estate)
W H Charlton
Leo Charlton
F H Charlton
W P Collier ( ? He became the famed local photographer)
G T Colling ( ? Geordie Colling who was the key man in the Council roading)
J R Colling
A N Colling
J Coulson  ( ? The local saddler)
R Cowan
G Dagg  ( ? Geordie Dagg)
G Dagg
E Daley
P Daley
A Davidson ( ? Alec Davidson)
J A Davidson
Ewan Davidson
J Dodd
? Drummond
? Dixon
T H Glass (? Harry Glass who had the Railway hotel and local taxi)
Chas Gash
John Hall
Mat Hall
J I Hindmarsh (? shopkeeper in village)
R W Huntington
Gabriel Hedley
J Hutton
Jas Jameson
Hugh Johnson.
W Nixon

? Newcombe
? Pearson
Robt Potts
W Potts (? Willie Potts farmed at the Reenes)
Robt Proctor
A. ?, 
Peter. ?, 
P J Redpath
? Telford
? Thompson
R T Thompson
? Thompson
Hugh Thompson (? Transport company owner)
? Thompson,
? Thompson
? Thompson
Henry Thompson.

The WWI ‘Dead Man's Penny’
After the Great War of 1914-1918, when so many thousands of young men were slaughtered mainly in the trenches of France and Belgium, the British government saw fit to thank their parents for their sons' sacrifice by sending every one of them, (up to an estimated 1, 335, 000) a memorial plaque or medallion. These were about 4 inches in diameter and inscribed with the soldier's name and the words – ‘They Died for Freedom'.

Many families regarded the plaque as an insult to their son's sacrifice and returned it in disgust or threw it away. The plaque came in a presentation box and with a scroll signed by King George V. More information can be found on Google under 'Dead Penny'.  They were called a penny as they were cast from similar metal to the currency penny.

Don Clegg's Uncle Ernest - killed in battle in 1916 aged 20.
Below is the 'Dead Man's Penny' his mother received to record his sacrifice.


World War II 1939-1945
Thankfully fewer Bellingham men gave their lives in the second world war, but their loss is no less tragic to their families.  Plenty of Bellingham's now older residents will still remember them  - and also remember the grief that their families suffered when that fateful telegram on yellow paper arrived from the War Office.

We are not sure if these men were called up for active service or were volunteers. It's more likely that they were called up.

This plaque is in good repair after 70 years and seems to be of different stone to the sandstone used for the 1914-18 names, and will hopefully remain in this state.

 N T (Tommy) Batey - died of wounds at Dunkirk.  The youngest of the Batey's 8 sons who were stone masons and builders for three generations in Bellingham.

A T (Tony)  Chilman - posted missing after the fall of Singapore to the Japanese.  He was the son of the Lloyd's bank manager.  The only information given to the family was that he was killed in action.

J A (Jamie) Jamieson - killed in France aged 19.  Lived at Tarset.

S T (Thompson) Wait - killed in action aged 18.

J C (Jack) Mason:  Jack worked for the Bellingham butcher Stanley Telfer.   Jack  was a driver in the RASC - Airborne Division.  He was killed a week after the D Day landings on June 13 1944. Jack left a widow and four daughters.

F R (Fred) Warwick - captain in a tank regiment and killed in Italy. Fred's father was a tailor in Bellingham.

Missing off the list - reason unknown
James Bell.  The only son of Bob and Agnes Bell of King street, Bellingham who served in the RAF and whose Dakota went missing without trace in the Pacific. He worked in Cordiner's chemist shop in Bellingham before the war.

 Please send the authors and information on the early lives of these brave men. 

Grint, A.I. (2011)  In Silent Fortitude. The memory of the men of the North Tyne valley who fell in the Great War.   Ergo Press.  ISBN 978-0-9557510-9-7.

Territorial Training.  The Redesdale and Hareshaw army camps.
 Written by David Walmsley based on research by Stan Owen and David Walmsley
C  Jarrold Publishing 03/16 92204
The Heritage Centre, Bellingham

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