Centenary appeal for relatives of heroes of bloodiest battle

The Colours of the 2nd Battalion Tyneside Scottish in St Cuthbert's Church, Bedlington.
The Colours of the 2nd Battalion Tyneside Scottish in St Cuthbert's Church, Bedlington.
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An appeal is being made to find relatives of the men who lost their lives in one of the bloodiest battles of the First World War.

Almost 1,000 men from the Tyneside Scottish brigade of the Northumberland Fusiliers died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, which saw the heaviest loss of life in a single day's fighting in British military history.

An estimated 940 men from the brigade perished on July 1,1916, and another 1,600 were wounded, when the regiment went over the top to attack German lines in the direction of the village of Contalmaison.

Now almost 100 years later, an appeal is going out to find relatives of the men who died ahead of a special centenary event, on Sunday, July 10, in Bedlington, where many of the brigade's 5,000 men were recruited.

The service, following a parade in the town, will take place at St Cuthbert's Church at 3pm and is organised by the Tyneside Scottish Branch of the Royal Artillery Association, in conjunction with St Cuthbert's, Northumberland County Council and supported by West Bedlington Town Council.

County Councillor, Dave Ledger, the council’s Armed Forces champion, said: "The parade and service will recognise the enormous sacrifice and bravery of the men who were involved in the fighting at the Somme and the families who waited anxiously for news of their loved ones.

"Whole towns were transformed by the agony of the First World War and the loss of so many young lives, so I think it’s hugely important to mark this occasion. We are proud to be working alongside the Tyneside Scottish branch on what is likely to be a very poignant day."

Many of those recruited were employed in the mining industry and signed up as a Pals unit - men who worked together, lived in the same street, joined up together, fought together and ultimately died together.

The coal companies (Bedlington and Netherton) commissioned memorial boards, with the names of 418 men who paid the ultimate price and these are displayed in the Memorial Chapel in St Cuthbert's, together with the Colours of the Second Battalion, of which the church is the proud custodian. It was presented to the Battalion on the Town Moor on July 10 1920, was paraded to the church and has remained there ever since.

Michael Eldridge, on behalf of the planning group said: "Many of the men who fought and died with The Tyneside Scottish during the battle were from Bedlington. We at St Cuthbert’'s are pleased to work with the Tyneside Scottish Association, with whom we have a strong bond, to commemorate this momentous occasion, to recognise the sacrifice made by men from the community. We would also like to acknowledge the important part being played by Northumberland County Council in arranging this event and the support which we hope to receive from West Bedlington Town Council.

"St Cuthbert’s Church would have been the centre of the community’s grief and commemoration, as the families supported each other in the aftermath of the battle, and we believe it is appropriate that the church should once again be the focal point for the centenary celebrations."

The planning group is keen to hear from anyone who has any family or historic connection with the events of 1916, which could be used in the presentation of this special occasion. Email Michael Eldridge at dormich@btinternet.com if you have anything to share.