Judith Farrah told us about her great-grandfather James Allen, who’s joinery business contributed to the war effort on the Home Front.
“James Allen was born in 1855 in Newbiggin, Richmond. He was originally called James Thistlethwaite but changed his name to Allen, which was his stepfathers name. He apprenticed with William Raworth, learning to be a joiner, and married his daughter Matilda. By 1901 he had set up his own joinery business known as James Allen & Son Ltd and worked on the Kursaal (later known as The Royal Hall) in Harrogate.”
During the First World War, James did not join the armed forces but used his joinery business to create boxes for munitions. Static trench warfare required huge numbers of shells; the First World War became a war of production. Hundreds of manufacturing companies, including James’, were commandeered for munitions production. As men were sent to the trenches, women moved into the factories. Some factories’ workforce was almost entirely female, and this was true for James’ business.
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John Sweeny was 22 years of age when he enlisted in the Yorkshire Regiment in late 1914. He was the son of John and Mary Sweeney of Washington Station, Co. Durham. The 8th Battalion arrived in France in late August 1915 and John is reported to have been wounded in that November. He was again wounded in December 1916 and was killed in action in August 1917. The only reported 8th Battalion casualties at this period were working as Yukon Pack Carriers, re-supplying the front line with munitions in the area of Ypres. He is commemorated on Panel 33 of the Menin Gate at Ypres, Belgium. 144466 Private John Sweeney of ‘A’ Company was awarded the 15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
Vicky Hurwood provided this information about her grandfather, George Ernest Hurwood. He was born on 19 November at Scorton 1880 to Richard and Mary Hurwood. He worked for the Post Office with his father. When the war broke out George would enlist as a Sapper in the Royal Engineers, his Regimental Number being 67828. His medal card gives his ‘Theatre of War’ as France where he had arrived on the 7th October 1915. He was awarded the 1915 Star, which means he enlisted before conscription was introduced, along with the British War medal and Victory medal. George made and engraved match box covers recording Ypres 31/7/17 and Arras 9/4/17 which Vicky still has at home. He survived the war and is commemorated on a list at the Scorton War Memorial Institute. He ended the war as a Sergeant and from his demobilisation on the 30th June 1919 became a Class Z Reserve.
The site of Richmond Camp as it was first called was suggested by Robert Baden Powell while he was based at Richmond Castle as Inspector-General of Cavalry. The name quickly changed to Catterick Camp in order to avoid confusion with Richmond in Surrey. The Camp’s first troops occupied the area for training in 1915. Major-General Michael Frederick Rimington was the officer in charge. In 1915 the decision was made to expand the training camp. A new prisoner of war camp was established and eventually 5000 German prisoners of war were housed there. Initially German PoWs were not permitted to work and boredom became a major problem. The prisoners played sports and even set up an orchestra (with instruments they made themselves) to fill their time. A change of government policy meant that prisoners could be allowed out of the camp to work as labourers. As a result they were employed in constructing the road leading out of Richmond Station, via St. Martins and on to Catterick Camp (Rimington Road). Catterick Prisoner of War Camp became the administrative headquarters for all ‘working camps’ in the area. By the end of the war 89,937 prisoners who had served with the German army were interned in camps across the United Kingdom.