Remembering village men who went to war

John Hardy during his talk at Morpeth Rotary Club
John Hardy during his talk at Morpeth Rotary Club

Morpeth rotary club

John Hardy was born at Chevington Drift Village, about 12 miles from Morpeth.

It was a village that people did not often leave and if they did, it was never very far away and they always came home.

The village has now gone, but memories linger on and John began to take a special interest in the First World War when he visited the War Memorial in St John’s Parish Churchyard, Chevington, one Remembrance Day.

He had passed it many times, but had not given it much thought. He had been to the Military Cemetery in France, where his Great Uncle Gladstone Hardy was buried. That grave was one of many thousands maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

This set John thinking about how many people in Chevington Drift had perished in the war and how tragic it was that no one remembered them.

On the memorial are the names of more than 100 men and boys who had died in the two World Wars. He felt the world needed to know about their bravery and decided to do some research.

He started by enrolling on a course of Poetry and Literature of the First World War at Northumberland College. He did not enjoy the literature, but really enjoyed the poetry.

At the end, he went to Belgium and France to visit two cemeteries. It touched him very deeply. He discovered the grave of his uncle buried between two other soldiers from Northumberland. They had been killed on the same day — Lance Corporal William Hunter from Tweedmouth and Private James William Henderson.

He carried on with his research of the memorial and found that he had lots of other relations who had been missing. It was one revelation after another.

Everyone was surprised to discover that so many people on the memorial were related to each other.

He even discovered that William Henderson had been put on by mistake. He was in the war and lost a leg, but survived.

John then read a poem from the First World War that was very moving.

When doing his research, he was particularly concerned about the sensitivities of friends and relatives still living in the area.

He had amassed such a wealth of information on so many men that he felt it should be made into a book.

With funding from Amble History Group and Northumberland County Council, he produced By The Green Of The Spring in 2004.

He had also collected a large number of photographs and illustrations, including cartoons drawn by a soldier named Herbert Gibson of the Medical Corps. There were many pictures of men going off to war and a number from Passchendaele.

He felt that Northerners were not given much credit for what they contributed to the war effort.

It was a very interesting talk and spoken from the heart by someone who cares very much for the past and his local area. He thought that those who died for their country should be remembered forever. He is working on another book that he hopes to finish soon. He ended with another World War I poem, which was very moving.

Martyn Jenkins gave a vote of thanks for such a riveting talk and he was sure that all the members had enjoyed listening and learning about the history and traditions of a locality so close to Morpeth.