World War 1 Centenary

The Agent is helping to co-ordinate Castle Coop’s efforts to commemorate WW1. Villagers have visited the battlefields in Ypres and the Somme in 2014 and more trips are planned for next year.

A wreath for the Gravenstafel Ridge Memorial

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A wreath for the Gravenstafel Ridge Memorial




A wreath for the Gravenstafel Ridge Memorial:


Clive Bowery from the DLI Association laid a wreath to honour all the young men

who fought at the Battle of Gravenstafel Ridge 100 years ago.

Gravenstafel memorial












We thought of those who were wounded or taken prisoner on April 26th 1915,


in remembrance wreathfrom DLI Assoc

and we remembered those who were killed.



“Remembered with Honour”:

One of the thousands (54,399) of names carved on the Menin Gate, which commemorates those fallen men whose graves are unknown, is that of poor Bob H.

Menin Gate Memorial












He died aged 21, almost immediately on reaching the trenches. He was his parents’ only child.

Commemorated in perpetuity 1


Yours ever,

The Agent signature

WW1 Centenary Information Correspondent: The Agent 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.


Stop Press:

This message has been posted in the Telegraph Announcements:

In grateful memory of A Company (Captain F G Harvey) and the gallant teachers, graduates and students of Bede College, Durham who gave their lives for King and Empire when the company was overrun during a desperate last ditch stand to hold the forward point of the line at Boetleer Farm, St Julien, 2nd Ypres, 100 years ago today. Remembering also those take prisoner and held first as POWs at Lager II, Munster and later as forced labour in the Silesian mines, 1915-1918, including Private Frank Orr. ‘Faithful’.

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An Anniversary, April 25th 1915 – 2015

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An Anniversary, April 25th 1915 – 2015



An Anniversary, April 25th 1915 – 2015

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Gravenstafel Ridge, April 25th 1915.

The College of St. Hild and St. Bede, Durham University is holding a Ceremony of Sounding Retreat at the college War Memorial to commemorate the occasion.

Bede War memorial enlarged









The War Memorial at St Hild and St Bede College, Durham University.

At the War Memorial today, everyone will be thinking of the young student teachers who posed so confidently for their freshman photograph in the autumn of 1912. They were looking forward to 2 interesting years at Durham University in which they would be taught the skills needed to pursue a fulfilling career in teaching, their chosen profession:

Bede College Freshmen 1912 (titled)


Throughout 1913 and most of 1914, these Bede boys filled their days with study and all those college activities – journalism, music drama and sport – which make up student life.  They were at the Army Training Camp in Conway, North Wales posing for photographs with pipes and bottles of beer when they heard that the outbreak of WW1 was imminent on August 3rd 1914.

WW1 army training camp group. 1914


They spent their last night in their college after rushing back to Durham to be formally mobilised on August 4th 1914 before being sent to the east coast near Whitburn, to guard against invasion.

They formed part of A Company, of the 8th DLI and afer eight months of coastal duty and training  and they all jumped onto the ‘Berlin Express’  at Newcastle station, joking ‘Bede v. the Kaiser’!


Less than 2 years after their freshers’ photograph was taken, these ‘Bede boys’, most of whom had never been further afield from Durham than Conway and the east coast, found themselves being rushed to the front line near Ypres just hours after the first poison gas attack of the War. Their orders were to try to hold a four mile gap in the Allies’ defences.

They were teachers, not soldiers, they were all full of life and none of them was older than 21.

Sitting on those red London buses singing and cheering, with brand new wills in their pockets and dressings and iodine to treat the wounds they would sustain in their field packs, they were enroute to the guns on the front line. Among them were:


WLS as a freshman


Tutty freshers' photo














& Bob H

Bob H 1
















An invitation:

The college kindly sent me an invitation to attend The Ceremony of Sounding Retreat.

Invitation to Bede ceremony for 100th Anniversary


However, I cannot go.  I am in Ypres with the Chairman of the Village Hall. We are spending  the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Gravenstafel Ridge on the battlefield.

