Passchendaele at Home: Friday 10th November 2017

14th Nov 2017

Passchendaele at Home: Friday 10th November 2017

On Friday 10th November as part of our Remembrance Day commemoration activities, a group of staff and students from The Blyth Academy held a short commemoration service at Cowpen Road cemetery. This service was held to commemorate the life of a local solider, Private James R. Wigham, who lost his life as a result of wounds suffered during the Battle of Passchendaele in the First World War and who was then buried at home.

James was from Blyth and grew up not too far from our school on a street called New Row near the Isabella Pit. He signed up to fight on 26th October 1914 in Newcastle with the 21st Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers, the 2nd Tyneside Scottish Brigade. The men who signed up that day were all from the North East and likely had a family connection to Scotland. Posters from the time said they were looking to recruit "the toughest, hardest and best Tyneside fighting men." These men moved up to Alnwick for training in March 1915 before crossing over to France in January 1916. James would have seen action in two of the harshest conflicts of the First World War, the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917.

This year has special significance for our remembrance in Blyth of the First World War because 2017 marks the one hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele. This battle has a local connection due to the involvement of the local regiment, the Northumberland Fusiliers. The Battle of Passchendaele is sometimes called the 'Battle of Mud' because of the harsh conditions the soldiers endured on the battlefield due to torrential rain which caused conditions to become lethal. When this stage of the war ended in mid-November 1917, almost half a million soldiers had lost their lives.

James' story ended on the 1st November 1917. Having been wounded on the Western Front he was sent back to Blyth to recover, but sadly died at home of his war wounds. He is buried at Cowpen Road Cemetery in a family plot which also commemorates his older brother, William, who died in France on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916. As 2017 marks the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele and James' death we chose to pay our respects by laying a floral wreath and reading poems written by soldiers who served in the First World War at his grave.

The poems read by students were;

  • In Flanders Fields by John McRae
  • My Boy Jack by Rudyard Kipling
  • We Shall Keep the Faith by Moina Michael
  • The Soldier by Rupert Brooke
  • November 11th by Robert Graves

The service was a really meaningful experience for all of the students involved and we hope this will lead to them researching and asking further questions about how the First World War affected the local community.

This event was proudly supported by the Passchendaele at Home project. Passchendaele at Home is a nationwide research-and-remember project inviting communities across the UK to discover and remember servicemen who were wounded whilst fighting at the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917 and who died of their wounds in the UK. It is led by the Big Ideas Company and publicly funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). www.bigideascompany.org.

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There are over 3,000 potential Passchendaele at Home servicemen in the UK, and the project hopes to find 100 servicemen buried in the UK. Our research will be shared on a national online archive for the first time.