Battle of the Somme: Commemorative book launched

A new book commemorating the Battle of the Somme and focusing on men and women involved in the First World War is being launched on Saturday, during a poignant exhibition.

June Watson with her new book.
June Watson with her new book.

Portraits of War: The Men and Women of Warkworth and Acklington District Who Served in World War 1 has been produced by June Watson, secretary for the Warkworth and Amble District Branch of the Royal British Legion.

Her detailed work includes 134 pages of research on the men and two nurses from these areas who served in the Great War.

June received a grant for the book from Northumberland County Councillors Glen Sanderson and Jeff Watson from their Members Small Scheme Award.

The book will be available for a donation and all proceeds will go towards the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal.

June said: “I did research for the centenary of the beginning of the First World War and I held a previous exhibition in Warkworth. I decided to use that material and update it to produce this book, because it seemed a shame to waste the material and leave it lying in a drawer.

“It took more than six months. The personal biographies of those men who signed up for the war are a valuable account of the impact of war, their families and also the support which was given to the soldiers by the local community.

“The assistance and co-operation from many descendants of those featured have helped to make this book possible and the information was acquired from several sources. It has proved impossible to verify all the local men who served in the Great War, but a substantial number have been found with the families of many still residing in the area.”

The book will be launched and available to buy during a Battle of the Somme Exhibition at Warkworth Memorial Hall on Saturday. The free event, from 10am to 5pm, has been organised on behalf of the Royal British Legion.

The display will feature research from the book, including a special Somme section, with a focus on the local men (four from Warkworth and one from Acklington) who died on the first day of the offensive. There will be a full-size picture of one of the victims – Lt Geoffrey Sanderson, from Warkworth.

An original First World War banner, which was hung across Warkworth’s Castle Street in 1915 when the wounded returned to the village, will be on show at the exhibition.

Warkworth Village Choir will sing at noon and 2pm and Beverley Palin will play music from the First Word War era throughout the day. There will also be stalls with First World War memorabilia, refreshments and a raffle, with prizes having been donated from local businesses and the public. Money raised will go towards the Poppy Appeal.

June added: “The Royal British Legion does a wonderful job for the soldiers who have come back from conflicts such as Iraq and Afghanistan who will need help from the Poppy Appeal for years to come.”

June has 100 copies of the book. Some may be available after the exhibition day, call June on 07785 753100. Coun Sanderson will distribute the residual copies in his council district.

○ The Royal British Legion Riders Branch will be staging a poignant vigil in Amble Town Square to commemorate the start of the Battle of the Somme. They will light a candle at 7.30am tomorrow and extinguish it at 11am on Saturday.

Second World War veteran 94-year-old George Skipper, who lives in Whitley Bay but was previously from Amble, will be brought from Amble to the Warkworth exhibition on Saturday in a sidecar.

Tomorrow, Warkworth will stage a short ceremony at the War Memorial in Dial Place at 11am to commemorate those who lost their lives on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.