Yours ever,

The Agent signature

WW1 Centenary Information Correspondent: The Agent 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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Off to the Trenches

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Off to the Trenches






Off to the Trenches

 April 22nd 1915, 

‘Nothing of any importance occurred this day’.

(Source: War Diary, National Archive)

Unfortunately this statement wasn’t accurate.

The first gas attack of WW1

On the afternoon of April 22nd at around 5.00pm, the Germans unleashed the first poison (cholorine) gas attack on trenches north of Ypres.. At around 5.00 pm , French sentries in Ypres noticed a yellow-green cloud moving towards them – a gas delivered from pressurised cylinders dug into the German front line between Steenstraat and Langemarck. They thought that it was a smokescreen to disguise the movement forwards of German troops. As such, all troops in the area were ordered to the firing line of their trench – right in the path of the chlorine. Its impact was immediate and devastating. It caused immediate asphyxiation and 6,000 casualties. Despite the Canadians heroically trying to hold out against the enemy, the gas attack opened a four mile hole in the allied defences and created an opportunity for the Germans to advance into the strategically important Ypres salient. 

Reinforcements were needed immediately.

(Source: The Northern Echo)


April 23rd 1915

War Diaries National Archive. April 23rd:

11am: Orders received  from Brigade HQ to prepare to move forward at once to the fighting line

1.45pm: The Bn. concentrated just north of CASSEL and proceeded by march route to RIVELD.

                From here orders were received to proceed at once to STEENVOORDE.

                Large numbers of French troops were seen here proceeding north in lorries.

5pm:      The Bn. left in two parties in motor buses for POPERINGHE and onwards to VLAMERTINGHE.

                Here the Bn. went into billets at the W end of the town.

                The following information was received at VLAMERTINGHE.

11pm:    The French had been attacked by the Germans with poisonous gas and the former had given way.

               The Canadians had filled the gap and were winning back the lost ground.

               Very heavy artillery fire could be heard and YPRES was reported to be heavily bombarded.

As April 23rd dawned, the 8th [Battalion DLI] received its emergency call-up.

With the noise of the distant guns getting louder, the Durhams marched to Steenvoorde, where they gathered in a field, were issued with dressings and phials of iodine to treat the injuries they were going to sustain, and those who had not yet done so were ordered to make a will. Then a fleet of red Lond double-decker buses carried them towards the guns.

The moon shone down on a strange scene for us –  a faint mist covered the ground. Our buses swayed and bumped along the uneven pave. The men were in excellent spirits, and sang and cheered like boys out for a school treat. – Capt. Harvey.

(Source: The Northern Echo)


Saturday 24th April:

On April 24th, the red London buses dropped off the Bede boys who had been trained as teachers rather than soldiers, near Ypres. They marched through the devastated town, its buildings collapsing into the streets and its roads blocked with dead bodies.. German missiles were flying overhead, and gassed and injured Canadian soldiers were flooding into the town from the opposite direction. Then it started to rain heavily, soaking their greatcoats.

Leaving Ypres, the 8th Battalion marched through the night towards the front, the noise getting louder, the very lights getting brighter and the stream of casualties turning into a torrent.

Just before dawn on April 25th, the 8th DLI stopped at Boetleer’s Farm at the top of Gravenstafel Ridge. Two companies, the Bede boys in A and the Durham Pals in D were selected to walk down the ridge, picking their way past dead bodies, to the partially – flooded trenches. The shattered Canadians in the trenches were delighted to see them and showed them how to wet a cloth and place it over the face to protect from gas.

Then the Canadians left, leaving the Durhams – who had never fired a shot in anger – beside the gap in the lines through which the Germans were about to flood.

(Sources: The Northern Echo & Harry Moses)



                All the morning the Bn. stood by ready to turn out.

                The heavy artillery fire continued.

6.30pm:  The Bn. turned out and proceeded east through YPRES to the fighting line where it went into action.

