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Friday, 20 October 2017

Doctor Constance Robertson part 2

Last week, I wrote about Doctor Constance Robertson who worked in Darlington during the First World War and after. I have been contacted by Constance's great niece who read the blog and has provided a bit more information. It is wonderful when things like this happen.

On the 1911 census, Constance was working with John Hern, also a doctor. The practice operated out of his family home, and Constance also lived there. I now know that after John retired, the house, Semmercote, was split into two, with Constance in one half, where she set up her own practice. She named her house Waleric, after the name of the house in Alnmouth where one of her brothers was born.

During the war, Constance used her medical training to care for injured family members who she took in, including her brother who had been a prisoner of war, then contracted Spanish Flu.

We hope to find out more about Constance’s brother and his war service soon.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Doctor Constance Robertson

According to Historic England, there were nearly 1000 female doctors by 1914. One of these doctors was living on Stanhope Road in Darlington. Constance Charlotte Robertson was born in Alnmouth around 1883 to William and Ann. William’s occupation on the 1901 census is given as a timber merchant, house furnisher, and auctioneer and valuer. Constance is listed as a medical student.
Advert from the UK Medical Directory 1910, via Ancestry
Advert from the UK Medical Directory 1910, via Ancestry
The Durham University Calendar for 1903-4 shows Constance as a student at the Medical College based in Newcastle. She is one of only 12 female students in a body of nearly 200. One of her peers, Aleen Cust, went on to become the first female veterinarian. For that year of her studies, her final year, Constance was able to benefit from ‘A new college building [that] has been erected on a site, an acre in extent, situated in Northumberland Road… at the cost of about £31,000. Every modern improvement has been adopted by which the Medical Education and well-being of the Students of the College may be furthered. The Electric Light has recently been installed through the whole of the College, including Lecture Theatres, Laboratories, and Dissecting Room’.

Ancestry has medical directories available to view online. The 1910 directory shows Doctor Constance Robertson living at Semmercote, [Stanhope Road], Darlington, having attained an MBBS with honours from Durham University in 1904. This qualification is a Bachelor Medicine Bachelor of Surgery. The directory also shows that she is a member of the Medico-Psychological Association, and where she has worked:
Assistant anaesthetist at the Royal Infirmary, Newcastle
Clinical assistant in Gynaecology at a hospital in Newcastle and at Northumberland County Asylum [Morpeth]
Assistant Medical Officer at Tue Brook Villa Asylum, Liverpool

The 1911 Census has her at the same address, of which John Hern is the head. His wife and daughter are also listed as is a cook and a page. Both John and Constance are listed as medical practitioners and Constance’s relationship to head looks like ‘Assist. Med.’ From the medical directories, it appears she stays in the same work over the next several years. The directories do show that she moved to a property named Waleric, also on Stanhope Road, which is where I initially found her in the 1917-18 Ward’s Directory [Hern remained at Semmercote].

There is no indication that Constance Robertson undertook any war service (John Hern was too old for service). In researching her, I have found it very difficult to find out about medical provision for civilians during the First World War. 

In the 1925 and 1929 Kelly’s Directories, Constance Robertson is listed as a physician and honorary anaesthetist to the Darlington General Hospital. On the 1939 register she is still on Stanhope Road as a medical practitioner. A Newcastle Journal article dated 21 September 1940 reported ‘As no suitable applicants had applied for the post of Assistant Medical Officer… it was decided by the [Darlington Corporation Health] Committee that Dr Girgis be asked to undertake the work at the Maternity Hospital, and that Dr Constance C Robertson be asked to carry out the work of the Maternity and Child Welfare Clinics’. This position is the last I have been able to find about Doctor Robertson until her death in 1974 in Bournemouth.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Do you suffer from optimism?

The Wipers Times play

On Wednesday 4 October, I went to see The Wipers Time at Northern Stage in Newcastle. Written by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman, it tells the story of the trench newspaper through Captain Fred Roberts of the 12th Battalion (Pioneers) Sherwood Foresters. He was the real life editor of the paper after his company found a printing press in a bombed out building in Ypres. The paper, first printed in February 1916 and running for 23 issues until just after the armistice, was a satirical look at the war from the boots on the ground. In the play's programme, the writers say 'history had a very different view of the war from of the editors of The Wipers Times, who celebrated the camaraderie, absurdity, and tragedy of life in the trenches, often on the same page'.

Hislop and Newman's story of the paper was initially brought to the public on television. First aired on BBC 2 in September 2013, this version starred Ben Chaplin, Julian Rhind-Tutt, and Michael Palin.

The play is bookended by Captain Roberts trying to get a job at a newspaper after the war. The main story is told in chronological order, interspersed with skits and spoof adverts as appeared in the newspaper itself. The skits took place at the front of the stage with a cabaret style curtain dropped down behind. The adverts were enacted at the back of the stage, above the 'trench', framed by barbed wire lit with fairy lights. To modern eyes, it's not hard to spoof the adverts of the day (and of course the writers' Private Eye magazine means they themselves are not strangers to it), one was a cure for optimism, and another was for a duckboard that would spring your commanding officer away. 
Advert for Sloan's Liniment from the Durham Advertiser, 1916
Advert for Sloan's Liniment from the Durham Advertiser, 1916
Within the dialogue of the play, as much taken from the words of the men themselves, the voice of Ian Hislop also comes across, and a Lieutenant Colonel has a hint of Blackadder Goes Forth about him. But the play is in the spirit of the paper, the laughter occasionally punctuated by poignancy: the captain is gassed, a friend killed, a wife back home. The lieutenant colonel, not happy about The Wipers Times, says to his commanding officer 'The war is not funny sir', to which the general replies 'I have a feeling that may be the point'. We've all experienced a moment where if you don't laugh, you'll cry, though hopefully in less enduring circumstances than the men at the front.

Of course, it wouldn't be a piece of entertainment about the First World War if it didn't show the men 'going over the top', but 12th Battalion, as a divisional unit of the 24th Division were on the Somme during the Battle of Delville Wood. An effective moment in the play came when the men went over for a second time, to find the Germans already out of action, overcome by their own gas when the wind changed, as smoke drifted away from the stage and over the audience. 

