Tudhoe Village

Tudhoe & Spennymoor Local History Society

Spennymoor High Street

World War I

Spennymoor's Battle of the Somme

Research by John Grainger, written by John Banham. May 2016

July 1st 1916, the First day of the Somme, is considered to be the worst single day in the history of the British Army, with 60,000 casualties of whom 20,000 were killed. Twelve soldiers from the Spennymoor area were killed on July 1st; seven have no known graves and are commemorated in France on the Thiepval Memorial.

The series of battles collectively known as The Somme lasted from July to November and a total of 105 soldiers from our area died in them. The list of these men is below. They served in 24 different regiments with just over 40% serving in the Durham Light Infantry (DLI). Although July 1st was the worst single day for casualties, Spennymoor men died throughout the battle and over 60% of the DLI dead were killed in September, October and November.

In particular, the 13th Battalion DLI was involved in heavy fighting in mid-September at Flers–Courcelette, where Corporal Harry Craddock, who lived at Merrington Lane, won the Distinguished Conduct Medal. In October 1916 the Durham Chronicle reported Craddock’s bravery :

The official report states that in an attack on the enemy block in the Munster Alley, Corpl. Craddock begged to be allowed to take up reinforcements to the block established by Lieut. Rees, 18 yards from the enemy. On his way up he rallied some men, who had been bombed out of our block by the enemy, and led them back to the block, where he fought until relieved at 1am, most of his men being killed or wounded. Again at 3 am, he took another bombing party and held the block until relief came at 5 am. During the whole night bombing was intense. He was afterwards promoted to Lance-Sergeant, and along with Sergt Fittes, also of the DLI, when near Martinpuch on September 17, showed great courage, enterprise, and devotion to duty in carrying up grenades through a heavy barrage to the London Regt. in the front line trenches. Their officers had been killed and the guides lost. They proceeded to reconnoitre the country, found the London Regt., returned to their party, and led the men through to their destination, under heavy shell fire.

Harry Craddock, who was also awarded the Military Medal in an earlier action, died of wounds in 1917 during the third battle of Ypres.

Not all medals were awarded fighting on the front line, 18 year old Private Joseph Willis of the Royal Army Medical Corps was awarded the Military Medal for conspicuous gallantry in bringing in the wounded between July 29th and August 4th 1916. Willis, a miner at Westerton Colliery, survived the war and was presented with a gold wrist watch by officials and miners at the colliery.

The spirit of service in saving the wounded is also exemplified by the death of Major Bede Liddell Fenton, the son of Rev. Enos Fenton, the first Vicar of St. Andrew’s. Major Fenton was killed near the German Lines on July 15thsearching for a fellow officer who he believed to have been wounded (he was in fact dead). Bede Fenton, born in Spennymoor but, by 1914, a head teacher in a colonial school in Malaya, returned to England at his own expense to enlist with the Dorsetshire Regiment and had only been in France six weeks when he was killed. By contrast, Sister Kate Maxey of Spennymoor served in with the Territorial Force Nursing Service in France from October 1914 to March 1918, when she was severely wounded in a German air raid. During the Somme battles she was working at the No.1 General Hospital at Etretat on the Normandy coast. One of her colleagues, Edith Appleton, who became a close friend, kept a diary (now published as A Nurse at the Front) and described their experience of receiving trains full of wounded soldiers in early July :

I give up trying to describe it – it beats me. In ordinary times we get a telegraph from Abbeville saying a train with so many on board has left and is coming to us. Then they stopped giving numbers – just said “full train”. Not even a telegram comes – but the full trains do.

From the patient’s perspective, a wounded cricketer from the Spennymoor District wrote anonymously to the Durham Chronicle in September 1916 about his experience after been injured by a German Bomb in the Somme fighting. The newspaper reported:

He struggled to an advanced dressing station and had his wounds attended to. After one leaves the trenches the Red Cross system is perfect. Tommy out in France had the impression that he was not a person of much importance, but what a fairy like change when he was rendered unfit for present service and came across to dear old England. Then he found himself so much respected and tenderly cared for that it was almost worth enduring all the hardships.