                Casualties of the fighting were:                 OFFICERS                                             OTHER RANKS



                                                                KILLED                                   8                                                              81

                                                                WOUNDED                         9                                                              153

                                                                MISSING                              2                                                              340


                                                                TOTAL                                   19                                                           574

(Source: War Diaries National Archive)


Yours ever,
The Agent signature
WW1 Centenary Information Correspondent: The Agent 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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April 21st and 22nd, 1915

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April 21st and 22nd, 1915





April 21st 1915




Day spent in inspections and issuing stores.

A telegram was received from HM The King.

War Diary April 21 1915 (arrow)

The numbers arriving at STE Marie CAPPEL were:

Officers                29

Other ranks        1001

April 21st & 22nd War Diary

(Source: War Diary National Archive)

It was usual for  novice soldiers to be introduced slowly to the horrors of the trenches. The plan was for the Bede boys in A Company, 8th Battalion DLI to do more training before being placed in a quiet area on the front with more experienced troops to break them in.

Ste. Marie Cappel – a  first hand account of April 21st :

In an account later published in book form, H. W. Tustin recorded his memories of the 21st April, a shortened extract of which I reproduce below:

A hen fluttering down from its perch on to my face aroused me…The stench of a sodden pigsty steamed up through the loose boards of the soiled hay which made our common bed.

It was not a sweet billet this; but neither the hens above nor the pigs below had disturbed us..We had passed the night oblivious of the fitful glare and rumble of distant gunfire – careless even of the tearing reverberation of bombs dropped near us during this, our second night in France – for we were dog-tired, and, being Tommies of a Northern Territorial regiment, had learned to make the most of the little rest allowed.

We were still drowsy on that cold Wednesday morning of 21 April 1915 ..but … we stirred ourselves into activity. One or two hardy warriors bathed in the duck pond near at hand and emerged declaring themselves much refreshed…

The morning was occupied in routine work and wearisome inspections and parades, and then in the afternoon, we were free to explore the village of Sainte-Marie-Cappel, which lay within half a mile of our farm.

The peace of this hamlet fell upon us like a benediction…The war seemed far, far away. Yet as the children played there came, rising and falling on the breeze, the sinister jarring and rumbling of the guns.

Credits: Richard Corr and

April 22nd 1915:

Nothing of any importance occurred this day.

All arms were tested with ball ammunition.

(Source: War Diary, National Archive)

Yours ever,

The Agent signature

WW1 Centenary Information Correspondent: The Agent 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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April 1915 – 100 years ago…

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April 1915 – 100 years ago…


 April 1915 – 100 years ago…



On Saturday, the military historian, Harry Moses gave an illuminating lecture entitled, ‘Bede Spirit – 8DLI’ in the Durham Light Infantry Museum.


Harry Moses










Harry Moses immediately prior to giving his lecture 18/04/15


Harry Moses has been researching and writing about the WW1 experiences of the men who belonged to the DLI since the 1980s. In particular he has tried to piece together what happened in April 1915 when the students from Bede College who had joined up as Territorial soldiers, were suddenly rushed from their duties guarding the coastal defences to fight on the front line in Belgium.


Bede Spirit



On August 3rd 1914, WLS, Tutty & Bob H, together with their fellow studentswere at Conway Army Training  Camp when they heard that war was imminent. Hurriedly the Territorial recruits packed up the camp and returned to Durham.


They clattered home in a train, arriving at Durham station at 1.00 a.m. and marching down to the Market Place where tables had been set out with a meal for them (their officers were refreshed in the Rose & Crown Inn in Silver Street). They spent a last night in their college before being formally mobilised the following day, and sent to the east coast near Whitburn to guard against invasion. (Source: The Northern Echo “When the Bede boys took on the Kaiser”)


  • 4 August – Gathered in the Market Place; no orders were received during the day so men were allowed home with orders to report as early as possible the following morning; mobilisation orders were received at 7pm
  • Battalion strength was 29 officers and 996 other ranks

What did the battalion do at the start of the war?