The play certainly drew laughs from the audience, including myself and my Durham at War colleague. I felt it was good to see a different aspect of the war (the same view the Head of History at the BBC held when he commissioned the TV film), one that we on the project knew existed from the letters and diaries we have read. There is no denying by anyone that the war was a horrific, the men suffered, but they also laughed.
Captain TB Heslop of 6th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, left in a photograph taken at Kemmel, 1915 (D/DLI 2/6/10(379)), and right as drawn in The Whizz-Bang, January 1916 (D/DLI 2/6/32)
Captain TB Heslop of 6th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, left in a photograph taken at Kemmel, 1915 (D/DLI 2/6/10(379)), and right as drawn in The Whizz-Bang, January 1916 (D/DLI 2/6/32) 
The Wipers Times was not the only, nor indeed the first trench newspaper. The first issue of the Dead Horse Corner Gazette was published by the 4th Battalion of the Canadian Contingent of the British Expeditionary Force in October 1915. In fact, 6th Battalion Durham Light Infantry had their own trench newspaper The Whizz-Bang, the first issue of which came out a month before The Wipers Times. It ran from January 1916 for eight issues until November that year. The following is from the first editorial:

Cheer-Oh!
The Editor has put his foot down, and we, the Sub-editor, quelled by that last shout of his, “Write the ---- thing yourself,” slowly and regretfully suck our indelible pencil and wonder how to spell ‘Editorial’, even as the last recruit comes sluggishly to ‘shun’ at the bell-like tones of the sergeant-major.


It is notoriously the aim of all first editorials to answer the question “What are you there for?” which the suspicious public hurls at all who rush hot-headed into print. But it is not our intention to attempt to justify our existence, or to apologise for it. Like our namesake, here we are, without reason or warning…

The contributions which are collected here are the work of spare time, of which the dirty weather and dirtier Bosch do not give us a very large allowance, and they are thrust upon the world with no pretensions to literary merit… To all we bring greetings, and our work is done if we can but remind them that, even in the greatest of shadows, we can still, by the grace of Heaven, face the future with a smile.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Looking for Grandad

This week, Durham at War volunteer Amanda brings us a personal story.
Gilbert and Margaret, from the family collection
A couple of months ago, we inherited a large box of photographs, lots of pictures of stern looking women in their Sunday best and men in various uniforms of the First World War. Among them was one of a young couple, the man, again in uniform, looked quite like my brother-in-law, the young woman the pot-double of my daughter. The names on the back were Gilbert Hay Blanche and Margaret Yellowley Brown, my husband's grandparents from South Shields.

Family legend had it that Gilbert had served with the Durham Light Infantry (DLI) but had been invalided out before being sent to France. He had been caught in a storm while out walking with Margaret, or Madge as she was known, and had been struck by lightning. He had been knocked unconscious and when he came to, his boots were 20 feet away. He certainly walked badly for the rest of his life. But still, being almost killed by lightning had probably saved him from almost certain death on the Western Front.

A trawl through the military records on Ancestry produced no further information on Gilbert; like so many other men of the First World War, his attestation papers had been destroyed during the Second World War. And he appeared never to have been awarded either the British War Medal or the Victory Medal.

The military historian at Durham County Record Office kindly went through the DLI regimental records to look for any evidence of Gilbert receiving the Silver War Badge. Being invalided out of the army, he should have been issued with one of these badges to wear on his civvy clothes. This would show the world that he had already "done his bit"; he was not simply shirking his duty to serve King and Country. Staff at the Record Office suggested that Gilbert had possibly served with another regiment; perhaps he had been with the Northumberland Fusiliers or the Royal Engineers?
Gilbert Blanche, second from right, with other men at
Hartlepool after the bombardment (1914), from the family collection
Back to the box of photos again. This time I came across a picture of Gilbert in a formal photograph with other new recruits in the grounds of a training camp (possibly Cocken Hall) [it is – DaW team]. The men were all wearing their caps, the distinctive emblem of the DLI clearly visible on some of them. So, at least we had the right regiment.

We had previously seen family photos of the ruined buildings in Hartlepool after the bombardment in December, 1914, and had never really questioned why a Shields family would have such photos. But this time, I also found a photo, previously missed, of a group of soldiers (one looked barely 16 in a great coat four sizes too big for him!) standing in the ruins of a family home. There was Gilbert in the middle of the group, wearing what looked like a dustcoat over his uniform. With it was an old brown envelope with a thin sheet of yellowed paper inside, a telegram from Blanche in Hartlepool to Brown in Palmerston Road, South Shields, dated 17th December. The message simply said "All safe after attack."

Googling DLI and Hartlepool Bombardment brought up the Durham at War website which confirmed that the Durham Pals (18th Battalion DLI) had been garrisoned at Hartlepool at the time of the bombardment. Five soldiers had died, eleven wounded. No wonder Gilbert had wanted to send that telegram to Madge.

We have been unable to find anything else out about Gilbert's time with the DLI. Was he invalided out and, if so, why no silver badge? Or did he serve at home for the next three years? There is no-one left to ask; his generation and the following one are all gone. But at least, we now know his battalion and the significance of some of those photos. 

That old family story seems to have been true, after all.

[We have now found an article from the Yorkshire Post that confirms that Gilbert was indeed injured in a lightning strike - DaW team]

You can read more about Gilbert Blanche on the Durham at War website:

Friday, 22 September 2017

The Battle of the Menin Road Ridge

The Battle of the Menin Road Ridge, 20-25 September 1917, was the third phase of the Third Battle of Ypres, more commonly known today as Passchendaele. You can read blog posts about earlier action here:

A signals section of the 13th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, equipped with telescopes, field telephone and signalling lamps, watch the battalion's advance on Veldhoek on 20 September 1917, © IWM (Q 5971) IWM Non-commercial Licence
A new commander of the offensive, General Herbert Plumer, meant a change in tactics. Units would make short gains behind a barrage of British artillery, then consolidate their position and hold it against German counter-attacks. Air support provided observation to warn of counter-attacks. Other units would then move forward to take the next objective. The fighting was to gain ground; moving east of Ypres, pushing the Germans back. This tactic was called 'bite and hold'.

There were many battalions involved in the battle as a whole, including 12th, 13th, and 20th Battalions of the Durham Light Infantry (DLI), who took part in the first days of the battle. 12 and 13 DLI were part of 68th Brigade of 23rd Division with 10th and 11th Battalions, Northumberland Fusiliers (NF). 20 DLI was part of 123rd Brigade of 41st Division. All four battalions of this brigade were from different regiments.

The following account of these battalions' actions is taken from their official war diaries held at the National Archives.

20 September 1917
3:00am
13 DLI battalion HQ moved to the Advance Brigade HQ.

5:40am Zero hour
13 DLI moved forward to Jam area trenches.
12 DLI A and B Companies moved forwards behind 10 and 11 NF and assisted in clearing a German strongpoint and snipers at Dumbarton Woods.
12 DLI C Company less the Lewis Gun Section formed up behind 13 DLI and worked as a carrying party making three journeys in total.
12 DLI D Company moved forward behind 11 NF to Jasper Drive 'encountering a strongpoint...which was successfully dealt with by a sergeant* and three men.' They dug in near Jasper Drive.