After the war, Sister Maxey was one of the first recipients of the Red Cross’s Florence Nightingale Medal.

Some who were wounded on the Somme and transferred to England to hospital, like Gunner Evan David Tolmie of the Royal Field Artillery, did not survive. The following report appeared in the Durham Chronicle on October 6th 1916 :

The funeral of Gunner E D Tolmie, of the R.F.A., took place at Spennymoor Cemetery on Sunday amid every token of sincere respect. He had been wounded in action and succumbed to his wounds in King George’s Hospital, London on Wednesday week. The coffin was carried by members of the Royal Field Artillery, and the service, held in St Paul’s Church was conducted by the Vicar, the Rev G R Cook. After the burial service the firing party presented arms and fired three volleys, after which the “Last Post” was sounded by the buglers.

Gunner Tolmie’s name is commemorated on the St Pauls’ Church and Binchester War Memorials.

As in all wars, not all deaths occurred during action. Rifleman John Frederick Elves of the Kings Royal Rifle Corps was accidentally killed while cleaning a machine gun. Rifleman Elves was a cash and pay clerk at the Weardale Company’s head offices at Tudhoe Ironworks and a promising cricketer with Tudhoe Cricket Club. News of his death was sent to the Elves family by Lieutenant Anthony Eden (of Windlestone Hall, the future Prime Minister) who wrote :

I am very sorry to inform you of the death of your son, which took place at 6 o’clock this morning 10 Aug. He was cleaning a machine gun when it went off accidentally, and the bullet struck him in the thigh. He died more from shock than the actual wound. He was not in my platoon at the time, as he became a machine gunner some little time ago, but I thought I must write and sympathise with you in your great loss. He was always one of the keenest, and cheeriest men of the platoon, and he will be much missed both by us and the machine gunners. Please let me know if there is anything I can do.

By the end of August, the people of Spennymoor were attending services to pay tribute to those killed. As reported in the Durham Chronicle, on Sunday 27 August, there was a crowded congregation at St. Paul’s Church for a service in memory of five soldiers killed in July, two from the DLI, two from the Northumberland Fusiliers and one from the East Yorkshire Regiment.

Before the end of the battle, in November, as well as attending memorial services for the dead, Spennymoor residents were watching a propaganda film – The Battle of the Somme - in the Arcadia Hall in Cheapside. The silent film had its première in London on 10 August 1916 and was released generally on 21 August. It depicts trench warfare, marching infantry, artillery firing on German positions, British troops waiting to attack on 1 July, treatment of wounded British and German soldiers, British and German dead and captured German equipment and positions. A scene during which British troops crouch in a ditch then "go over the top" was staged for the camera behind the lines. The film was a great success, watched by some 20 million British people in the first six weeks of exhibition.

2016 Tudhoe & Spennymoor Local History Society.

Men who died during the Battle of the Somme (July to November 1916)

