Modern Way to Keep Past Alive; the Tragic First World War Loss of Talented College Students Has Been Revealed by a University Project. TONY HENDERSON Reports

The Journal (Newcastle, England), November 6, 2014 | Go to article overview

Modern Way to Keep Past Alive; the Tragic First World War Loss of Talented College Students Has Been Revealed by a University Project. TONY HENDERSON Reports


Byline: TONY HENDERSON

IF there is one overall impression which emerges from the stream of rediscovered stories of those who died in the First World War, it is that of the colossal waste of potential; of young lives cut short.

Once again, this is what emerges from the 223 names on the memorial in the Armstrong Building at Newcastle University.

Armstrong College, as it was known then, was part of Durham University, and many of its students served as officers. A total of 276 individuals who attended or worked at Armstrong College and the University of Durham College of Medicine - both of which eventually became Newcastle University - lost their lives in the war.

The memorial remembers the 223 who attended Armstrong College. The names are inscribed on a stone tablet at the foot of the stairs in the Armstrong building, and their average age was just 26.

But their stories had been largely forgotten.

Dr Jane Webster, head of archaeology at Newcastle University, sought to remedy this through original research by undergraduate Sophie Anderton, as part of her dissertation which shone a light on many of the personal stories.

The Newcastle Institute for Social Renewal recognised the importance of making this research available to the widest possible audience. It awarded the project a grant to create a digital memory book, working in conjunction with the university library, which shows what has been discovered about the names on the memorial.

Dr Webster said: "Most people don't even look at the plaque when they walk past it in the Armstrong Building. It has just become part of the furniture. This seemed a real shame to me and that's where the idea for the digital memory book came from.

"Most of the men named on the plaque came from within 30 miles of Newcastle and the stories we're uncovering also tell the story of the area at that time."

Archaeology students Ben Howson and Holly Johnson carried out further research on the names.

Ben said: "It felt like an honour really. The way we were able to learn about the staff and students who came before us and made that sacri-fice. Armstrong College was quite small at the time so for 223 to die in the war would have had a huge impact."

Among the stories the project has uncovered is that of Capt Henry Clifford Stroud, son of Armstrong College physics professor Henry Stroud. He studied for a degree in engineering at Armstrong College and went to fight in France in January 1915 with the 1st Field Company Northumbrian Royal Engineers. He was severely wounded in both legs shortly afterwards and returned to Armstrong College, by then operating as a hospital for the war wounded.

Henry was one of 4,050 men to enter the hospital in 1915. He recovered and eager to play a more active part in the war, joined the Royal Flying Corps in 1916 and went on to play a part in repelling almost every German air raid on London.

There was no moon the night of the Germans' penultimate attack and Henry collided with another aircraft piloted by Captain Alexander Bruce Kynoch.

He was just 24 when he died on March 17, 1918 and he is remembered with an inscription on a propeller where his plane came down at Dollymans Farm, in Essex.

The university's Henry Clifford Stroud prize for physics was set up in his name.

William Lawson, from Boldon Colliery, gained a BSc at Armstrong College. He was the brother of Jack Lawson, MP for Chester-le-Street, who would become the first Baron of Beamish. …

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