7:30am
13 DLI ordered to move forward again, arriving 8:50am.

8:00am
12 DLI A and B Companies dug in in front of Jasper Trench in support of 10 NF.

[no time]
12 DLI D Company ordered to reinforce 10 NF and remained dug in on the right of B Company.

9:00am
13 DLI Battalion HQ established.

9:40am
20 DLI received orders to 'move up to the original British front line between Shrewsbury Forest and Bodmin Copse and dig in there'.

9:53am
13 DLI advanced in attack.

10:00am
12 DLI C Company Lewis Gun Section moved to 13 DLI Advance HQ.

10:40am
13 DLI 'German prisoners passed Battalion HQ, about 150 in all'.

11:05am
13 DLI took objective and began consolidating the position.

11:45am
20 DLI D Company sent to help 124th Brigade take the second objective after they were held up by machine gun fire.

11:55am
20 DLI ordered to move up to the first objective line and dig in, and to be ready to help in the attack.

2:00pm
20 DLI received orders to push on to second objective between 122nd and 124th Brigade. Arrived in position about 3:00pm.

3:00pm
13 DLI repulsed a counter-attack by the Germans on the left company.

5:15pm
20 DLI ordered to attack the third objective on the forward slope of Tower Hamlets ridge. The orders were received 'too late' and the battalion dug in on the backwards slope. They were rejoined by D Company at about 6:00pm. The right flank of the battalion was 'in the air' as 124th Brigade had not managed to cross the stream.

Night
12 DLI A and B Company put under orders of 9th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment (Y&L).

21 September 1917
1:00am
12 DLI D Company ordered to move back.

7:00am
20 DLI received orders to attack the third objective with 10th Battalion Royal West Kent Regiment.

8:00am
13 DLI dispersed another German counter-attack on the left company by Lewis gun and rifle fire. One German officer and five other ranks captured.

9:00am
20 DLI attacked, the British barrage was only 'a few shells sent over at intervals and was in consequence insufficient to keep down the enemy machine guns.' 20 DLI rushed about 200 yards before being forced to dig in, but not before suffering casualties from the German machine guns.

[no time]
12 DLI C Company made two more journeys as a carrying party.

3:00pm
20 DLI drove back a German counter-attack over Tower Hamlets ridge by 'rifle fire and Lewis guns which inflicted heavy casualties'.
13 DLI repulsed attack by Germans on the right company 'coming up the valley from Gheluvelt' after a heavy bombardment.
Section of map from April 1917 showing trenches, Tower Hamlets, and Gheluvelt, (Map Sheet 28 NE.3 1) 'Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland' The full map can be viewed here: http://maps.nls.uk/view/101464642
4:00pm
20 DLI A German barrage began.

7:00pm
13 DLI 'After two hours heavy shelling the enemy was seen massing on the right of the the Ypres-Menin Road near Gheluvelt preparatory to attacking. The SOS signal was sent up on our right and left and the enemy was caught by our barrage before his attack could materialise'.

7:30pm
12 DLI A and B Companies received orders to move back but due to a counter-attack, A Company were ordered to move forward to reinforce the Y&L. B Company remained in position to protect the right flank.

7:40pm
20 DLI drove off another counter-attack as it was assembling with artillery, rifle, and Lewis gun fire.

Night
12 DLI C Company Lewis Gun Section ordered to reinforce right flank.

9:00pm
12 DLI C Company Lewis Gun Section ordered to move back by the officer commanding 13 DLI.

9:30pm
12 DLI A Company 'situation became normal' and returned to Jasper Trench.

22 September 1917
3:00am
13 DLI relieved by 8th Battalion King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and moved back with the exception of HQ and two platoons of B Company.

6:30am
12 DLI A and B Companies ordered to move back as per the original orders of the previous night.

Afternoon
12 DLI A and B Companies worked as carrying parties.
12 DLI C Company moved to Holy Corn dug out.
20 DLI Enemy shelling and barrage but no counter-attacks.

6:00pm
12 DLI D Company moved to Lucky dugout area to relieve D Company of 11 NF and acted as a carrying party.

Dusk
13 DLI HQ and the remainder of B Company were relieved.

23 September 1917
1:00am
20 DLI relieved by 13th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment, reaching camp at 8:00am.

[no time]
12 DLI A and B Companies continued carrying work.

4:00pm
12 DLI C Company moved up to trenches near Jasper trenches.

24 September 1917
[no time]
12 DLI A and B Companies relieved by 16th Battalion King's Royal Rifle Corps, and returned to camp.

4:00pm
12 DLI C Company relieved by a unit of the Queen's Regiment.

4:40pm
12 DLI D Company relieved by 9 Y&L.

The battle was mostly successful in that it achieved most of its targets except for taking Tower Hamlets. However, it was not without great cost to the Allied forces (British and Australian). According to the figures in the official history, 20255 British men and officers were killed, wounded, or missing between 20 and 25 September. The Australian casualties are counted at 5013.

The 12 DLI war diary doesn't provide casualty figures but the diaries of 13 and 20 DLI were:

20 September
13 DLI
Killed – 1 officer, 1 other rank
Wounded – 4 officers, 177 other ranks
Missing – 16 other ranks

20 DLI
Killed – 1 officer, 1 other rank
Wounded – 4 officers, 6 other ranks

21 September
13 DLI
Killed – 14 other ranks
Wounded – 37 other ranks
Missing – 1 other rank

20 DLI
Killed – 2 officers, 33 other ranks
Died of wounds – 1 officer
Wounded – 6 officers, 188 other ranks (one of these officers died of his wounds 25 September 1917)

22 September
13 DLI
Killed – 1 other rank
Wounded – 5 other ranks
Missing – 1 other rank

20 DLI
Killed – 6 other ranks
Wounded – 14 other ranks
Missing – 21 other ranks

*
Sergeant B Cruddas
Awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions. The citation reads:
'For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty at Dumbarton Wood in September 1917. An enemy strongpoint which had been overlooked in the advance was causing heavy casualties to carrying parties and supporting troops. He left the carrying party of which he was in charge, and going forward alone, located the strongpoint. He then attacked it with three men, and captured it after a very stubborn fight, putting all the garrison out of action. He showed great powers of organisation, and was a splendid example to all ranks'.

