Friday, 27 February 2015

Bench warfare

An officer sat on a bench, Italy, c.1917 (D/DLI 7/560/13(24))
D/DLI 7/560/13(24) An officer sat on a bench, Italy, c.1917
From 'The Whizz-Bang' (March 1916, D/DLI 7/115/25), a monthly magazine produced at the front by 6th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry.

The Hun and We
by 'Africanada'

The Hun he takes some trouble when he wants to dig a trench,
To make a shell-proof dug-out he he would sacrifice a bench,
The Briton's an indiff'rent cuss in trench as in town; 
To find a bench to sit on, he will knock his dug-out down.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Frederick Hunton, Durham County Councillor

Shire Hall, c.1900 (D/Ph 273/1)
D/Ph 273/1 Shire Hall, c.1900
This week we have another guest post by David Butler.

Frederick Hunton was the only Durham county councillor to be killed in the Great War. He was born in Stockton, on 25 June 1869, the eleventh (and last) child of John Hunton and his wife, Mary Ann. 

In 1895 Frederick was a general practitioner in Norton, living at Harland House, and in early 1898 in Stockton he married 21 year old Maude Mary Laing Young. The 1901 census showed them living in Sedgefield. 

Maude died in 1902 and five years later, in 1907, Frederick married one of her sisters, Eleanor Mary Webster Young. In the 1911 census they were living with their children at The Whins in Sedgefield, an 18-room house, with four servants. 

In addition to his role as a general practitioner, Dr. Hunton is listed in the 1902 Kelly’s Directory as the Medical Officer of Health for Sedgefield Rural District Council, the Medical Officer for the Sedgefield district of Sedgefield Poor Law Union and the Medical Officer for Sedgefield Workhouse. In the 1914 Directory, he is also described as the Medical Officer to the Sedgefield RDC Infectious Diseases Hospital.

He was first elected in 1910 as a county councillor for the Sedgefield division, and re-elected unopposed, in 1913.

Frederick Hunton volunteered for service in the British Army in 1914, when he was 45, and he was gazetted as a lieutenant in the Royal Army Medical Corps on 5 January 1915, subsequently corrected to 17 December 1914. His application for a commission includes a certificate of good moral character signed by Viscount Boyne of Brancepeth Castle. He was initially attached to the Northumberland Hussars Yeomanry, a Territorial Force cavalry unit, and was promoted to captain on 17 June 1915.

It is not clear where Dr. Hunton was based, but on 13 April 1916 he was given six weeks sick leave following a broken leg which he sustained by falling from a horse on a visit to No.1 (or Northumbrian) Northern General Hospital. This was a Territorial Force hospital which was accommodated in Armstrong College (now part of Newcastle University) and the Newcastle Workhouse Infirmary (now Newcastle General Hospital). On 22 June 1916 he was declared fit for duty and rejoined his unit two days later.

Alexandria, Egypt, taken from a ship, c.1915 (D/DLI 7/752/11(29))
D/DLI 7/752/11(29) Egypt, c.1915
There are no records of his movements until 20 December 1916 when he sailed from Marseilles, France, arriving in Alexandria, Egypt, on the 27 December, where he joined the RAMC base depot at Mustapha. On 13 January 1917 he joined the No.15 Military Hospital at Abbassieh, Alexandria. Less than a month later, on 2 February, he joined the 1st East Riding of Yorkshire Yeomanry, but on 19 February he was moved to the Casualty Clearing Station attached to the 53rd (Welsh) Division at Ismailia. You can find more information about Casualty Clearing Stations here

Frederick Hunton was killed in action on 6 May 1917, age 47, as a result of a bombing raid on Deir el Belah, and was buried in Deir el Belah CWGC cemetery in Gaza.

Frederick Hunton was one of the 743 RAMC officers who died in the Great War, and he is commemorated on the war memorial cross outside St. Edmund’s church, Sedgefield, where a memorial service was held on 19 May 1917. His is also one of the 53 names on the Newcastle University Medical school memorial plaque which was unveiled in 1923. 

You can find out more about Councillor Frederick Hunton on the Durham at War website here:

Friday, 13 February 2015

WWI cats on the internet!

Embroidered postcard of a lucky black cat (D/DLI 7/913/256)
D/DLI 7/913/256 Embroidered postcard of a lucky black cat
Everyone knows that cats and the internet go together like tea and biscuits (and all four go well together). In the Durham at War office, when the fog of war gets a bit much, we turn to our Benedict Cumberbatch calendar with added cats (because that’s a thing).  
February's Cumbercat
February's Cumbercat
In this blog we show some of the cat pictures from the Durham Light Infantry collection.  The postcard at the top shows a lucky black cat, it was sent by Private Fred Lucas to his son in Gateshead in October 1917. 

