Remembering Tyneside's fallen

Image with poppies and text
The North East remembers 1918 - 2018

Volunteers have recorded a series of poems to mark the World War One Centenary.

The verses dealing with death and loss were recorded as part Newcastle’s Remembrance events for 2018.

People taking part have spoken movingly of their reasons for being involved in the project which has included city council staff, serving soldiers, children and veterans.

Entitled Remembering Tyneside’s Fallen, the recordings will be played at The Discovery Museum in Newcastle and published online.

Lord Mayor of Newcastle Cllr David Down thanked those that had organised and taken part in the project.

He said: "It is of no surprise to me that those who have taken part in the project have been so moved when reading the poems.

“Living into the minds and hearts of those who wrote the poems as they experienced first-hand the inhumanity of WW1 stirs up something inside us all, whether it be by thinking of relatives who were there or the poignancy of the war itself.

“We must not forget the lessons that history can teach us and poems such as these help us to remember them."

The poems recorded included verses by famous World War One poets including Vera Brittain and Siegfried Sassoon. Brittain’s poem ‘Perhaps’ was written in 1916 in memory of her fiancé Roland Aubrey Leighton, who was killed aged 20 by an enemy sniper.

Funding manager Julia Hickin, 55, of County Durham, said: “Perhaps reminded me of how I felt when my Dad died, in March 2015, and that life still goes on though he’s not here to enjoy it anymore.”

Adult Learning & Skills Tutor Judith Rust, 63, of Wallsend, also read Perhaps. She said: “It resonated with me about losing a loved one. I found it incredibly moving. “We need to be eternally grateful to all of those who gave their lives so that we may live ours the way we do, and Remembrance Sunday is a huge part of this.”

Victoria Cheetham, 37, of Lemington, read ‘Perhaps’ by Vera Brittain. She said: “It’s an honour to be a part of remembering these people that gave their lives to give us our freedom and keep us safe, all in the hope we could have a better future filled with love and laughter that so many of them and their families could never share again.

“Their sacrifice reminds me how to appreciate what I have and teaches me to be kind and generous as often as I can.”

Admin support officer at Newcastle City Council Rachael Allan, read ‘Everyone Sang’ by Siegfried Sassoon.

Rachel, aged 36, said: “I wanted to be involved in this project as I feel my generation is slowly starting to forget. “I have two young daughters and will teach them about the World Wars and the bravery of the men and women involved in it.

“I feel it’s important to keep the memories and stories alive.”

Customer services assistant for Newcastle City Council Susan Pemberton, 55, of Wallsend, read ‘Attack’, by Sassoon.

She said: “Both my Grandfathers served in the First World War. “My father’s Dad ran away to join up; he used to tell me stories but not in too much detail as they were ‘too terrible for me to hear.’

“Attack sums up the awful, fearful, anticipation of the men waiting to go over the top. Men who don’t even know if they are going to be alive in an hours’ time.”

Lt Col BDF Ben Crookes, 40, of the Royal Artillery read ‘For All We Have And Are’, by Rudyard Kipling.

He said: “The poems bring to life the experiences of those who served or had immediate family serve in the First World War.

“They remind us of the cost of war, but also of the courage and sense of duty that servicemen, women and civilians showed.”

Prevention, information and advice lead for the city council Kate Bowman, of Fenham, read ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ by Wilfred Owen.

Describing in awful detail the effect of a gas attack, it includes the line ‘Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori’, which means: “It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country.”

Kate said: “My Great Uncle died in the First World War, a war hero.

“As a child, I thought that was romantic but then later read this poem in class and was confronted with the brutal reality.”

Katie Cagney, 35, of Whitley Bay, read ‘June 1915’, by Charlotte Mew. Katie, who works at The Discovery Museum for Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums said: “My great-grandfather James had a job in the Co-Operative building before war broke out.

“He was a draper and then suddenly a soldier.

“There’s a picture at the museum which shows a crowd of men, newly recruited and standing in the Great Hall. He could be in that crowd.

“I can only imagine what it felt like to be called to war and for the whole family to experience such separation and hardship.

“We need to remember so it doesn’t happen again.”

Admin support officer for Newcastle City Council Louisa Baily, 40, of Jesmond, read ‘To Germany’, by Charles Hamilton Sorley.

Louisa, who studied German history at university, said: “The poem reflects my belief that war is de-humanising.

“War makes people behave in ways that do not make sense and no country is immune from making ill-fated choices; no country is wholly innocent.

“In war, there is no single winner but there are many sacrifices. On all sides.”

Paul Foote, 36, of Gateshead read a translation into English of War, by Welsh poet Hedd Wyn.

He said: “The poem originates from where I grew up; North Wales.

“It captures part of the tragedy of the Great War as Hedd Wyn’s life was cut tragically short. He was killed before receiving a national award and wider recognition for his work.”

RAF veteran Sydney Graham, of Cramlington, read ‘Here Dead We Lie’, by AE Housman.

Mr Graham, 75, who is secretary of Tyneside Joint Ex-Services Association, said: “Supporting veterans is very important to me.

“The poem by Houseman has been a favourite of mine for many years.

“It describes how young men, motivated by patriotism, are prepared to lay down their lives for their country - as many have.”

Remembrance events are due to take place across the country on Sunday November 11, to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armistice in 1918 that signalled the end of World War One.

In Newcastle, there will be a two-minute silence and service at The Cenotaph in Old Eldon Square, which has been strung with thousands of scarlet poppies knitted and crocheted for the occasion.

A parade of serving, veteran, and cadet forces will march through the city.