South Shields Local History Group

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Ford, Jack (the real one!)

From Geordie Land to No Man’s Land

Jack Ford (official name John) was born in 1892. He had 4 brothers and 3 sisters.  In 1911 Jack lived at 19 Malvern Street, Tyne Dock (off Dean Road).  The men in the family were all coal miners.

Jack Ford 1911 Census
92 Nora Street
Jack Ford (Ford family photo)

Jack’s Fiancé Florrie Coe

Jack was engaged to Florrie Coe. 

Florrie Coe (Ford family photo)

He was just 22 when the war started. After his last day with Florrie he sent her a picture postcard of himself at the back of a pub (where else) with this message on the back:-

Postcard Back
Jack Ford at the back of a pub (Ford family photo)

Jack Enlists

On May 1915 He joined the Northumbrian Royal Field Artillery.  The casualties were so high in World War 1 that regiments were reduced so drastically they had to merge with other regiments and so Jack ended up as part of the 63rd Royal Naval Division, Ammunition Column, Royal Field Artillery, Trench Mortar Battery.

On the first day of The Battle of the Somme on July 1st 1916 one battalion, the Tyneside Scottish, who made their heroic advance to the sound of bagpipes, suffered some of the worst losses as more than 2,400 were killed, wounded or taken prisoner on the first day.

Their comrades in the Tyneside Irish suffered 600 deaths and a total of 2,100 casualties on the battle’s opening day.

Jack Ford the tall lad at the back (Ford family photo)
Postcard to Jack (Ford family photo)
Royal Navy mates (Ford family photo)

The 63rd Royal Naval Division had originally been Royal Navy Reservists with officers from public schools including the famous war poet Rupert Brooke, but with very heavy losses it was largely replenished with County Durham miners.

Jack’s Will

Jack’s will transcript (National Archives)

Jack Ford’s will written on July 10th 1916 just 9 days after the start of The Battle of the Somme!

Jack’s Death

Jack then fought in The Operations on the Ancre River from January to March 1917.  Jack was killed in the Somme on March 4th 1917. He was just 25 years old.

Jack Ford is remembered on the Edwyn Lutyens masterpiece the Thiepval Memorial under section 8A:

Thiepval close up
(Commonwealth War Graves)

Rupert Brooke – (63rd Royal Naval Division):-

If I should die, think only this of me: That there’s some corner of a foreign field that is forever England.

Jack was eligible for 2 medals:

Medal Card (National Archives)
British Medal
Victory medal

After Jack died his mother never recovered from the shock of his death and grieved for him until her death.  Florrie Coe married Jack’s brother Thomas.

Jack Ford in Fiction

Jack Ford lives on in fiction; the South Shields born writer James Mitchell based his classic story When The Boat Comes In on the exploits of coal miner turned soldier Jack Ford, was it based on the real Jack Ford?

My son John (Jack) Ford the fifth was born in Gordon Road, Tyne Dock about 100 yards from Jack’s old house at 92 Nora Street. We met James Michell’s son Peter Mitchell in September 2019 at The Word. 

Peter Mitchell

My son Jack asked him if there was an actual historical figure called Jack Ford.  Peter replied that most of the stories came from his grandfather which his dad James listened to as a bairn and these became the stories of When The Boat Comes In and he could not say whether Jack Ford was a real person or not, I like to think my Great Uncle Jack Ford was that man!

Will the real Jack Ford please stand up!

Terry Ford

Ford family photos
Terry Ford

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