The Newcastle Commercials

16th (S) Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers in the Great War

Ian S Johnson

The planning for the raising of what was to be come16th (Service) Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers, started within two days of the outbreak of the war.
Date Published :
December 2021
Publisher :
Pen and Sword
Editor :
Nigel Cave
Illustration :
425 mono illustrations & 30 maps
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding : Paperback
ISBN : 9781526735317

Dimensions : 9.5 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stockPages : 680
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The planning for the raising of what was to be come16th (Service) Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers, started within two days of the outbreak of the war. The initial efforts took on a more professional look within a month, when the Newcastle Chambers of Commerce set about raising money and aiming to raise several battalions in response to Lord Kitchener's call for men.The outcome was a Pals battalion, the 1st Newcastle Commercials.

Arriving in France at the end of 1915, the battalion, like so many others of its type, had its first experience of a major action on the Somme on 1st July 1916, in its case in the forlorn attempt to capture the German front line village of Thiepval. The outcome is well known; a disaster that ravaged the battalion's ranks. However, the battalion was reinforced, reorganised and took its part in actions at Ovillers and along the Ancre as the battle grinder on over the next four and a half months.

In 1917 it was involved in the advance on the Hindenburg Line and was then transferred to the North Sea coast, with the intention of taking part in the daring plan to launch a major amphibious landing behind the German lines in the summer. This was thwarted by a masterly pre-emptive German counter stroke. By the end of the year the battalion was engaged in operations in the northern part of the Salient after the Battle of Third Ypres (Passchendaele) had formally ended. In early February 1918 the battalion was disbanded as part of a general reorganisation of the BEF, which saw divisions losing three of their twelve infantry battalions.

In outline it is a common story; but, as for all the Pals battalions, its unusual origins and its very close connection to a local area, in this case Newcastle, provides an enduring fascination for today's generation. Ian Richardson has worked extraordinarily hard to gather documents from members of the battalion - letters, diaries and recollections - as well as numerous photographs. He has prepared extensive appendices on its membership and its casualties. The outcome is a fitting tribute to these young men from Newcastle men of a century ago who, for whatever motive, answered their country's call, all too many of whom paid for it with their lives or their health.

About The Author

Ian Johnson has always been a Newcastle Commercial man, starting work at the age of sixteen in the well-known Bainbridge Department Store in 1977, now part of the John Lewis Partnership.

Bainbridge’s was established in 1838 and is recognised as the first department store in the world. During the call for volunteers for Kitchener’s New Army over sixty men and boys from the store rushed to volunteer to serve King and Country in early September 1914. The battalion they joined was the first one to be raised by civilian efforts on Tyneside, the ‘Newcastle’ Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers, 16th (Service) Battalion, known as the 1st Commercials.

Some years back Ian was researching for material for two short books on the Bainbridge war memorial, Bainbridge: Our Fallen Heroes 1914-18; and 1939-45, telling the stories of the forty-one men honoured on the memorial, stories that were in danger of being completely forgotten. One battalion’s name came up time and time again in the course of this work on the first of the books: the Newcastle Commercials and a date, the 1st July 1916. A journey of discovery began, fired by a committed desire to retell the story of the Newcastle Commercials. This book is the outcome, along with other projects, both in Newcastle and in France, to raise the profile of the battalion and to honour the memory of the men who fought and died whilst serving in it.

Ian still works at John Lewis in a semi-retired position, enabling him to spend more free time fund raising and researching for other projects.

Nigel Cave is the founder editor of the Battleground Europe series; his association with the Company goes back some thirty years.

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