Sources:
12th Battalion War Diary, The National Archives ref. WO 95/2182/1
13th Battalion War Diary, The National Archives ref. WO 95/2182/2
20th Battalion War Diary, The National Archives ref. WO 95/2639/1

Third Ypres - Passchendaele, The Day by Day Account, by Chris McCarthy

The Long, Long Trail http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/battles/battles-of-the-western-front-in-france-and-flanders/the-battles-of-ypres-1917-third-ypres/
Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Menin_Road_Ridge
Commonwealth War Graves Commission https://www.cwgc.org/learn/news-and-events/news/2017/09/15/13/11/8-facts-about-the-battle-of-the-menin-road-ridge
The Australian War Memorial https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/E97

Friday, 15 September 2017

“All of a sudden hell let loose” The trench raid at Chérisy

This week, Steve Shannon tells us about events at Chérisy, and a new exhibition at Durham County Record Office.
First panel of the Chérisy exhibition
First panel of the Chérisy exhibition
One hundred years ago today, Durham soldiers raided a German trench in northern France. Trench raids were commonplace on the western front during the First World War, carried out to take prisoners and gather intelligence, but above all, to kill as many enemy soldiers as could be found.

Most raids took place under cover of night and involved few raiders but the raid on a German trench at Chérisy on 15 September 1917 was unique. This was not only because of the number of soldiers involved, but also because flying above the raiders was a Royal Flying Corps warplane taking the only known photographs of a trench raid in progress.

Enlarged copies of these unique - and fascinating - photographs form the centrepiece of a new exhibition, which opens in Durham County Record Office on Friday 15 September. Also on display will be copies of original maps, documents and photographs from the Durham Light Infantry’s archive, cared for by the Record Office on behalf of the Trustees of the DLI Collection, plus full explanatory labels telling the story of this unique raid.
The aerial photographs on display at Durham County Record Office
The aerial photographs on display at Durham County Record Office
This raid at Chérisy is largely forgotten today, submerged beneath the horrors of the Somme and Passchendaele but, at the time, it had an important outcome. The majority of the DLI’s raiders came from the 9th Battalion DLI, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Roland Bradford VC MC from Witton Park. For two weeks before the raid, Colonel Bradford trained his men hard until every raider knew what he had to do. This included practising attacks on a full-scale model of the target trench dug behind the lines with a farmer’s plough.

During one of these practice attacks, the raiders were watched by senior officers, including General Byng, commanding the British Third Army. Such a high-ranking audience for a raid was most unusual. Were they watching to see how Colonel Bradford commanded and trained his battalion? Was Roland Bradford, despite being only 25 years old, being tested for promotion?

The answer came after the successful conclusion of the raid. On 5 October, Roland Bradford was promoted to brigadier general and became the youngest general in the British Army. Sadly, just a few weeks later, on 30 November 1917, a German shell killed Brigadier General Bradford. He was still only 25 years old.

Exhibition location:
Along the corridor leading to Durham County Record Office at County Hall, Durham.

Access:
The exhibition can be viewed Monday to Friday between 9am and 4pm. Please note that the Record Office searchroom is closed to the public on Thursdays and Fridays.

Friday, 8 September 2017

The Merchant Navy

D/DLI 13/2/170 Embroidered postcard with Red Ensign and anchor
D/DLI 13/2/170 Embroidered postcard with Red Ensign and anchor
On 3 September, Durham County Council flew the Red Ensign above County Hall for Merchant Navy Day. This day of remembrance began in 2000 to honour those that served during the two world wars, and to celebrate those who served during peacetime, and continue to serve.

As an island nation, shipping has always been an important part of trade and transport for Britain. At the outbreak of war, more than half the food consumed in this country was carried by merchant shipping. During the war, the Merchant Navy were responsible for ‘supplying the nation and the armed forces with food, transporting raw materials for the manufacture of munitions, maintaining ordinary cargo and passenger trade, and transporting troops and materiel to theatres of war’. (http://media.cwgc.org/media/231265/the_merchant_navy_memorial__tower_hilll__ww1_.pdf)

It didn’t matter that these men were civilians, they were still exposed to the same dangers as the military. The sea became rife with mines from the early days of the war, then the German U-boat campaign began. This increased each year until its most devastating period of 1917. Over 17000 Merchant Navy men lost their lives during the First World War, around 13000 of these were British, with the other 4000 being made up of a wide variety of nationalities from both within, and outside of the Commonwealth.
The Mercantile Marine Medal, with thanks to Football and the First World War, used under the Creative CommonsAttribution 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) License 
One of our Durham at War volunteers, David D, put together the story of John Alfred Roch, who was born in Sunderland in 1903. His father, who was born in Russia but became a naturalised Brit in 1909, worked as a mariner, and as a crane driver when ashore. John’s mother was the daughter of a mariner, so it is no surprise that he followed in their footsteps. 1917 saw John, aged only 14, serving as a deck boy on the SS Lady Ann. On 16 February of that year, the ship left Sunderland for Kent, laden with coal. As the SS Lady Ann passed Scarborough, she is thought to have been torpedoed by a German U-boat. Eleven of the crew, including John, lost their lives. He was awarded the Mercantile Marine Medal, and the British War Medal for his service.

John’s body was never found, but he is remembered on the Tower Hill memorial, across the road from the Tower of London. This memorial recognises the men and women of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets who died during the two world wars, and have no known grave. 

Researching merchant seamen of this period is not easy, there was no official registration, and some other records didn’t survive. What do exist are ships’ crew lists. The National Maritime Museum, with the National Archives, have digitised and indexed the lists for 1915, and these can be searched here:
http://1915crewlists.rmg.co.uk/

Royal Museums Greenwich website has a detailed research guide available here:
http://www.rmg.co.uk/discover/researchers/research-guides/research-guide-c9-merchant-navy-first-world-war

Friday, 1 September 2017

A Treasured Possession

Temporary Second Lieutenant Frederick Youens (D/DLI 7/801/8)
D/DLI 7/801/8 Temporary Second Lieutenant Frederick Youens
A hundred years ago this week, on 29 August 1917, Mrs Lizzie Youens, the widow of a basket maker from High Wycombe, went to Buckingham Palace. There King George V presented her with the posthumous Victoria Cross that had been awarded to her son, Second Lieutenant Frederick Youens, who had been mortally wounded a few weeks earlier during the Third Battle of Ypres.

Born in High Wycombe in August 1893, Frederick - or Freddy as his mother called him - did well at his local National School and won a scholarship to the town’s Royal Grammar School. There he excelled in sports and gained his first military experience in the school’s Officer Training Corps.

On 5 September 1914, just a month after the outbreak of war, Freddy Youens left his teaching job and enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps. The following spring, he transferred to the East Surrey Regiment and was soon in action on the Western Front. Private Youens, however, did not forget his medical training and, during the Battle of Loos in September 1915, worked all night dressing wounds and helping the wounded to shelter, until he was seriously wounded himself.

