Western Front Association

Last month, members of the Western Front Association welcomed Andrew Charlton who gave his talk, Walking the Front – History, Heritage and Helping.

Walking the Front Association is a registered charity originating from an idea Andrew first had in 2011.

His great-grandfather, Major Gordon McQueen, survived the First World War. Like many others he kept his experience to himself.

After completing an extensive genealogy project and having inherited several mementos of his great-grandfather’s military service in the First and Second World Wars, retracing the footsteps of his forebear through the fields and lanes of the Western Front, guided by contemporary trench maps and War Diaries, became Andrew’s aim.

Once the walk had been planned it seemed only right to try to develop the idea into fund-raising for today’s veterans and to raise awareness about the efforts of our forefathers to protect the freedom of this country.

At this stage, Paul Stephenson, a renowned North East film-maker and photographer revealed that his great-uncle, Harry Lisle, had served alongside Andrew’s great-grandfather and so a quest by two good friends was born.

The lads walked the Western Front from Ypres (now Leper) in Belgium to Albert in France and followed the steps taken by many of the Tyneside Scottish Brigade, part of the Northumberland Fusiliers’ Regiment.

They visited the key battlefield sites around Leper, Messines, Arras and along the Somme, paying their respects to the fallen, raising funds for veterans and making a documentary for children to highlight the key events in our history.

After the walk the team of volunteers behind it and the walkers themselves came together to take the first steps to register the ‘Walking the Front Association’ as a charity before, then, turning their attention to planning the May 2013 Walk along the Normandy beaches.

Andrew also had time to explain other family connections with the Tyneside Scottish Brigade, notably that of another ancestor, JR Hall, the indefatigable secretary of the Tyneside Scottish committee responsible for raising the brigade.

When Andrew first started working he joined a firm of solicitors and, on his first morning, he walked into the office to be unexpectedly confronted by a large painting of JR Hall who had been principal partner in one of the former firms of solicitors from which Andrew’s employers could trace their origins.

Coincidences like this littered the fascinating story Andrew told.

The WFA’s next formal meeting will be on Monday, November 24, with Derek Gladding’s talk ‘Tannenberg, 1914’.

WFA meetings take place at 7.15pm (for 7.30pm) at Alnmouth and District Ex-Servicemen’s Club, Northumberland Street, Alnmouth.

A warm welcome awaits visitors and WFA members new to the branch. The suggested minimum donation is £2, to include a light finger supper.