New light shed on WW1 soldiers

Mark Simmons with a copy of Hartlepool's Roll of Honour used in his research
Mark Simmons with a copy of Hartlepool's Roll of Honour used in his research

A MUSEUM curator has shed new light on to two North-East First World War soldiers buried in France.

Hartlepool’s museums manager Mark Simmons carried out research into two privates who died alongside Hartlepool soldiers Wilson Bell and George Shaw after reading about them in the Hartlepool Mail.

Private Bell’s nephew Gordon Bell had looked into the men’s history as they are all buried alongside each other in Essex Farm Cemetery in Ypres, France.

Gordon believed privates S Dent and T Stockton could also have been from Hartlepool as they all fought in the Second Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry.

Mark has been able to identify the mystery soldiers as Samuel Dent, from Durham City, and Tom Stockton, who lived in Thornaby.

He tracked them down through online records and emailing academic friends after discovering the men were not included on Hartlepool’s Roll of Honour.

Mark said: “They were probably regular soldiers or had served in the reserves and been picked up by the second DLI.

“It is unlikely all four men were all pals and had signed up together because their service numbers are quite far apart.

“There is about three thousand between them.”

Mark has also uncovered details of the battle that the men died in on May 31, 1916.

French and British troops were defending a canal bank in Ypres on the afternoon and opened artillery fire on the Germans.

Mark said: “The German artillery responded with ‘whizz bangs’ which were high velocity shells.

“They caught all these four guys and wounded 11 other people.

“It is possible they were in different places or they may have been standing together.

“It could have been one shell or multiple shells in different places, we just can’t tell.

“We just know they were killed instantly.”

Records of the incident are not very detailed, probably because it was overshadowed by the Battle of Jutland sea conflict on the same day.