  • 5 August – 8DLI moved to the Sunderland area for coastal defence duty
  • 19 August – Moved to training Camp at RavensworthCastle

D/DLI 2/8/60(71) Soldiers of the 8th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry, constructing a trench, 1914  (Picture credit: Durham at War/ Durham County Record Office)

8th DLI constructing a trench









  • Moved to billets at Gateshead prior to the end of 1914; undertook further training and remained there until April 1915

(Source: Durham at War)

The ‘Bede boys’ were in A Company of the 8th DLI & were under the command of Captain Frank Harvey. Although amongst themselves, they called him  ‘Captain Cardboard’, they held him in great affection and respect. After 8 months of coastal duty and training, the 8th Battalion were suddenly rushed to Newcastle so as to be ready to be sent off to France. WLS, Tutty & Bob H were about to take active part in fighting a global war in which more than million combatants & 7 million civilians died.

War Diaries from  April 1915 -100 years ago:

The War Diaries from the National Archives give an account of the days of April 1915 which immediately followed.

War Diary 17th April extract



17th April 1915

At 3.35pm on 17th April 1915, all horses and vehicles plus 3 officers and circa 80 – 90 other ranks entrained at the FORTH CATTLE DOCK NEWCASTLE for Southampton en route for Le Havre.

This was the advance party.

Major JH Smeddle was the senior officer in this group.

18th April 1915

 Final stores were drawn from ordnance.

 19th April 1915 – 8th DLI leave England for France:

The Battalion proceeded from billets at GATESHEAD and entrained in two parties at the CENTRAL STATION NEWCASTLE as follows:

C & D Cos. Under Captain Bradford entrained at 10am

A&B Cos. Under Lt. Colonel Turnbull entrained at 11am for Folkestone where they entrained on one of the Cross Channel mail boats.

Folkestone was left at 11.30pm on a clear fine night.

BOULOGNE was reached at 1am on the 20th April:

Officers                26

Other ranks        921

1.30am BOULOGNE:

Marched from landing place to a rest camp at OSTROHVE

12 noon:

The Bn. left the rest camp for the PONT-DES-BRIQUES station to entrain for the front. Distance marched about 3 miles


The train arrived from LE HAVRE with Major Smeddle and the transport. The Bn. left on one train for St OMER. Here orders were received to proceed by train to CASSEL which was reached about 7pm. After detraining the Bn. marched to billets about STE. MARIE CAPPEL. There was some delay in finding the billets in the dark as they were much scattered.

(Source: War Diary – National Archives’ reference WO 95/2841/1)

War Diary 17th April

Arrival – exactly 100 years ago today:

& so in early in April the 8th DLI received orders to join the British Expeditionary Force. The days that followed were full of final preparations and farewells. On April 17th the transport and machine-gun detachment departed via Southampton en route for Le Havre, and two days later, the 8th Battalion crossed by the shorter route, Folkestone-Boulogne.  On April 19th, patriotic crowds crowded into Newcastle Central Station to line the platforms. They watched as nearly  1,000 Tommies poured into railway carriages whose sides were graffitied in chalk with the legends – ‘Berlin Express‘, ‘Up the Bede‘ & ‘Bede v. the Kaiser‘  -and they waved the youngs lads off on their journey to the front line.

At Folkestone the  Bede boys joined a troopship & having reached Boulogne, were loaded into ‘horse trucks’ which ‘rattled through the French countryside  & arrived at Cassel, about 12 miles west of Ypres…’ 

(Sources: Harry Moses & The Northern Echo)

Thus, WLS, Tutty & Bob H arrived just behind the front line trenches exactly 100 years ago today.