Out of action for a year while his arm healed, Freddy was finally fit enough to re-join the East Surrey Regiment. His talents, however, were soon recognised and in January 1917, after officer training, he was commissioned as a temporary second lieutenant attached to the Durham Light Infantry. On 13 March, Second Lieutenant Youens joined the 13th (Service) Battalion DLI in Belgium.

During the Third Battle of Ypres (or Passchendaele as the battle is better known today), 13 DLI took over newly captured positions in Impartial Trench, west of Klein Zillebeke. Just after midnight on 7 July 1917, Second Lieutenant Youens led a three-man patrol into no man’s land. There they came across a group of 40 Germans and Freddy and another soldier were wounded. Safely back in the Durhams’ trenches, Freddy was having his wounds dressed, when he was told that German raiders were fast approaching. He immediately ran from the dug-out, forgetting his shirt and tunic, to rally his men. A bomb (grenade) then fell near a Lewis machine gun crew but failed to explode. Freddy fearlessly picked it up and threw it out of the trench. Shortly afterwards another bomb fell nearby. Again, Freddy picked it up to throw it away, but it exploded in his hand, mortally wounding him, and some of his men. Second Lieutenant Frederick Youens died from his wounds shortly afterwards and he was buried in Railway Dugouts Burial Ground at Zillebeke.
Grave marker for Frederick Youens, Australian War Memorial P00735.010 (public domain)
Grave marker for Frederick Youens, Australian War Memorial P00735.010 (public domain)
On 2 August 1917, the London Gazette announced the award of a posthumous Victoria Cross “for most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty” to Second Lieutenant Youens and, before the end of the month, his mother went to Buckingham Palace to receive her son’s VC. This became her most treasured possession, along with letters from the chaplain and from Freddy’s commanding officer, who described her son as “an ideal soldier - keen, efficient and brave”.

Mrs Youens died in 1958 and her treasured possession was then sold but in 1976, thanks to the generosity of the DLI Association, Freddy’s Victoria Cross was acquired and presented to the DLI Museum. Today his medal is part of the DLI Collection, held by the University of Durham at Palace Green Library, whilst Durham County Record Office preserves the letters and photographs also treasured by Freddy’s mother.

During the DLI Association’s campaign to acquire the Victoria Cross, one of Freddy’s brother officers visited the museum and was interviewed by local media about the day Freddy won his VC. Born in Scotland in 1892, Roderick Mitchell was teaching in Sunderland when the First World War began. Later, he was commissioned as an officer in 13 DLI and was awarded the Military Cross twice for his bravery during the war. In his interview, this old soldier, proudly wearing his medals, vividly remembered the German raid on his battalion’s trenches and seeing Freddy Youens pick up a German bomb, before a second exploded in his hand.

Roderick Mitchell was the last surviving eye-witness of the events in the 13th Battalion’s trenches on 7 July 1917. He died a few months after visiting the museum, in June 1977.

Friday, 18 August 2017

VC at Langemarck

Battle of Langemarck. British troops moving forward over shell-torn ground near Pilckem, 16th August 1917. © IWM (Q 2708). IWM Non-Commercial Licence
Battle of Langemarck. British troops moving forward over shell-torn ground near Pilckem, 16th August 1917. © IWM (Q 2708). IWM Non-Commercial Licence
The image that springs to mind for a lot of people when thinking of the First World War is one of mud with slivers of trees remaining. The battle that a lot of the photographs of these conditions come from is Passchendaele, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres (3rd Ypres). As with many of the big battles, it was actually made up of several smaller battles, in this case, eight (you can see a list here http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/battles/battles-of-the-western-front-in-france-and-flanders/the-battles-of-ypres-1917-third-ypres/). The Battle of Langemarck took place 16-18 August 1917, and was the second battle of 3rd Ypres.

There was no rain on the actual days of the battle, but there had been rain almost every day of August running up to it. This was landing on ground already churned up by fighting and shell fire, creating atrocious conditions, compounded by the fact that the British and French armies were operating in low lying areas.

The 20th (Light) Division was one of many that saw action over these three days, playing their part on the first day. The 20th Division’s objective was to take the village of Langemarck, from which the battle takes its name. One of the battalions in this division was the 12th King’s Royal Rifle Corps (12 KRRC), one of whose soldiers won the Victoria Cross during this action.

Edward ‘Ned’ Cooper was born in Portrack, Stockton (then in County Durham), in 1896. In 1914, he was 18 years old and working for the Co-op where he was in charge of his own fruit cart. After war was declared, the government commandeered the horse that pulled the cart, and the Co-op had to put Ned on leave. During this time, he decided to enlist in the army, but had to add a year to his age in order to go overseas. He enlisted in the KRRC and was posted to the 12th Battalion.

At 4:45am on 16 August 1917, the 6th Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry moved forward behind a creeping barrage of British artillery, making the way for 12 KRRC and 6th King’s Shropshire Light Infantry to come through. Due to the conditions of the ground, some of the advance had to be done in columns of men in single file, weaving their way around shell craters full of mud and water. 
Sketch map by Reverend Birch (5 DLI) of the Passchendaele area, October 1917  (D/DLI 7/63/2(182))
D/DLI 7/63/2(182) Sketch map by Reverend Birch (5 DLI) of the Passchendaele area, October 1917
By 7:45am, 20th Division had taken its objectives, though it had not been without its challenges and heavy losses. 12 KRRC was the worst affected of the division’s infantry units, they lost:
Four officers and 43 men killed
Five officers and 152 men wounded
Two officers and 51 men missing *

However, there was also bravery. Sergeant Ned Cooper won the Victoria Cross for his actions in this attack. His citation, which appeared in the London Gazette on 14 September 1917, reads:
“For Most Conspicuous Bravery & Initiative in attack. Enemy machine guns from a concrete blockhouse, 250 yards away, were holding up the advance of the battalion on his left, and were also causing heavy casualties to his own battalion. Sergeant Cooper, with four men, immediately rushed towards the blockhouse, though heavily fired on. About a 100 yards distant he ordered his men to lie down and fire at the blockhouse. Finding this did not silence the machine guns, he immediately rushed forward straight at them and fired his revolver into an opening in the blockhouse. The machine guns ceased firing and the garrison surrendered. Seven machine guns and 45 men were captured in this blockhouse. By this magnificent act of courage he undoubtedly saved what might have been a serious check to the whole advance, at the same time saving a great number of lives.”

Ned managed to miss being notified of his award as he was on his way back to England on leave. Waiting for his train at King’s Cross, he read in the paper that he was one of ten new VC winners! The news had already reached the north east, and by the time he reached Stockton, the superintendent of the police, the mayor, and a large crowd had arrived to meet him. The crowd literally carried him home to Portrack.

