The Music of Martyrs – Talk Report

What a treat it was to listen to Professor Jeremy Dibble from Durham University talk on Saturday 12th November about the response of British composers to the war!  Professor Dibble’s enthusiasm for and knowledge about music associated with the war carried a packed audience on a journey that encompassed well-known composers and several less-known, all ‘illustrated’ with musical extracts.

Professor Dibble reminded us that the older generation of composers, especially Hubert Parry, Charles Stanford and Edward Elgar, who were themselves too old to fight, were nevertheless intimately bound up with the war through some of their compositions and through their musical and personal connections with men from the younger generation.   They were also men who had strong connections with German music and felt that music was part of the fabric of everyday life.

Parry’s last large-scale choral work was ‘The Chivalry of the Sea’ and Professor Dibble played the opening passage, depicting Dreadnoughts sailing out.  The background story to this piece brought home the conflicting feelings Parry must have had.  Parry’s musical mentor Edward Dannreuter was born in Germany although he lived in England for the latter part of his life.  His son Hubert, a godson of Richard Wagner and later Rear-Admiral in the British Fleet, served on HMS Invincible during the Battle of Jutland and he was one of five to survive from a crew of 1500 men.  The naval connection was continued with a piece by Stanford, setting poems by Henry Newbolt.  Although written before the outbreak of war, ‘Songs of the Sea’ (1904) and ‘Songs of the Fleet’ (1910) seem to presage war and were very popular throughout the war.

Elgar produced several works during the war, often very patriotic and less popular nowadays.  Professor Dibble played part of ‘A Voice in the Desert’, using a poem by the Belgian poet Camaerts, and intended as a morale booster for Belgium. 

Many people in the audience knew music by George Butterworth who was killed in July 1916 while serving as an officer with the Durham Light Infantry.  A few years before the outbreak of war Butterworth had set to music poems from ‘A Shropshire Lad’ by A E Housman whose poems were very popular with soldiers during the war.  We heard ‘On the Idle Hill of Summer’, evoking the idea of an idyllic English countryside, in keeping with notions that were part of the war propaganda.

butterworth-plaque

Another composer (and poet) with a very close association with and feeling for his particular landscape was Ivor Gurney.  Rejected for military service in 1914 because of poor eye-sight, Gurney eventually joined up in 1915.  During the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917, he was shot and gassed; he spent part of his recuperation at Brancepeth Castle.  Gurney’s mental health declined after the end of the war, he tried to commit suicide and he spent the rest of his life in a mental asylum.  We listened to the beautiful and heart-rending setting of ‘In Flanders’, beginning with the words “I am homesick for my hills”.  The poem was written in a German prisoner-of-war camp by Frederick William Harvey, whom Gurney had known at school in Gloucester.

Another pupil from the King’s School attached to Gloucester Cathedral, was Herbert Howells who was declared medically unfit for service.  We heard part of his elegy for Francis Purcell Warren, another composer, who was listed missing in action during the Battle of the Somme.  The piece was premiered at a Mons Memorial Concert in the Royal Albert Hall in 1917 where the audience was “a sea of khaki.”

Not many of us were familiar with the name of Frederick Kelly, a music writer and pianist originally from Australia, and a friend of the poet Rupert Brooke and the composer William Denis Browne.  Kelly and Browne arranged Brooke’s burial on Skyros in 1915.   We listened to part of Kelly’s haunting elegy ‘In Memoriam Rupert Brooke’ that recalled the olive trees fluttering around Brooke’s grave.  Browne was killed during the Gallipoli campaign and Kelly, after recovering from wounds at Gallipoli, was killed in action very near the end of the Battle of the Somme.

Josef Holbrooke was unknown to most of us (though not to brass band players, I learned later).  He did not serve during the war but his violent piano piece ‘Barrage’, written in 1916-1917, certainly evoked the terrible noises men in the trenches must have suffered.

Another Australian, Percy Grainger, name we recognised but I don’t think many of us knew he left England for the USA on the outbreak of war, later joining the American army as a musician and never on active service.  The piece Professor Dibble chose was probably new to most of us – a setting of Rudyard Kipling’s macabre poem ‘Danny Deever’ about the execution of a soldier in front of his comrades.  Although written in 1890, similar executions took place during the First World War.  The piece certainly had a noticeable effect on the audience.

In 1914 Ralph Vaughan Williams volunteered at the age of forty-two, serving in the Royal Army Medical Corps as an ambulance driver until 1917 when he became a lieutenant in the Royal Artillery. In the 1920s his work began to express his feelings about his war experience.  We heard the second movement of the Third Symphony where the natural bugle – not always in tune – recalled what soldiers would have heard at twilight.