Yours ever,

The Agent signature

WW1 Centenary Information Correspondent: The Agent 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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Captain Frank G. Harvey

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Captain Frank G. Harvey

Captain Frank G. Harvey

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

Part 3

(click here for Part 1 and Part 2)



Just before WLS and his friends, Tutty and Bob H. posed for this photograph at the Army Training Camp in Conway, whilst on their Senior Year summer vacation,

WW1 army training camp group. 1914



Bede College, Durham, had bidden farewell to a long-serving member of the Senior Faculty, Captain Frank G. Harvey.

Harvey was a much admired member of the Bede staff, and greatly respected by the students who affectionately nicknamed him, ‘Captain Cardboard’. When interviewed by Harry Moses in the 1980s, WLS spoke of him with much affection, saying with enthusiastic emphasis,

“…oh, he was a great fellow!’

Captain Harvey in 1912:

Captain Harvey

A Warm Tribute:

The Bede strapline






The frontpage of this June 1914 edition of the Bede College magazine, features a warm tribute to Mr Harvey who was leaving Bede after 14 years to study for a BA at Cambridge.

The Bede tribute to Mr. Harvey



Just 2 months before the outbreak of WW1, Capt. Harvey thought he was going up to Cambridge University in October 1914. He had no idea that his immediate future would actually lie far away from Cambridge’s academic cloisters,  commanding his former students in Front line trenches.



Captain Frank G Harvey – a brief biography:

Frank G. Harvey joined the Bede Staff in 1900, straight from Peterborough Training College. His appointment was as Arts Tutor and Assistant Master in the Model School. In 1902, there is a Sgt. F.G. Harvey in the Bede Company (then part of the 4th Volunteer Battalion D.L.I., later 8 Bn. DLI in 1908). He was a keen tennis player, coach of boats and President of the College soccer club. In 1904, Frank Harvey was appointed the headmaster of Gilesgate Council School in Durham and trainee teachers from Bede (including WLS) used to hone their classroom skills there.

 As all fit students were expected to join the Bede Company on starting college, WLS and his best friends amongst the Junior Year of 1913, Tutty and Bob H  knew Harvey (who had been promoted to Captain in 1909) very well.

Captain Harvey commanded ‘B’ Company (the Bede Lads) until the Territorial units were re-organised shortly after the commencement of the First World War, to reflect the organisation of the regular battalions i.e four companies per Battalion and not eight. When the Durham City Platoons merged with the Bede Company to form the new ‘A’ Company, it was commanded by Frank Harvey.

Thus it was their well-loved Captain Harvey who led the Bede Lads, (including WLS, Tutty and Bob H ) off to fight in WW1.

Wounded in the hip and hand at Gravenstafel in 1915, Captain Harvey was sent back to England then returned to France in 1916 and promoted Major.

A Distinguished Post-war Career:

Frank Harvey finally made it to Cambridge. After WW1 ended, he went to Queen’s College, where he took a degree in History at the age of 42.

He joined the Army Education Corps as a Captain in 1921 and was posted to India.

In 1926 he was appointed M.B.E. In 1928, he was promoted Major. In 1931 he was with London District as Command Education Officer and was presented to King George V. He retired in 1937.

 (All information courtesy of Harry Moses)
It must have been extremely comforting for WLS, Tutty and Bob H, who after all were only just out of their teens when they were suddenly all caught up in WW1, to have the steadying knowledge that they were to be under the command of an extremely fine man whom they already knew, liked and respected.

Yours ever,

The Agent signature



(click here for Part 1 and Part 2)

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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A Prototype Display for the Ceramic Poppies

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A Prototype Display for the Ceramic Poppies



A Prototype Display for the Ceramic Poppies:


Since the 5 ceramic poppies arrived from The Tower of London, we have been trying to come up with a way to put them on display in the Village Hall so that they can be used to commemorate the  5 soldiers from Castle Coop who were killed in WW1.

Ceramic Poppies


Arranging the Poppies for Display:

The poppies arrived on quite long steel stalks – about 14″ or so and we’ve been trying to think of a way to arrange them so that they can all be seen together in a way that doesn’t look too stiff or formal.

