Frederick Dalgarno

By June Parkin
Secretary, Barnard Castle Bowling Club, and The Bowes Museum volunteer

In April 1918 conscription was extended to men up to age 51, so great was the toll that the war had taken on the armed forces. There was also pressure on those who had been exempt from military service for reasons of conscientious objection, medical reasons or protected employment. One of those exempted was Frederick Charles Dalgarno, the Park Superintendent at The Bowes Museum. Mr Dalgarno, a Fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society, joined the Museum staff in 1909 and was responsible for laying out the grounds, including the excellent bowling green. He was a founder member of Barnard Castle Bowling Club in 1910.

Members of the Bowling Club in 1912

The ‘Mercury’ of October 24th 1917 reported that a tribunal had heard Dalgarno’s appeal for continued exemption from military service. These tribunals were made up of local dignitaries, tending to support the appeal, and a military representative who, anxious to augment the supply of recruits, generally pressed for rejection.

In this case, the evidence produced was that Mr. Dalgarno, then aged 41, lectured to local groups to increase the production of fruit and vegetables. Also, produce from the Museum’s gardens had been distributed to 130 poor people. Mr Waine stated that Mr Dalgarno “was of more use in the national interest in his present situation than he would be in the army”. Temporary exemption was granted until the following May, with the military representative asserting that he would appeal against the decision. The ‘Mercury’ of 21st November reported the result from the Durham County Appeal Tribunal. The military appeal was dismissed and Frederick Dalgarno was appointed horticultural representative under the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries for the Rural District of Startforth, his work being to organise cottage gardening and food production.

Mr Dalgarno continued to serve the community until his retirement in September 1929 after 23½ years as Park Superintendent. He was also a band leader and performed in local concerts as well as at the bandstand in the Museum grounds. The appreciation in the ‘Mercury’ said that the bowling green he laid out was “now considered one of the finest in the country.” The same can be said today and Frederick Dalgarno would be proud of the talented team of members who maintain such a high standard of care.

The bowling season opens on Saturday April 7th carrying on a long-standing town tradition.

An amazing coincidence

By Judith Phillips

Well, the snow and generally dreadful weather forecast on Saturday 17 March didn’t deter seventeen people coming to hear Ian McArdle talk about Edith Cavell, ‘a quiet heroine’ in his words.  It was a fascinating afternoon and the Question and Answer session afterwards threw up an amazing coincidence. 

Edith Cavell was an unlikely and certainly reluctant ‘heroine’.  Ian showed how all her life her sense of duty, coupled with a strong religious faith, drove her to strive for ‘the best’ and her attitude sometimes brought her into conflict with authority.  The daughter of a Church of England vicar, she grew up in Swardestone near Norwich.  She was taught at home by her father until she was sixteen when she was sent to schools in Kensington and Clevedon as a pupil teacher.  She was a governess in several families in Britain until 1890 when she went to Brussels as governess to the family of Antoine Depage, a well-known surgeon. 

In 1895 she returned to nurse her ailing father and this experience, coupled with a previous time at a German hospital while on holiday, convinced her that she had a vocation as a nurse.  She gained experience at the Tooting Fever Hospital and then trained at The London Hospital (now part of Barts) whose matron had known Florence Nightingale.  Edith gained her nursing qualifications and worked in hospitals and privately but wasn’t being promoted to the higher posts she wanted.  Her reference from The London Hospital makes it clear that she didn’t hesitate to argue with authority, which probably didn’t make her popular.  After a short break to recover from exhaustion she spent some time nursing in Manchester where she experienced working with victims of industrial accidents.

In 1907 Antoine Depage invited her to run and develop the first nursing school in Belgium (now the Institut Cavell) which he had just established in Brussels.  Starting with just four probationer nurses, Edith introduced a syllabus that covered medical and ethical issues.  The school’s reputation grew, as did numbers, and in 1910 Edith was also in charge of the new hospital at St. Gilles in Brussels.  An inventory of her belongings in 1912 showed a large number of books and not much else.

