Christine Howie (née Magee) visited the museum to tell us about the sad story of her Grandfather, John Magee who was born in Birkdale in 1889. 30876 Private John Magee enlisted on 24th July 1915 and served with the 12th Battalion of the King’s Liverpool Regiment during the First World War. He was wounded by a shell burst which damaged his left wrist and led to him being hospitalised. The distinctive ‘hospital blues’ are shown on his photo, a uniform worn by enlisted men during treatment. The fingers of his hand were badly damaged and as a result he received the Silver War Badge – according to regulations he was “no longer physically fit for war service”.
At home in Southport John’s wife Annie was looking after the two children. In the photograph, Christine’s father Harry is depicted age three, with his elder brother John Alfred. Tragically, as the extract from her death certificate shows, Annie was to be one of the victims of the outbreak of Spanish flu. Her death came just a few days after the signing of the Armistice that brought about an end to the fighting. John’s sister Kitty took care of the children until John returned – to bring Harry and John Alfred up as a single parent.
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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…
Norman Angus was born at Southwick, Co. Durham in 1890. He was working as a miner prior to enlisting in September 1914. He was posted to the 8th Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment. He would have been sent to France in September 1915 and he had a somewhat chequered career. He had been promoted to Corporal by early 1916 but was reduced to Private. He was wounded in December 1915 and again in September 1916 and unfortunately had to forfeit 6 days pay for unauthorised absence in 1917. 14043 Corporal Angus was awarded the 1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. He died aged 84 in March 1975.
Percival Dunning was born in 1889 in Thormanby Yorkshire. By 1901 he is listed as Perewal Dunning residing in Coxwold Easingwold. He is living in his grandfather’s (Frances Dunning) house who is a plate layer ganger with North eastern railways. A plate layer’s job was to inspect and maintain railway tracks. Percival attested in Richmond on the 26th of February 1906, at that time his occupation was as a farm labourer. He was 17 years of age, weighed 114 pounds, and had hazel eyes and brown hair. It was noted in the ledger that he was flat footed and had an old injury to the end of his right long finger. He was initially posted to the 4th battalion. In the regimental gazette he is recorded as being wounded towards the end of 1915. The 2nd Battalion were deployed in the Givenchy and Essars area. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission states that Private Dunning was killed in action on the 7th of June 1917. He is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial (panel 33). He also remembered on the memorials at St Michael’s church Coxwold and the King’s book at York minster.