Geordie First World War project seeks 'citizen historians'

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07 January 2016
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Geordie First World War project seeks 'citizen historians'

A global project has been launched which will research the lives and wartime service of Geordies in the armies of Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland, and Canada during the First World War.

Dominion Geordies in World War One ­ funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council ­ will seek to crowdsource research by recruiting volunteer researchers both in the UK and overseas.

Dr James McConnell, History Lecturer at Northumbria University, explained: The first stage of the project will involve collecting information that will help us build a comprehensive and fascinating insight into the stories of so many of the local men and women of the North East who, having left their native land in the three decades or so before the war, found themselves volunteering to return and fight for the homeland in the campaigns of the war across the world.

By better understanding their complex identities, we hope to get a clearer picture of a fascinating aspect of the First World War that has been almost completely forgotten.

The most famous Geordie in any of the Dominion armies is John Simpson Kirkpatrick ­ known as the man with the donkey ­ who earnt this epithet when he used a donkey to ferry his injured comrades to safety during the Dardanelles campaign. That he was originally from South Shields is well known, but he was one of a much larger contingent of North East men and women whose stories have been sadly lost.

Take, for example, George Burdon McKean who served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force but who was originally from Willington, Co. Durham, or George Huntly Wood who grew up in North Shields and died in Cairo serving with the New Zealand Medical Corps; it is the stories of these sorts of men and women that will be at the heart of this project.

The research will consider not only individual migration histories but also the way that individuals and communities saw their own identities - as Geordies and Britons, but also Australians, Canadians, or New Zealanders. 

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The information for the database will be gathered by citizen historians¹ and the 12-month project is open to anyone ­ all you need is an interest in the First World War.

Using this information, the project organisers plan to produce a short film and write a number of research papers in order to profile the men of the North-East who fought in the armies of the Dominions.

It will be an interesting and challenging project to work on, said Dr McConnell, And we want to get as many people as possible involved - from experienced researchers to first-time historians. Participants will have the opportunity to learn the skills necessary to research these lost Geordie lives and to work with other researchers across the world.

We are confident that anyone who can take the time to learn just a little about the scale and impact of the war will be encouraged to play a part in the project.

To volunteer to be part of the Dominion Geordies in World War One project or for more information, please visit click here or contact [email protected]