‘Saying no’ at Deerbolt Prison

After looking at the role of conscientious objectors during the First World War, the men at Deerbolt Prison wrote about their experience of ‘saying no’.  One of the men wrote a piece that explores the difficulty faced when saying no, and the relative ease with which we can say it today.

For people to say no especially young people is like trying to hold your breath forever.  In my experience I found it hard to say no and I know most young people around have found no hard, our generation gives into peer pressure too easy so we forget about the word no existing.

Peer pressure to do things is like propaganda in the world war they can’t say no because they’ll be classed as a coward and they don’t want that, that’s exactly the same in 2016 people doing drugs, crime because they feel obliged to get involved.  I know our day and age situations are different than signing up to the army and losing their lives.

I know if I said no to 2 certain lads I hung around with I wouldn’t be in prison wasting my life I’d be getting my knees sorted and joining the army.

I guarantee prisoners in this jail are in the same situation if they said no they be at home still.  Just everyone take a moment and realise it’s easier for us to say no than it was for all those soldiers who lost their lives for us all to have better lives, they felt obliged.

Book Reviews from Deerbolt Prison

As part of our on-going project at Deerbolt, The Bowes Museum kindly donated some of its library collection to the prison.  Two of the men became particularly enthralled by the literature they read and wrote reviews that capture their interest in the books. 

A review of Forgotten Voices of the Great War by Mac Arthur

This book really stood out for me as the title was “forgotten voices”.  This was a quote I wished wasn’t true, and as I read on it was clear why it was called this.  The voices of un-sung heroes is a big and main focal point of this book.  Veterans from lots of different angles telling their stories.  It shows that there was a lot of people back then that felt pressure was on them to sign up before the war as people got signs.  Although the war hadn’t started it was very immanent.  It also shows you some punishments and tells you about many others.  One consisted of tying someone to a windmill for 6 hours.  6 hours a day 7 days a week for missing the roll check.  It was pretty amazing to see how much technology they had them days and its development over the years!  Some stories were really heart-wrenching.  One story told was a man sat watching his best friend die.  The following day he drank from the shell of the bomb that killed his friend!  One where he actually worked in a psychiatric hospital after the war and he helped shell shocked people.  Some of these people, brave people may of them husbands, fathers and sons couldn’t even write home.  It affected some people to the extent of them not being able to hold their hands still or their heads.  This was very hard to read about knowing that even if you survived the war physically it killed so many mentally.  It was a war that not only physically took so many lives but mentally affected everyone involved.  It’s a very good read as it shows you angles from all points of view on and off the front line.  People who survived front line battle often got sent home to train men from the young age of 16.  I suppose the world war is one of those things, you think you fully understand it but unless you were there at the time you will never understand how hard it must have been for so many!  If you want to know what people can remember from the war read this as you get a great picture of life then!


A review of First World War Poems from the Front

For me when I read war poetry it pulls me right away, I can imagine being there on the front line, I can feel the emotion in the poets words, as ‘I’ve always wanted to be in the army since I was a bairn.  For me this is the closest I can get in my head of visualising what war is like.

A poet I’ve known about since secondary schools is Wilfred Owen in his poem Dulce et Decorum Est it really hits you in the face of most of the horrors soldiers had to go through in World War One.  One of the lines that catch my eyes in this poem is ‘He plunges at me, guttering, choking drowning’.  This line hits me because it’s explaining the horror of being gassed.  I like the bit about being patriotic for our country, it’s in Latin but I know it says on the lines of being patriotic.

To read this poetry book I get to find out as well different perspectives of men and women who fought on the front line.  In this book we have poetry from nurses, soldiers and Army Chaplaincy.

Robert Graves was in the Welch Fusiliers and became Captain he was severely injured and left for dead on recovery he became the first poet to write realistically about war and his experiences of the front line.

‘Saying no’ at Deerbolt Prison

We are reaching the midway point in our time working with Deerbolt Prison.  Following a session that looked at the role of conscientious objectors in the war, one of the men wrote the following, reflecting on the impact of ‘saying no’:

‘Saying No!’

People think it’s so easy to say No and in many ways it is but in many ways it can be a life-changing experience.  Coward or scared is often how you are branded in the war.  Of course many people had their reasons for saying no.  Things from religion to personal beliefs.  We take for granted just how much it means to some people to say No!  In whatever way you look at it, if you say no to something 9/10 people believe in is not going to go down well.  People don’t like to be told No, and especially when you were expected to say yes must have been very hard! I strongly believe that if you think against something you don’t believe in then you should stand for what you believe in.  Even if you’re branded badly, or even upset a few people.