Cats were popular with the Navy where they were often ships’ mascots but First World War soldiers liked cats too. They provided a respite from the horror and drudgery of war, and boosted the morale of soldiers in hospital. In the photograph of the patient in bed holding the cat, there are also pictures of (lucky black) cats decorating the wall. It was only in sorting the image for the blog that I noticed the one in the tree in the centre.
Photograph of patients and nursing staff, with one patient in bed, holding a black cat, in an unidentified hospital, 1914 - 1918 (D/DLI 7/63/6(17))
D/DLI 7/63/6(17) Photograph of patients and nursing staff, with one patient in bed, holding a black cat, in an unidentified hospital, 1914 - 1918, from the collection of Rev. JAG Birch
Photograph of wounded officers, with a cat, standing with two nurses outside an unidentified military hospital, c.1916 - 1918 (D/DLI 7/951/9(30))
D/DLI 7/951/9(30) Photograph of wounded officers, with a cat, and two nurses outside an unidentified military hospital, c.1916 - 1918, from the collection of Capt. G Rowe
The following picture is the one that inspired this post.  To me it looks like a Chinese brush painting.  It is in the memoir of Reverend JAG Birch that we showed to the archivists from the Somme.  In our catalogue it is described as ‘a tiger and an antelope (?)’ but after discussion amongst ourselves and our French counterparts, we concluded it was a cat and a hare.
'Tiger' by Reverend JAG Birch (D/DLI 7/63/2(143))
D/DLI 7/63/2(143) 'Tiger' by Reverend JAG Birch
The Imperial War Museum has a lovely set of photographs of animals that went to war, both working and as pets:

Friday, 6 February 2015

Bong zhoor, sh sweez onglay

Drawings by Reverend JAG Birch (D/DLI 7/63/2), left: The entrance to the hospital at Armentieres; right: a nurse with a large wimple
Drawings by Reverend JAG Birch (D/DLI 7/63/2), left: The entrance to the hospital at Armentieres; right: a nurse with a large wimple
On Tuesday of this week (3 Feb 2015) we had two archivists from the Somme Départment visit us at the Record Office.  Students from Roisel have been working with Parkside Academy, Willington, on research into the First World War through a ComeniusREGIO partnership.  These partnerships support cooperation between local and regional authorities, schools and other learning organisations across Europe.  They have been working together this academic year and the Parkside pupils have already been out to France.  This week the French students visited County Durham.  

As Durham Record Office, the DLI Museum and the Durham at War project have been supporting the Willington students’ research, so the Somme Départment archivists and staff from the Historiale Museum have been supporting the French students.  Whilst the school groups and their teachers spent Tuesday morning having a session at the DLI Museum, the archivists came up to the Record Office to have a look at some of our First World War collections and how the Durham at War website is being used.

The archivists were very interested in Morant’s diaries and the sketchbooks by soldiers and officers that we had put out for them to see.  They were particularly enthused by the memoir of Reverend JAG Birch who went out to France with the 5th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry.  Interspersed through his memoir are ink drawings of everything from the ruins of Ypres to a French nurse with an extraordinary wimple.  The drawing of a frog caused much laughter.  The Somme archivists showed us the Somme Départment Archives website including First World War family records that the public had brought in for digitisation and publication online. There are some fantastic records, including a photograph album, that are well worth having a look at.

Frog as drawn by Reverend JAG Birch (D/DLI 7/63/2)
D/DLI 7/63/2 Frog as drawn by Reverend JAG Birch
A member of the project staff went into Parkside School on Wednesday (4 Feb) to talk to the students from France and Durham about their research.  On Friday (6 Feb) staff will help with another education session at Durham Town Hall where project staff will be providing an education session.  One activity will focus on women at work during the First World War and women's football as the French students have been looking at women in France living near the front.  The the other activity will be look at language and communication, British soldiers getting to grips with French and the importance of letters and postcards to both soldiers and those at home.  The students will have the opportunity to create their own postcards.
The first page of a  French phrase pamphlet for British soldiers including pronunciations (D/DLI 2/6/10(260))
D/DLI 2/6/10(260) The first page of a  French phrase pamphlet for British soldiers including pronunciations