Shipwrecks and stories

The pilot vessel Protector

The East Coast War Channels (ECWCs) stretched from the Thames to the Tyne and beyond, protecting ships that took vital supplies southwards. A fierce battle was fought within sight of the north east coast throughout the First World War (1914-1918), as German U-boats tried to sink cargo ships, fishing vessels and the small warships that defended them.

A series of three free workshops at The Word in South Shields, in partnership with the National Trust, will explore the stories behind the ships wrecked within the East Coast War Channels, their impact and lasting legacy. 

Family History Workshop

Wednesday 13 September, 10am - 12.30pm

German U-boats sank over a thousand boats and ships in the War Channels. The shipwrecks that resulted from this battle still lie on the seabed, but the important role that north east communities played during this period is largely forgotten.

Participants can learn about the impact of the First World War at sea on the local area and develop new skills in archive research, potentially revealing family or personal links with the wartime action. The workshop will draw on local and national archives, pulling together various sources to re-build the maritime heritage of the First World War. 

Family History Drop-in

Wednesday 13 September, 1 - 3.30pm

This session will highlight local connections to the wrecks lying just offshore – especially in seafaring, shipbuilding, fishing and coalmining – and show how these linked Tyneside to the broader war at sea. You are invited to bring in your own information, documents and photographs relating to WWI and find out about their background and significance. This will help us build a clearer picture of the War Channels on the north east coast.

Creative Writing Workshop

Thursday 14 September, 10am - 4pm 

This workshop will explore the WWI shipwrecks and their human cost in poetry and prose.

Antony Firth, a Marine Archaeologist, will introduce the fascinating story of the War Channels, outlining local connections to wrecks lying just offshore. You will work with Winston Plowes, a poet based in West Yorkshire, to explore approaches to writing about sites unseen on the seabed and will develop your own piece throughout the day. The workshops will also include a guided walk to experience nearby places associated with the War Channels. There will be opportunities to perform and hear pieces written during the day.

Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, all workshops are free, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

You can find out more about the workshops by visiting our what's on page.

For more information, or to book your place, please contact Kate Devlin by phone on 0191 529 0905 or email