By Judith Phillips
As we approach Armistice Day (11th November) and Remembrance Sunday (12th November this year), I am reminded that one of the main aims of ‘To Serve King and Country’ – The Bowes Museum’s Commemoration Project is to ensure we don’t forget how the war affected Teesdale. We want to include in the project’s Roll of Honour all the men and women from Teesdale who served in the armed forces or as nurses or in war industries such as munitions. Through the family and community historians and volunteers with the project, who have so generously given their time and knowledge, there are over 2000 entries on the online Roll of Honour (www.thebowesmuseumww1.org.uk) and there is a backlog of names and information to be added.
So often when we think of the First World War, we think of the Western Front with its trenches and mud. But there were other theatres of war – in Africa, the Balkans, Italy, Palestine, Mesopotamia and at sea. We know of some Teesdale men in each of these areas but we’re sure there were more. Do you know of a family member or someone from your village who served in any of these areas?
There are still many Teesdale people who were involved in the war that we don’t know about. So many who came back did not talk about their experiences; so many families found it impossible to overcome their sorrow at the death of a family member that they didn’t talk about them to the younger generations. So there are still people to be identified, vague stories to be investigated, casual references in letters or church magazines and in newspapers to be followed up.
Just a few weeks ago, for example, I noticed in the Teesdale Mercury a Centenary Memoriam notice for Private Cecil William Sedgewick from Cockfield who served in the Durham Light Infantry; he was killed in action on 4th October 1917. The photograph shows a young man of 20 who, as the dedication says, is ‘Gone: but not forgotten by the family he never knew’. His name is included in the project’s Roll of Honour (under Sedgwick as it appears on Cockfield War Memorial) but we didn’t know his date of death or his age and we don’t have a photograph. I’d love to know if his family have any further information about him that could be included on the Roll of Honour.
If you have any information you think would help us or if you’d like to know about volunteering with the project, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or telephoning 01833 690606 ext. 209 (answerphone).