WWI Final Day Saturday 2nd March

Open Public Meeting Saturday 2nd March 10.30-12.00

Come and find out more about what the project has achieved and how we plan to go on.  Hear from volunteers and others how the project inspired them in different ways and find out about the WWI Book group, the Knit and Natter group’s activities, creative writing from primary school pupils to university students, and other community-based activities.

This event is FREE.

Tea/coffee will be served from 10.00.  To help with catering requirements, please book through the Events page on the museum’s website or at Reception.

Talks on the aftermath of the war Saturday 2nd March 1.30-3.30

Join us for three fascinating talks on the aftermath of the war:

  • The Paris Peace Conference with Professor Charlotte Alston (Northumbria University)
  • Campaigning to transform international life with Dr. Daniel Laqua (Northumbria University)
  • The birth of the German Republic 1918-1919 with Dr. André Kiel (Liverpool John Moores University)

As a whole the event will involve reflections on the legacies of war and its impact on building post-conflict societies, which should lead to some lively discussion.

This event is FREE.

Tea/coffee will be available during this event.  To help with catering requirements, please book through the Events page on the museum’s website or at Reception.

WWI Embroidery Day Friday 1st March

WWI Embroidery Day Friday 1st March


Join Pat Ashton-Smith, a textile artist and member of the Embroiderers’ guild with over twenty years of experience in using traditional and new techniques for a free workshop.  Pat will help participants to create a 3D poppy using raised embroidery techniques.  Pat says: ‘During the workshop you will be shown three ways to create wired flower petals and you can choose the one you prefer to work your own poppy.  Once completed this can be made into a brooch or mounted in a card or frame.  A materials pack will be provided but please bring along a small pair of scissors.’

Numbers are limited.  Please book through the Events page on the museum website or at Reception.


Pat will give a free illustrated talk on WWI embroidered postcards – “Love Letters from the Front” – followed by an opportunity to ask questions and see embroidered postcards from her extensive collection.

And remember – our project exhibition is still on, so you could visit (or re-visit) that as well.  There are several embroidered postcards included in the exhibition as well as other embroidered items.


Enjoy a pop-up display of WWI items on loan from the Embroiderers’ Guild’s prestigious exhibition ‘Calm During the Storm’.  These are in addition to material currently on display in the project exhibition.  Embroidery was often used as a therapy for convalescent servicemen and, after the war ended, several projects used embroidery as a means of providing employment for disabled servicemen.  Embroidery, especially embroidered postcards for servicemen to send home, also provided an opportunity for French and Belgian women to earn an income.

Free with admission, to annual pass-holders and to Friends

WWI Food drop-in event Monday 25th February

WWI Food drop-in event

How about sampling some of the food that was on offer during the war?  Join food historians Jan and Richard Crouch on Monday 25th February between 11.00 and 3.30 to find out more about food during the war and food cooked to WWI recipes.

Food was rationed during the war, so being on the Home Front often meant finding how to make new dishes from the limited foodstuffs available.  And some of the recipes are very ingenious!

When the peace treaties were signed in 1919, there were celebrations throughout the land including Teesdale.  We know there were Peace processions in several villages and many street parties.  Jan and Richard will recreate a 1919 Peace street party.

Richard will give a short illustrated talk about food during the war at 11.30 and 2.30 but you can drop in at any time to talk to them, see their displays and sample some of the food people cooked a hundred years ago.

And remember – our project exhibition is still on, so you could visit (or re-visit) that as well.

Free with admission, to annual pass-holders and Friends

Book Group report – November 2018

By Jane Wilson

To coincide with the Museum’s WW1 exhibition “To Serve King and Country”, our next few Book Group meetings are being held as open meetings, so that members of the public can listen in to our discussions and hopefully be inspired to do a little of their own WW1 reading.  The next meeting is on Tuesday 22 January.

Our first recommendation for November was ‘Ring of Steel – Germany and Austria/Hungary at War 1914 – 1918’ by Alexander Watson. He tells the history of WW1 from the perspective of its instigators, and ultimately its losers, a side of the story that has not been commonly reflected in a lot of the book choices we have had in the Book Group so far. Watson investigates why the loss of the war for these once dominant nations led to the instability of the states in that region, and thus the effects on the populations of that area of Europe.

Shifting the literary emphasis to India, our next book was ‘Across the Black Waters’ by Mulk Raj Anand, a pioneer of Indo-English fiction. First published in 1939 and informed by many conversations with Indian WW1 soldiers, the fictional story follows the military life of Lalu, a sepoy (or private) in the Indian Army. From landing in Marseilles in 1914, we hear of Lalu’s experiences as he and his compatriots make their way through France, getting used to many new things – language, culture, countryside, the bitter winter cold, as well as the horrors of trench warfare and inevitably, death. A good read, our Book Group reader at times forgot the book was fiction as it felt such an accurate portrayal of an Indian soldier’s experience in France.