WW1 Primary School Teacher Resource Pack

A new resource pack for teachers of primary school children in the local area has been created by The Bowes Museum Education department.  The aim of the pack is to meet the National Curriculum criteria for history where an aspect of history beyond 1066 can be taught that is significant to the locality.

The pack links the user to The Bowes Museum WW1 website and Roll of Honour, featuring case studies of local men and women.  Also included are cross curricular activities, such as creative writing ideas, poetry, and maths.

The pack can be found on The Bowes Museum website.

If you require any further information please do not hesitate to contact the Education Department on education@thebowesmuseum.org.uk

Trench Art?

‘Trench art is the recycled stuff of war.’  That’s the first sentence in a leaflet about ‘Finding the North East’s First World War Trench Art’.  This is a project aimed at recording trench art with a north-east connection, run by Beamish Museum and Newcastle University (www.beamish.org.uk/ww1-trench-art and https://ww1trenchart.wordpress.com).

I picked up the leaflet last week and – by an amazing coincidence – two generous supporters of our project have brought in some fantastic examples – at least, I think they are trench art but we’ll have to get the experts in to tell us more.

The Croft family from Barnard Castle lost one son (George), had one invalided out of the army (Tom) and had two other sons who survived (Walter and Stanley).  A family connection has recently brought in two fascinating plates.  Each has a photograph stuck onto the middle of the plate – one is of George and the other is of Stanley – and then a peaceful landscape with blue sky and green grass and trees has been painted around.  Maybe Stanley brought back a couple of army-issue plates and had them painted?


Two more obvious pieces of trench art have come in recently.  It’s not absolutely clear exactly what they are but they seem to be lighters or little lamps of some sort.  One – about the size of a large watch – has a French coin inlaid on each side and a hollowed-out bullet as the cap.  The other is a finely-crafted miniature German helmet – a pickelhaube –  possibly made out of part of a defunct shell.  When you turn the helmet upside down, there’s something to strike a match on and a hole, perhaps for a wick, and a tray maybe for oil, all of which suggests it may have been used as a small lamp.

_DSC6368 _DSC6383

If you have any objects from the First World War, we’d love to have a chance to photograph them and find out more about them.

Judith Phillips

Tomatoes for Tommies

_DSC3794 Greenhouse with figure Greenhouse029


In 1917 in the greenhouses at the back of The Bowes Museum, a group of gardeners led by Frederick Delgano – Head Gardener – worked together to grow tomatoes and other vegetables to show their gratitude to those who served our country in wartime. These tomatoes would be sent out to the hospitals in the Teesdale area and further afield to be given to injured soldiers. This was a generous act of charity, especially considering the difficult financial situation of the museum at the time. To help balance the books, the museum asked the hospitals to contribute towards the cost of transportation and also to provide the boxes for the produce to be sent in.

Owen Scott, curator at The Bowes Museum, sent a letter to all the hospitals in County Durham and Northumberland, explaining the museum’s intentions and requirements with regards to the tomatoes. It’s entirely understandable that the museum asked for remittances due to the sheer amount of responses that they received from hospitals all around the North. From the replies, it was clear to see that all the convalescent hospitals were grateful and more than willing to pay the necessary 10 shillings carriage [50p but equivalent to about £25 now].

This particular topic was an interesting angle to look at the war. War is often associated with negatives such as loss and death. However, what is often not so widely conveyed is the contribution of the community and the wish to help and protect others.

By Ceara Sutton-Jones and Alex Thompson

_DSC3768 Tomatoes letter (1) Tomatoes letter (2)TBM.7.1.14 - list of VA hospitals (1)

Zeppelin raid on Evenwood

zeppelin attack

On April 5th 1916, Evenwood was victim to a Zeppelin attack that destroyed 15 houses and damaged 70 more.  Mistaking the blacked-out lights of Bishop Auckland for those of Leeds, the Zeppelin aimed at the burning colliery waste heaps that surrounded it.  Randolph Colliery at Evenwood became the first target.  The Zeppelin dropped 23 bombs, killing a child and a woman and injuring others.  Interestingly, very little of the story survives beyond these few details.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?


