The Final Toll


Of the 144 men still in the forces at the end of the war, the great majority, 132 were in the army.  Seven were in the navy, one was in the marines and one was in the Royal Naval Air Service.  Two were in the Royal Flying Corps or RAF.

Of the 132 in the army, 58 were front line soldiers, infantry or machine gunners.  While the Durham Light Infantry (DLI) was the regiment with the biggest number of Evenwood men, 21 in all another 35 were in 23 other infantry regiments.  Six were in the Northumberland Fusiliers and 5 in the West Yorkshire Regiment, 2 were in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.  Although he appears in the voters’ list for October 1918, George Dowson had been missing for over a year, since August 1917.  Lawrence Maughan served in the Machine Gun Corps and Joseph Walker in the Guards Machine gun Regiment.  Thirty two men were in the artillery, 12 in the cavalry (7 of them in the Second Reserve, Cavalry Hussars) and 32 in all kinds of service regiments.  Although the local physician, Angus Campbell was commissioned in the Royal Army Medical Corps, his unit in 1918 was the Tunnel Company of the Royal Engineers.  William Young of Evenwood Gate was in the Canadian Red Cross.  Others who had emigrated to Canada, Australia and New Zealand before 1914 returned to fight in the forces of their new homelands but their number is unknown.

The number who came home with wounds and who were discharged before October 1918 is not known.  For the first year of the war and until September 1915 there were no local casualties.  Then occurred the Battle of Loos and thereafter a steadily rising toll.  The war machine was voracious and those whose wounds did not lead to gangrenous complications or amputation could find themselves turned around, sometimes via brutal discipline of the Bull Ring at Etaples and put back into the line.  Many suffered wounds and returned to the front.  Thomas Braddick was wounded in May and then in July 1918.  Adam Cree was wounded twice in 1918.  George Handley was wounded once in July 1917 and then again in July 1918.  Jack Burney was wounded in October 1916 and in July 1917.  A. Bainbridge of Lands Bank who was mentioned in dispatches in February 1917, was wounded firstly in May 1917 and secondly in August 1918.  John William Walton, a sergeant in the DLI when he won the Military Medal in December 1917, was transferred to the Northumberland Fusiliers and in May 1918 was wounded for the third time.  At the time of his marriage in August 1918, Joseph Hunter was still suffering from shell shock as a result of active service in France.  He appears to have been discharged.  In January 1918, Captain Alfred Layton lost a foot and so, regretfully, the war machine gave him up.

Seventeen men were decorated.  Two got the Military Cross, two the Distinguished Conduct Medal, thirteen got the Military Medal, two with a bar and one was mentioned in dispatches.  Once more, the absence of precise records prevents a description for which they were decorated.  Dr Campbell’s Military Cross was won for conduct or action which he never described and which his daughter, one of the authors of this study, has no knowledge of.  It is known only in a general way that Eric Haddock, a temporary lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps, got his Military Cross for reconnaissance work or that J.J. Bolton of the HLI got his Distinguished Conduct Medal for “holding the enemy up for 48 hours”.

Despite being well into the age of statistical records of all kinds, it is not possible to give certain figures concerning casualties and losses or how many men went to war.  According to the absent voters’ list of October 1918, 144 Evenwood men were in the forces at the end of the war.  Thirty seven names are on the roll of honour inside St. Paul’s church.  A further 11 names appear on the memorial in Evenwood cemetery.  Another 7 were recorded killed in action or died of wounds in the pages of the local newspaper.  Thus the memorials, so solemnly and publicly inaugurated, are not a complete record.  A total of 55 names presents itself from these 3 sources for the numbers of Evenwood men lost during the war.  Indexing all the newspaper references to separate individuals in the forces during the war years creates a total of 259 persons.  To use a figure of 260 men going to war is not to exaggerate the probable number.

If it is assumed that almost all came from the group aged 17-30 years then the 260 who joined up represent about 27% of that age group.  This has to be calculated from the number of 17-30 year olds in the Auckland district who were in 1911, 37.46% of the male population.  This percentage share of Evenwood’s male population in 1911 amounts to 964 persons from whom the 260 must have been chiefly drawn.  During the war, Britain lost 6.7% of males who were aged 15-49 in 1911.  Evenwood appears to have lost 55 or 4.1%.  The lower rate perhaps reflects the priority given to retaining men in the coal industry.  However, between one in four and one in five of those joining up went to their deaths.  This amounts to about 21% against a national proportion of 12%.  This perhaps shows that a chiefly working class population sent more men into front line units.

References & Notes:

[1] Source: “Evenwood Heyday; a colliery village 1896-1918” Elsie Anderson et al.  This analysis is based on the Absent Voters List October 1918 for Evenwood which related to men over the age of 21 and then eligible to vote.  Younger men between the ages of 18 and 21 were also in HM Armed Forces and they appear to have been excluded.  Therefore the number of men serving in the forces is likely to have been higher than the total quoted.