Patrick Hadley was Professor of Music at Cambridge in the 1950s but his music is rather neglected now.  During the First World War he had a leg amputated below the knee and, so we were told, in later life he shocked students (and amused himself) by sticking something sharp into his prosthetic leg.  His piece ‘One Morning in Spring’, based on English folksong, was written in 1942 to mark Vaughan Williams’ 70th birthday.

Professor Dibble ended his talk with Arthur Bliss who served through the war but was always haunted by the death of his brother during the Battle of the Somme.  His 1930 choral symphony ‘Morning Heroes’ is an anthology of war poetry across the ages, from Homer to Wilfred Owen whose ‘Spring Offensive’ we heard.

The talk was sub-titled ‘Sounds, sights, impressions, loss and memory’.  The whole afternoon  brought all these elements to us and gathered them together as a most appropriate part of Remembrance Weekend. 

The final talk in this series is on Saturday 10th December at 2.30 when Lucie Whitmore, a PhD student at Glasgow University, will talk about ‘The Modish and the Militant’ – how and why women’s fashion changed over the war period.  To book a place (£3 or FREE with Museum admission and for Friends and students) please email info@thebowesmuseum.org.uk.

November Book Group Report

By Jane Wilson

For this month’s Reading Group, we rang the changes and instead of bringing along a selection of books, the group members each chose war inspired poems to recite and discuss. Most of the poetry had connections to WW1 although a couple linked to the Boer War and the Second World War.

  • ‘In Parenthesis’ by David Jones, himself an Infantryman in the war

An epic poem follows the WW1 service of Private John Ball, culminating with his experiences on the Somme. It is a mix of Jones’ own writings and poems, slipping between the prose, everyday speech, quotations and poetry. There are allusions to Shakespeare, ancient Welsh legends and other renowned literary texts.

  • ‘Night Duty’ by Eva Dobell, a VAD nurse in WW1 serving in field hospitals in France

The poem describes a night on a field hospital ward, and how the nurse views those soldier patients in her care. She imagines the thoughts each have as they lie in their hospital beds, and sees them as individuals, not just soldiers. She reflects on what their pasts may have been, and how their futures will be mapped out.

  • ‘Drummer Hodge’ by Thomas Hardy, probably more well known for his fiction than his war poetry

Published just a few weeks after the start of the Second Boer War, the poem reflects on the burial of Drummer Hodge amongst the exotic African landscape.  The Boer War the first time that British soldiers were recorded by name when buried.

  • ‘In time of the breaking of nations’, also by Thomas Hardy, written in 1916

A poem where Hardy explores how life will go on forever, using rural traditions such as ploughing and sowing seeds as evidence of life recovering despite war. Hardy gives the impression that the war will not have an everlasting significance, and that farming practices, youths falling in love etc. are the things that will endure.

  • ‘On Somme’ by Ivor Gurney, served in France with the Gloucestershire Regiment

The poem describes how it was to be in the trenches on the Somme, amid the noises that are vividly portrayed of gun and shell fire all around. He touches on the fear felt by those in the trenches and the courage that was present but could ‘vanish at first touch’.

  • ‘Naming of Parts’ by Henry Reed, served in WW2, mainly as a Japanese translator

This lighter, humorous poem is part one of a six poem collection, each poking fun at British Army training during World War Two. The ‘naming of parts’ refers to the parts of the guns during rifle training, the irony being the lack of available parts for the soldiers to train with.

  • ‘Rain’ by Edward Thomas, killed in action soon after arriving in France in 1917

Thomas writes in the poem of sitting alone in a hut, listening to the rain outside, thinking about the possibility of his own death, of the fate of fellow soldiers and hoping that no-one he knows is that night also awake, unable to sleep or maybe even dying.

  • We discussed the poet Frederick William Harvey, of whom the group had previously heard very little. A Gloucestershire man who served in the Gloucestershire Regiment, he was taken Prisoner of War in August 1916 and spent the remainder of the war in various POW camps. He wrote intensively during his period of imprisonment and sent collections of poems home to be published. Some of his poems were set to music by composers associated with WWI.
  • We briefly looked at a CD of music by Edward Elgar, with music as the setting for works of poetry by, among others, the Belgian poet, Emile Cammaerts, especially ‘A Voice in the Desert’.
  • One of our group members brought along a unique piece of poetry that had been written by her great-uncle, Private John Henry Parton. He had grown up in a mining community, joined the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry in 1914, and in 1916 was gassed and sent to Bodlondeb Hospital in Bangor, Wales for recuperation. It was from Bangor that, having always had a passion for reading, he wrote and sent a poem home to his mother, describing his experiences in Bangor, and how those who chose to visit the hospital, and meet and see the patients, would be made most welcome. The original poem still survives, written in ink on a piece of paper folded into four, perhaps sent home with an accompanying letter.