The age old riddle about chickens and eggs, and which came first, has been around for ever, and confounds all who try to give an answer one way or the other. But during the First World War, both the chickens and the eggs were of vital importance in helping the recovery to health of the nation’s wounded soldiers.

The National Egg Collection Scheme started in November 1914 following an original plan suggested by Frederick Carl, editor of ‘Poultry World’. With the initial aim of providing 20,000 newly laid eggs for the wounded soldiers in hospital in Boulogne, the scheme proved popular. People were asked to commit to donate one or more egg each week, or offer an equivalent money donation. By Easter 1915, more than 200,000 eggs had been collected from all over Britain.  Over two thousand local collection depots were established, often by local groups and churches. Special boxes and labels were provided for the eggs and free transport was offered on the railways. The central collection point was in South West London at a warehouse initially provided free by Harrods.

Churches were a common local collection depot, and services would be held where parishioners would be thanked for their donations but encouraged to keep collecting eggs. Posters, leaflets and badges were produced to promote the scheme and even the famous postcard illustrator Donald McGill played his part. His illustrated postcard showed a vicar in his pulpit, humorously telling his congregation that:

‘it would greatly assist the collectors of eggs for the wounded soldiers if, upon coming to church, each lady would lay an egg in the font!’

The parish magazines from the First World War period highlight the success of various townships in Teesdale and the results of their egg collections. For example, the parish of Barningham had collected 694 eggs in the first six months of 1918, to add to the 3568 eggs donated since the start of the scheme. By July 1915, with the national scheme only up and running for nine months, the Vicar of Bowes was able to tell his parishioners they had collected 1153 eggs.

Nationally it was expected all eggs would be sent to the main depot in London. However, some donations were kept locally and Teesdale was no exception. During the war years, the Parish Magazines record eggs being sent to Stanwick Park Hospital near Darlington, and other Red Cross hospitals in Darlington and Richmond.

Donors were encouraged to write their names and addresses on the eggs, some people going even further and decorating their eggs. As testament to the safe delivery of eggs across the Channel to hospitals in France, some donors received letters of thanks from grateful soldiers.

Certificates were awarded to many collectors who reached their target of eggs.  Enthusiasm for egg collection was maintained right through the war and to the end of the National Egg Collection Service in March 1919. The scheme’s original target of collecting 20,000 eggs was well and truly surpassed with a staggering 41 million eggs having been collected up and down the country. Of this total, 32 million eggs were sent to hospitals in France and Belgium.

So even after the enormous success of the National Egg Collection, the infamous riddle is still with us; ‘Which came first, the chicken or the egg?’ What do you think?

By Jane Wilson

Hens on active service


Recently, The Teesdale Mercury printed an article from one hundred years ago that recalled ‘Eggs for the Wounded’, a national campaign that aimed to send eggs to wounded soldiers in order to improve their nutrition.  The initiative was launched in November 1914 and initially aimed to provide 20,000 eggs a week to those wounded in hospital in Boulogne.  This ambition rapidly expanded however, and the target soon became 200,000 per week.  By Easter 1915, this target had been reached and the initiative was highly popular.  Posters, postcards, pins and badges were all produced to help with advertising and recruitment.  The Poultry Magazine declared that “Every British hen should be on active service”. 

The Mercury article from 12 April 1916 details that 7,291 eggs were sent to the National Egg Collection for the Wounded between 1 April 1915 and 1 April 1916 for those wounded from Winston, Newsham and the nearby neighbourhood, as well as Whorlton for part of the year.  It then goes on to list the names of those from the local area who had contributed.

The National Egg Collection for the Wounded is a delightful campaign that reveals a charming side to the war.  It provided a relatively simple way for hundreds, across different societies and ages, to feel as though they were contributing to the war effort. 


The link to the Teesdale Mercury article is below:

http://teesdalemercuryarchive.org/pdf/1916/April-12/April-12-1916-01.pdf#search=”april 12″

In Memoriam

As part of our on-going student internship with Northumbria University, participants Gavin, Katie and Hannah were tasked with exploring the grounds of The Bowes Museum – and to give voice to the war memorials that lie within the gardens. 

1995.6.0003. Bowes Museum (DLI)


The cold November wind whipped against my pale stone. I didn’t feel the cold, I just knew from those who came to visit me that it was. They said so. It was all they ever seemed to say to each other, ‘It’s a cold one today, isn’t John?’ Their coats and scarfs wrapped tightly around their bodies and yet they still seemed to hug themselves as a shield against the weather. Occasionally I would see people in the summer months, scantily dressed these days, unlike when I was first born.