She spent the summer of 1914 in England with her mother and returned to Brussels the day before the declaration of war and the German invasion of Belgium.  Within a few weeks German soldiers were in Brussels, cutting off any idea of leaving for England.  The speed of the German invasion had left isolated pockets of British and French troops behind enemy lines.  In October 1914 Antoine Depage’s wife, herself a nurse, suggested Edith’s clinic as a place for treating injured Allied soldiers who had found their way to Brussels.  Once started, Edith’s involvement increased and she helped hundreds of men escape to neutral Holland through the Belgian resistance movement.

Ian shared his view that the German authorities probably suspected, or knew, what was going on but held back until they had identified as many people as possible.  Edith herself showed a certain naïvété in her letters to her mother – letters that were almost certainly opened before being despatched.

She was arrested in August 1915 and sent to the St. Gilles prison where she was kept mainly in solitary confinement.  She was interrogated three times and put on trial in October 1915 with about thirty other people – guides, chemists (who provided false documentation), people who provided shelter.  She had no contact with her defence lawyer and had already signed a statement admitting she had helped men get to Holland (and subsequently to England).  The German prosecutor questioned her for about ten minutes in all.  Incidentally, he lived until 1960.  The court minutes were in German although the questioning was in French and, with only one interpreter in court, there may have been misunderstandings and misinterpretations.  Ian pointed out that frontière (border in French) could have been misunderstood as ‘the front’.

The judges gave their verdicts on a Saturday: Edith and Philippe Baucq (who was involved in resistance newspaper distribution and networks) and three others were sentenced to death, although only Edith and Baucq were executed; the others were generally condemned to hard labour with a few acquittals.  The defence lawyers had not expected any activity over the weekend and were unprepared for any appeal.  Despite representations by the American legation, the sentence was carried out in the early morning of Tuesday 12 October 1915 at the National Shooting Gallery near Brussels.  Edith spoke with both the Anglican minister in Brussels and a German Lutheran pastor before her death.  She asked that her mother be informed of her death and she left a letter to be read to the nurses in the Institut, where the letter is read out annually on the anniversary of her death.  She was buried at the Shooting Gallery, along with others executed there.

Edith’s execution was seized by the Allies and used as propaganda.  Ian showed some examples which clearly distorted her appearance and how she died.  After the war her body was exhumed and brought back to England in May 1919. Crowds lined the train route taken by her body from Dover to London where the cortege was escorted by nurses and the military service to Westminster Abbey for a memorial service before the coffin was taken for burial at Life’s Green beside Norwich Cathedral.  Ian ended with images of the memorials to Edith in London and Norwich, and he pointed out that streets, schools, hospitals, a bridge and a carpark are named after her as well as the Cavell Homes for Nurses.

A lively question and answer session followed covering reasons why she is not so remembered nowadays, the source of her famous words ‘Patriotism is not enough’ and a railway carriage connection with Captain Fryatt (also executed by the Germans) and the Unknown Warrior.  But it was a question from the youngest member of the audience that gave us that amazing coincidence: ‘When was the memorial in London put up?’  Ian confessed he didn’t know but a quick search on Wikipedia said it was 17 March 1920 – exactly 98 years ago.  An amzing conclusion to a fascinating afternoon.

Open Meeting 2018

I hope you find the e-newsletter keeps you up-to-date with what’s going on with the First World War project.  But it’s sometimes a good idea to meet in person.  Each year during the project, we’ve had an Open Meeting where anyone can come along and find out what we’ve achieved and so far and what we’re planning for the next year.  So I invite you to an Open Meeting on Wednesday 25th April at 2.30 until about 4.00. 

We’ll meet in the Jubilee Room and there’ll be coffee/tea and biscuits.  Please let me know if you intend coming – that’s to help with the catering arrangements – but don’t worry if you can only decide at the last minute.

This year is special.  It includes the centenary of the Armistice, and this year Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday fall on the same date – Sunday 11 November.  We have an exhibition planned to highlight the project running from late autumn to early spring.  It is also the last financial year for the project and there are still things we’d like to do.

