Church aims to trace relatives of war dead

tribute plans ... Keith Sumby in Whitburn Methodist Church.
tribute plans ... Keith Sumby in Whitburn Methodist Church.

AN appeal is being made to trace the families of First World War heroes listed on a church memorial in South Tyneside.

The names of 46 soldiers and sailors killed during the 1914-1918 conflict have been on display on a marble tablet at Whitburn Methodist Church for decades.

Worshippers are planning a remembrance service in August to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of war, and they want relatives of the fallen to attend.

Co-ordinator Keith Sumby said: “Unfortunately, we know very little about the men named on the memorial. This is an opportunity to find out more and remember them all.

“It is intended to light a candle for each of the 46 men during our service, and we feel it would be appropriate if relatives of the men could get involved and do this.”

Among the fallen listed on the tribute is Adolphus Huddlestone Williamson, a Royal Navy captain born in 1869 and who served throughout the war.

He commanded several ships during the conflict, including the Royal Arthur, Berwick, Vengeance, Dominion and, finally, the dreadnought Canada in 1917.

After a long and distinguished career, Captain Williamson retired on February 25, 1918. Sadly, the 49-year-old, a Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George, died of pneumonia just a few months later, on July 14.

Marsden-born joiner Frederick Elliott is also named on the memorial.

The Royal Engineer won a Military Medal, but died of wounds sustained in France and Flanders in 1917.

Other men named include miners John Asselbrough, Jacob Stenton, Hammet Young and Hubert Farrar, posted to France in May 1915 and killed on August 9.

Mason labourer Alexander Whyte, of the 2nd Durham Light Infantry, is mentioned too after being killed in action at on the Western Front in March 1918, months before the war ended.

Mr Sumby added: “Whitburn’s population during the Great War was fewer than 4,000.

“Of these, around half were female and many other males were too old or too young to fight.

“Therefore, the list of the 46 men represents a large sacrifice from our village, and that is why we believe it is important to find out more about the stories behind the names.

“It would also be very interesting if people could come forward with photos of the men, so we could put names to faces. These could go on show during the service.”

Whitburn Methodist Church is planning to host a service of remembrance on Sunday, August 3, at 6pm, almost 100 years on from the start of the war.

“We are hoping that, by inviting the families of those named on our memorial, we can give the men a voice and an identity. They won’t just be names any more,” said Mr Sumby.

“The village is so small, and many families have lived here a long time, so we hope people will come forward.

“This year marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, and we believe it is very important to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.”

n Are you related to one of the men? Call Mr Sumby on 0778 848 4203. He is also available at the church after any Sunday evening service.

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