Jane Metcalfe visited the museum and outlined the story of her father, John Smith.
He was born in Dundee, Forfar in 1883. After working as a boilermaker, he joined the Royal Engineers on 1 September 1909 and remained in military service until 31 January 1930. He spent time at Catterick Camp one hundred years ago at the time of the garrison’s founding.
During the First World War John served in Egypt, before being transferred to the British Expeditionary Force in France. He became a Lance Corporal, and was promoted to Sergeant in April 1917.
His record was ‘Exemplary’, and he was described as ‘Extremely honest, sober and reliable. A good organiser and very good in charge of men.’
1852361 Sergeant John smith was awarded the 1914 Star, the British War medal, the Victory medal, the General Service medal and the Long Service and Good Conduct medal.
Explore more memories from the ribbon
Alfred was born around June 1882 at Thornaby near Stockton, the son of Thomas Salmon, a foreman brewer. Alfred would eventually become an assistant grocer at Leyburn. Here he courted Lizzie Chiltern. Lizzie’s brother James had joined the West Yorkshire Regiment and was killed in June 1917 aged 20. It would appear that they never married as Alfred’s attestation form, when he signed up, has him as unmarried. The 1911 census has Alfred living in Leyburn as a boarder to a widow Catherine Pearson, aged 70. He enlisted on the 8th April 1916 at Leyburn joining the 5th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment. By early 1917 Alfred had been wounded and was to spend the rest of 1917 and part of 1918 convalescing in England. He was discharged from the Army on the 15th April 1918, his rank being Lance Corporal. Alfred was now living in Waverley Terrace, Darlington. It was here that he died from pneumonia, exacerbated by his war wounds on the 16th February 1919 aged 36. Alfred was buried in Darlington West Cemetery.
This story was submitted by Mr Johnson of Richmond, he is the grandson of John Ramsden. John was born in East Ardsley, Leeds. He was called up in 1917 and trained at Chelmsford. He was posted with the 6th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry as 78916 Pte J Ramsden. John kept a diary during his time away from home. On 6th February 1918 at Passchendale Ridge he recorded “Shells are whistling menacingly overhead, I hope my God will give me the strength to withstand the trials that beset me!” 21st March 1918 saw the last big German attempt to win the war. John’s diary reads, “Found a fellow I’ve seen very often laid out of the trench – grim and bloody – ah, yes but smiling in death”. John was wounded on 28th March and was evacuated to Rouen with other casualties. On 31st March he wrote, “The Doc prodding my head with an instrument much like a pair of sugar tongs. Eventually succeeds in extracting a small piece (but quite big) of the product of Essen”. After recovering, John was sent back into the line in late May. Again he was hospitalised, this time in an American hospital, taking a serious wound to the hand. The family always believed that the different approach taken by American surgeons saved John’s hand from amputation. John survived the war and moved to Barnsley, running the local cinema and writing a column for the Barnsley Chronicle.
Lieutenant Thomas Ginger. Signals Officer. 4th Battalion. Thomas Ginger was awarded the Military Cross as a result of his bravery during the German ‘Spring Offensive’ of March 1918. In the citation for his award it describes how ‘On the first day his senior Officers were killed and in numerous rear-guard actions he found himself in command of considerable bodies of men’. One such example is during the retreat across the River Somme near Brie, when Ginger was ordered to take his men and cover the retreat of the remains of the 50th Division. He took his tired men to the far bank and took up positions to hold the advancing Germans back. At the same Lt George Begg, 239/Field Company was wiring the bridge that the retreating men were crossing. As German troops started to appear on the horizon and the last of the Durham Light Infantry crossed the bridge, Begg primed the detonator and pressed the plunger home. Nothing happened. This was repreated three times. When the bridge did blow, Begg looked across the river to see Ginger and his men still focusing fire on their foe. Eventually Ginger managed to construct a rudimentary footbridge, allowing his men to cross to safety.