Pages

Friday, 15 June 2018

John Scott Youll VC

Second Lieutenant John Scott Youll (D/Ph 150/63)
D/Ph 150/63 Second Lieutenant John Scott Youll
Today, 15th June 2018, a ceremony takes place to unveil the commemorative paving stone in honour of John Scott Youll winning the Victoria Cross. Youll grew up in Thornley and went on to serve with the Northumberland Fusiliers. On 4 September 1918, he was presented with the medal by the King. A few days later, he was honoured by his own community. The Sunderland Echo of 11 September 1918, printed the following report. 
D/DW 1/3(30) The Hippodrome, Thornley, c.1910
D/DW 1/3(30) The Hippodrome, Thornley, c.1910
Thornley’s VC Honoured
There was an enthusiastic gathering at the Hippodrome Theatre, Thornley, on Tuesday night, when Second Lieutenant John Scott Youll was publicly honoured is recognition of his having gained the Victoria Cross. The testimonial had been organised by the War Memorial and Welcome Home Committee, appointed some time ago to make arrangements and raise funds for a memorial to the fallen and for extending a welcome home to the fighting men at the conclusion of the war.

Second Lieutenant Youll, who is due to leave home immediately for the front, was born at Thornley on June 8th, 1897, his parents and grandparents being residents of the village. He attended the Thornley Council School until he was fifteen years of age, when he commenced work at Thornley Colliery in the electric-power station, serving his apprenticeship as an electrician. Later he attended the technical classes held under the Durham County Council at Wingate. As soon as he became nineteen he joined the Royal Engineers (Durham Territorials). After twelve months in England he served as a sapper in France for six months, being then recommended for a commission. He was gazetted in June 1917, and proceeded almost immediately to France. While there he experienced much hard fighting, being recommended for the Military Cross and mentioned in despatches for attending to wounded men during six hours of terrible shell fire. He was personally decorated by the King of Italy with the Italian Silver Medal and Star, which is understood to be the highest honour that the Italians can bestow on any soldier who is not of their nationality.

The testimonial, which was provided by a large number of small subscriptions, took the form of a handsome gold watch and chain and large silver cigarette case.

Mr JHB Forster, of Spennymoor, general manager of the Weardale Coal Co, presided at the presentation. Captain JE Rogerson, chairman of the Weardale Coal Co, handed over the gifts, and referred to the high honour that the gallant officer had brought to his native village.

Lieutenant Youll made a modest reply.

Mr D Hagen, treasurer of the Recognition Fund, and the VC’s old schoolmaster, referred with pride to the fact that he had been so closely associated with Lieutenant Youll in days gone by.

Mr JT Simpson of Thornley, chief engineer of the Weardale Coal Co, said he felt as proud as anyone, because Second Lieutenant Youll came to him in 1912 to serve his apprenticeship. 

A vote of thanks to Captain Rogerson and Mr Forester was moved by Mr W Laidler (chairman of the War Memorial and Welcome Home Fund), and seconded by Mr Orange.

A selection of scholars from the Thornley Council School sang ‘Blighty’ and ‘The Village Blacksmith’.

Friday, 8 June 2018

Un honneur

This week we have a blog post by John Sheen.

Those of you who read the blog regularly will recall the events I recorded last year when the village of Saint Seurin de Cadourne, France, honoured the memory of Colour Sergeant Gawin Wild MBE MM, 26th (Service) Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers (3rd Tyneside Irish). Those that are not familiar with the story can read it here:
http://ww1countydurham.blogspot.com/2017/05/gawin-wild-honoured-in-france.html

Exactly one year on, my wife and I returned for a further two ceremonies in the village. The Mayor of Saint Seurin de Cadourne had agreed that a plaque should be mounted on the cemetery wall.
Plaque on the cemetery wall
The plaque on the cemetery wall tells the story of Gawin Wild in French and English (photo by John Sheen)
Unlike last year, when we had a perfect day, it rained cats and dogs, but no one was put off and quite a crowd turned out to both events. Furthermore the owner of the chateau where Gawin lived in retirement also agreed to a plaque being placed on the wall of the chateau next to the front door.