Private Parton was eventually declared fit again for service, and returned to the front lines to sadly die at Passchendaele.

Our next reading Group meeting will be on Tuesday 6th December at 2.00pm in the Café Lounge at the Bowes Museum – please do come and join us.

Project Open Meeting 2016

As part of our wish to keep volunteers and members of the public informed about progress and plans for the project, we aim to hold an annual open meeting.  The format may vary from year to year, depending on that is going on.  This year we decided to have a few short presentations from volunteers about the research they’re involved with, as well as a review of progress since the previous meeting and a look ahead at what we would like to do.

Jane Whittaker, Head of Collections, who has overall responsibility for the project on a day-to-day basis, welcomed attendees, mentioned some highlights and then asked Judith to talk about what’s been done and what’s planned.  Judith drew people’s attention to the successful community connections Rupert had initiated including working with inmates at Deerbolt HMYOI (helped by volunteer Sarah Boddy), obtaining funding for a mini-project by students at Northumbria University (it’s hoped their work will be published soon), publicising the project through talks and attendance at local fetes and day clubs.  Rupert had also been the contact for the visit in September by students and staff from Thrybergh Academy in Rotherham, accompanied by the Mayor of Rotherham and representatives of Help the Heroes and the Royal British Legion, when they launched their song based on the story of the Smith brothers from Barnard Castle, as reported in a previous newsletter. 

The series of talks held in the museum covering a wide range of topics, had also been very popular, with positive feedback.  With a view to building on that, Judith had circulated given attendees a list of ideas for future talks and workshops for comment and suggestions – this will also be available through the newsletter in the near future.  Volunteers working in the museum, at Durham Record Office and at home have continued to find useful information and input data onto the Roll of Honour, despite some current problems with the website.  The project now has a subscription to Ancestry and training sessions will be offered soon.

Rupert’s contract has now ended but he is still keeping in touch.  He brought so much to the project and we all wish him well in his studies and freelance work.  Sarah Boddy has moved to London where she is now employed helping university students find suitable volunteering opportunities, and we wish her all the best as well.

Sheila and Carolyn told us how they had been involved in researching men on the Middleton St George war memorial in 2014.  They have now adopted Winston, although neither of them has a connection to the village, and are researching the names on the war memorial as well as the names from the Absent Voters list – most of whom (if not all) will have survived the war.  They have also had the good fortune to meet up with a local historian there who has been a great help.  It was a very encouraging presentation, and if anyone else – individually or as a team – would like to ‘adopt’ one of our townships, please get in touch (Judith.phillips@thebowesmuseum.org.uk).

June has been helping out over the past couple of years with tracing people using Ancestry and other online resources.  Her presentation demonstrated some of the potential pitfalls as well as the possibilities of successfully tracking someone.  One of her examples – Fred Walters – appears in the census records and military records with two different surnames as his mother re-married and he was sometimes recorded with his step-father’s surname.  She also showed the sad tale of Joseph Brunskill Kearton, who had been awarded the Military Medal, but found it difficult to settle into civilian life after being demobbed – entries in the Teesdale Mercury showed that he stood trial for theft on at least two occasions.  What we don’t know is anything about the reasons behind the crimes – we can only speculate.  June’s story about Joseph Kearton appears in this e-newsletter.

One of the innovations this year has been the monthly bookgroup.  There was a small display of some of the books discussed together with a composite list of recommendations.

Several people sent apologies – mostly suffering from the current bouts of illness – but, despite having fewer people attending than previously, it was an enjoyable and useful meeting.

Remembrance Weekend 2016

By Judith Phillips

I was giving a talk to Bishop Auckland U3A History Group on Friday which was Armistice Day.  At 11.00 we observed the two-minute silence – particularly moving as I had just reached the point where I was going on to talk about the WWI project.  I think everyone in the room felt a little differently about the project and the stories I was able to tell.