Also part of 20th Division was 11th Durham Light Infantry (11 DLI), a divisional pioneer battalion. They were at work in the area from 31 July, improving communications and ‘constructing artillery tracks, roadways, and railways under heavy shell fire’*.

11 DLI’s role on 16 August was to get tracks and duckboards in place so supply and support could quickly get through to the new ground that had been gained, and to consolidate the position, ready the next push. This was done in swampy open ground with little cover from German artillery. The battalion had seven men killed, with three officers and 22 men wounded.*

After the objectives were taken, the positions were consolidated in time for a German counter-attack. This was repelled, though not without difficulty. The position was held and the division was relieved the next day by 38th Division.

* The 11th Durham Light Infantry – In Their Own Name, Martin Bashforth
Also used: The Third Ypres, Passchendaele, the Day-By-Day Account, Chris McCarthy

On 16 August 2017, a ceremony was held to unveil Sergeant Ned Cooper’s VC memorial paving stone, laid at Stockton Cenotaph:
http://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/wwi-hero-remembered-100th-anniversary-13486560

To find out more about Ned Cooper:
Durham at War: http://www.durhamatwar.org.uk/story/13508/
Stockton Heritage: http://heritage.stockton.gov.uk/people/major-edward-cooper/

Stockton Library’s Local Studies department have an ongoing exhibition about Ned Cooper.

Friday, 11 August 2017

200

This is the 200th Durham at War blog post. To mark it, I decided to have a look through the Durham Light Infantry archive collection, held here at Durham County Record Office, at items that have 200 in their reference number. I have wondered before, what it would be like to look at a sample from a catalogue based on a number. Once I had searched, I had to extract the items that are related to the First World War. This gave me a list of seven potential items to look at:

Ref: D/DLI 2/18/24(200)
Photograph of the coast of Sardinia, taken from on board the SS Ivernia, c.1916

Ref: D/DLI 2/1/18(200)
Photograph, from a magazine, of the grave of Gerald Evelyn Shuldham Sewart, 10th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry, taken at Agny, France, c.1917

Ref: D/DLI 2/7/18(200)
Photograph of a railway track running by a ruined building in France or Belgium, c.1914 - 1918

Ref: D/DLI 7/63/2(200)
Colour sketch map of a section of the Western Front between Neuville and Vermand, France, c.1917

Ref: D/DLI 7/63/5(200)
Newspaper cutting concerning the death, from pneumonia, of Major Biggs, 5th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry, 2 December 1916

Ref: D/DLI 7/172/1(200)
Newspaper cutting headlined 'Magnificent Gallantry of our Troops', c.1916

Ref: D/DLI 7/701/2(200)
Newspaper cutting concerning celebrations at the Newcastle Exchange following the end of the war, November 1918

Original grave marker of Gerald Evelyn Shuldham Sewart, 10th Battalion Durham Light Infantry (D/DLI 2/1/18(200))
D/DLI 2/1/18(200) Original grave marker of Gerald Evelyn Shuldham Sewart, 10th Battalion Durham Light Infantry
I decided to have a closer look at the photograph of the grave of Gerald Evelyn Shuldham Sewart, as he died 100 years ago, and served with 10th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry (10 DLI), which connects to our Shiny Tenth project.

Gerald Sewart was born in West Yorkshire in 1893 to the Reverend Anthony Wilkinson Sewart and his wife Margaret. Sadly, Margaret died three days later, likely from complications following the birth. As a vicar, Anthony moved around and at some point found himself in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire. Here, he met Constance Annie Ormsby, and the couple married in 1900. A daughter, Mollie, followed in 1903.

By the time war was declared, the family was living at the rectory in Brignall, near Barnard Castle. This part of the small area covered by Durham at War that was Yorkshire at the time, but is now part of County Durham. Gerald was having a successful education, first attending Giggleswick School, then in 1912 being accepted to study maths at Oxford University. He won a form of scholarship called an exhibition. Gerald also made a name for himself in the university’s rowing community. He graduated with a first class in Mathematical Moderations in 1914.
Portrait of Second Lieutenant Gerald Sewart (D/DLI 2/1/18(200))
D/DLI 2/1/18(201) Portrait of Second Lieutenant Gerald Sewart

There was no time for Gerald to enter the workforce, however, he took a temporary commission as a second lieutenant with 10 DLI, commanded by Colonel HHS Morant. The battalion entered France in May 1915 but Sewart was only there a month when a shell exploded close above him, killing a fellow officer. Suffering from shock, he was sent back to England for convalescence. During this time, he became a musketry instructor at the military training camp in Ripon, not too far from his family.

Gerald got back to 10 DLI in France in early 1916, but his service there was once again cut short, and sadly it was also to be his final resting place. On 8 May 1916, the battalion was in reserve at Agny, and Gerald was giving instructions in the use of the Stokes mortar, a simple and fast trench mortar that fired 3.2 inch shells. After firing one round, the Germans retaliated with two of their own. He pushed the lance corporal he was instructing into shelter and safety, but took a direct hit himself.

Strangely, especially given that he was an officer, the official war diary makes no reference to the incident. The entry for 8 May 1916 reads:
‘A very quiet day. Enemy m[achine] g[un] suspected at [location] M 15. B.8.2. This appears to be very strongly built.’

Colonel Morant’s memoirs make no specific reference to these days in reserve, but he does acknowledge in an annotated photograph from 1915 that Second Lieutenant Sewart was killed.
Photograph from Colonel HHS Morant's memoirs showing himself, and Second Lieutenant Sewart (circled), May 1915 (From D/DLI 7/1230/3 ))
From D/DLI 7/1230/3 Photograph from Colonel HHS Morant's memoirs showing himself, and Second Lieutenant Sewart (circled), May 1915

Being a vicar, Reverent Anthony Sewart is frequently mentioned in the local newspaper, the Teesdale Mercury. The archive of this is searchable online. There is an article to say that Reverend Sewart received news of his son’s death, and that a service was held at the church in nearby Rokeby. There is also an article from March 1920, reporting on the unveiling of a war memorial in Brignall cemetery to Gerald Sewart, and four others.
The war memorial at Brignall church, taken by David Rogers, used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license
The Teesdale Mercury warrants a close look with regards to the Sewarts and their activities at home during the war period. I found a letter from August 1918 from Constance, Gerald's stepmother, to the editor. In it, she offers her assistance to anyone with a missing or prisoner relative, in the form of writing letters to the correct authorities, even offering to pay the postage costs herself.

