Help needed to find out more about former prisoner of war who died in Hartlepool

Charles Robert Whelpdale.
Charles Robert Whelpdale.

Members of the public are being asked to help fill in the back story of a former prisoner of war who died in Hartlepool more than 75 years ago.

A striking photograph of Charles Robert Whelpdale, who died in West Hartlepool in 1941, was discovered in a house in Newcastle by a man who was sorting through his grandfather’s belongings.

Dr Ben Roberts.

Dr Ben Roberts.

It has since been passed on to Dr Ben Roberts, a historian at Teesside University, who is hoping to trace any remaining family of Charles Whelpdale and reunite them with the photograph, as well as uncover more about Charles’ background and his life.

Dr Roberts is one of the researchers behind Rememorial WWI: Narratives of Peace in the Tees Valley – an ongoing Heritage Lottery Funded research project which is aiming to capture the untold stories, memories and experiences of local people in the aftermath of the First World War.

A series of roadshows are taking place across the region and Dr Roberts is hoping that somebody in Hartlepool may be able to shed some light on Charles Whelpdale’s life and provide a fitting narrative to the man in the photograph.

It is believed that Charles Robert Whelpdale was born in Hartlepool on March 29, 1872, and his parents were named John and Hannah.

He married in 1899 to a Margaret Shirgley.

He was a Chief Engineer in the Royal Naval Reserve but was taken prisoner during the First World War on 16 October 1915.

Charles was held at Furstenburg, Germany, but did make it back home from the war.

In 1939 he was living with his wife Margaret at 4 Johnson Street, West Hartlepool.

He was listed as an Air Raid Precaution Warden during the Second World War but is believed to have died in September 1941 in West Hartlepool.

Dr Roberts said: “We know a little bit about Charles, but we want to know more.

"We are keen to find out about his life and hopefully we can reunite his family with this photo.

“There is something about this photograph and we are very fortunate that we have been given it as part of the Rememorial WWI project.

"Hopefully someone in the Hartlepool area may be able to help us find out more about Charles.”

The Hartlepool roadshow for the Rememorial WWI project takes place at Hartlepool Art Gallery from 11.30am until 3.00pm on Friday, November 23.

Members of the public are invited to drop-in and share their stories, memorabilia and artefacts that have a relationship to the aftermath of WWI in the Tees Valley.

The contributions will shape historic research and a touring exhibition coinciding with the Centenary of Peace Day during summer 2019.

Additional roadshows are taking place from 11.30am to 3.00pm on the following dates:

· Friday 16 November – Darlington Library

· Friday 30 November – Kirkleatham Museum

· Friday 7 December - Stockton Library

For more information about the project, visit www.rememorialwwi.org, or, if you have any information about Charles Robert Whelpdale, you can contact the Rememorial WWI team via the website, or email ben.roberts@tees.ac.uk.