Here is what we’ve come up with!


 The Prototype

Step 1:

Amazingly, the Chairman of the Village Hall has an original WW1 barbed wire screw  picket. It was found on a Somme field as part of the annual ‘Iron Harvest‘ and he’s very kindly donated it so that the ceramic poppies can be displayed against it.

During the First World War, screw pickets were used for the installation of wire obstacles; these were metal rods with eyelets for holding strands of wire, and a corkscrew-like end that could literally be screwed into the ground rather than hammered, so that wiring parties could work at night near enemy soldiers and not reveal their position by the sound of hammers.

(source: Wikipedia)

It still has a bit of (modern) Somme mud on it.


We thought we’d try entwining the poppies around it, bending the steel stems so that the flower heads face upwards as if growing towards the sun.

ceramic poppies arranged 1




























Step 2:

The Castle Coop gamekeeper then produced a bit of barbed wire which the Chairman of the V. H. wound around the whole thing, having bent the stems a bit more:

Ceramic Poppies arranged 2




























If other villagers give the arrangement the thumbs up, we’ll need to encase it inside a box frame. Then it can be put on permanent display inside the Village Hall next to or near the Rolls of Honour on which the names of the 5 soldiers are written.The Rolls of Honour



What do you think?

Do you think it will look appropriate?

We are all very anxious to show the Poppies off to best advantage.

Yours absolutely thrilled to think that our 5 poor soldiers will now each have their own poppy by their names in their own Village Hall,

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The Ceramic Poppies have arrived!

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The Ceramic Poppies have arrived!





The Ceramic Poppies have arrived…



& they’re so beautiful!


Ceramic Poppy Booklet

The 5 ceramic poppies – bought in honour of the 5 soldiers who enlisted from Castle Coop and who were killed in WW1 – have arrived safely.

Poppy with certificate



Here they all are:


5 ceramic poppies


Just as each soldier was an individual so each of the ceramic poppies is different from all the others.

ceramic poppy 1













Ceramic Poppy 2









Ceramic Poppy 3










Ceramic Poppy 4









Ceramic Poppy 5




















I can’t get my head round holding these poppies here in Castle Coop,  knowing that they were part of that incredible display at the Tower of London. It is amazing to think that those poor 5 soldiers who were killed, all have their own poppies now, right here in the village they once lived in…

poppies 1


What a thrill!

Yours feeling rather awestruck,

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WW1 Army Training Camps

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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 1912, 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.

In an article written for the Summer 2014 edition (no.28) of The Durham Bugle (the magazine of the DLI Museum Friends and the DLI), Harry Moses writes:

Annual Territorial Camp in July was eagerly looked forward to… Held over two weeks, manoeuvres, drills, shooting and field exercises took place. Competitions were organised and Bede men […] performed very well. 

In the Autumn 2014 edition of the same magazine, Harry Moses states, ‘Annual camps gave a short experience of ‘real’ soldiering.‘ He continues with  his account of the Training camp experiences of The Bede College Contingent, A Co. 8th Bn DLI, writing :

The 1912 camp was held …in very heavy rain which turned the fields into a sea of mud. There were many moans about the mud and the almost impossible task of keeping clean. Tents were errected, palliasses filled, which soon became damp in the inclement weather. Manoeuvres, drills and route marches in full marching order filled much of the time. Rations were issued – sausages, coffee and bread – and each unit did its own cooking. Some men were trained as scouts and took part in exercises to loacate an ‘enemy’ with much hilarity when they lost their way and failed to find the objective!



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 as he said later, they were  the ‘most comfortable boots I ever had in my life!’

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

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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.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                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. The Durham Bugle which is the magazine of the DLI Friends and the DLI reproduces in its Summer 2014 Issue (28) a 1912 photograph of Bede College Rugby players  and states:

The College laid great emphasis on fitness of body and mind and sporting activities fill the articles written by the students [in the College Magazine, ‘The Bede’], Soccer, rugby, hockey, tennis, swimming, cricket were amongst the games competed between juniors and seniors of the College and rival colleges.
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,

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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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Poppies at the Tower of London!

