Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

When Britain Was Called on to Serve, It Was Us That Answered the Loudest; TONY HENDERSON HERITAGE

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

When Britain Was Called on to Serve, It Was Us That Answered the Loudest; TONY HENDERSON HERITAGE

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Henderson Environment Editor tony.henderson@ncjmedia.com

WHEN the call came for volunteers at the outbreak of the First World War, men flooded into Newcastle from the shipyards, mines, factories and offices.

Newcastle raised more battalions of volunteer soldiers who went on to see active service than any other British provincial city, says historian and author Neil Storey.

But the scale of that response and contribution to the war by the city has never been fully recognised, he claims.

"Newcastle raised the greatest number of battalions of any city outside London but that achievement has been lost to history," says Neil, co-author of a book out next week titled Newcastle Battalions in Action on the Somme.

"It was a remarkable contribution and they made a remarkable sacrifice in the Battle of the Somme 100 years ago.

"Almost all of the battalions raised in Newcastle fought at the Somme at some point.

"But the contribution by Newcastle and Northumberland is often overlooked."

Neil, the author of 30 books, has written his latest effort - from Tyne Bridge Publishing at PS7.99 - with Fiona Kay, who lives in Cramlington in Northumberland, where the family name of Storey is more common than in East Anglia. Although born and bred in Norfolk, Neil has family connections with Northumberland.

He says: "On visits to the North East I noticed lots of Storeys on war memorials. While trying to find out more, I was struck by the sheer number of battalions raised in Newcastle. It was astonishing."

He estimates that 19 battalions were recruited in Newcastle. Battalions comprised 1,000 men but 1,200 were usually recruited to allow for wastage.

Neil reckons that reasons for the enormous surge in recruitment included the numbers of men working in what was a heavily industrialised area and the patriotic flush of 1914.

In 1912 mines in Northumberland employed 48,450 men underground and 10,854 on the surface.

"Joining up was an escape from life down the pit, and doing their bit for their country. Men didn't want to miss out on what was considered then to be something of an adventure. …

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