So a speculative endeavour based on the number 200 has revealed a story of a young man’s simultaneous bravery and sad end. It has also revealed the beginning of a story about the wartime life of a small village vicarage and the efforts of those left behind to cope with their loss.

Friday, 4 August 2017

The Breaker

At the end of June, a story appeared on the ABC News website (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) about a man who found a hessian bag on a rubbish tip in New South Wales. It contained Boer War items, seemingly connected to the Australian folk hero Harry ‘Breaker’ Morant.
Harry 'Breaker' Morant, Australian War Memorial, A05311 (public domain)
Harry 'Breaker' Morant, Australian War Memorial, A05311 (public domain)
I am cataloguing the papers of Colonel Hubert HS Morant who was the commanding officer of 10th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, during the First World War. This collection was purchased at auction with help from the Friends of the National Libraries, the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the Trustees of the former DLI. Breaker Morant is a result that always comes up on doing a google search on the family name. I hadn’t noticed anyone closely related called Harry, but the Morant family had many branches, and with this recent news report, I wanted to know if there was any family connection.

I didn’t really know the details about Breaker Morant until I started looking into the connection. Harry Harbord ‘Breaker’ Morant began to make a name for himself ‘acquiring a reputation as horse-breaker, drover, steeplechaser, polo player, drinker, womaniser, [and] from 1891 he contributed bush ballads to the Sydney Bulletin as ‘the Breaker’ (Australian Dictionary of Biography). He enlisted in the Australian army and fought in the Boer War. The story (disputed by some) is that he and some other men shot and killed several Boer prisoners, and a German missionary. They were arrested in October 1901, and the trial lasted until January 1902. Breaker Morant and a Lieutenant Handcock were both sentenced to death. On 27 February 1902, they were killed by firing squad. A film was made in 1980 in which Edward Woodward played Breaker.
D/DLI 7/1230/4 Hubert HS Morant, c.1918
D/DLI 7/1230/4 Hubert HS Morant, c.1918 
So, what is the connection between Breaker Morant and the commanding officer of a DLI regiment? Well, there isn’t one, not by blood at least. Breaker claimed to be the son of Admiral Sir Digby Morant, the cousin of HHS Morant. The claim was denied by Admiral Morant, and it was never proven. Breaker is thought to have been born Edwin Henry Murrant in Somerset in 1865, to Edwin and Catherine, and emigrated to Australia in 1883. A recent book, ‘Breaker Morant, the Final Round Up’, by Joe West and Roger Roper, suggests that Breaker adopted Harbord into his name from a newspaper report on the death of Horatio Harbord Morant, HHS Morant’s father (and the Admiral’s uncle). Horatio Morant had served with the 68th Foot Regiment, a predecessor of the Durham Light Infantry, in the Crimean War, and as a senior officer in New Zealand.

Of course, in 2017, we can look up birth entries on Ancestry, and dig around the internet to put a family tree together. If we want to move to another country, checks are in place to make sure we are who we say are. But at the turn of the 20th century, when Edwin Murrant went to Australia, moving to a new country could literally mean starting a new life.

You can read more about Breaker Morant here:
https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P10676773
http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/morant-harry-harbord-breaker-7649

You can watch the report of the recent find, or read a transcript, here:
http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2017/s4692782.htm

Friday, 28 July 2017

Heaviside Asides

This week, Jo reflects on the Heaviside commemorations and looks at some of the other people from Craghead and Stanley.

So, the dust has finally settled on the Heaviside commemorations, and we have started talking about the next Victoria Cross events (for George McKean, in April 2018). As with the completion of every large project, there is something of a feeling of come down when everything that you have been working towards for months is at an end. The dust may have settled on our celebrations of an extraordinary man and his deeds but the Durham at War website enables us to preserve not only Michael Heaviside’s history but also the stories of those around him. 

The Stanley News report of the parade for Michael Heaviside provided us with a fantastic basis for recreating the procession a hundred years later and was one of the sources that we used in the schools education sessions:

But it also hints at a number of other stories of the people of Craghead and Stanley, for example here are the words of Henry Greener from that report:
"He (the speaker) stood before them with not unmixed feelings, as they might guess; but one had got to weep with those who wept, and rejoice with those who rejoiced. His had been a time of weeping, and had he yielded to his own personal feelings he might not have been there; but he had set those feelings aside, and was glad of the privilege afforded him, in their name, of extending the most hearty and most cordial of welcomes to a man who had brought such honour to their village (Cheers)."
Harry Greener, Stanley News, 26 April 1917
Harry Greener, Stanley News, 26 April 1917
Just three months before, Mr Greener’s son and namesake, Harry Greener, had been shot and killed in France. His younger son, John William Greener, had just been discharged from the army as being medically unfit in June 1917 after having been shot in the face and gassed. He died in 1919. 
 
Harry Greener 
http://www.durhamatwar.org.uk/story/12536/
John William Greener 

Another name that stands out from the newspaper report is that of Anthony Kuhlman:
"The children having sung “Rule Britannia,” Mr A Kuhlman moved a vote of thanks to all who had lent motor cars and assisted in other ways. There were many proud faces round him, and he could say that was the proudest day he had had in Craghead."

The people of Stanley turned out for the Heaviside parade in 2017  (Photo by Durham County Record Office)
The people of Stanley turned out for the Heaviside parade in 2017  (Photo by Durham County Record Office)
It is perhaps surprising to learn that Anthony Kuhlman was born in Germany and that he had resigned from Stanley Urban District Council because of “international differences”. In spite of this, he appears to have thrown himself into preparations for the town’s festivities and was struck by the cohesive effect that the parade had:
"That day to him, coming through Stanley, South Moor, and there, had been wonderful. He had never seen a day like it; it was an eye-opener that he never expected. It just required someone to set the ball rolling, and it would gather moss galore and take huge proportions. He never saw such a crowd. The committee were thoroughly and highly satisfied with the response to the efforts they had made. They had done a little good, but their efforts, if not seconded, would have fallen flat. Everyone had pulled together, so making work a pleasure. They could not expect to have many days like that, which was one of work and pleasure."

Anthony Kuhlman
http://www.durhamatwar.org.uk/story/13412/
http://www.durhamatwar.org.uk/material/677/

Anthony Redhead Kuhlman (his son)
http://www.durhamatwar.org.uk/story/13437/

Friday, 21 July 2017

Brothers in arms

Recently, a member of the public submitted the story of his family’s First World War service to Durham at War. There were four Malia brothers who fought in the war, James, John, Joseph, and Thomas. They all served with the Durham Light Infantry (DLI), except for Thomas who served with the Royal Engineers. The oldest brother, James, had previously served with the DLI during the Boer War. However, John and Joseph are the focus of this blog post. Both were killed during the war, and their names were incorrect on their memorials.