Why not come along and see what we’ve achieved and hear about our plans for this centenary year?  And we’d love to hear if you have an idea you’d like to suggest for any of our events and activities.  Even if you can’t come to the Open Meeting, we’d love to hear your ideas and comments at

WW1 Book Group report February 2018

By Jane Wilson

Our February Book Group meeting started with an update on progress with reading a previously mentioned book choice, ‘The Sleepwalkers’ by Christopher Clark. The author writes about the diplomatic relations among the different European countries, the ebb and flow between various European powers, and the desire for expansion by various empires.

The book highlights the male-dominated hierarchies at the head of these European countries, emphasising the definition of what it was to be a man in Edwardian times.

The same group member recommended a book they had read a few years earlier, the autobiography of Edmund Blunden, titled ‘Undertones of War’. Detailing his time as an infantry subaltern in France and Flanders during WW1, the book also includes examples of his poetry as well as his wartime experiences.

Michael Morpurgo has been a favourite author of the Book Group and our next recommendation was his novel, ‘A Medal for Leroy’. First published in 2013, Morpurgo was inspired to write this novel after learning more about the life and WW1 service of Walter Tull, the first black army officer to lead British troops.

His children’s novel starts in Belgium in 2012 and follows generations of the same family from WW1 to the present day, uncovering family secrets and focusing on the impact of war on their lives. Covering topics ranging through illegitimacy, racial prejudice, love and loss, the book also follows the animal theme common in Morpurgo’s novels, several generations of Jasper, the Jack Russell Terrier.

A member of our group brought along the August 2017 edition of the BBC ‘History’ magazine, pointing out an interesting article about British soldiers held as Prisoners of War in camps in Germany. The article was illustrated with photographs, and included details of starvation, and punishing regimes in the Dulman Camp in Germany. The magazine covers many periods in history, but during the 100-year commemoration of WW1, has many interesting pieces connected to combat in the Great War.

We were suggested works of fiction by Ernest Victor Thompson, an English author (1931 – 2012) who had served in the British Royal Navy and the British Police Force. Thompson has a prolific output of historical novels, including some that have a WW1 connection, such as ‘Brothers in War’ and ‘Tomorrow is Forever’. The novels have romantic tones, are underset by WW1 links, and have a large proportion of factual information within their settings.

‘When This Bloody War Is Over; Soldiers Songs of the First World War by Max Arthur’ highlight songs sung in trenches, dugouts, and on the various battlefields of WW1. The book explores the lyrics, the music, how different songs were adapted by various countries, and how some songs were well known and others less so. Many old and nostalgic favourite tunes are included as well as some lesser known songs, backing up the courage and endurance of WW1 combatants.

Susan Grayzel, a Professor of History at the University of Mississippi, has written ‘Women and the First World War’, a comprehensive look at the contributions and experiences of women during WW1 from a variety of countries, ranging from Austria, Canada, Japan and New Zealand as well as the more usually quoted country examples. The book covers topics such as propaganda, women’s war work, women serving in war, morality, pacifism and revolution as well as exploring the consequences for women of the post-war period. While not a text book, Grayzel’s writing gives a multitude of facts, figures and information that demonstrate women’s part in the war the world over.

The next meeting of our World War One reading group will be held on Tuesday 20 March at 2.30pm in The Bowes Museum Café lounge. Everyone is welcome, whether you bring a book or just want to enjoy the discussion.

New branch of the Western Front Association

The Western Front Association is a national charity dedicated to remembrance and education for all aspects of the First World War.  There are branches in Durham and Cleveland but Chris Robinson is hoping to establish a new branch in Richmond.

The inaugural meeting of this new branch will take place on Wednesday 11th April 7.30-9.30 at Richmondshire Cricket Club, Hurgill Road, Richmond.  It will include an inaugural lecture by Sean Godfrey, Chairman of the Cleveland Branch of WFA, on “1949 – Illusions Shattered: How the war began, British actions until Christmas 1914 and the destruction of so many hopes and dreams”.

The meeting is open to all and is free although a donation on the door would be appreciated.  The Club bar will be open and there is plentiful car parking opposite in the Nun’s Close car park. 

For further information, or to express an interest but cannot attend the meeting, please contact Chris Robinson (tel: 07814 855858 or email: