METAL CITY

With their new album Raven carry the torch, or flying V, for metal into the future.

Excuse the pun but Amazon has been flooded with orders for this new offering from Raven. Why ? Well the word is out.

The Chief Headbangers have tooled up heavy and fired an opening three track strike. No time to waste. Only time to kill. The band don’t attempt to keep their powder dry at any moment on the album. Live rounds to the end. Check out the Human Race sequence drop at 2 minutes in. One of the defining moments on this album is right there. Raven are carrying the torch, or flying V, for metal into the future.

New single Metal City with a glorious big chorus is quickly followed by a ballsy, catchy Battlescarred, with a cry of ‘Raise your hands, to the sky, stand and fall, You and I’. Added to a Gallagher trademark scream the song builds and reaches out for better times. Surely a future live favourite?

Slick, tricky guitar from Mark Gallagher with balanced precision drumming by Mike Heller rattle and crunch tracks and pound them into submission. It’s all tightly packed like a mighty coiled spring. There’s even a Motorhead/Lemmy tribute – nice touch lads!

The wide and expansive closer, When Worlds Collide with ‘You meet your maker on the other side’ has turned a potential plod into a triumph. The trio look back over Metal City and watch the sun set. Credits roll.

On this evidence Raven consolidate their title of Chief Headbangers.

Any contenders?

Gary Alikivi  September 2020.

THE ISOLATION SESSIONS

North Wales based Stoakes Media have put together an album to raise money for The National Emergencies Trust Covid Appeal.

The ‘Isolation Sessions’ features 10 reworked songs mixing folk, country and heavy metal by a number of musicians. The album features a version of the Joan Baez classic Diamonds and Rust performed by Sicilian guitarist Antonello Giliberto and Tygers of Pan Tang drummer Craig Ellis, a song which Judas Priest covered.

‘Priest’s acoustic version was the first Priest song I heard, and actually, Judas Priest were the first metal band I saw live’ said Danny Stoakes, who was in radio but the work dried up a few year ago, so decided to form Stoakes Media….

‘We interview bands, do album and gig reviews, post up to date music news. Since starting the website nearly two years ago I have interviewed some incredible people, seen some amazing gigs and even put together a musical Christmas Advent calendar last year, which was so much fun!

Danny added ‘We generally get out and about to gigs right across the North West, occasionally hitting Yorkshire and the Midlands. If it’s loud with plenty of guitars – we’re there!’

Can you reveal some of the tracks that made the album ? ‘Having interviewed quite a few musicians over the years, I had a few people I could call upon. Gary Moat, frontman of rock band Burnt Out Wreck was the first.

On a long drive home from a gig I was listening to AC/DC and had the bizarre thought. ‘What would AC/DC sound like if Oasis covered them?’ And the idea for the Whole Lotta Rosie arrangement was born. I saw Gary singing a version of Highway To Hell and I knew then, I had to do this song. ‘The Isolation Sessions’ was born’.

‘Then I wanted something solitary to open the album, so I think that opening line from Comfortably Numb is perfect and really screams isolation – ‘Hello, is there anybody in there?’

Any songs from your favourite bands ? ‘Yeah, I saw Spike from The Quireboys play You Can’t Always Get What You Want – he is an incredible frontman. We recorded our version of that song. Also Sweet Mary Ann is another of my favourites. We thought we’d go all out Country Nashville, Pedal Steel’s ‘n’ all!’

Are there any unexpected songs on the album ? Learning to Wheels was one put together in lockdown. It’s a mash up between Learning to Fly by Tom Petty and Wheels by the Foo Fighters.

Danny also made room to record a home grown track…Unsafe Building by The Alarm, who are a great band, Mike Peters is a fellow North Walian! I think the words resonate perfectly. It’s definitely a song for these unprecedented times that we are experiencing’.

Did you enjoy putting the album together ? Yeah, The Wild Rover Blues was a fun song. Matt Pearce from Voodoo Six adds some great slide guitar and my mum even cameos on it! This is a great song to play live and over the years I have played it solo and played in plenty late night sessions with 20+ other musicians’.

How has the album been received ? ‘The support we received has been overwhelming, being featured not just in the UK, but all over the world – Germany, Spain, Mexico, the music media are really getting behind the project.

I am overjoyed that everyone has got involved in this project. All the artists have done this for nothing and Progressive Gears have put the album on their band camp completely free. Apart from the handling fee that Band Camp take, all the money is going to the Covid charity, which is amazing. I can’t thank everyone enough for getting involved and am so pleased with the result’.

