The Western Front Association’s members’ night in July started with John Dixon showing his wonderful collection of model First World War aircraft, all of which were hand-crafted and beautifully painted.
Derek Gladding followed, comparing casualties sustained at the 1815 Battle of Waterloo with those of the 1916 Battles of the Somme, to illustrate that, arguably, the earlier conflict was more deadly.
Returning to the aviation theme, Peter Trionfi described what aircraft were built in the North East of England during the First World War and what training facilities and flying units were based in the area.
Then Dave Barras illustrated how his deactivated SMLE rifle, which he’d brought along, would have been used and what its capabilities were.
Brian Teasdale turned to the eccentricities of one Lieutenant-Commander Geoffrey Spicer-Simson who led Royal Navy operations to wrest control of the strategically important Lake Tanganyika which had been dominated by German naval units since the beginning of the war.
Bill Budworth told the story of John Condon who was a member of the Royal Irish Regiment when he was killed, aged 14.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission claims that his is the most visited grave on the Western Front, evidence for which is the frequency with which the surrounding area needs to be re-turfed.
Neil Brison illustrated the detailed instructions local Chief Constables received from the Home Office about preparing inventories of supplies, provisions and livestock, etc, in their areas, and the precise instructions for routes to be taken to move everything and everyone inland in the event of invasion.
Bill Foote stole the show on the night with recollections of his first operation as a Second World War Halifax bomber pilot.
Bill flew 37 missions, which earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross, before ending the war as a Flying Instructor.
David Thompson described the research necessary to write an as yet unpublished manuscript relating the war records of all 37 battalions raised by the Durham Light Infantry Regiment in the First World War.
Craig Weir shared the fascinating and detailed recollections of one Harry Small, head of the household Craig lodged with in his early Royal Navy career, who had related his own recollections of service with the Pioneer battalion of the Hampshire Regiment.
Finally, Jane Glass rounded off proceedings talking about five of her ancestors – Jane’s talk title, Rheumatic Soldiers, probably says it all!
The WFA’s next formal meeting will be on Monday, September 23, with Rob Thompson’s talk The Wombles of the Western Front: BEF Salvage in the Great War.
Other dates for your diaries are October 28, I’m Big Bertha – Beware of Imitations, by David Easton, and November 25, A 1911 German outlook on the impending Great European War, by Derek Gladding.
WFA meetings take place at 7.15 pm (for 7.30 pm) at Alnmouth and District Ex-Servicemen’s Club.
A warm welcome awaits visitors and WFA members new to the branch. The suggested minimum donation is £1, to include a light finger supper.