Pay tribute to brave lads of Gallipoli

SCENE OF BATTLE ...the beach at Cape Helles. Below, from top, Robert Claughan, Mavin Davies, Thomas Richardson and James Ainscough.
SCENE OF BATTLE ...the beach at Cape Helles. Below, from top, Robert Claughan, Mavin Davies, Thomas Richardson and James Ainscough.

RELATIVES of South Tyneside men who fought in one of the bloodiest theatres of the First World War are being invited to attend commemorative events in London this spring.

This year marks the centenary of the ill-fated Gallipoli Campaign.

And while the Man With the Donkey, South Shields-born John Simpson Kirkpatrick, is the most famous local name to be associated with the conflict in the Dardanelles in 1915, many other young men from the borough’s towns and villages lost their lives.

They were members of the Royal Naval Division (RND), which suffered harrowing casualties, one unit almost being wiped out.

More than 400 families in the area had loved ones who served with the division, who will be remembered, along with thousands of others, over three days of commemorative events in the capital in April.

The centrepiece will be an Anglo-Australian-New Zealand ceremony and march at the Cenotaph in Whitehall on Saturday, April 25, for which descendants of men who served can apply for tickets. There will also be a dawn service at Hyde Park Corner and a service at Westminster Abbey.

There will also be a Gallipoli-themed day at South Shields Library in May, with a talk on the RND by Jarrow man Peter Hoy, who is compiling a massive database of local men who served during the Great War.

Out of 5,000-plus currently on the database, he has identified at least 407 men who served with the RND.

Names like that of Able Seaman Mavin Davies, who was serving with Howe Battalion when he was killed in action on May 20, 1915, only a few weeks after arriving in the Dardanelles.

The 30-year-old, who in peacetime was a plumber and tinsmith, was the son of Robert and Sarah Ann Davies, of Taylor Street in Shields. He is remembered on the Helles Memorial in Turkey.

The campaign was conceived as an attempt to remove the Ottoman Empire from the war by capturing the Gallipoli peninsula and giving Allied troops access to Constantinople, the Istanbul of today.

More than half a million Allied troops took part, suffering a casualty rate of almost 50 per cent.

Among those heavily engaged was the Royal Navy, which put troops ashore and bombarded Turkish positions with naval gunfire; while on land, sailors, Royal Marines and the Royal Naval Division fought alongside Army and ANZAC forces.

The RND had been formed on the outbreak of war, to take up a surplus of Royal Navy and Royal Marine reservists and volunteers who were not needed at sea. Many men of the Tyne Division of the Royal Naval Reserve (RNR) served in it.

After Gallipoli, having suffered crippling losses, it was reformed as a division of the British Army and went on to serve on the Western Front.

Thomas Lacey Richardson, whose home was at Railway Cottages at Simonside, had been a miner before the war. As Able Seaman Richardson, he arrived with the RND on April 25, 1915, the first day of the campaign.

He would die three months later of enteritis at the Australian General Hospital on the Greek island of Mudros, where he is buried.

He was only 22, and is commemorated on the chancel screen at St Simon’s Church at Simonside.

Also from South Shields was Chief Petty Officer James Ainscough, of Drake Battalion. He had worked at St Hilda’s Colliery in the town before the war. His father lived in Byron Street; while James himself lived with his wife Jennie (nee Mellon) in George Potts Street. They had married in 1911, and had one son, Jim.

James, who was awarded the Military Medal, would eventually lose his life on the Western Front, dying of wounds on Christmas Eve 1917, aged 28. He is buried in the British Cemetery at Rocquigny-Equancourt, Manancourt.

Sub-Lieutenant William Callender, of Howe Battalion, was the son of Peter and Mary Ann Callender, of Bath Street in Shields. He was killed in action in June 1915.

Some RND men did live to tell the tale. Able Seaman Robert Claughan, Hawke Battalion, worked at Whitburn Colliery, and lived in the railway cottages at Tyne Dock. He was wounded at Gallipoli on June 15, 1915, and was hospitalised in Alexandria, in Egypt.

After the war he married Evelyn Claughan (nee Orr), with whom he went on to have two sons and a daughter. He died in Middlesex in 1965, aged 68. Another veteran was Able Seaman George Falconbridge, Hood Battalion, a blacksmith’s striker before the war, who lived in Alice Street and, later, Lord Nelson Street at Tyne Dock.

He and his wife Margaret (nee Drummond) had married in 1911 and would have seven children, the youngest, Walter, born in 1931.

George died in 1966, aged 74, and is buried in Harton Cemetery.

n Applications have to be in by this Friday, February 20, for a free ticket either for the march or a viewing area at the Cenotaph. Visit and search for Gallipoli. The site also features details of how to find out if you are descended from a Gallipoli combatant.