Founding member of Judas Priest, K.K. Downing, added “I would strongly urge everyone to check out the album, not only for its much needed cause, but for the enjoyment you will have from listening to it. Much respect to all involved in this creation and my sincere thanks to you for your support.”

Order via the Progressive Gears band camp:

https://progressivegears.bandcamp.com/album/the-isolation-sessions

Or head over to the Just Giving page:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/theisolationsessions

Interview by Alikivi September 2020.

SHE’S A KNOCKOUT


New single released by pop/punk outfit Caffeine
2020 sees the return of London based Caffeine with new single She’s A Knockout. Guitarist J and bass/vocals, Scott McKewan, got in touch and talked about the new single…She’s a Knockout’ is about trying to get up when you’re at your lowest point. There’s bit of a juxtaposition going on as lyrically it’s a cry for help, but musically it’s a call to arms’.  

At the beginning of the noughties the band were playing Wembley Arena, touring with The Offspring, The Dickies, Rancid and Blink 182. They released two albums and toured America three times… Touring the States was incredible’ said J ‘We ended up going back and forth and never took it for granted. The scrapes we got into and the stories are pretty endless’. Have you got one that tops the list ? ‘I think giving away our entire back line of guitars, bass and amps to the crowd at the last American Bamboozle festival we played was the craziest thing we must have done. I remember handing my Ibanez to this 12 year old, I’d never seen an EMO kid so ecstatic. The things you do on tour eh!’  

In 2006 Caffeine went on hiatus, Scott formed The Candle Thieves and J started Calling All Astronauts… ‘Back then Caffeine were an incredibly hard working band’ said J ‘We played everywhere in the UK umpteen times and were constantly touring. When the U.S thing happened we perhaps concentrated too much on trying to get a foot in the door over there. The UK scene and venues were changing and the time felt right that we needed a break’.   Scott added ‘Definitely. From what I remember there was no big falling out, it was more like a natural progression at the time. As J said we’d been lucky enough to tour America a lot but it perhaps felt like we’d done all we could for that point in our lives’.   

Are you working on new material ? ’We are! It’s been so cool picking up the guitars again’ said Scott. ‘To be honest though me and J are so close that even if we put down the guitars and just hang out it’s a win-win situation. We’re recording in the U.K with Andy Hawkins at The Nave Studios producing it. He recorded our stuff back in the day and we’ve always trusted his production. The record should see the light of day early 2021’.   
She’s A Knockout is released via Supersonic media on September 25th 2020.   Contact the band: www.twitter.com/Caffeine_HQ www.facebook.com/caffeineuk https://open.spotify.com/artist/6ZZDj0FDKbX5FEDbACDvC6?si=mBCrfUWZRj2ip9afzcjpjQ

Interview by Alikivi  September 2020.

DIVIDED STATES OF AMERICA

New single from Calling All Astronauts  

Divided States Of America sees London based electro-goth-punks in their lab cooking up a noxious potion of sneering punk with a heavy mix of rap and metal. The video drops in American TV news clips of burning flags, cars, and chaos on the streets – all hacked together under 3 minutes.

Moulding together a huge sound clash between Nine Inch Nails and Killing Joke, I asked David B (vox/keys/production) have they been an influence ? Both of them have been a massive influence on us. I saw NIN when they first played at The Astoria and then six months later my mates were in a band called Pig, and toured with them, so I got to see them several times. I’ve always loved Killing Joke, I think they are the most underrated band ever. They still make amazing albums 40 years after they started, and my mate Reza plays keys for them.

Why do you feel strongly about the state of the USA and the current resident of The White House. Is there anything to like about President Trump ? I feel Trump started this rise of the right with some of the dodgy alliances he did, and it paved the way for Boris to ape it in Britain, people like that embrace everything I find abhorrent in society.

Before teaming up again as Calling All Astronauts the band members worked on various projects. J Browning (guitarist) pounded the road on USA and European tours as a member of Pop-Punkers Caffeine, sharing stages with The Offspring, Blink 182, AFI and Rancid.

Bassist Paul McCrudden joined goth stalwarts The Marionettes headlining festivals and shows throughout Europe. While David taught himself to be a record producer. How did that go ? I was very lucky to have two mates who had produced a lot of well-known albums, and they were both happy for me to ring them and ask questions – so I did. I also watched countless tutorials on you tube by big name producers.

