December Book group report

By Jane Wilson

Our December Book Group meeting started with a seasonal touch, both with the first couple of book choices, and the cold, frosty weather on the day of the meeting.

The first recommendation was “Christmas 1914: The First World War at Home and Abroad” by John Hudson.

An anthology of pieces depicting Christmas both at home and abroad, using newspapers, diaries and periodicals from the time. Short, factual accounts cover events such as the Christmas Truce, life on the Home Front, and snapshots of military life at various points along the Front Line.

The second Christmas themed choice was from the poet Carol Ann Duffy, “The Christmas Truce”.

The book-length poem for children was written to remember the German and British soldiers who joined in a short, unilateral truce over Christmas 1914, and is beautifully illustrated by David Roberts.

The final book in our seasonal selection was “Christmas in the Trenches” by Alan Wakefield.

This book takes first-hand accounts of events happening around Christmas during each year of the war, taking in accounts from people in all parts of the world affected by conflict, ranging from France to Egypt, Salonika to Mesopotamia. Illustrated with photographs and drawings, accounts discuss areas as varied as post arriving from home, concert parties to entertain troops, eating Christmas dinner on the Front Line and the famous Christmas Truces.

Another recommendation was the Daily Telegraphs “Dictionary of the Tommie’s Songs and Slang 1914 – 1918”, compiled by John Brophy and Eric Partridge.

The book has a compilation of songs popular with troops during WW1, musical hall songs from the time and a glossary of slang and phrases commonly used by the ‘Tommies’. The book gives an insight into well-known soldier’s songs, the WW1 origins of phrases maybe still used today and gives an understanding of how the songs could raise the spirits of troops on the march.

“Kitchener’s Mob” by James Norman Hall is the re-telling of Hall’s WW1 experiences of serving, as an American, in the British Army. He joined the 9th Royal Fusiliers and the book is his personal recollection of being an American living, and serving, as a British ‘Tommy’.

We re-visited a book recommended in our last meeting, the prose/poetry writing from David Jones, “In Parenthesis”. One of the group read the book after the last meeting, and while finding it a challenging read, felt the poetic aspects keep the writing concise and descriptive, whilst equally moving.

“Cockerels and Vultures” is a slim volume of poems by Frenchman Albert-Paul Granier, translated by Ian Higgins. A selection of poems that disappeared off the literary radar for decades, and uncovered again in 2008, they convey the reader straight back to WW1 with the sights, sounds and smells that Granier experienced during his own short-lived service in the French military.

Our last book recommendation was the factual book, “The Secret Rooms” by Catherine Bailey.

The book’s front cover blurb describes ‘a castle filled with intrigue, a plotting Duchess and a mysterious death’. The castle is Belvoir Castle in Rutland, the first-born son dies in mysterious circumstances, the Duchess plots to keep her second son and ducal heir from endangering his life during WW1 service and family and official records are maybe destroyed after the war. Catherine Bailey’s access to the Belvoir Castle archives helps shed light on the Rutland intrigue and mystery.

Our next 2017 Book Group meetings in the Bowes Museum Café lounge are planned for 2.30pm on Tuesday 17th January, Tuesday 21st February and 21st March. Why not come and join us?

The Half Shilling Curate

Sarah Reay has just published The Half-Shilling Curate: a personal account of war & faith 1914-1918, the story of her grandfather, the Reverend Herbert Butler Cowl.  He volunteered as a Wesleyan Army chaplain at the outbreak of war and served with the Durham Light Infantry.  The book follows him through the Army Home Camp in Aldershot to France and the reality of Flanders on the western front near Armentiėres.  Cowl was one of the first Wesleyan Army Chaplains to receive the Military Cross for exemplary gallantry.

The book is available from the author through the website at a discounted price plus postage for the festive season, it can also be found on Amazon or in selected bookstores which are listed on the site.

Christmas comforts for the troops

By Judith Philips & Julie Marmont

As you may tell from the book group report, we have found several books relating to different aspects of Christmas during the first World War, ranging from the early optimism –‘it’ll be over by Christmas’ to the relief of Christmas 1918 when the armistice the previous month held out hope that men and women in the armed forces and support services would be safe to get home for Christmas.  For many it wouldn’t be until 1919 or even later that they were home for Christmas.

Thinking about spending Christmas in the trenches, we decided to see what we could find out about Christmas for Teesdale men on active service.  Starting with the Teesdale Mercury we found several references.  In January 1916 the newspaper reported a letter from Private W. Harris written from Egypt on Christmas Day and one from Private Robert Gregory on the western Front addressed to his aunt Mrs F Chatt, living in Bridgegate.  There are several entries for the name Chatt on the Roll of Honour – I wonder whether she was related to some of them.

