Revealed: The link between a Sunderland sailor and JRR Tolkien

What’s the link between a Sunderland sailor and one of the greatest writers in history?

The answer is a hospital ship and it’s thanks to author Trevor Thorne that we can share the story.

Trevor’s new book is called Remembered In Sunderland. It looks at the Sunderland men who served their country in the First World War.

One was George Edward Paxton from Millfield, who was an apprentice brass finisher.

By 1917, he was a 26-year-old sixth engineer on Her Majesty’s Hospital Ship Asturias.

The ship was a Royal Mail Steam Packet which was drafted into the Royal Navy as a hospital ship, capable of transporting 896 men.

George Paxton worked on it, and it had a very famous soldier among its patients.

JRR Tolkien, who later wrote The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, suffered from trench foot.

The condition was carried by lice which invaded soldiers’ clothing while they were living in the trenches.

Tolkien suffered a fever which was serious enough for him to be invalided back to England.

It is one of the many stories in Remembered In Sunderland. There are many others besides.

One concerns John Hern - a second engineer on navy transport ship HM Yacht Iolaire which hit rocks a mile out from Stornaway harbour.

The tragedy saw 205 out of 280 servicemen lose their lives, including John Hern on the last day of 1918.

Another tale saw Sunderland man Wilson Broomfield and his ship HMS Nubian destroyed by a torpedo attack in 1916.

The book is packed with the stories of many of the Sunderland men who gave their lives during the conflict and are today buried in the cemeteries of Wearside.

Any profits from the book, priced £6.99, will go to the Royal British Legion and is available at Waterstones and Sunderland Antiquarian Society in Douro Terrace.