I had started the ‘weekend’ a little early.  On Thursday I was invited to a concert at Deerbolt.  The work Rupert and Sarah had done had been so successful that they were invited back this autumn to do some more singing sessions with inmates.  Four young men sang to us for about half an hour, mostly unaccompanied except for Rupert’s occasional guitar playing.  They now have a wide repertoire of songs, not just from WWI, and they had chosen what to sing.  I have to say it was a most moving occasion, especially when they did sing some of the WWI songs – in some cases, it was almost as though I was really hearing them for the first time because it was the words and the basic tune that came over so strongly.

On the Saturday we had a most appropriate presentation by Professor Jeremy Dibble on British composers and WWI, helped by listening to recordings of several pieces.  I am sure all of us in the large audience went away thoughtful and yet uplifted in some way.  A full report will appear in the next newsletter.

On Sunday I represented the project at the annual Remembrance Sunday service at Barnard Castle parish church and the service at the war memorial in the grounds of the Bowes Museum, where I laid a wreath.  For the procession from the church to the museum I joined colleagues from the Museum’s Education Department and representative children from sixteen local primary schools who had recently taken part in a mini-project on WWI resulting from the main project.  In the afternoon the Education staff and volunteers held a drop-in session for children and parents to share in WWI-related activities.  I took the opportunity to be on hand to talk about the archives the children had worked from (copies, although they all saw the originals as well) and to demonstrate the website, particularly the Roll of Honour.  This was a very popular event and it was great to talk to some of the children who had visited the Reading Room – the views had certainly impressed them!

Joseph Brunskill Kearton

By June Parkin

Joseph Brunskill Kearton
, Pte. 205149 Northumberland Fusiliers, appears in the Lynesack Absent Voters list for 1918, address 15 Lane Head.

An ‘Ancestry’ search shows that he was born in 1890 in Muker, Swaledale and in the 1891 Census his father, Foster Kearton, was a gamekeeper. By 1901 Foster is a widower and is now a coal hewer in lodgings in Brough together with Joseph, now 10, and his sister aged 12. In the 1911 Census  Joseph is a servant on the Smardale farm of his cousin, George Brunskill.

How did Joseph come to be in our area in 1918? His two brothers were miners at Harperley Station, Fir Tree in 1911, so this may be why Joseph sought employment in coal mining.

There is limited military information relating to Joseph on the ‘Ancestry’ website. His medal record shows that he served with the 4th, 5th and 7th Territorial Battalions and later the 8th Service Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers. As well as the Victory and British war medals, he received the Military Medal. This was awarded to ‘other ranks’ for “gallantry and devotion to duty when under fire in the battle on land” and entitled the recipient to put ‘MM’ after his name.

Medals-(5)

A search in the online Teesdale Mercury Archive refers to his MM award in the February 13th 1918 edition, saying that he was from Butterknowle. Further references in the Mercury are less edifying. In the edition of December 3rd 1919, under the heading of  ‘BUTTERKNOWLE SHOPBREAKING, James Dillon (19) and Joseph Kearton (29)were brought up in custody, on remand, charged with having forcibly entered Butterknowle stores, and stolen goods of the value of £26s.’ P. C. Sunter received the men into custody, and both pleaded “guilty” at Barnard Castle. Mr Hicks (defending) characterised the affair as a drunken spree, and added that Kearton had won the Military Medal on the bloody slopes of Passchendaele. The accused were committed to Quarter Session on January 5th.’

The Passchendaele battle was fought from the end of July to November 1917 so perhaps the MM award was delayed, or the report to the Mercury was late, or the statement may not be accurate in the circumstances of the MM award.

Joseph does not seem to have learned form his crime, for another report appeared in the Mercury

on January 1st 1930. ‘John George Morrison (28) and Joseph Brunskill Kearton (39), both, |of Butterknowle, were jointly charged with breaking in to the Brown Jug Inn, Kinninvie on October 24th, and stealing there from a bottle of rum and five shillings in silver. Morrison had previously been remanded on a charge of breaking into the house of Mr. R.W. Blenkinsopp, Hawthorn House, Butterknowle, and stealing a quantity of jewellery on December 12th’.

The pair eventually admitted the charges, Morrison asking for four other thefts to be taken into account and Kearton ‘asked for two other cases to betaken into consideration-(1)

Housebreaking and stealing £35s and liquor from the Three Horse Shoes Inn, Copley, on September 22nd ; (2) a like offence at the Cross Keys Inn, Boldron, on October 24th. The prisoners were committed for trial at the Quarter Sessions. Bail was refused’.

