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.
|ALDERSON Bertie||L/Cpl 4/10201||Durham Light Infantry||17th August 1916|
|ALDERSON Geoffrey||Pte 15699||East Yorkshire Regiment||20th July 1916|
|ANDERSON Edgar Wilfred||Rifleman C/883||KRRC||15th July 1916|
|ANDERSON Thomas||Gnr 62763||Royal Field Artillery||25th September 1916|
|ARMSTRONG James MM||Cpl 2636||Durham Light Infantry||1st October 1916|
|BAINBRIDGE Christopher||Sgt 4/9525||Durham Light Infantry||15th October 1916|
|BARKER Charles MM||Pte 16946||Durham Light Infantry||7th October 1916|
|BARLOW Thomas||Pte 35059||KOYLI||25th September 1916|
|BARRETT James Anthony||L/Cpl 27/815||Northumberland Fusiliers||1st July 1916|
|BELL James Sirrell||Pte 18260||Durham Light Infantry||1st July 1916|
|BELL John George||Pte 16152||Durham Light Infantry||7th October 1916|
|BISHOP Thomas||Pte 28826||Machine Gun Corps||7th July 1916|
|BLOWER Thomas||Pte 19753||Yorkshire Regiment||1st July 1916|
|BRADLEY Arthur||Rifleman C/12982||KRRC||30th September 1916|
|BROADLEY John William||Pte 18/1293||Durham Light Infantry||1st July 1916|
|BROWN William||Pte 16630||Yorkshire Regiment||23rd July 1916|
|BULMER Walter||Pte 22/1055||Durham Light Infantry||14th November 1916|
|BURDESS John||Pte 3/12313||Durham Light Infantry||3rd September 1916|
|BURTON John||Pte 3/19185||East Yorkshire Regiment||2nd July 1916|
|BUTTERFIELD Frederick A. T.||Rifleman R/20065||KRRC||15th September 1916|
|CADMAN John||AB TZ/6626||Royal Naval Division, RNVR||13th November 1916|
|CLARK Joseph Dodds||Gnr 59363||Royal Garrison Artillery||18th July 1916|
|CLOSE William Henry||Rifleman C/12604||KRRC||17th September 1916|
|CONN Thomas||Gnr L/7488||Royal Field Artillery||16th August 1916|
|CORNISH Richard||Pte 14918||East Yorkshire Regiment||1st July 1916|
|COWENS John||Rifleman C/1180||KRRC||16th August 1916|
|CRAIG William Alexander||Cpl 18/456||Durham Light Infantry||27th July 1916|
|CUNNINGHAM James||Pte 19897||Gloucester Regiment||25th October 1916|
|DALKIN Fenwick||Pte 16144||Durham Light Infantry||7th August 1916|
|DOWSON George William||Pte 22996||KOYLI||1st July 1916|
|DRAYCOTT James William||Pte 15650||Coldstream Guards||15th September 1916|
|DUFF Edward||Pte 18684||KOSB||20th July 1916|
|EBDEN William||Pte 18250||Yorkshire Regiment||27th September 1916|
|EDWARDS Robert||Sgt 13002||Border Regiment||7th August 1916|
|EGGLESTONE Thomas||Pte 8659||Durham Light Infantry||13th October 1916|
|ELLIS Charles||Cpl 23844||Durham Light Infantry||18th September 1916|
|ELVES Samuel||Pte 3/12139||Durham Light Infantry||4th August 1916|
|ENGLISH Richard Henry||Pte 3475||Durham Light Infantry||16th September 1916|
|FENTON Bede Liddell||Major||Dorsetshire Regiment||15th July 1916|
|FINLEY Joseph||L/Cpl 4130||Border Regiment||1st July 1916|
|FOXCROFT John Joseph||Pte 19806||Yorkshire Regiment||30th September 1916|
|GARRETT Joseph||Pte 17946||East Yorkshire Regiment||16th September 1916|
|GRAHAM Benjamin Richardson||A/Bomb. 92||Machine Gun Corps||18th November 1916|
|HAMER Charles||Pte 2797||Durham Light Infantry||1st October 1916|
|HANSON Ernest||Pte G/6005||Royal Sussex Regiment||15th July 1916|
|HARDY George How||L/Cpl 19783||Yorkshire Regiment||1st July 1916|
|HERRING Thomas Oran||Pte 30170||Durham Light Infantry||25th July 1916|
|HETHERINGTON Arthur||Cpl 2558||Durham Light Infantry||1st October 1916|
|HETHERINGTON Herbert||Pte 17092||Yorkshire Regiment||6th July 1916|
|HIGGINBOTTOM Robert||Pte 52263||Cheshire Regiment||3rd November 1916|
|HODGSON John Wm Blamire MM||Spr 79836||Royal Engineers||9th July 1916|
|HODGSON Thomas||Pte 13506||Durham Light Infantry||18th September 1916|
|HOPE John Richardson MM||Pte 18612||Durham Light Infantry||18th September 1916|
|HOPPS Thomas||Pte 20/1480||Northumberland Fusiliers||1st July 1916|
