"The Awesome Hen"

All about Life in Castle Coop!

Stir-up Sunday

Posted by on Nov 24, 2014 in Castle Coop News | 0 comments

Stir-up Sunday

Stir-up Sunday


Stir-up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people;
that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works,
may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Trev the Rev reminded us all that today, the last Sunday before Advent,  is ‘Stir-up Sunday’, the traditional day for everyone in the family to take a turn at stirring the Christmas pudding, whilst making a wish.

Stir-up Sunday

image: icon Christmas Pudding Traditions

A Christmas pudding is traditionally made with 13 ingredients to represent Christ and His Disciples.

A proper Christmas pudding is always stirred from East to West in honour of the three Wise Men who visited the baby Jesus.

Every member of the family must give the pudding a stir and make a secret wish.

A coin was traditionally added to the ingredients and cooked in the pudding. It was supposedly to bring wealth to whoever found it on their plate on Christmas Day. The traditional coin was an old silver sixpence or threepenny bit.

Other traditional additions to the pudding included a ring, to foretell a marriage, and a thimble for a lucky life.

(source: Project Britain)

Christmas Pudding Anxieties:

I’m afraid Trev the Rev’s on a highway to nowhere.  We’ve all been told already that nothing we can make at home will have a hope of tasting as good as Morrison’s Signature Jewelled Fruit Christmas Pudding on sale at £3.99. Apparently it is ”simply majestic” . (Source: Telegraph: Best Christmas Pudding Poll)

Fortnum and Mason’s Christmas pudding is reported by the Telegraph to taste like ” a citrus bathroom cleaner ” so Lady Eftie Nudge might have a problem this year.

Christmas pudding dilemma



No-one in our family will eat Christmas pudding -either majestic or bathroom-cleaner style- except for the Agent who might have a tiny bit for breakfast on Boxing Day so long as it’s cold. I hope he doesn’t get the Bachelor’s Button, even if it is meant to be lucky. I think I’ll make sure he get’s the Ring.

Yours beginning to feel anxious about all the Christmas worries that sneak up on one at this time of year,

LLH signature






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WW1 Army Training Camps

Posted by on Nov 21, 2014 in World War 1 Centenary | 6 comments

WW1 Army Training Camps


In memoriam Bede College, A Co, 8th Battalion DLI…

Part 2

(click here for Part 1)



Enlisting in the Territorial Army just before the outbreak of WW1:

“Any smart lad who wants good pay, good food and good sport should join this distinguished regiment”


















Picture credit: The Durham Light Infantry Museum


When WLS became a student at Durham in 1913, there was a Territorial Unit already attached to Bede College. He and his best friends, Tutty and Bob H enrolled immediately as did all their fellow undergraduates . None of them had any idea that WW1 was imminent and none of them had any intention of becoming soldiers rather than teachers.

Once a week, instead of playing sport in the afternoons, the Bede Collegers would put on their army field dress and were drilled by the Sergeant Instructor. They drilled, marched and practiced loading and firing their rifles. In the summers, they were sent off to Army Training Camps.

In 1914, there were 50 students in the Junior Year at Bede College Durham  and 51 in the Senior Year. All were enlisted in the Territorial unit attached to the College and together they formed A Company of the 8th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry. In those days, a Company was made up of 100 men,  8 companies forming together to make up the Battalion. When A Company was sent to the Front in 1915, 99 men from Bede went to France. The only 2 who were missing were one who was medically unfit and one CO (conscientious objector).

WW1 Army Training Camps:

Years later, the distinguished American  John Pershing  (who became General of the Armies,the highest authorised rank in the United States Army), wrote about British Army Training Camps during this time:


“Soon after our arrival in Europe careful study was made of the methods followed by our Allies in training combat troops. Both the French and British maintained continuously a great system of schools and training centres, which provided for both theoretical and practical instruction of inexperienced officers and non-commissioned officers.

These centres were required not only to train new troops, but to prepare officers and soldiers for advancement by giving them a short course in the duties of their new grades. These school systems made it possible to spread rapidly a knowledge of the latest methods developed by experience and at the same time counteract false notions…

…The rifle and the bayonet are the principal weapons of the infantry soldier. He will be trained to a high degree of skill as a marksman, both on the target range and in field firing. An aggressive spirit must be developed until the soldier feels himself, as a bayonet fighter, invincible in battle…”



By 1914, these camps were dotted all around the country.

Durham Light Infantry recruits in training, 1915.

Picture credit: Tynemouth 1914-18

Sometimes the soldiers were housed in wooden huts but the students from Bede College camped out in tents like the ones pictured below.

 Manchester Training Camp:

army training camp 2








Ashridge Camp, Ashridge Park, Herts, Training Camp

troops-ashridge-1914-marching-tents w1200


In all, WLS  together with his fellow students from Bede spent a month in Army Training Camps in Scarborough and Conway.

At the Camps, they were issued with their kit including several pairs of Army Ammunition boots. Most of these apparently they immediately sold on to miners who deemed them perfect for working down the pits. (I shouldn’t think John Pershing or his fellow British Army bigwigs knew about this particular method of income supplementation.)

WW1 army ammunition boots


One pair of Army Ammunition boots however, WLS made sure to hang onto for they were  the ‘most comfortable boots I ever had in my life!’

He said they lasted him throughout the 15 months he spent serving in the Army and ensured he never any trouble with his feet whilst in the trenches.



Years later, WLS made a recording about his memories of those days, He didn’t mention anything that sounds at all like John Pershing’s description of training camps – nothing about being “trained to a high degree of skill as a marksman, both on the target range and in field firing” or about being turned into “… a  bayonet fighter, invincible in battle” .

Instead WLS  seemed to have only happy memories of his Training Camp days. He described how they were given every afternoon off to go off into Scarborough or Conway to have fun and gave his verdict as, “We all enjoyed it!”.

WLS at Conway


In this photograph taken at Conway Army Training Camp in 1914, these 10 friends from Bede are posing for the camera in front of their field tent with their pipes &  bottles of beer placed as prominently as their rifles & bayonets. WLS  (aged 20) is pictured seated in the second row in the middle of the group, Tutty is in the middle of the top row without a cap, leaning on Bob H (in field dress) next to the chap with the mallet on his shoulder.


None of these young men had factored the outbreak of WW1 into their plans for the future.


Yours ever,

The Agent signature


(Click here for Part 1)

WW1 Centenary Information Correspondent: The Agent is passionate about barbecues and Manchester Utd. Football Team; he has just returned from a trip to Ypres where he has been researching WLS’s WW1 experiences and is helping to co-ordinate Castle Coop’s WW1 Commemorations.


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Cinema Society Outing: Mr Turner

Posted by on Nov 13, 2014 in Castle Coop News | 2 comments

Cinema Society Outing: Mr Turner




Cinema Society Outing: Mr Turner

(from our Film and TV correspondent, The Graf von Blommenhön)




There was an excellent turn-out from the Castle Coop Cinema Society members for November’s cinema outing; three cars were needed to transport us all to Basingstoke to see Mike Leigh’s Mr Turner, last Sunday afternoon.

Mr Turner











Image credit: www.imdb.com

Mr. Turner explores the last quarter century of the great if eccentric British painter J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851). Profoundly affected by the death of his father, loved by a housekeeper he takes for granted and occasionally exploits sexually, he forms a close relationship with a seaside landlady with whom he eventually lives incognito in Chelsea, where he dies. Throughout this, he travels, paints, stays with the country aristocracy, visits brothels, is a popular if anarchic member of the Royal Academy of Arts, has himself strapped to the mast of a ship so that he can paint a snowstorm, and is both celebrated and reviled by the public and by royalty.(www.imdb.com – written by Entertainment One.)

In this YouTube video posted below,  Mike Lean describes his take on Turner and the excitement he’s derived as a director from making the film.

YouTube video posted by The Tate.


Colonel Pyncheon was especially keen to see how the film depicts Turner painting ‘The Fighting Temeraire’ which the artist bequeathed to the nation in 1851. Having helped the picture be recognised as the UK’s favourite painting by voting in the poll organised by BBC Radio 4  in 2005, Col. P periodically goes up to London to the National Gallery where it is hanging.

Most of our group greatly enjoyed the film and would recommend it to others but it was noticed that unfortunately both Lady Egality and Lady Liberty fell fast asleep fairly early on.

Cinema outing

Next Castle Coop Film Society Outing:

Suggestions are welcome for our next cinema outing. Possible choices are:

N.B. The Imitation Game, Testament of Youth and Suite Française are earmarked as films the Castle Coop Cinema Society might wish to go and see when they are released.

Yours faithfully,


Signature The Graf grey




Film and TV Correspondent: Although the Graf always summers in Scandinavia, he is back in Castle Coop and as Chairman of our Cinema Society would like to extend a warm welcome to anyone who wishes to become a virtual member.






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Armistice Day: in memoriam Bede College, A Co, 8th Battalion DLI

Posted by on Nov 11, 2014 in World War 1 Centenary | 4 comments

Armistice Day: in memoriam Bede College, A Co, 8th Battalion DLI

Armistice Day: in memoriam Bede College, A Co, 8th Battalion DLI…


I cycled the Royal British Legion’s Pedal2Paris ride in memory of WLS.

He was wounded fighting in Ypres in May 1915 but unlike those commemorated by the Ceramic Poppies at the Tower of London, survived to live a long and happy life.




During the four days of the cycle ride at memorial services held in Calais, Abbeville, Beauvais & Paris, I thought a lot about WLS and his 2 best friends at college, Tutty

Tutty freshers' photo















& Bob H

Bob H 1

















They enlisted together and I wondered about what happened to them after they marched out of Durham on their way to fight in WW1.

Since I returned,  the Agent has been very busy trying to discover all that he could about  A Company, 8th Battalion DLI during the time they were serving near Ypres and has volunteered to write down his findings for The Awesome Hen.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                From Durham to Ypres…

Part 1

Following the outbreak of WW1 in 1914, WLS enlisted in the Durham Light Infantry, joining the 8th Battalion, A Company. Although he came from Corbridge in Northumberland and his younger brother Joe joined the Northumberland Fusiliers, WLS was a student member of Bede College (now The College of St Hild and St Bede), Durham University, (Picture credit: The Collegiate Way)

Hild Bede College






and so joined the DLI with all his college friends.

The undergraduate students were formed into a Territorial Unit which became A Company in the 8th Battalion of the DLI.

Photographs  show these young men who were all training to be teachers, busy enjoying every aspect of university life.Bede cricket


Before they’d celebrated their 21st birthdays, WLS, Tutty and Bob H. had  exchanged their football kit & cricket bats for  DLI cap badges.

DLI cap badge




It is difficult looking at WLS’s Bede College Freshers’ photograph

Freshers-photo WLS 3


knowing that none of the men pictured nor their families had any idea that they would all be swept up in WW1 within months of this photograph being taken .


Part 2 to follow.


Yours ever,

The Agent signature



WW1 Centenary Information Correspondent: The Agent is passionate about barbecues and Manchester Utd. Football Team; he has just returned from a trip to Ypres where he has been researching WLS’s WW1 experiences and is helping to co-ordinate Castle Coop’s WW1 commemorations.


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