When I first came into this world people came to visit me every day, and more than just one or two stragglers. Some would cry sad tears, some almost proud tears and some would just read the names carved into my body solemnly. I watched as the days passed, seasons changed and the years brought in new generations who did not know how to react around me. I’m not sure when it happened. Or even when I noticed it. At some point though, I realised that those who did visit, far and in between, had no reaction at all. They were more fascinated by the building I was erected in front of. Of how many names were still prominently carved into my body. Of going to get a coffee and cake in the café. Few wept when they came to visit anymore.

Every November though, I was the centre of attention once again. A glorious poppy wreath set at my base. Some said kind words, some whispered prays and almost everyone watched me solemnly, with respect. This year was no different. I was more distinguished now though. I knew what had happened. Over one hundred years and I finally understood. The names carved into my body were the names of men, some young and some old, who had died. Humankind had killed one another in a war. All that was left of some of these men were the names I held up. Some families never had a body to bury. I was a sort of grave for them to grieve at.

I was always made to look nice for those families in the month of November when they all gathered. That was when the war had ended. It amazed me that even still after all these years they still had a celebration. It must have been a horrible war. How many of me were there. The names I held could not be the only dead men. Not according to those who came to visit me. Some talked about a place called France, of Belgium and England. I wasn’t sure where I was, but I knew that I could not be alone.




I remember you, sitting in a bog.                                                                                                                                                                    
I remember you, crying into the night.                                                                                                                                        
I remember you, ready to fight.                                                                                                                                                        
I remember you, awake at first light.

I remember you, holding back your tears.                                                                                                                                  
I remember you, choking on dust.                                                                                                                                                        
I remember you, your fears of the dark.                                                                                                                                                  
I remember you, speaking to God with distrust.

I remember you, holding your wedding ring.                                                                                                                                  
I remember you, as shell shocked voices started to sing.                                                                                                                  
I remember you, shakenly holding your gun.                                                                                                                                  
I remember you, them shouting for you to run.

I remember you, sitting in the trench.                                                                                                                                          
I remember you, sitting with your friend.                                                                                                                                                            
I remember you, promises you made.                                                                                                                                                                
I remember you, as watch his body in the ground to be laid.

I remember you, holding your wife.                                                                                                                                                            
I remember you, thanking God for your life.                                                                                                                                      
I remember you, proud until the end.                                                                                                                                                            
I remember you, God blessings we send.

We remember you, as heroes in the field.                                                                                                                                      
We remember you, as men who fought for your country come rain or shine.                                                                          
We remember you, as the men who left behind a legacy like no other.                                                                                                  
We remember you, as men who fought and died side by side together.

We Thank You, for fighting for the next generation.                                                                                                                    
We Thank You, for saving the freedom of our nation.                                                                                                                    
We Thank You, for being willing to give so much.                                                                                                                              
We Thank You, for giving us the life we now live.



The snowdrops are here and the daffodils are trying to flower, but the trees are still bare. I have seen this a hundred times, and I will see it many, many more times. Today a man approaches me, with a quizzical expression on his face, his hands in his pockets to guard against the spring chill. Like everyone who comes to see me, he is trying to think about me, but he is preoccupied with something else. In this case he is thinking about a story he wrote about a girl he loved and perhaps will always love, and he is frustrated because he believes the words he has written do not do the thing justice. He worries he will struggle to find the words about me, too, when the time comes. What am I to him, after all? Something important certainly: a reminder of something very far off through the veins of history. He is tired and thinking about coffee when he begins to read the names etched onto me. He doesn’t recognise any of the individuals. How could he? They were all killed nearly a century before he breathed his first breath. But some of the surnames strike him. They are names he knows rarely occur outside of this part of the world: the part of the world where he grew up, that will always be home. There’s the surname of the boy from primary school who was sick in the big hall during PE. There’s the surname of the girl in the year below who was related to the teacher, and wore it like armour. His best friend who stopped being his best friend when a girl got involved, and a fight broke out on the playground. The boy who he didn’t get along with, but who added him on Facebook anyway. The bully who always said he wanted to fight him, but never did. The blonde from the next street. Were these their relatives? He wonders, and he imagines roots running down from my foundation, dispersing all over this countryside, and something perilously close to resembling a connection to me.