Story submitted by Mrs Drury.
Jack (John Adam) Bell was the son of a gamekeeper at Langdon Beck in Teesdale, County Durham. He grew up in the countryside a became a railway clerk. When he joined the army and went to experience life in the trenches he had the horror of standing next to a fellow soldier when his head was blown off. Jack also had to endure the news that his own brother had been killed.
Jacks country knowledge became most useful in the mire of Flanders. He would cut trenches to make a sleeping place out of the mud, trap rabbits and stew them in a metal helmet. He would look after horses for officers who had never had to look after their own mounts before. He described how starved the horses were near the front line – the near stampedes when fodder was brought and how the horses gnawed each others’ manes and tails for food. He remembered how long the cavalry had to stand mounted and how weak horses collapsed.
Remounts were needed constantly and Jack was sent in to break in and train them. He was stationed on the Thames, possibly at Tilbury, to receive horses, practically wild sent by ship from South America and often in a sorry state on arrival. He had six weeks to prepare each batch (size unknown) for dispatch abroad. During this training Jack rode these recovered and lively horses with a ladies side saddle as he said it was easier to jump off when necessary form a side saddle than from astride!
It was on 26th June 1918 when Jack received his commission as Second Lieutenant. Later, as Captain, he dealt with German Prisoners of War in Italy. He was also involved in the Macedonian Campaign 1915-17 but that is another tale. After the war he attended Magdalen College, Oxford on one of the courses the University put on for officers. He enjoyed rowing on the Isis and soon married Nancy Bainbridge, one of Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service and they saw their golden wedding anniversary when we had a fine family party.
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Erasmus Darwin was born on the 7th December 1881 in Cambridge and lived at ‘The Orchard’. He was the only son of Horace Darwin FRS (Fellow of the Royal Society) who was Chairman of the Cambridge Scientific Society. He was also the grandson of the famous naturalist Charles Darwin. Erasmus was educated at Horris Hill School near Newbury and at Marlborough. He then went on to Trinity College, Cambridge University to study Mathematics. On leaving Cambridge he worked at Mather and Platts in Manchester, a hydraulics and pump engineering company. He then moved on to work for Bolckow, Vaughn & Co Ltd Iron and Steel in Middlesbrough, whereby, at the outbreak of the war he was Secretary of the Company. He lived at the time at Saltburn on the north east Yorkshire coast. As soon as war broke out he joined up and was gazetted on the 12th September 1914 as a 2nd Lieutenant the 4th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment. Apparently just before he left England he was summoned to the War Office and offered a Staff appointment at home in connection to munitions work. Though the work was important he opted to stay with his unit making the case that there were plenty of older men equally qualified for the work. The 4th Battalion arrived in France on the 18th April 1915 and were straight away into the 2nd Ypres offensive which started on the 22nd April. The Battalion was involved in the Battle of St Julien in the heart…
Vicki Walker of Little Crakehall called into the museum to show us a photograph of Duncan Harvie, her grandfather. The photo is a postcard addressed to ‘Mary and Sam’, sent on 3 April 1916 and shows a group of Signallers on board HMS Laconia. Duncan Harvie (5th South African Regiment) is sat at the front of the group with crossed legs. The ship’s log shows the Laconia (an armed merchant cruiser) to be anchored at Zanzibar on that date, on it’s way to British East Africa (now Kenya). The ship was used in the early part of the war to patrol the South Atlantic and the Indian Ocean, but in April 1915 her role changed and she was used as a headquarters ship to aid in the fight in German East Africa. Following her return to to Cunard, the Laconia was sunk by U-50 160 miles northwest of Fastnet while returning form the United States on 25th February 1917. Twelve people were killed following a double torpedo strike.
When Edward Pickard died in 1928 at the age of 56 he had given 36 years of his life to the Green Howards. Most of the town of Richmond turned out to his funeral on Friday July 21st with the mourners being headed by General Sir Edwin Bulfin, Colonel of the Regiment from 1914 to 1939. Edward Pickard enlisted as a Green Howard in 1891, and rapidly rose through the ranks. He was one of very few officers to fight with his unit throughout the First World War, during which he served as Quarter Master to the 2nd Battalion. Pickard was the first Green Howard to fire at the enemy in the First World War – shooting two Uhlans (German mounted lancers) while trying to allocate billets to his men in Ypres! His ‘batman’ or servant, Charles Porteous Hellings who was with Pickard for a total of 14 years survived the war and is pictured here with Pickard in the grounds of the Depot in Richmond.