We also found a fascinating article in January 1916 about sending Christmas parcels to men from Laithkirk parish reported on 5th January.  A collection had been taken in Mickleton, Lunedale and Holwick to send gifts to soldiers and sailors from the Laithkirk parish.  Mickleton collected £4 16s 6 1/2d, Lunedale £2 0s 5 1/2d and Holwick £1 10s 2d, making a total of £8 7s 2d.  That might not seem much today but it represents about £600 worth of buying power today.

The article gives the names of the men presents were sent to: Kenneth Beadle, Robert Cooper, Ralph Foster, Thomas Forster, Ernest Hallport, George Hunt, Harry Hunt, William Horne, Bertie Lee, Lance Lowes, Charles Minikin, Philip Posslethwaite, Wilfred Raine, Oswald Raine, George Raine, Richard Raine, John James Shields, William Sutherland, Moss Ward and James Watson, plus Isaac Allinson, Isaac Lee, Charles Towenson, Ralph Towenson, William Dean and Will Ward, described as ‘training at home’.

A quick check of the Absent Voters list for 1918 revealed some of the same names: Isaac Lee, Thomas Bertram Lee, William Sutherland and James Watson in Holwick, and Isaac Allinson, William Dean, Kenneth Beadle, William Horn, Wilfred Raine and Charles Towenson in Mickleton.  Sadly the memorial plaque in Laithkirk  Chapel shows that one of recipients of the Christmas gift did not survive the war – that is , if the Ralph W Forster on the plaque is the Ralph Foster named in the newspaper.

Clearly there is a lot of work still to be done in tracing these men using Ancestry and other online sources, and they will all eventually be added to the Roll of Honour.  But we’d love to hear from anyone who can tell us more about any of these people, or about anyone else from the Teesdale area who was involved in the First World War.  You can email or submit information here on the website.

The Modish and the Militant reminder

A reminder that Lucie Whitmore from Glasgow University will be giving a talk on how the war affected the clothes women wore and the reasons for these changes.   An often-overlooked resource, the clothing worn by women during the First World War can reveal some surprising links between conflict and fashion. This talk will explore the storytelling power of the objects that survive in museum collections and those lost to time, seeking to highlight the female experience of life wartime Britain. This talk will focus on three areas of First World War fashion – the changing culture of mourning dress, the balance between austerity and patriotism, and the growing practicality within women’s clothing – revealing the impact of conflict on the cultural and social lives of these non-combatants.  We’ve noticed, when going through the Teesdale Mercury during the war years, that each edition contains some fashion information, and it will be interesting to see how (and if) this fits in with the national picture.

Tickets cost £3 to include tea/coffee and biscuits (FREE with museum admission price, for Friends of the museum, volunteers and students).  Please book through email: or telephone: 01833 690606.

Ancestry Training recap

By Judith Phillips

Many thanks to June Parkin who helped two groups of volunteers get to grips with using Ancestry.  It was fascinating, not least because in each training session we came across several ‘difficulties’ – reminders that Ancestry won’t necessarily provide all the answers all the time!

June had provided guidance notes to using various types of records and also to searching for individuals by name.  We started each session with a different entry in the Absent Voters list produced in 1919.  The great thing about these lists is that they give name and home address, usually followed by service number, rank and service unit (or, at least, some of this information).  We found them in the census returns (1911 and 1901) which helped pinpoint a year of birth.  This made searching the military records more precise, especially where there several entries with the same name.    

The range of records available on Ancestry is impressive.  One name we searched took us to Canadian census and military records.  Another name took us to census records in three different places (not all in Teesdale) as we followed the family.  The bonus here was identifying a brother of potential military service age that we’d been unaware of, so we tracked down his records and found that he had been discharged during the war as no longer fit for service.  That’s why he’d not turned up on a war memorial or in the Absent Voters list.

By the end of the sessions we had information on six individuals to add to the Roll of Honour – some new entries, some where we could add information.  It was a real eye-opener to the possibilities (and occasional frustrations) of using Ancestry.  We’ll be running some more training sessions in the New Year, so look out for the dates.  The project has two laptops for ancestry use when the Reading Room is open to the public, so please feel free to get in touch and arrange to come along and use them.

Amendment: Charles Edwin Hardy

By Judith Phillips

A knowledgeable volunteer – the Reverend David Youngson – has emailed to point out that in last week’s newsletter we referred to Hardy’s regiment as being ‘The Inns of Court Regiment’.   It was, in fact, an OTC (Officer’s Training Corps), in many ways similar the Territorial Army which was created in 1908 from local Militia.  They had ranks and many of the men in them were commissioned into regiments or corps on completion of training.   

The Reverend David Youngson continues: ‘The Officer’s Training Corps began circa 1908 with the formation of the Territorial Army from local Militias.  It was felt that following the Boer War/ South Africa Campaign and the problems in North West India that some provision could be made amongst people attending universities with a view to them being commissioned officers.  There were those who went straight from University to the Royal Military College, Sandhurst and the Royal Military College Woolwich which was basically an artillery training enterprise.