Posted by in World War 1 Centenary | 2 comments

Poppies at the Tower of London!



 Poppies at the Tower of London!





The ceramic poppy memorial at the Tower of London is simply amazing.



Yesterday  the Chairman of the Village Hall & I nipped up to London & met the Agent outside a pub called The Hung, Drawn and Quartered on Tower Hill.  We all wanted to see this incredible display before Remembrance Sunday and spent the afternoon at the Tower of London, taking it all in and  admiring it.

poppies 1


We spent ages watching volunteers busy planting some of the last of the 888,246 that make up the display.


poppies 5


The Agent disagrees with me (& indeed, feels so strongly that he was moved to write a firm letter to BoJo, Mayor of London) but I am so glad that the some of the ceramic poppy memorial will remain in place at the Tower until the end of November so that as many people as possible can get to see it.


Yours totally struck by the eloquence of all those poppies and by the genius of ceramicist Paul Cummins who had the idea behind the ceramic memorial in the first place,

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Tim Holyoake who blogs at: Just One More Ten Pence  has published some really good photos of the poppies  -much better than mine – and also, a post  which made  the Agent exclaim, ‘Good Man!”

Post Script: 11/11/14

The last poppy was planted by cadet Harry Hayes, 13, from Reading Blue Coat SchoolArmistice Day

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Pedal2Paris was AWESOME!

Posted by in Castle Coop News, Cycling from London to Paris for WLS & the Royal British Legion, World War 1 Centenary | 16 comments

Pedal2Paris was AWESOME!

Those of you who have been loyally following ‘The Awesome Hen’ will know that at the end of last year I had a sudden rush of blood to the head & signed up for the Royal British Legion’s Pedal to Paris 2014 Bike Ride. It was an attempt to do something personally to honour the memories of the Bede Boys -WLS, Tutty and Bob H and to commemorate the Centenary of WW1 by trying to raise money to help today’s gallant service men and women and their families.

Nearly 300 cyclists gathered at Greenwich

to start the ride and we all finished at the Arc de Triomphe 4 days later.


It was one of the very best experiences of my life; I loved every minute! Without your fantastic support, I could not have done it and I thank all of you very much indeed.

By looking on the web-site of the Royal British Legion, you can see how the charity uses money raised in donations to improve the lives of servicemen and their families. By looking at my blog (Category: ycling from London to Paris) you can read about my efforts to learn to ride a bike properly and  (LOL) turn myself into a long distance cyclist.




Yours encouraging anyone who’s thinking about doing something similar to go ahead and do it – it was fabulous!

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The Route!

View Pedal to Paris in a larger map





Wreaths were laid to commemorate those who died:

Pedal2Paris wreaths

and funds raised to support for those who survive:

RBL cause

(youtube video source: The Royal British Legion) 






TAH donations 5








Pedal2Paris crew 1

 (photo credit: Dave Hayward)







pedaltoparis luggage 1


 (photo credit: Dave Hayward):

(Youtube video source: British Forces News)






They welcomed us with ceremonies at their war memorials in Calais:

P2P Calais war memorial


P2P Abbeyville


P2P Beauvais

 and at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris:

P2P tomb of unknow soldier 1


  (photo credits: Dave Hayward)

with bunting in Auchy la Montagne

Pedal2Paris, Auchy la Montagne1

and with a feature article written by Monique Biéri the ‘Courrier Picard ‘ at Poix de Picardie:

Pedal2Paris article1







both before:

Pedal2Paris good luck cards1

and afterwards:


Peda2Paris flowers




W. L. S.






both in his youth:


and in his old age:








Yours feeling absolutely thrilled to have been part of The Royal British Legion’s Pedal2Paris ride, 2014,

Pedal2Paris 2014 1

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