|HOWE Robert||L/Cpl 1691||Durham Light Infantry||16th September 1916|
|HUGHES Joseph Henry||Pte 24552||Durham Light Infantry||2nd July 1916|
|HUNTER George Price||Pte 20227||Yorkshire Regiment||17th September 1916|
|HUTCHINSON George William||Sgt 20/322||Durham Light Infantry||11th October 1916|
|JACKSON Robert||Pte 799||Durham Light Infantry||24th August 1916|
|JOHNSON Alfred||Pte 250328||Durham Light Infantry||1st October 1916|
|LAWSON Frank||Pte 2843||Durham Light Infantry||6th July 1916|
|LIDSTER Reuben||Pte 10349||East Surrey Regiment||3rd July 1916|
|LINSLEY John||Pte 24381||Yorkshire Regiment||10th July 1916|
|LOWE James||Pte 13972||Yorkshire Regiment||5th July 1916|
|LOWERY James||Pte 19180||East Yorkshire Regiment||16th September 1916|
|MAUGHAN William Henry||Cpl 6/2068||Durham Light Infantry||2nd October 1916|
|McCORMACK James||Pte 3/10298||Durham Light Infantry||28th August 1916|
|MILLER George Barnwell||L/Sgt 428||Durham Light Infantry||25th July 1916|
|MOAN John William||L/Cpl 200162||Durham Light Infantry||18th September 1916|
|NORTHCOTE William Henry||Pte 20330||Yorkshire Regiment||28th September 1916|
|OYSTON Thomas||Pte 17949||East Yorkshire Regiment||3rd October 1916|
|PARROT John Robert||Pte 4/7519||West Yorks Regiment||13th September 1916|
|PARRY Herbert||Pte 15979||Durham Light Infantry||17th July 1916|
|PAYNE John Edward||Pte 22/447||Durham Light Infantry||13th August 1916|
|PROCTER James||AB KP/676||Royal Naval Division, RNVR||13th November 1916|
|RAINE Robert||Sapper 175601||Royal Engineers||15th October 1916|
|RICHARDSON Harry||Pte 2911||Durham Light Infantry||5th November 1916|
|RICHARDSON Thomas||Pte 2910||Durham Light Infantry||15th September 1916|
|ROBINSON Thomas Naylor||2nd Lt||Durham Light Infantry||25th September 1916|
|RYDER Joseph||Pte 20675||Northumberland Fusiliers||2nd August 1916|
|SELBY John James||Pte 16564||Border Regiment||9th August 1916|
|SMITH George Edward||Pte 6/2939||Durham Light Infantry||9th November 1916|
|SMITH Peter Butson||Sgt 11273||Durham Light Infantry||20th July 1916|
|SNOW Philip Arthur||Cpl 18/379||Durham Light Infantry||1st July 1916|
|SNOWBALL John||L/Cpl 17111||Durham Light Infantry||30th September 1916|
|THOMAS James||Pte 20273||Yorkshire Regiment||1st July 1916|
|TOLMIE Sydney Augustus||Pte 15628||Yorkshire Regiment||28th September 1916|
|TUNSTALL James||Pte 20082||Royal Lancaster Regiment||1st July 1916|
|TURNBULL Robert||Pte 4487||Durham Light Infantry||1st October 1916|
|WALKER John Henry||LS TZ/2387||Royal Naval Division, RNVR||13th November 1916|
|WALTERS Arthur Robinson||L/Cpl 1715||Durham Light Infantry||5th November 1916|
|WARD John||Pte 6570||West Riding Regiment||22nd September 1916|
|WATERS Robert||A/Cpl 20581||Yorkshire Regiment||23rd July 1916|
|WATSON John||Pte 21062||Bedfordshire Regiment||30th July 1916|
|WELSH Arthur||Pte 3001||Durham Light Infantry||5th November 1916|
|WELSH Thomas A.||Pte 2987||Durham Light Infantry||1st October 1916|
|WEST Matthew||Gnr 34217||Royal Field Artillery||24th July 1916|
|WHITE George Peter||Cpl 19/337||Durham Light Infantry||23rd August 1916|
|WHITE John Thomas||Pte 3116||Durham Light Infantry||1st October 1916|
|WHITE Joseph Dryden||Pte 16233||Yorkshire Regiment||8th July 1916|
|WHITE William||Pte 14871||East Yorkshire Regiment||13th November 1916|
|WILKIN James||Pte 30484||Durham Light Infantry||5th September 1916|
|WILLIS Ralph Curry||Saddler 73239||Royal Field Artillery||4th August 1916|
|WILSON Edwin John||Pte 51268||RAMC||26th July 1916|
|WILSON James||Pte 18658||Yorkshire Regiment||16th September 1916|
|WOODHALL James Murray||Pte 5519||Northumberland Fusiliers||5th July 1916|
|YOUNG William||Pte 17105||East Yorkshire Regiment||14th July 1916|
|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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