The Story of Walter Heslop

Walter Heslop was born in 1891 and was raised at 1 Coronation Street, Barnard Castle, with his father William and brothers, Albert and John. After war broke out, he and his brothers joined the Durham Light Infantry and Walter was sent to the Aegean port of Salonika to help the Serbs fight Bulgaria. Walter later transferred to the South Wales Borderers to become a Lieutenant and was about to be sent to the Indian Army when he contracted malarial fever in 1918. He was then sent to Alexandria. From Egypt he was shipped home to recover, and to marry his fiancée in her hometown of Darlington. However, despite plans to get married on Easter Monday, Walter died on Easter Sunday and was buried in Darlington a week later.

I was born over 100 years after Walter, so naturally feel detached and distant from the events of the First World War. However, Walter’s story is particularly poignant for me because Walter lived in the very house where I grew up and still live today. The idea of me and my brother having to make a similar journey or sacrifice now would be unthinkable, and highlights the bravery that Walter displayed during the great war. Knowing that a young man like myself paved the ultimate price a hundred years ago makes me appreciate the country and world I live in today. It also affirms my belief that it is crucial for us to record and memorialise those who fought in World War 1.

Along with a team of volunteers, I have been responsible for compiling a database of the information about all the men from Teesdale who went to war. Sifting through the details of soldiers like Walter helps paint a picture of the life they lived, which makes their bloody deaths even more upsetting. The little details of these men, their lives recorded in ledgers and articles make you realise that WW1 was not just an event, or even just a tragedy. It was an appalling waste of human life.

The lives of Walter and many others who he fought alongside have been forgotten as communities and society change, so it is up to us now to preserve and remember the sacrifices of those who fought. Walter’s fascinating and tragic life is similar to the experience of thousands from Teesdale and millions more from all across the World who went to war a century ago. By acknowledging those who now recognise the effects of the war uniting and working together we help preserve the dead and ensure the Walters of today face a far brighter future.

By Jake Madgwick Lawton

My Experience As A Volunteer

While working on the Bowes Museum’s Role of Honour, I got to look into the list of Soldiers from Staindrop who fought in the First World War. In the list there were three names that really stood out to me because of their experience of war and how it made the war seem more real by knowing their stories. These names were Private (51552) Arthur Fawcett , Private (21/521) George Walker and Private (303128) Robert Oliver.

The first name to stand out was Private Arthur Fawcett, of the 7th East Yorkshire Regiment, due to him being the only brother to die in the war out of the three brothers that went. This was important because  it showed the reality of war and how families experienced the  loss their sons, or brothers,  or fathers while other family members still returned, in this case his two brothers. When looking into Arthur Fawcett’s background and his death notice in the Teesdale Mercury of November 13th, 1918 it is clear that he was respected and played an active role in the community, such as playing the organ at the church at Staindrop and upon hearing about Private Fawcett’s death, the Rev. R. W. Young paying a tribute to his life and character in the Congregational Church which shows the impact an individual could have on a community that was positive for everyone.

Private George Walker, of the 10th Durham Light Infantry, was a soldier who died aged 20, which was a reason why his name stood out, even though a lot of soldiers who joined in 1914-1915, were young men eager for some glory or moved by patriotism, and the need to serve their king. In the case of George Walker, he was in the war less than a year and was sorely missed by all who knew him, as he was reported to be a “good & faithful” and the men of his company mourned him. This was not common among the officers to really care, as the soldiers were generally seen as part of the machinery of war, with officers often not getting to know their men very well, and so to come across a Private who would be deeply missed by his company, gave a sense of sadness and reality as it showed the effect he had on other people’s lives and made him again seem more than just a name, but an actual person.

In the case of Private Robert Oliver, of the 905th Mechanical Transport Company of the Royal Army Service Corps, the fact he was on the ill-fated Transylvania which was torpedoed and sunk on May 4, 1917 by the German U-boat U-63 while carrying Allied troops to Egypt with a loss of 412 lives, stood out to me. This is because Private Oliver, after a desperate swim, was picked up by a Japanese Warship. After this, he still served in Palestine for a year, before he later died of burns on the 20th of June 1918. This speaks to me because of his bravery and determination, due to the fact he could have drowned before he was rescued and yet he made the attempt to find another ship, and then instead of returning home on leave or having been invalided out, he continued to serve his country in Palestine. The Royal Army Service Corps did a lot to help the frontlines troops by maintaining supply routes and are the unsung heroes of the war because even though they didn’t fight, they provided means by which the troops could have supplies and so fight in the trenches.

All the names on the Staindrop list and the Museum’s role of honour made me realise how the war made a big impact on small communities. It opened my eyes to the amount of young men that went from one of many townships in the country showing that there was a lost generation of men that went to war and didn’t return, or were psychologically affected by the war so couldn’t pick up with their lives from before the war.

By Kirsty Francis, A Volunteer.

Two Sisters in Court

Today, as part of my research project about Barnard Castle during World War 1, I came across a rather interesting article from The Teesdale Mercury, dated 5th May 1915.

Jane E. Okey of 7, Baliol Street, Barnard Castle, charged her sister, Martha Okey, with having assaulted her on 23rd of April 1915.

The complainant said that on Friday night she was walking along Baliol Street when Martha Okey took hold of her arm, called her a big rogue and dirty thief, tore the sleeve of her blouse and threatened to break her windows. The witness said she had never spoken to her sister at all.

The unpleasantness had supposedly arisen through family affairs, as Martha had not been given a share of family money, when her sister had.

One of the assessors of the case, was Lord Barnard.

He stated: “This is rather a painful case. Is it necessary to go on with it? From what we have heard it is quite clear that you have a difference of opinion on these financial affairs. I would ask you to consider what you would gain by these proceedings?”

The Complainant argued “All that I want is protection. I don’t want to be knocked about in the street.”

Martha Okay, the defendant, in the course of her statement in defence, said she was feeling very angry at the family’s treatment of her, and as this was the only opportunity of asking her sister personally for this money, she took the chance. She had been told that she was nobody, and had nothing to do with it. Her sister was wearing a very heavy cloth cloak and the defendant said she had simply took hold of her by the garment, when the complainant said: ‘”loosen me.”

The Witness replied: “Jane hit her several times with her fist, and her leg had a black mark upon on it.”

The Chairman said the Bench came to the conclusion that both sisters were to blame for this unseemly dispute in the street, and the summons for assault would be dismissed, with the defendant paying the hearing fee of one shilling.

The defendant said she would not pay the shilling.


By Daisie Moore, volunteer