John was serving with 15th Battalion, one of the two DLI battalions in action on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. John went missing and was declared killed in action. His body was never found, so his name appears on the Thiepval Memorial. However, his papers went through as Melia with an 'e', and this is the name that appeared on the memorial. Until recently. His great-nephew pulled together the evidence he needed, and submitted it to the Commonwealth War Graves commission. In 2005, the change was made.
John Malia's name corrected on the Thiepval Memorial, with thanks to the Malia Family and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
John Malia's name corrected on the Thiepval Memorial, with thanks to the Malia Family and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Joseph’s surname differed even more. He had been living with his aunt since the age of 14, and signed up under her surname of Clark. When James discovered this, he told Joseph that his surname was Malia and he should change it. However, Joseph was killed in action in June 1917, before he had done this. James wrote letters to the army asking that the name be changed. In 1921, they were told that he would still be recorded as Joseph Clark, but with the alias of Malia.

Once again, the great-nephew got together all the evidence for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and in February of this year, Joseph’s headstone was replaced with one now reading ‘JP Malia served as 11769 Private J Clark’.
Joseph's original headstone, showing the name Clark, with thanks to the Malia Family
Joseph's original headstone, showing the name Clark, with thanks to the Malia Family
Joseph's new headstone showing both Malia and Clark, with thanks to the Malia Family
Joseph's new headstone showing both Malia and Clark, with thanks to the Malia Family
You can read more about the Malia brothers on Durham at War: http://www.durhamatwar.org.uk/story/13462/

Friday, 14 July 2017

He ain't heavy...

This week, Jo writes about her involvement in the events to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Michael Heaviside returning to Stanley after receiving the Victoria Cross.
The Heaviside VC paving stone and information panel, with wreaths placed after the unveiling (Photo by Durham County Record Office)
The Heaviside VC paving stone and information panel, with wreaths placed after the unveiling (Photo by Durham County Record Office)
For the past few weeks my life seems to have been dominated by a man who died in 1939. This may sound a little creepy but, in fact, it has been an uplifting and inspiring experience.

The meetings started in the dim and distant past. My diary shows that the first meeting we had to discuss commemorating Michael Heaviside’s homecoming was in July 2015. Daniel O’Brien of Stanley Area Action Partnership came to the Record Office to talk about recreating the parade that took place on 12 July 1917 to welcome back the town’s returning Victoria Cross winner. We talked to him about the fact there is surviving film of the parade, and the newspaper reports in the Stanley News which go into minute detail of who marched, the route, the bands, and the banners carried.
Michael Heaviside information banner next to Craghead Lodge banner (Photo by Durham County Record Office)
Michael Heaviside information banner next to Craghead Lodge banner (Photo by Durham County Record Office)
Fast forward almost two years – since the beginning of the year the meetings have come thick and fast. The number of people involved grew and sub-groups split from the main planning meetings that went from monthly, then bi-monthly, and eventually to weekly. However, one of the participants in the meetings did comment on how relaxed all of the meetings were. He attributed this to the swan syndrome; calm on top and paddling like hell underneath. I think it was quite a fair assessment. In fact, Mark Davinson, the County Councillor for Craghead, would often email there and then, announcing five minutes after a decision had been made that it was now all sorted!
Pupils of St Joseph's RC Primary and the Sacriston Lodge banner on Stanley Front Street (Photo by Durham County Record Office)
Pupils of St Joseph's RC Primary and the Sacriston Lodge banner on Stanley Front Street (Photo by Durham County Record Office)
For my part, I worked with the education officers of the DLI Collections to put together a series of workshops for primary schools in the area. The idea was to provide some background for the school children so they understood the significance of the day. We targeted the schools that had been along the original route of parade, with the hope that they would join the 2017 parade. It was often difficult to fit the sessions in around timetables, sports days, and other school activities, but it was great fun working with the kids and getting their reaction to their local hero. Watching some of the children that I had worked with talking on the local television news about Michael Heaviside and what he meant to them was an incredibly proud moment for me.
Horse drawn charabanc provided by Beamish (Photo by Durham County Record Office)
Horse drawn charabanc provided by Beamish (Photo by Durham County Record Office)
Beamish kindly lent some costumes for the children, but even those who weren’t wearing these costumes made an amazing effort to look the part. It has to be said that quite a number of the teachers and (cough) other County Council employees at the event enjoyed the dressing up as much as the kids did! Some of the grown-ups were so reluctant to give their costumes back that they were even seen in their outfits at the evening film showing.
Norman Heaviside in First World War uniform representing his grandfather, Michael (Photo by Durham County Record Office)
Norman Heaviside in First World War uniform representing his grandfather, Michael (Photo by Durham County Record Office)
The people of Stanley turned out to watch the parade, just like they did 100 years ago (Photo by Durham County Record Office)
The people of Stanley turned out to watch the parade, just like they did 100 years ago (Photo by Durham County Record Office)
But the parade was only part of the programme. In the morning, the Lord-Lieutenant of Durham, Sue Snowdon, unveiled the commemorative paving stone and plaque to Michael Heaviside in Craghead. Michael Heaviside lived opposite Bloemfontein School, and there was a suitable site here for the paving stone to be placed. All of the school children were in the playground to watch the ceremony. Once wreaths had been laid, we all crossed over to the school where a wall-plaque to Michael Heaviside has be erected by the Town Council. Bloemfontein also took their pupils to a special after-school club that volunteers from Beamish ran in Craghead Village Hall. The kids could dress in uniforms to do drill, make flags, play period games and swing on the ever-popular shuggy boats.
The plaque unveiled at Bloemfontain School (Photo by Durham County Record Office)
The plaque unveiled at Bloemfontain School (Photo by Durham County Record Office)
Children enjoy the shuggy boats (Photo by Durham County Record Office)
Children enjoy the shuggy boats (Photo by Durham County Record Office)
The evening finished with a rare showing of the film “The Battle of Arras” with a fascinating live narration from film historian, Alistair Fraser. Before the main feature the audience was treated to a showing of the film of Heaviside’s parade 100 years before, accompanied by a new piece of brass band music.

To say that it has been a busy couple of days is an understatement. Months of planning paid off and I am sure that anyone who was on Front Street in Stanley on Wednesday afternoon will remember the occasion for a long time to come. Hundreds of people lined the streets to commemorate one of their own who saved lives in the midst of war, and that is something worth remembering.

For more on Heaviside:
Stanley News report of the homecoming: http://www.durhamatwar.org.uk/material/140/

Our volunteer, Jean, has also put up a story about Michael's brother, Thomas, who served with the Canadian Army: http://www.durhamatwar.org.uk/story/13515/