As a change, our next recommendation, rather than being for a book, was a highlight of recently read newspaper and magazine articles.

The first item was about the WW1 experiences of Norman Manley, a Jamaican lawyer and politician who eventually became the first Jamaican Premier after Jamaica gained independence. The article recounted a little of his WW1 experiences in the Royal Field Artillery and how he never truly got over the death of his younger brother, Roy. They had served along side each other and Manly was to comment “I cannot speak how I felt. We were good friends, and I would be lonely for the rest of the war.” This article was of extra interest to the group as two members had lived and worked in Jamaica for many years and had knowledge of the politician.

A second article told the story of another WW1 veteran, Harry Patch, a name well known in Britain as one of the last war veterans to have survived well into old age, dying in 2009 at the age of 111 years. In an extract read out from the article, Harry talks about having a pact with his fellow soldiers about not killing any of the enemy unless they really had to, and about aiming to injure and not kill when firing at the German troops. He described his thoughts on the futility of war, and how his war experiences haunted him for the rest of his life.

Moving back to book selections, we heard next about ‘Passchendaele – The Sacrificial Ground’ by Nigel Steel and Peter Hart. Passchendaele was the 3rd Battle of Ypres and by using accounts of men ranging from privates to majors, the authors cover the conflict in great detail. Starting with the planning and preparation for the battle from both the military and political viewpoint, the authors then brilliantly reflect the horror of the conflict, with first hand accounts painting an accurate portrait for the reader of the sights, smells and sounds that bombarded the troops. The book then goes on to cover the considerable losses of men on both sides, and to consider where blame may have been apportioned for the outcome of the battle and the loss of life.

Our last reading suggestion was John Keegan’s ‘The Face of Battle – A Study of Agincourt, Waterloo and the Somme’. This is a seminal work that has influenced many books to be written since about the Somme. Keegan’s writing covers the Somme from the point of view of the soldier directly involved on the ground, and their experiences of being directly in the danger zone. Some interesting sections of the book discuss the concept of Pals Brigades, recruitment from public schools for officer training and relationships between officers and their men. More specific chapters look at why armies go to war, different sorts of weapons used, military tactics etc. and compares and contrasts the three battles in the book title. Keegan was a military historian, lecturer and author and has a prolific number of published works to his name, covering a wide range of conflicts and wars.

All underlined titles are available to borrow from the Durham County Council library system.

Knit and crochet

By Judith Phillips

It’s many years since I did any serious knitting and I have to confess that doing crochet has never been one of skills.  But I decided when thinking about the exhibition based on the project that we ought to include knitting and crocheting as so many people on the Home Front used these skills to make ‘comforts’ for those serving at home and abroad.  The Teesdale Mercury is full of reports of groups getting together to knit gloves, mittens, scarves, helmets, socks and other articles to send to local men (and women, sometimes).  And there are frequent quotations from letters of thanks sent from the front.

‘Knitting for Tommy’ includes several patterns for garments and I was really lucky to find knitters happy to knit socks, gloves and helmets on four needles – it brought back memories of my grandmother teaching me how to turn a heel – so we have several knitted articles in the exhibition.  The Knit and Natter group who meet regularly in the museum agreed to help out with knitting various coloured flowers to add to the community artwork ‘Behind the Trenches’ currently on display in the museum entrance area.  On Thursdays 17 and 31 January, 14 and 28 February they will be meeting in the middle Picture Gallery from about 2.15 to knit, crochet and natter, much as people did a hundred years ago.  And now they’re creating blankets that will go to charities helping ex-service personnel and families affected by 21st century wars.

Have you some time to spare?  And perhaps some odd balls of yarn lying around?  How about making a few blanket squares?  I’ve had a couple of long journeys and several very quiet evenings over the Christmas and New Year break, and I’ve been amazed at what I’ve managed to make – and I’m not a speedy knitter!  I’ve used a basic pattern and then made up variations; you have a free hand in what pattern and variations you use.

Blanket square pattern

Use 3.25mm (No. 10) or 4mm (No. 8) needles and double knitting yarn

Cast on 22 stitches

1st row: Knit 1, purl 1 to end

2nd row: Purl 1, knit 1 to end

Repeat these two rows twice

7th row: knit, 1 purl 1, knit 1 purl 1, knit 16, knit 1 purl 1, knit 1, purl 1

8th row: purl 1, knit 1, purl 1, knit 1, purl 16, purl 1, knit 1, purl 1, knit 1

Repeat these two rows 8 times

25th row: knit 1, purl 1 to end

26th row: purl 1, knit 1 to end

Repeat these two rows twice

Cast off.

Any colour, any pattern welcome! 

As I said, I’m no crocheter, but I’ll happily accept any large or small squares you can make.  Perhaps you have a pattern I could put into another newsletter? 

You can leave squares at Reception in the museum for me.  Or you post them to me at the museum.