The Mercury reported their next appearance in the edition of  January 8th 1930 : ‘ Housebreakers Sentenced. At Durham Quarter Sessions. On Monday John George Morrison (29), sawyer, and Joseph B. Kearton (39), miner, Butterknowle, admitted charges of housebreaking at Kinninvie, on which they had been committed for trial by the Barnard Castle magistrates, and Morrison admitted a similar charge at Rowntree, Lynesack. Dr. Charlesworth defended Kearton, who he said had fallen to the temptation of Morrison, being out of work. Morrison was sent to prison for nine months and Kearton for 3 months.

So we can see that returning to civilian life was by no means easy for many soldiers and a commendation such as the Military Medal was no guarantee of esteem or employment. Joseph Brunskill Kearton died in 1960, aged 70. Did he recover from the set-backs of the first 10 years of his return to Teesdale?

Somme 100

By Jane Wilson, volunteer

As we approach Armistice Day on Friday and Remembrance Sunday, this year many people will be remembering particularly the horrendous casualties suffered during the Battle of the Somme.  One of the project’s volunteers writes below about ‘Somme 100’ which we hope to bring to Teesdale next year.

On Friday 4th November, I was lucky enough to have a ticket to the Gala Theatre in Durham to see the 32nd international screening of ‘Somme 100’, a film from the Imperial War Museum’s collection, accompanied by a live performance of Laura Rossi’s specially written orchestral score. On this evening, the score was brought to life by the Durham University Orchestral Society.

The film covers the build up to the major offensive including bombardment of the German lines and footage of the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Parts of the film show how the injured soldiers on both sides were dealt with by stretcher bearers and at dressing stations, as well as the capture and organisation of German prisoners of war.

Laura Rossi was asked to compose the music in 2006 to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Somme, and has been instrumental in the aim this year, and next, to see 100 live performances of the music accompanying the film at showings around the world. Other live music presentations of the film have been seen as far around the world as Canada, France, Jersey and New Zealand, with showings in Berlin and the Netherlands upcoming during November.

We were lucky that Laura Rossi was present at the Durham performance and introduced the evening. She started by explaining how the film had been the first feature length film of its kind, showing in close detail the Battle of the Somme. In 1916, it was estimated the film was seen by half of the British adult population, a record only beaten since by Star Wars. Originally, the silent film may have been accompanied by groups of musicians playing rousing music and anthems.

Laura spoke about preparing for her composition with visits to the Somme Battlefield, using her Great Uncle Fred’s war diary as inspiration. He had been a stretcher bearer and had witnessed the lead up to and the action on the First Day of the Somme. His diary entry for the first day of the offensive simply reads

“Ist July. Dawn. Big Attack all along the line. Food scarce”.

The film makers included footage of the British trenches on that day, as well as the following day and Laura’s uncle’s diary entry for the 2nd July echoed exactly what the film showed:

“Many dead and wounded. Awful bombardment still on. Working day and night”

Laura Rossi spoke about composing a score that struck the right tone, and could move seamlessly between the varying scenes in the film. One moment we were watching lines of chirpy men marching towards the front line, next a large Howitzer gun being fired, then seeing German soldiers lying dead on the ground. The score is extremely well crafted and not only allowed me to accept scenes flowing from one to another, but I found myself in disbelief that the music and film had not always accompanied each other since 1916 – a true credit to the composer.

I would strongly recommend anyone to see a showing of Somme 100, and even if the musical score is not played live, the sights and sounds of the experience should move all that experience it.

Further details about ‘Somme 100’ are available at http://www.somme100film.com/

October Book Group Report

By Jane Wilson, volunteer


Our latest Book Group meeting at the Bowes Museum was held on 18th October and we started our discussion by briefly re-visiting a book previously recommended, ‘Ten Years After: A Reminder’ by Sir Philip Gibbs. As an official war correspondent, he published this book in 1924 as a reflection back on the effects of the war, considering both positive and negatives aspects of the conflict and the potential impact on future peace.

Secondly, we were recommended a fictional book by Thomas Keneally, ‘The Daughters of Mars’. It follows the lives of two Australian sisters, who as trained nurses, sail from Australia to Europe to assist in the war effort. We follow them through the war years, seeing the harsh reality of war from the point of view of the hospital environment as opposed to being immersed with troops in the trenches. Nevertheless, we get a torrid picture of life during the war, as well as an intimate portrait of the two sisters and the people they meet and the friends they make.