I think I was getting close on our second album, but on the third our latest, Resist, I had a stroke of luck. Paul (bass/guitars/keys) had known Alan Branch (double Grammy winner/ NIN, Depeche Mode, U2) since they were teenagers, Paul played him some of the tracks, and Alan came over to my place and gave me a one on one crash course in mixing.

When we were in the studio recording the new single my 3 year old daughter Daisy makes her musical debut. Alan was mixing the track and asked me to record a straight version of the chorus for the end. Daisy heard me doing the lines over and over and proceeded to run round the studio singing the chorus, a mic was quickly handed to her and the rest is history.

Check out the results on Divided States Of America released via Supersonic Media on September 18th 2020.   

Contact the band on: www.twitter.com/caa_official 

Facebook www.facebook.com/callingallastronauts 

YouTube  www.youtube,com/callingallastronauts Spotify  https://open.spotify.com/artist/0xqglBsPF9COYj64LNl85t

Interview by Alikivi   September 2020

METAL TOON, METAL CITY

Video filmed in Newcastle for new single from Chief Headbangers, Raven.

On Tyneside during the ‘70s and ‘80s rock music was heard from Sunderland to South Shields, bounced over the river Tyne to Whitley Bay and Wallsend – the vibrations were felt in Newcastle. A North East New Wave of British Heavy Metal was coming in.

Not just riding, but steering the wave were Fist, Hellanbach, Mythra, Tygers of Pan Tang and Venom pushing metal to its limits and discovering a new energy. Another one of those bands was Raven.

Now based Stateside, but originally formed in Newcastle in 1974, early gigs saw the trio cutting their teeth on North East live circuit of working mens clubs. Headline gigs at Newcastle Mayfair and Dingwalls gained the band a solid live reputation. The gates were opened, and the band went onto UK support slots with Iron Maiden, Ozzy and Whitesnake.

By the early ‘80s two albums ‘Rock Until You Drop’ and ‘Wiped Out’ were recorded in Impulse Studio, Wallsend on the Tyneside label, Neat Records. Then a call came in from America.

Raven were at the very forefront of speed metal spawning the big four beasts from the United States – Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax and dragging Metallica out on their first, and scorching, tour across the USA. We know where they ended up. These were life changing moments. Raven knew their future was Stateside and subsequently signed to Megaforce and then major label, Atlantic.

Fast forward 40 years plus and the band are still hitting it hard with new single ‘Metal City’ from their forthcoming album. The music video was filmed on Tyneside capturing iconic structures like the Angel of the North, the Tyne Bridge and even St James’ Park home of Newcastle United. I asked bassist and vocalist John Gallagher did filming stir up any memories when you were at the locations ? It definitely stirred up some memories especially with one part of the shoot. We were driving to one of the locations when I mentioned “I grew up down that street there” and our video guy Paul said “Then let’s check it out!” So the footage with me playing the bass is in the backlane in Benwell where we played football as kids.

After ‘Top of the Mountain’ this is the second track released and both are very strong opening singles, I asked John are the band putting down a marker for what the listeners can expect from the rest of the album ? Very much so. Top was the perfect choice as the first song as it sounds like one of our early songs dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century!! And Metal City is not only the title track but it’s a real anthem type song. (Yep, added to trademark Gallagher scream, check out the geet big chorus!)

The rest of the album runs the gamut from crazy fast songs like The Power, and a tribute to Lemmy in Motorheadin’. Added to super aggressive tracks like Human Race and Break plus a bit of an epic in When Worlds Collide. So there’s variety, and all heavy with ‘all killer, no filler’.

How do you look at this album compared to previous releases ? This one is a belta! We actually think this album is the best thing we’ve ever done, for a band that’s been around the block as long as we have that’s really a case of laying down the gauntlet to many of the other bands of our era who are putting out ‘ok’ albums.

The band have just released new European tour dates, when was your last gig pre – covid ? Our last shows were on the Monsters of Rock cruise which departs from Florida. We did the pre-party show in Miami and a show on the cruise. Always great fun, and we actually did Chainsaw for the first time in about 30 years. We can’t wait to test drive these new songs on stage!

Watch the video on You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtKKmm6ibOM&list=RDjtKKmm6ibOM&start_radio=1&t=20

Check official website for tour dates and album release:  https://ravenlunatics.com/

Interview by Gary Alikivi September 2020.

TYNESIDE WAR HEROES #5

THE DAY I WAS AWARDED THE VICTORIA CROSS

Thomas Young VC (1895-1966).

Thomas was recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for courage in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. As a stretcher bearer Thomas saved countless lives of army colleagues on First World War battlefields. He was presented with his VC on the 29th June 1918. This is his story.

