By June Parkin
For many people in Teesdale the armistice was not an end to their worries and their suffering. Armed forces personnel were only gradually demobilised. Some were prisoners of war who returned home in poor health.
Moreover, the population had to cope with an influenza epidemic, mistakenly called Spanish ‘flu.
In Teesdale , as early as July, cases began to be reported. In October there were 12 deaths in Startforth and by November the numbers had increased. In December the epidemic was described as ‘alarming’. Social meetings were cancelled and the North East County School ended the term early because of the large number of cases among boys and staff.
On February 26 1919 the ‘Teesdale Mercury’ deaths column carried two sad reports in its Roll of Honour.
Private Sidney Carter 75440 of the 6th Battalion DLI, who had been a prisoner in Germany, had died age 19 in St.George’s Hospital, Waterloo, London. He was the fourth son of Thomas and Mary Hannah Carter of Cross Lanes. His older brother, Alfred Victor, served with the Royal Engineers and survived the war. Sidney Ralph Carter’s grave is in Rokeby St Mary Churchyard and has the inscription ‘PEACE PERFECT PEACE’.
The other death was Thomas Wilfred Wearmouth, eldest son of Joseph and Margaret Wearmouth of Hanging Shaw, Forest-in-Teesdale. Wilfred, as he was known, had enlisted in October 1917 and was Private 20328 in the 6th Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment. Sent to the Western Front on March 10 1918 during the German spring offensive, he fought at Amiens, Albert and Cambrai. He was wounded, underwent an operation at Le Havre and was then transferred to the Tayside Auxiliary Hospital in Perthshire. He made good progress and it was expected that he would soon be discharged. However, he contracted influenza on February 13 and died of pneumonia on February 18, aged 28. His grave is in Forest churchyard with the inscription ‘ONE OF THE BEST’. He is commemorated in the Church of St. James the Less, Langdon Beck and on the Forest-in-Teesdale Primary School Triptych.