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Sunday, 23 November 2014

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Snapshot of the day Tynedale went to war

ROW upon row of faces stretching back into blurred anonymity – these are the men of Tynedale marching to war.

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Soldiers march down Priestpopple in Hexham on their way to the Front line. In the centre of the image is Sgt Matthew Scott Charlton, of Newbrough, who can be seen pushing a bicycle.

And keeping step as the soldiers parade down Hexham’s Priestpopple are their mothers, wives and children, desperate for a last glimpse of their menfolk before they are shipped off to the front line.

This is the Fourth Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers which suffered heavy losses in the trenches of the Somme.

The photograph was taken in 1914, during the first weeks of the war, and is a poignant reminder of the many in the district who gave their lives in the conflict.

Having reported to Hexham’s drill hall the battalion marched through the town to the railway station, to answer their country’s call.

Among them is Sergeant Matthew Scott Charlton, of Newbrough, a joiner and cabinet maker by trade, who is pictured in the ranks pushing a bicycle. He was 34 when he left his wife and seven children for the horrors of the front line.

After becoming trapped behind enemy lines he led a small party back through No Man’s Land, but was caught in a gas attack.

Sheltering in a farm cottage, Sgt. Charlton saw a postman shot down and after turning him over to assess his wounds realised he was suffering from the effects of German gas.

After treatment, Sgt Charlton returned to the front line where he served until 1918.

The photograph belongs to his granddaughter and Hexham resident, Evelyn Strong.

She said: “My grandfather survived the war, but he suffered breathing difficulties for the rest of his life because of the gas attack.”

“What this picture says to me is ‘this is the day that Tynedale went to war’.

“This battalion was almost wiped out, so it’s a very poignant image.”

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