Alan Simpson, a resident of Richmond called into the musueum to tell us about his grandfather. After months of collecting stories from the time of the First World War for the Ribbon of Remembrance, we have our first story relating to our rural location.
Henry Barningham Simpson farmed at High Rockliffe Farm Hurworth during the First World War. He was also given the role of official horse buyer to the War Department during the conflict. Alan Simpson recalled, “I know he had to travel to very many farms selecting the best of the cart horses to pull the guns and carts of the army. My dad told me that he hated having to take the farmers best and most useful horses. He knew very well that a lot would be killed or injured from the shelling, ‘blown to pieces’ were his actual words. I suppose he was given some leeway in selecting which horses to buy as food still had to be produced, how they were selected he never said but I suppose they had to be fit for purpose whether they be cart horses or hunters for the cavalry”.
The requisitioning of horses during the First World War was dealt with by the Army Remount Service. This department existed before the conflict broke out, with a total establishment of 25,000 horses and mules, five Remount Depots and four Remount companies, with a strength of approximately 1,200 animals. Within 12 days, the establishment had been increased to 165,000 animals and a year later, in August 1915, to 534,971. At its peak in 1917, the Army establishment reached almost 870,000 horses and mules, with remount accommodation for 60,000 animals. Over the course of the war, a total of 468,323 horses were purchased in the United Kingdom by local offical horse buyers such as Henry Barningham Simpson.
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John Benson Lishman was nearly 47 when he was called up to join the London Electrical Engineers in February 1918 as a Pioneer. While his War Service was relatively brief and uneventful it was the work he did before enlisting that proved to be his enduring legacy. On April 10th 1915, Lishman set up the first meeting of the 8th Darlington Scout Group with 12 members. It was his idea to provide activities for young people while their fathers were away fighting. The first thing the boys did was set up a Drum & Fife band and played concerts in aid of the Red Cross. Some of examples of the 8th’s packed programme include camping, hiking, badge work and collecting materials for the war effort, most of which they still do today. It was a sad day when the Troop learned that their Scout Master was leaving them, as this excerpt from their Log Book tells: “The lads had collected a small pocket wallet & the Secretary presented it as a small – a very small token of love & respect for the work & time spent on us by the S.M.” Lishman returned to the Group in 1919 and after a “solemn handshake” it was back to normal. Submitted by the grateful Leaders and Members of the 8th Darlington Scout Group.
Willimina ‘Minnie’ Melville 28/04/1886–11/02/1967 Minnie was born in Johnshaven, Scotland and volunteered for the British Red Cross in November 1916. She was initially stationed at Whalley Military Hospital as a VAD nurse from 4/11/1916 to 26/06/1917, before moving to Catterick Camp Military Hospital, again as a nurse, from 15/01/1918 until 6/04/1919. Willimina Melville, now Mrs Scales married James Jarvis Scales in 1922 and they were married up until her death on the 11th of February 1967. Minnie and Jim had emigrated and were living in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada in 1967. This information, provided by Alathea Anderssohn has been drawn from the Imperial War Museum’s ‘Lives of the First World War’ archive.
Deborah Hutchinson sent us this information about her Great Uncle, 459480 Driver James McAndrew, 450th Field Company, Royal Engineers. James was the oldest boy in a family of 9 – 3 girls and 6 boys much admired by his brothers and sisters, especially by his youngest sister Kitty – her grandmother. Born 1898 in Chester-le-Street, James moved with his family to 11 Mary Agnes Street, Coxlodge, Newcastle upon Tyne in 1901. When he left school he worked as a coal miner in Regent’s Pit, Gosforth along with most of the community. In 1914 he enlisted and joined the Royal Engineers as a driver. He was part of the Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force. He was one of the many non-battle casualties in the area due to the extreme weather and unhygienic conditions. He died of yellow fever on 10th October 1918 at the age of 22 – just a month and a day before the Armistice – it was also his mother’s birthday. He is buried in Amara War Cemetery in Baghdad, Iraq. His name appears on the War memorial in St Charles RC Church, Gosforth. His parents, Thomas and Liza, had been active fund raisers to build this church when they arrived in the area in 1901.