Private William Shields and Private Walter Hutchinson were residents of Whitley Bay, and members of the Co-operative Insurance Society. They joined the Northumberland Fusiliers, 6th Battalion and were sent out to fight in Ypres on the Western Front. In May 1915 they were both injured in the course of battle. Shields was sent to a hospital in Leeds with serious injuries while Hutchinson was sent to a hospital in Boulogne. Hutchinson’s injuries were said to be less severe than his friend’s. In a letter home printed in the Co-operative News he wrote ‘Please do not be alarmed, as I am not nearly dead, but only slightly wounded.’ He then went on to compare the hospital to ‘heaven’ compared to the ‘hell let loose’ in Ypres itself.
Co-operative News, 15 May 1915, page 643.
WWI co-operative voices
This post is part of ‘WWI co-operative voices’ which shares the stories of co-operative workers and members during the conflict. In order to mark the centenary of the WWI, the Rochdale Pioneers Museum is staging an exhibition entitled ‘From shop floor to front line’ and the accounts of these soldiers, shop workers and conscientious objectors will run alongside it. They are tales of death, duty and of those who chose not to fight.
Through ‘WWI co-operative voices’ we will be releasing new posts about these individuals throughout the duration of the exhibition (due to open mid-May 2015 and run until May 2016). Read about the co-operative movement’s involvement in a war that shook the world by selecting a name from the column on the left. You can also follow us on social media for regular updates.
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We wish to thank the Heritage Lottery Fund for supporting the ‘From shop floor to front line’ exhibition and project.