My name is Thomas Young although I was born Thomas Morrell on 28th January 1895 in Boldon, North East England. When I was young my father was killed in a mining accident so my mother remarried a man form Whitburn called Surtees Young. We lived at Cliff Terrace, Ryhope. I left school early to become a miner. When I was 18 I joined up with the Gateshead Territorials then in 1914 transferred into the 9th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry. I was a stretcher bearer.

At the start of the War, I was posted to the Western Front and reached Boulogne in April 1915. We were immediately thrown into the Second Battle of Ypres. I also served on the Somme, at Arras and at Passchendaele. At the Somme I was wounded by a bullet in the left thigh and was evacuated to England. That put me out of action for a while but went back to France a few month later.

I was awarded my VC after a day on a battlefield in March 1918. It was all going off in broad daylight – rifles, machine-guns, shell fire, it was pretty heavy let me tell you. There was a number of casualties but I managed to bring back wounded comrades. Some I couldn’t move because they were badly injured, so I dressed them right there. When the wounds were dressed as much as I could I carried my marras back. I saved nine lives that way.

I went back to Durham for a spell of leave and they laid on a surprise for me. Officials from the coal mine took me home along the Scotswood Road in a pony and trap. My home was dressed with flags and bunting. I met The Earl of Durham who gave me a watch, some War Bonds and a silver cigarette case. A civic reception was laid on in Saltwell Park in Gateshead. There must have been thousands turned up that day.

After the war I went back to work in the mines but couldn’t keep my job because of my war wounds. I took on a new job at the mine as bath attendant and got £9 a week. But due to my health problems and financial worries I sold my VC medal, luckily a DLI officer saw it in a pawnbroker’s shop so the Regiment bought it back.

Thomas Young died at a hostel in Whickham on 15th October 1966, and buried in St Patrick’s Churchyard, High Spen, Durham with full military honours.

A memorial to Thomas Young was unveiled in July 2007 and can be seen in the grounds of High Spen primary school. In 2018 a commemorative memorial stone at Cotswold Lane in Boldon Colliery was unveiled to honour the memory of First World War hero Thomas. His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Durham Light Infantry Museum & Durham Art Gallery.

Gary Alikivi  August 2020.

Sources : Ancestry, Comprehensive Guide to the Victoria Cross.

TYNESIDE WAR HEROES #4

THE DAY I WAS AWARDED THE VICTORIA CROSS

Henry Howey Robson (1894-1964)

The Victoria Cross is the highest and most prestigious award for courage in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. In this series of Tyneside VC medal recipients, was this man the youngest ? At the age of 20, Henry was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 14th December 1914. This is his story.

I was born in South Shields, North East England on 27th May 1894. We had a home in Hampden Street where my da’ Edward was a coal miner and my ma’ was called Mary Morris, they first came from Sunderland. It was a big family. I had six brothers and a sister. I went to Mortimer Road School in the town and after I left I joined da’ in the mines.

When war started I joined the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Scots and went to France. I was awarded the VC after being on the battlefield in Belgium. What happened was we attacked a German position and I saw one of our men wounded so went out and brought him back. Guns were going off all around. It was really heavy fire. I done the same for another soldier but got shot. I didn’t give up and went out again but got hit again. I was in a bad way so they took me back to camp and I was evacuated to England.

I went back home to South Shields where I had a good time. I met the Mayor at a civic reception in the Town Hall. I got the Freedom of the town and was presented with £73 raised through a Shilling Fund. Then I visited my old school and was presented with a gold watch by the kids. I returned to war but was wounded in France and never returned to the front.

After the war I worked a couple of jobs. I was in the shipyards and as a steward on oil tankers running between Britain and South America. I wanted to go to Canada so I sold my medal to a doctor for £80. This paid my way and I arrived in 1923, a new life started.

I started work as a streetcar conductor with Toronto Transportation. Then in 1924 got married to Alice Maude and we had a son and four daughters. Then I became a civil servant working in the Parliament Buildings in Ontario, then done six years as a Sergeant at Arms of the Ontario Legislature. Before retirement in 1954 I was an information clerk, showing visitors around Parliament.

Civic reception with the Mayor at South Shields Town Hall for Henry.

In the ‘50s Henry returned to England a couple of times for the VC celebrations. His VC had been bought by a solicitor from Dunfermline, who lent him the medal to wear at the 1956 VC Centenary in Hyde Park, London. It’s reported that the medal was never returned to the solicitor.