ALDERSON BertieL/Cpl 4/10201Durham Light Infantry17th August 1916
ALDERSON GeoffreyPte 15699East Yorkshire Regiment20th July 1916
ANDERSON Edgar WilfredRifleman C/883KRRC15th July 1916
ANDERSON ThomasGnr 62763Royal Field Artillery25th September 1916
ARMSTRONG James MMCpl 2636Durham Light Infantry1st October 1916
BAINBRIDGE ChristopherSgt 4/9525Durham Light Infantry15th October 1916
BARKER Charles MMPte 16946Durham Light Infantry7th October 1916
BARLOW ThomasPte 35059KOYLI25th September 1916
BARRETT James AnthonyL/Cpl 27/815Northumberland Fusiliers1st July 1916
BELL James SirrellPte 18260Durham Light Infantry1st July 1916
BELL John GeorgePte 16152Durham Light Infantry7th October 1916
BISHOP ThomasPte 28826Machine Gun Corps7th July 1916
BLOWER ThomasPte 19753Yorkshire Regiment1st July 1916
BRADLEY ArthurRifleman C/12982KRRC30th September 1916
BROADLEY John WilliamPte 18/1293Durham Light Infantry1st July 1916
BROWN WilliamPte 16630Yorkshire Regiment23rd July 1916
BULMER WalterPte 22/1055Durham Light Infantry14th November 1916
BURDESS JohnPte 3/12313Durham Light Infantry3rd September 1916
BURTON JohnPte 3/19185East Yorkshire Regiment2nd July 1916
BUTTERFIELD Frederick A. T.Rifleman R/20065KRRC15th September 1916
CADMAN JohnAB TZ/6626Royal Naval Division, RNVR13th November 1916
CLARK Joseph DoddsGnr 59363Royal Garrison Artillery18th July 1916
CLOSE William HenryRifleman C/12604KRRC17th September 1916
CONN ThomasGnr L/7488Royal Field Artillery16th August 1916
CORNISH RichardPte 14918East Yorkshire Regiment1st July 1916
COWENS JohnRifleman C/1180KRRC16th August 1916
CRAIG William AlexanderCpl 18/456Durham Light Infantry27th July 1916
CUNNINGHAM JamesPte 19897Gloucester Regiment25th October 1916
DALKIN FenwickPte 16144Durham Light Infantry7th August 1916
DOWSON George WilliamPte 22996KOYLI1st July 1916
DRAYCOTT James WilliamPte 15650Coldstream Guards15th September 1916
DUFF EdwardPte 18684KOSB20th July 1916
EBDEN WilliamPte 18250Yorkshire Regiment27th September 1916
EDWARDS RobertSgt 13002Border Regiment7th August 1916
EGGLESTONE ThomasPte 8659Durham Light Infantry13th October 1916
ELLIS CharlesCpl 23844Durham Light Infantry18th September 1916
ELVES SamuelPte 3/12139Durham Light Infantry4th August 1916
ENGLISH Richard HenryPte 3475Durham Light Infantry16th September 1916
FENTON Bede LiddellMajorDorsetshire Regiment15th July 1916
FINLEY JosephL/Cpl 4130Border Regiment1st July 1916
FOXCROFT John JosephPte 19806Yorkshire Regiment30th September 1916
GARRETT JosephPte 17946East Yorkshire Regiment16th September 1916
GRAHAM Benjamin RichardsonA/Bomb. 92Machine Gun Corps18th November 1916
HAMER CharlesPte 2797Durham Light Infantry1st October 1916
HANSON ErnestPte G/6005Royal Sussex Regiment15th July 1916
HARDY George HowL/Cpl 19783Yorkshire Regiment1st July 1916
HERRING Thomas OranPte 30170Durham Light Infantry25th July 1916
HETHERINGTON ArthurCpl 2558Durham Light Infantry1st October 1916
HETHERINGTON HerbertPte 17092Yorkshire Regiment6th July 1916
HIGGINBOTTOM RobertPte 52263Cheshire Regiment3rd November 1916
HODGSON John Wm Blamire MMSpr 79836Royal Engineers9th July 1916
HODGSON ThomasPte 13506Durham Light Infantry18th September 1916
HOPE John Richardson MMPte 18612Durham Light Infantry18th September 1916
HOPPS ThomasPte 20/1480Northumberland Fusiliers1st July 1916
HOWE RobertL/Cpl 1691Durham Light Infantry16th September 1916
HUGHES Joseph HenryPte 24552Durham Light Infantry2nd July 1916
HUNTER George PricePte 20227Yorkshire Regiment17th September 1916
HUTCHINSON George WilliamSgt 20/322Durham Light Infantry11th October 1916
JACKSON RobertPte 799Durham Light Infantry24th August 1916
JOHNSON AlfredPte 250328Durham Light Infantry1st October 1916
LAWSON FrankPte 2843Durham Light Infantry6th July 1916
LIDSTER ReubenPte 10349East Surrey Regiment3rd July 1916
LINSLEY JohnPte 24381Yorkshire Regiment10th July 1916
LOWE JamesPte 13972Yorkshire Regiment5th July 1916