The British effort improved by two, not only my wife and I, but the British Consul from Bordeaux, Madam Dominique Olley, and the Chairman of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (Northumberland), Major Chester Potts, also attended. 
Ceremony unveiling the plaque at the chateau
Major Chester Potts, RRF Association, reads a letter of thanks, next to him is Mr GĂ©rard Roi (Mayor of Saint Seurin de Cadourne), Madam Dominique Olley (The British Consul), and the trumpeter, also owner of the chateau, Mr Bernard D'Halluin (photo by John Sheen)
Once again we were greeted with enthusiasm and at the chateau the owner took everyone in out of the rain. Then after the unveiling of the plaque, back in for a glass or two of champagne and some food. 
John Sheen and Major Chester Potts
John Sheen and Major Chester Potts after the unveiling of the plaque. The blue flower in our lapels is the French equivalent of the poppy. The cornflower, ‘Les Bleu’ was said to grow in abundance in the trenches around Verdun and as such was adopted as the sign of remembrance (photo by Mrs Sheen)
Then it was back to the local restaurant for a traditional French ‘long lunch’. Here we had a nice surprise as we were presented with a bottle of six year old local wine which had been specially labelled for the occasion. 
A commemorative bottle of wine with a photograph of Gawin Wild on the label (photo by John Sheen)
A commemorative bottle of wine with a photograph of Gawin Wild on the label (photo by John Sheen)
David Devigne, who started the work to have Gawin Wild honoured, is a talented artist and presented me with this drawing of a Tyneside Irish soldier resting on his rifle along with the words of the ‘Minstrel Boy’. 
The drawing by David Devigne
The drawing by David Devigne

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Working the land

A portrait of a member of the Women's Forestry Corps, part of the Women's Land Army, as she uses an axe to "mark for cross cuts". IWM Non-Commercial Licence © IWM (Q 30695)
A portrait of a member of the Women's Forestry Corps, part of the Women's Land Army, as she uses an axe to "mark for cross cuts". IWM Non-Commercial Licence © IWM (Q 30695)
Local agricultural committees had been set up in order to increase food production. There were still not enough people engaged in this work, and in January 1917, the British Board of Agriculture established a women’s branch. From this, in the March, the Women’s Land Army was created, training women and then putting them to work.

At the beginning of 1917, Germany had declared open warfare on British shipping, meaning the country needed to be ever more reliant on home grown produce.

Women doing this agricultural work faced prejudice from their male counterparts, however, they did begin to come around. In the Auckland Chronicle of 24 May 1917, one is quoted as saying he ‘saw a comely lass ploughing as straight a furrow as could any man’.
Members of the Women's Land Army operating a three-furrow plough with a tractor. IWM Non-Commercial Licence © IWM (Q 54602)
Members of the Women's Land Army operating a three-furrow plough with a tractor. IWM Non-Commercial Licence © IWM (Q 54602) 
The following week, an article appeared in the same paper, about the dairy and poultry farm school, set up for women by Eliza Maidment at Sherburn Hall. You can read the article here: http://www.durhamatwar.org.uk/material/743/

On 31 May 1918, an article appeared in the Auckland Chronicle about the progress of the Women’s Land Army, and some changes:
‘At the first meeting of the Durham Women War Agricultural Committee, under the new constitution, Lady Anne Lambton was elected president, Lady Boyne chairman, and Mrs HG Stobart vice-chairman. The Secretary (Mr JAL Robson) reported that during April, 873 girls and women were recruited for the land army, and over 200 had been passed by the selection committee. 

Mrs Frank Stobart pointed out that there were now 1115 women’s institutes in the county, and two more were likely to be established at Coxhoe and Shincliffe’.

The committee goes on to bring up an issue that they hope discharged soldiers can help with:
‘It was decided to request the Men’s Executive to take up the question of training discharged soldiers for mole catching’

The Women’s Land Army was disbanded in 1919, but was restarted in 1939 for the Second World War. You can read more about the Land Army here: http://www.womenslandarmy.co.uk/world-war-one/