On 4th March 1964 Henry died at Sunnybrook Hospital, Toronto. He was buried in the Veteran’s Section of York Memorial Cemetery, Toronto.

In addition to his VC, he was awarded the 1914 Star with Mons clasp, British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19. His medals were presented to the Royal Scots Museum in Edinburgh Castle by his daughter, Mrs Patricia Gaskin of Toronto.

In 2008 a commemorative plaque was unveiled at South Shields Town Hall and in 2014 a commemorative stone to mark Private Henry Robson’s bravery, was unveiled in Robson Way, South Shields.

Sources: Ancestry, Durham at War, Comprehensive Guide to the Victoria Cross.

Gary Alikivi  August 2020.

TYNESIDE WAR HEROES #3

THE DAY I WAS AWARDED THE VICTORIA CROSS

Richard Wallace Annand VC (1914-2004)

I’m writing this on the day BBC TV are showing a service remembering the victory over Japan that brought an end to the Second World War. During the war, massive acts of heroism were shown by young men who were rightly awarded for their courage and bravery. Some hailed from the North East and in this post we focus on one young man from South Shields. This is his story.

I was born in South Shields, North East England on 5th November 1914. My father was Lieutenant-Commander Wallace Annand of the Royal Naval Division, he was killed at Gallipoli in 1915. My mother was called Dora and I was their only child. After leaving school and working in a bank, I joined the Tyne Division of the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve. They promoted me to Sub-Lieutenant and I completed both, navigation and gunnery course.

When the war came I was a Second Lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion DLI and we headed off to battle. On May 12th 1940, the company set up headquarters south of Paris. Three companies moved down into the valley with A on the right, B in the centre and D defending a road bridge on the left. C Company was sent to watch for any movement. There was a rumour that the Germans were hiding in the woods, so C Company withdrew and blew the bridge. This halted any German advance long enough to withdraw across the river.

The next morning, with the enemy on the opposite bank, the assault began with heavy mortar fire hitting D Company’s position beside the ruined bridge. I led two counter-attacks – I was wounded on the second.

The Germans crossed the river over-running a platoon of B Company. After desperate fighting we were unable to push the enemy back across the river and our position was raked with fire. A further attack was inevitable and, shortly after dark under cover of intense fire, the enemy again struck D Company’s position. Armed with grenades, I again went forward, inflicting significant casualties.

We were holding on, but elsewhere the Germans broke through, so a withdrawal was ordered. I realized Private Joseph Hunter was missing so I went back and found him wounded. I was bringing him back in a wheelbarrow and making good progress until my path was blocked by a fallen tree. I was feeling very weak because I’d lost a lot of blood, so didn’t have the strength to lift Hunter over the tree. I decided to leave him and set off for help. That was a hard decision. Soon after I collapsed but fortunately taken to safety and evacuated.

For his rescue attempt and courageous actions, Annand was presented with the Victoria Cross on 3rd September 1940. The VC is the highest and most prestigious award for courage in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. He was also made of Freeman of his hometown, South Shields.

Annand served in Britain for the rest of the conflict and much of his service involved training young soldiers, members of the Home Guard and commandos. Plus a spell at the War Office. As a result of permanent damage to his hearing, he was invalided out in 1948 with the rank of captain.

Annand worked at a training centre for disabled people, near Durham, and for the next 30 years devoted his life to helping disabled people. He maintained close links with his regiment, and was president of the Durham Branch of the Light Infantry Association until 1998.

Richard Annand passed away on Christmas Eve 2004, and was cremated at Durham City Crematorium. In 2007 a bronze statue of Richard was unveiled in South Shields Town Hall and in 2018 relatives from around the UK, Canada and Cyprus came together to see the memorial to their ancestor, which stands on the grand staircase of the Town Hall.

His medals including the VC, 1939-45 Star, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45,  and Army Emergency Reserve Decoration and Bar.

They were originally held on loan by the Durham Light Infantry, before in 2010 they were purchased privately by Michael Ashcroft and are now displayed in the Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London.

Gary Alikivi   August 2020

Sources: Ancestry, Comprehensive Guide to the Victoria Cross

 

TYNESIDE WAR HEROES #2

THE DAY I WAS AWARDED THE VICTORIA CROSS

Joseph Henry Collin (1893-1918)

The Victoria Cross is the highest and most prestigious award for courage in the face of the enemy, that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. In a series about Tyneside recipients of the VC, this story features Joseph Collin who was born in Jarrow, North East England on 11th April 1893.