I rather think that Hardy was probably at college in the London area, hence the reference to the Inns of Court OTC which tended to embrace students at universities/ colleges in the London Area.   There is ample evidence that such OTC units existed at Oxford, Cambridge, Durham and Aberdeen Universities.  The History of the Aberdeen OTC is quite interesting as it produced the majority of subalterns for the Gordon Highlanders.  The regimental museum at Aberdeen has a whole section on this.’

David concludes: ‘It would be interesting to know which regiment he [Hardy] served with.’  I quite agree, and I look forward to getting further information from Ancestry research and other sources.  If anyone knows more about Hardy’s service in the First World War, we’d love to hear from you.

The WW1 Project needs YOU!

The WWI project has been so successful we now have a backlog of administrative work.  Could you spare a couple of hours each month to help keep the paperwork straight?  It’s mainly making sure the filing and statistics are kept up-to-date.  I know it doesn’t sound very exciting but it would be a great help to the project. 

We generate quite a lot of emails (enquiries, events, activities) and other ‘paperwork’ (minutes of meetings, reports, ideas for events etc.) that need paper and/or digital filing.  As part of the reporting to the National Lottery Fund, we also keep statistics about the number of events and activities organised, and how many people attended, as well as the number of volunteers and volunteer hours ‘worked’ on the project.  We are also keeping a ‘scrapbook’ record of events and activities including press releases, posters, attendance register sheets, feedback forms and photographs that will form part of the reporting process.

If you would like to offer to help or would like more information, please email me at  Please bear with me if I don’t respond immediately – I am only working one day a week on the project – but I will try and get back to you as soon as possible. 

Judith Phillips

An unexpected WWI connection with the Museum

By Judith Phillips

Charles Hardy 1915

Charles Hardy 1915

Some time ago Rachel Wood kindly gave the museum a copy of the ‘Cockfield School Roll of Honour Soldiers’.  This was the result of some fantastic research Rachel had done on the names that appear on the Roll of Honour scroll found in Cockfield School.  As well as researching these men, Rachel had also started to look at men from Cockfield Church of England School and one name sprang out to me – Charles Edwin Hardy. 

I knew Hardy’s name because he wrote ‘John Bowes and The Bowes Museum’ – a substantial and well-researched history that I consult regularly in my work in the museum.  Of course, I should have realised that Hardy was likely to have been involved in the First World War – I knew that the book was published in 1970 after more than a decade of painstaking research – but somehow I had never made the connection.  It is very easy to forget that someone you know (or have come across) probably has several stories in their life, not just the one you are familiar with.

Rachel had identified Hardy as serving in the Inns of Courts Regiment and had then found some genealogical information as well.  Hardy was born in 1897 in Winston (a township included in the area covered by the museum’s project) and attended Barnard Castle School.  Aged 18 in 1915 he enlisted and served through the war.  We haven’t yet done further research into his service but, now that the museum has a subscription to the online resource Ancestry, we will certainly try to find out more.

After the war, in 1919 Hardy joined the staff of Cockfield Church of England Mixed School and a year later he moved to Barnard Castle School where he spent the rest of his teaching life, retiring in 1958.  Dorothy Jones at Barnard Castle School has kindly sent a copy of his obituary in 1986 from the school’s archive which shows Hardy was involved in many aspects of school and extra-curricular life. 

It is clear from his book that Hardy consulted the letters and bills kept by John and Joséphine Bowes that now form part of the museum’s archives and recognised their importance.  I like to think that he would have applauded the museum’s First World War project, and its use of archives.

The Modish and the Millitant

Women and the culture of fashion in the First World War

Saturday 10th December at 2.30pm at The Bowes Museum

The final talk in the current series of talks relating to the First World War at The Bowes Museum, will be by Lucie Whitmore, a Ph.D student at the University of Glasgow, who will talk about women’s clothing during the war years. Her PhD explores women’s experiences of the First World War through their clothing, using a material culture framework to highlight the storytelling power of objects.

An often-overlooked resource, the clothing worn by women during the First World War can reveal some surprising links between conflict and fashion. This talk will explore the storytelling power of the objects that survive in museum collections and those lost to time, seeking to highlight the female experience of life wartime Britain. This talk will focus on three areas of First World War fashion – the changing culture of mourning dress, the balance between austerity and patriotism, and the growing practicality within women’s clothing – revealing the impact of conflict on the cultural and social lives of these non-combatants.  

Lucie’s talk will draw on her experience as costume intern at Edinburgh Museums & Galleries where she has worked on the new costume gallery project at the Museum of Edinburgh.

All are welcome to this fascinating talk;  please book beforehand  via  Museum Reception (Tel:  01833 690606, or email@ ). The cost is free to visitors with a museum admission ticket, or £3 without. It is free to students on production of identity, volunteers and Friends.