Stories behind WW1 memorial revealed by Newcastle University

Armstrong College Hospital Credit: Newcastle University

The stories behind the names on a Newcastle University First World War memorial are being researched and published in a digital book.

Students, staff and schoolchildren are researching the 223 names on the Armstrong Building plaque to find out more about the men who gave their lives in the Great War as part of the Armstrong World War I Digital Memory Book.

The project idea began as a dissertation and it was expanded by Dr Jane Webster, head of archaeology at Newcastle University.

"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.

Dr Jane Webster, head of archaeology at Newcastle University
..and now Credit: Newcastle University

Students Ben Howson and Holly Johnson helped to research around 200 names using the university archives and online sources such as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.

"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 sacrifice. Armstrong College was quite small at the time so for 223 men to die in the war would have had a huge impact."

Ben Howson

The story which stands out for Ben is that of Wallace Moir Annand, who studied maths, physics, chemistry and engineering. He died on 4 June 1915, aged 27, while serving in the Navy at Gallipoli. He died before he could meet his infant son, Richard, who would become the first person to be awarded the Victoria Cross in World War II.

Also featured is William Lawson, from Boldon Colliery, who 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. William described the war as a 'permanent industry for making death' in a letter home and was killed in action on 27 March while serving with the Durham Light Infantry.

As part of the project, staff at the University's Robinson Library have been developing materials so schoolchildren can learn how to research the names themselves and contribute to the digital memory book.

The Armstrong WWI Memorial Digital Memory Book is located at the entrance to the Armstrong Building on Newcastle University campus.

"We have uncovered some fascinating stories which really bring the people behind the names to life, but there is still more research to be done. Anyone who thinks they may have a relative featured on the memorial or is just interested in local history or the First World War, can go online to see the memory book and they can take up the search.

Newcastle University archivist Ian Johnson