May 28 2014

Sunderland First World War Memories Project

THIS year marks 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War and it is being commemorated across Britain and the world.

The war is a defining moment in world history. It resulted in the deaths of over 20 million people worldwide, led to the loss of a million British Empire troops and led directly to the Second World War.

The UK is commemorating the centenary anniversary through a national programme of events.

As part of Sunderland’s contribution to the commemoration, projects are currently being developed through both the City Council and voluntary and partner organisations.

The City Council’s Heritage Team are now working on a project to collect memories, stories or photographs connected to Sunderland and the First World War.


Sunderland ship yards during WWI

Council Heritage Officer, Janet Robinson said: “The impact of the war was felt everywhere. In Sunderland alone over 25,000 men served during the war from a population of 151,000, of which approximately one-third was killed or wounded.

“As part of the war effort shipbuilding in Sunderland increased dramatically and it also suffered horrifically from the Zeppelin attack in the Monkwearmouth area on the 1 April 1916.

“The attack resulted in Usworth Air Field being constructed in October 1916.

“Other key information relating to the war and Sunderland includes: Sunderland army medic George Maling being awarded the Victoria Cross for acts of incredible bravery; Southwick local Sir William Mills inventing the Mills bomb, or as we know it today the hand grenade; as well as many women taking up jobs that had previously done by men to support the home front.

“As part of the war effort Sunderland raised its own Brigade, consisting of approximately 800 men that went on to become the 160th Wearside Brigade.

“There are many interesting stories and facts about Sunderland during the war, and we would like to hear from anyone who may have more to tell.

“People kept diaries, sent letters and postcards from places they visited, and some may have photographs or drawings.

“We have already received some fantastic stories and images and we would be very interested to hear from more people.”

Materials such as photographs of Sunderland people in the Armed Forces, diaries, postcards, letters home and drawings are all welcome.

Please contact Janet on 0191 561 8413 or email if you have any information you would like to share.

Councillor John Kelly, the City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Public Health, Wellness and Culture, said: “In Sunderland, people and places are connected to the First World War, either through family history, the heritage of local communities or its long-term impact on society and the world we live in today.

“As we approach the centenary of the war, we will be commemorating this most significant event, along with the rest of the country.

“Please contact us if you can help mark this very important anniversary.”

Several First World War themed events in Sunderland have happened, are confirmed or underway.


  • Sunderland Minster service on Monday 4 August to coincide with national remembrance service;
  • A display of First World War posters can be seen at Monkwearmouth Station Museum until November 2014;
  • A War Games exhibition can be seen at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens until September 2014;
  • The award-winning War Horse was showing at the Sunderland Empire from 30 April – 17 May 2014.
  • First World War themed Open Day at Beckwith Mews Resource centre, Silksworth on Wednesday 29 May 1 to 3pm.

Forthcoming diary events: 

  • 2015 Home Front exhibition at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens
  • Illustrated talk by Phil Adams author of the book The Idle & the Dissolute – 160th Wearside Brigade at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens on 14 March 2015.

More events to mark the centenary are being planned.