Wednesday, 23 October 2013


On Saturday and Sunday, 19-20 October, we took a collection of photographs of the 18th (Service) Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry, to Beamish Museum. The event was timed to coincide with the Durham Pals recruiting weekend at the museum. The Durham Pals group re-creates the life of soldiers in the 18th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry during the Great War. 18 DLI was a Kitchener Army unit, made up of men from all walks of life from across the County of Durham or with links to the area.

Members of the Durham Pals group looking at photographs of the 18th Battalion, DLI, at an event at Beamish

We laid out hundreds of photographs in the room above Barclay’s Bank to display the collection in a way that has never been seen before, and asked visitors to help to identify some of the people and places in the photos. The photographs show soldiers enlisting and training in the county in 1914-1915 in great detail and proved very popular with visitors.

One visitor said ‘The exhibition gives a real sense of what it felt like at the time to be part of the recruitment drive.  The camaraderie shines through’. 

Through the window you could see the Durham Pals re-enacting the drill and manoeuvres depicted in the photographs.

Durham Pals group preparing to march at Beamish

The Book, ‘War History of the 18th Battalion Durham Light Infantry’, written by the Commanding Officer at the end of the war, tells how the battalion was raised in September 1914 after a meeting of a committee of gentlemen from the county, headed by Lord Durham.  The battalion would be funded by subscribers, the list of names can be found in the book, and the first appeal raised c. £10,000.  Lord Durham also provided Cocken Hall as a base for the new battalion.

As well as being a County battalion, the majority of the men being recruited from the region, it was also a Pals battalion.  This meant that friends, workmates, and family members could sign up and serve together, intended to encourage enlistment.  Of course, once fighting began, this would have serious ramifications on families and communities. 

A series of photographs of the battalion (D/DLI 2/18/24-65) were produced at points throughout the recruitment and training process of 1914-1915, which were published to encourage recruitment.  The photographs didn’t have much contextual information, but in many cases, locations were determined by knowledge of the battalion's movements, and comparison with other photographs.  Equally, very few names are given, however, in his book ‘Durham Pals’, author John Sheen found names for some men from other sources.  What we would like to do is improve the information we have, locating unidentified places, matching faces and names, as well as identifying, where possible, when the same men occur in different photos, such as:

You can see the same man in these two photographs, only identified in the first one as Private J. Oliver 
Members of 18th Battalion, DLI, at Cocken Hall, one soldier also appears on the photograph below, 1914-1915 (D/DLI 2/18/24(108))
D/DLI 2/18/24 (108)
Members of 18th Battalion, DLI, at Cocken Hall, one soldier also appears on the photograph above, 1914-1915 (D/DLI 2/18/24(30))
D/DLI 2/18/24 (13)

As a result of this event we now have a positive identification for the sousaphone player in the battalion band.

More information on the 18th Battalion can be found in:

‘War History of the 18th (S.) Battalion Durham Light Infantry’, Lieutenant Colonel W.D. Lowe, DSO, MC, Oxford University Press, 1920

‘Durham Pals, 18th, 19th and 22nd Battalions of The Durham Light Infantry in the Great War’, John Sheen, Pen and Sword Military, 2007


  1. Great weekend, think you've got me in at least one of those photos. I'm the author of the book 'The North Eastern Railway in the First World War' which is due out at the end of November, don't know if I can help at all with anything you are researching? Durham of course features heavily in the book

  2. Thanks Richard. If you would like to help with our project, you can register to volunteer on our website and we'll be contacting people in the new year.

  3. I cant believe I missed this display. I have just discovered that my great grandfather was in 18th DLI from 22.12.14 thru 18.3.19. I have inherited his ORIGINAL Demob Card, Marriage Certificate and Death Certificate! I am currently doing research and came across this site. (Using anonymous as I don't have any other profile sorry).

  4. Keep checking our Durham at War website for stories about the 18th Battalion