Thousands of men from the North East of England left the region in the years before 1914 and a significant number enlisted in the American army in 1917-18.
On the 4th July 2017 we welcomed Lt. Col. David MacDonald (US Army) assistant Military Attache – US Embassy, London. Lt. Col. David MacDonald and his family were present at a flag raising ceremony to mark Independence Day, named Liberty Day in 1918.
Following a meeting in North Tyneside Council in November 2016 with representatives of US Embassy London, the project was successful in obtaining a grant from the Embassy to explore the many links between the North East of England and the United States during the Great War. Of particular interest were the events of 3rd February 1917 just prior to America’s entry into the war involving the sinking of SS Eavestone and the deaths of Richard Wallace, an African American citizen and John Richard Kolmn together with 3 other men who were shelled in an open lifeboat by U45.
Other significant connections were the repair and fitting out of US Navy ships on the Tyne; the presence of 2 US air squadrons at Cramlington for training and hospitality associated with those visits.
The program of research, funded by the embassy, has included examination of US draft records of the time, which show more than 800 men in the American Expeditionary Force were recent emigrants to the United States who declared their birthplace as being Northumberland.
The US dreadnoughts were formed into the 6th Battle Squadron of the Grand Fleet under Admiral Rodman. Operating from Scapa Flow they undertook training cruises with the Royal Navy until fully operational.
The US Army began to arrive as troops became available in sufficient quantity. Although the majority went directly to France, some did come to Britain. Amongst these were airmen undertaking training on British combat aircraft…
With US entry into war, Lord Mayor of Newcastle wrote to Walter Hamm, US Consul to the city: “Your country and ours are alike fighting to preserve their ideals of liberty and freedom, not so much for themselves as for the other peoples of the world.”