LOWERY JamesPte 19180East Yorkshire Regiment16th September 1916
MAUGHAN William HenryCpl 6/2068Durham Light Infantry2nd October 1916
McCORMACK JamesPte 3/10298Durham Light Infantry28th August 1916
MILLER George BarnwellL/Sgt 428Durham Light Infantry25th July 1916
MOAN John WilliamL/Cpl 200162Durham Light Infantry18th September 1916
NORTHCOTE William HenryPte 20330Yorkshire Regiment28th September 1916
OYSTON ThomasPte 17949East Yorkshire Regiment3rd October 1916
PARROT John RobertPte 4/7519West Yorks Regiment13th September 1916
PARRY HerbertPte 15979Durham Light Infantry17th July 1916
PAYNE John EdwardPte 22/447Durham Light Infantry13th August 1916
PROCTER JamesAB KP/676Royal Naval Division, RNVR13th November 1916
RAINE RobertSapper 175601Royal Engineers15th October 1916
RICHARDSON HarryPte 2911Durham Light Infantry5th November 1916
RICHARDSON ThomasPte 2910Durham Light Infantry15th September 1916
ROBINSON Thomas Naylor2nd LtDurham Light Infantry25th September 1916
RYDER JosephPte 20675Northumberland Fusiliers2nd August 1916
SELBY John JamesPte 16564Border Regiment9th August 1916
SMITH George EdwardPte 6/2939Durham Light Infantry9th November 1916
SMITH Peter ButsonSgt 11273Durham Light Infantry20th July 1916
SNOW Philip ArthurCpl 18/379Durham Light Infantry1st July 1916
SNOWBALL JohnL/Cpl 17111Durham Light Infantry30th September 1916
THOMAS JamesPte 20273Yorkshire Regiment1st July 1916
TOLMIE Sydney AugustusPte 15628Yorkshire Regiment28th September 1916
TUNSTALL JamesPte 20082Royal Lancaster Regiment1st July 1916
TURNBULL RobertPte 4487Durham Light Infantry1st October 1916
WALKER John HenryLS TZ/2387Royal Naval Division, RNVR13th November 1916
WALTERS Arthur RobinsonL/Cpl 1715Durham Light Infantry5th November 1916
WARD JohnPte 6570West Riding Regiment22nd September 1916
WATERS RobertA/Cpl 20581Yorkshire Regiment23rd July 1916
WATSON JohnPte 21062Bedfordshire Regiment30th July 1916
WELSH ArthurPte 3001Durham Light Infantry5th November 1916
WELSH Thomas A.Pte 2987Durham Light Infantry1st October 1916
WEST MatthewGnr 34217Royal Field Artillery24th July 1916
WHITE George PeterCpl 19/337Durham Light Infantry23rd August 1916
WHITE John ThomasPte 3116Durham Light Infantry1st October 1916
WHITE Joseph DrydenPte 16233Yorkshire Regiment8th July 1916
WHITE WilliamPte 14871East Yorkshire Regiment13th November 1916
WILKIN JamesPte 30484Durham Light Infantry5th September 1916
WILLIS Ralph CurrySaddler 73239Royal Field Artillery4th August 1916
WILSON Edwin JohnPte 51268RAMC26th July 1916
WILSON JamesPte 18658Yorkshire Regiment16th September 1916
WOODHALL James MurrayPte 5519Northumberland Fusiliers5th July 1916
YOUNG WilliamPte 17105East Yorkshire Regiment14th July 1916

Spennymoor People in World War I

These links are part of the Durham at War website (Durham County Record Office). Supporting material was produced as part of a First World War Centenary commemorative exhibition entitled ‘Spennymoor’s Great War’, held at the Bob Abley Gallery, Spennymoor Town Hall, during August 2014.

Herbert Bewick Dees
Herbert Bewick Dees, Pte 1413, 18th Battalion Durham Light Infantry. Bert Dees, who was one of the original artists forming the Spennymoor Settlement Sketching Club, served briefly in the Durham Light Infantry during the Great War.
Additional information and pdf are available from the supporting material on the Durham At War website.
Contributed by John Banham.
Kate Maxey (1876-1969)Kate Maxey was a Spennymoor nursing sister who had a distinguished career on the Western Front.
More information about Kate Maxey, and other Spennymoor people who were in the medical services in the First World War, is available in our film Behind the Lines which is currently in production.
Further information and pdf are available from the supporting material on the Durham At War website.
Contributed by John Banham.

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