My father Joseph was a rail worker, and my mother was called Mary. I lived at 12 Drury Street and was baptised at St Bede’s Church in Jarrow before I went to St Patrick’s School in Harraby, Carlisle. I  won prizes for running, I also loved playing football. Then I got a job in Leeds at the clothiers Hepworth & Son.

It was 1915 when I enlisted with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders as a Private. I must have done good because during training they promoted me to Sergeant. Then in 1916, we went to France and fought in the Battle of the Somme. I took more training and returned to France in 1917 and served as a Second Lieutenant with the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment.

We went to the front line at Givenchy. The Germans were pressing us hard with bombs and machine-gun fire. They were really close. We had to withdraw because we only had five men remaining, but still fought for every inch of ground. Then I went out and attacked their machine gun, firing my revolver first then threw a grenade putting the gun out of action. I killed four of their team and wounded two others. I saw another machine gun firing, so I took a gun and found a high vantage point, and kept them at bay until they wounded me.

Joseph died soon after from his injuries and was buried in Vielle-Chapelle Military Cemetery, Lacouture, France. His parents were presented with the Victoria Cross for Joseph’s bravery, devotion to duty and self-sacrifice.

In 1956 the medal was presented to the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regimental Museum where it is displayed. In the chapel is a plaque which commemorates Joseph, and each year schools in Carlisle compete for the ‘Collin Shield’, a trophy for a 1 mile race presented in his memory by his family.

In 2008 a commemorative plaque was unveiled at South Shields Town Hall and in 2014 Carlisle City Council displayed a blue plaque commemorating Josephs heroic gallantry at the Battle of Givenchy. A memorial stone to honour the memory of World War One hero Joseph was laid in 2018 at Joseph Collin House in Jarrow.

Gary Alikivi  August 2020.

Sources: Ancestry, Comprehensive Guide to the Victoria Cross.

 

 

 

 

 

TYNESIDE WAR HEROES #1

THE DAY I WAS AWARDED THE VICTORIA CROSS

Adam Herbert Wakenshaw (1914–1942)

 

In 2012 when researching a documentary about the impact of the Second World War on South Tyneside residents, I found a number of Tyneside men who served in the British Army who were awarded one of the highest awards, the Victoria Cross. The VC is the highest and most prestigious award for courage in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. One of those men was Adam Wakenshaw, a private in the 9th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry. This is his story.

I was born on 9th June 1914 in Duke Street, Newcastle. Life was really hard. My ma’ Mary, and Thomas my da’ had to feed six children. They struggled on his labourers wage so to help the family I left school at 14 to work at the local colliery. When I got married it was to Dorothy Douglass in 1932 and our first place was 19 Rye Hill. Not far from Newcastle Central Station. When the War started I left the pit and joined the Durham Light Infantry. In 1940 I was one of the lucky ones to leave Dunkirk.

It was in 1942 we were battling against the Germans at Mersa Matruh on the coast at Egypt. They were coming at us hard. The ground was heavy and rocky we couldn’t dig in – so we hid behind boulders. We had around nine tank guns with us.

 I saw a vehicle it was in close range so fired and made a direct hit. It stopped them dead. The Germans fired back, and blew my left arm off, right above the elbow. They also hit my gun aimer, Eric Mohn, seriously wounding him. The whole crew were injured or killed. The Germans came back in to finish us off.

So me and Eric managed to crawl back to the gun and load the shells. We fired five more rounds and one direct hit which damaged their gun. They fired again I was threw away from the blast but it killed Eric. I managed to drag myself over the rocky ground to the gun and loaded up again.

Sadly, a direct hit killed Adam instantly. That evening, Durham soldiers searched the battlefield. Among the wreckage of his gun, they found Wakenshaw, and buried him where he fell.

He was later re-buried in El Alamein War Cemetery, Egypt and posthumously awarded the VC. The medal was presented to his widow, Dorothy, and passed through the family to his daughter, Lilian. The medal was then donated to the Durham Light Infantry Museum.

Today in St Mary’s Church, Newcastle, where Adam was baptised and married, there is a stained glassed window commemorating his life and sacrifice, from his upbringing in Newcastle to his death in North Africa. Also included is the motto of the Durham Light Infantry 9th Battalion ‘Be faithful until death and I will give a crown of life’.

Gary Alikivi  August 2020.

Sources: Ancestry, DLI South Shields, London Gazette 8th September 1942, The Comprehensive Guide to the Victoria & George Cross, Imperial War Museum.