Teesdale Volunteer Training Corps

Teesdale Volunteer Training Corps

The Bowes Museum is a beautiful spot situated in Barnard Castle – Teesdale, County Durham , attracting the general public from far and wide. With its intriguing history and breathtaking landscape, when offered the chance to spend time and make use of the archives we were delighted and grasped the opportunity with both hands. Over the years, the Bowes Museum has been part of many projects, hosted countless events and has presented lots of exhibitions such as the YSL ‘Fashion fades but Style is Eternal’. Through Barney school, a few who enjoyed a mix of English and History were selected to participate in one of the projects that the Bowes Museum offers. Taking part in this WW1 commemoration project ‘To serve your King and Country’ has been an eye opening and exciting adventure so we both have decided to extend our time researching, which also nicely ties in with our silver Duke of Edinburgh award, our advisor being Rupert Philbrick, a person of which none of this could have been done without. Seeing as we are both Barney girls, we decided to base our research loosely around the Teesdale Volunteering Training Corporals. This committee was one of many around the UK and had lots of connections with our school, which was at the time called the County School.

 

On the 28th of January 1915 a public meeting was called by the chairman of Barnard Castle Urban District council, Mr H Walker, who was the voice behind the idea of the formation of this group. After discussions, debates and decisions; the conclusion was that, ‘a volunteering training corps be formed for this district and that a committee be appointed from those present at the meeting.’ – Quote sourced from: Teesdale Volunteer Training Corps Minute Book

Here are the 30 names that were seen as deserving to join the ‘corps.’

 

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The managers of this committee were as follows J.W.B Heslop, H. Walker, Dr. C.CH Welford, G. C. Harker, L.H Barnard and T. D Kevian. These were the original members of the managers, as time passed, others were also recruited.

A reoccurring name that often appeared in researched documents was L H Barnard – bursar of the North Eastern County School (Barney School) who we later discovered to also be the treasurer of this volunteering committee. He was not found on the Bowes Museum’s Roll of Honour list suggesting that he didn’t fight in the ‘regular army’ in WW1. This could have been due to his age, height or another unknown that is yet to be found.

Training, meetings and drills were mostly held at the county school and shooting ranges in the surrounding area such as Deepdale, now more commonly known as Deerbolt. The membership was open to not only those in the school, but for boys in the town and neighbouring villages between the ages 17-19. This requirement was decided upon on the second official committee meeting March the 3rd 1915. Another general condition that also applied to the regular army was that you must be taller than 5”3, must be no younger than 18 and no older than 38, although in times of conscription these general rules were slightly more lenient. Those who joined the group were prepared intensively incase of invasion, especially when times got tough and conscription was inevitable. An example of this structured regime is the itinerary of one of the Summer camps held from May – October 1918

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This particular agenda’s aim was ‘to produce as rapidly as possible a body of men who have been trained to the utmost extent that time and means at disposable permit, in the essentials of the military work and duties that may be required of them.’ – Quote sourced from: Scheme of Summer Training Volunteer Infantry Battalions.

Some men went in with the misconception that they would be exempt from joining the regular army if called up. Although this was not the case, the committee almost gave them a false sense of security. However, their misconception was soon corrected as all those wishing to become a member of this group were met with the condition of having to sign a declaration understanding that they would not be immune to the ‘regulations in regard to enlistment in the regular army’ – Quote sourced from: Teesdale Volunteer Training Corps Minute Book

As you can see from the pictures below; the total number of men in the organisation from August -September 1915 didn’t fluctuate. However, compared to the number actually attending the drills and so forth, the ratio between the two had a dramatic imbalance. As a result, on Sept the 3rd, Major Heslop took this matter into his hands and expressed his disappointment in the lack of numbers at drills and at those who hadn’t obtained their proficiency badge. Again the ratio between those with the proficiency and without had a dramatic imbalance (1:5)

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In the Teesdale training corps minute book the chair stops writing in 1916 and the purpose of the book is changed to a register.

 

Alex Thompson and Ceara Sutton-Jones