By Judith Phillips
That’s how Suzanne Davies began her email – I couldn’t resist that. So here’s the story of William Tarran…
William Tarran was born on 27th June, 1898 in Butterknowle. He served in the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry regiment where he was awarded the Military Medal on 24th September 1917. The regimental war diary misspells his surname as Tarren, which can make it difficult to find the right records. Suzanne says her father didn’t talk about his war experiences, a comment we’ve heard many times during this project. She thinks he was wounded in October 1917 and invalided to England but returned to Etaples in France in March 1918 and joined KOYLI B Company. She doesn’t know when he was captured but he was a prisoner-of-war at Limburg. When he was released he came back to Butterknowle and worked later at Hurworth, where he met and married his wife, Ellen. Later he worked in Barnard Castle, Startforth and Catterick, where he and Ellen both died in 1975. Their three children are still alive, aged 92, 82 and 70.
Using Ancestry – we have it at the Bowes Museum for the First World War project – I found out that, in 1901, William was living with his parents, Robert and Kate Tarran, in Pinfold Lane, Butterknowle where Robert was a postman. Ten years later, the family were living with Robert’s father – another William, who was a sub-postmaster – still in Butterknowle. I haven’t been able to find William’s papers for joining up – they were probably among the thousands destroyed by enemy bombing during the Second World War.
William’s children had also been in contact with Keith Richardson as Butterknowle is within his area of interest. Keith’s book ‘Evenwood Remembers’ is a fantastic source for information about Evenwood people involved in the war, as is the website http://thefallenservicementofsouthwestcountydurham.com. From William’s children we have several images relating to his war service and a newspaper photograph of him celebrating his golden wedding anniversary.
Working on this project has made me realise that it’s the survivors – the men and women who came back – are often most difficult to identify and research. If you know of anyone in your family or community with a Teesdale connection who was involved in any way with the First World War, we’d love to hear from you. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01833 690606 ext. 208 (answerphone).