The next book highlighted is the true account of the exploits of two British women, Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm, who become Ambulance drivers on the Western Front at the outbreak of the war, end up running their own first aid post and continually have to fundraise to keep their medical post running. The author used diaries, scrapbooks, letters and newspaper articles to piece the book together so we can follow this story of two plucky women who just wanted to ‘do their bit’ for the war effort

Lastly, we came to ‘A Crisis of Brilliance’ by David Boyd Haycock, a biographical look at five key students from the Slade School of Art set against the backdrop of the build up to the First World War, the war years and after. Haycock examines each of the artists – Paul Nash, Stanley Spencer, Dora Carrington, Christopher Nevinson and Mark Gertler – their attitude to war, and the influences of war on their art. As readers, we learn of their friendships, the development of their careers, and how these intertwine during the war and in the following years. The book also includes colour plates of some of their art works.

Our next Book Group meeting will be in the Café Lounge at the Bowes Museum on Tuesday 15th November at 2.30pm. Those coming along are asked to bring a favourite poem influenced by World War One for discussion, and we welcome new faces to join us at this meeting.

The Music of Martyrs – FREE for students and school pupils!

The next talk in our WWI-themed talks is on Saturday 12th November when Professor Jeremy Dibble from Durham University will look at how the First World War affected British composers – many were on active service, some were killed and the effects of the war were widely felt in music – and introduce us to recordings of the music.  There is more information in your previous e-newsletter and here on the Events section of the website.  We’re delighted to announce that students and school pupils can attend the talk FREE (remember, it’s also free with usual museum admission charges and for Friends).  Please join us in the Jubilee Room for 2.30 (light refreshments included).

Material Memories – WWI North East Trench Art

By Judith Phillips

In the second lecture in the current series, Andrew Marriott from Newcastle University introduced us to a different aspect of the First World War – trench art.  Andrew explained that this developed from a naval tradition.  Sailors would make objects – ‘scrimshaw’ – from material they found during their voyages and sell them.  During the First World War, British, Empire and Commonwealth, French, Belgian and German soldiers all made trench art.  Andrew explained that the crucial factor is that the objects must be made from material found in trenches – bullets, shells, wooden packing cases, even bootlaces and Army biscuits!

Trench art can be found in archaeological digs, on rubbish tips, ploughed up as part of the ‘iron harvest’ in Flanders, but mainly as cherished family memorabilia.  Andrew is particularly interested in objects that have an associated story and he has conducted several ‘artefact-centred interviews’ where the object prompts the narrative.  Not all trench art has a story – the object has become detached from its background and the story was often just word of mouth.  Even the Helmand Cross from the relatively-recent Afghanistan campaign is without a known artist.

Trench art comes in many shapes – rings, bracelets, jugs, cigarette lighters, matchboxes, dice and crosses.  Andrew has several examples on display, and we were able to add a few from the project, including some painted mess plates which were new to Andrew!  And trench art is made for a range of different purposes.  It can be a personal memento, protective amulet, gift to family at home, practical item, source of income, community memorial.  Given that cigarette smoking was much more common then, many of the objects are related to smoking.  They can also be witty and a little subversive, like the Army biscuit inscribed ‘Give us this day our daily bread’. 

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One of the most poignant examples in the north-east is the three Butte de Warlencourt crosses.  These were originally erected in November 1916 to commemorate the 904 men from the 6th, 8th and 9th battalions of the DLI reported dead, wounded or missing after the capture of the Butte.  Made from wooden packing cases, they were decaying a dozen years later, so they were brought back to County Durham and deposited in Durham Cathedral, the church of St Mary and St Cuthbert in Chester-le-Street and the church of St Andrew in Bishop Auckland.  All three are currently on display in Durham Cathedral until 20th November.  Andrew pointed out signatures and names added to the wooden plinth of the Durham Cathedral cross – and asked if we considered it graffiti, vandalism or commemoration.

Andrew ended with his research into the composition and source of the metal used in medals from the Victoria Cross, first awarded in the Crimea War, through to the Second World War – a strange mixture of myth and modern scientific investigation.  If you have any trench art with north-east connections, Andrew would like to hear from you (andrew.marriott@newcastle.ac.uk).  After questions we had time to look at the trench art on display – a suitable ending to a fascinating afternoon.

The next lecture is on Saturday 12th November at 2.30 when Professor Jeremy Dibble from Durham University will talk about the profound effect the war had on British composers and illustrate his lecture with recordings.  Tickets cost £3 including light refreshments (FREE with museum admission and for Friends of the Museum) and can be bought through the museum Reception (01833 690606).