Story submitted by Mrs Drury, a resident of Richmond.
Nancy Bainbridge was born in Weardale, County Durham in May 1894. She was one of eight children whose parents were hardy hill farmers. Nancy was a very practical person and joined Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service in 1914.
Nancy served at a military hospital in East Anglia where the nurses received casualties straight from the Somme. Her upbringing on a farm had afforded her some preparation for the ensuing, distressing sights and sounds. She described how the men arrived with mud and tufts of grass in their wounds. The nurses found out the hard way that soldiers’ skin, subjected to the mustard gas attacks in the trenches, could not be washed with water as that inflicted pain. Nancy received many deathbed requests.
After the war Nancy worked as a private nurse in families with disabled soldiers and patients with other conditions. She married Captain Jack (John Adam) Bell.
Nancy had a brother William, also a hill farmer and ten years older. He joined the Northumberland Fusiliers, but saw little service because, when detailed to chop an officer some sticks, a splinter blinded him in one eye.
Another sibling, Violet, worked in Barnard Castle’s recruiting office. Her soldier husband Harry Raine was awarded the Military Cross. The medal was presented to the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle.
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Shirley Stephenson visited the museum to tell about the story and final letters of 5444 Private George Brown, 7th battalion, Yorkshire Regiment, the youngest brother of her mother in law. George was the seventh of nine children. Three of his brothers also served in France but survived. In 1915, he left his family home in Brandon, County Durham, to live with his older sister and her family on their farm in North Cowton. Here, he worked for them and was learning the trade of butchery, his sister and husband hoping to set him up, eventually, in his own business but he was called up in May 1916. He enlisted at Croft and was sent to Babworth Camp, Retford. At the beginning of July, he writes to his sister, Mary, and her husband, Tom, asking them to apply to his commanding officer for a month’s leave in order to assist them with haytime saying, ‘……tell him I worked for you and you can’t get anyone else…. I think you will succeed as he can’t refuse.’ Unfortunately, he could because the Regiment was posted to France; three weeks later, ‘we are going to face the foe….. we poor devils with three months’ training.’ By 25th July, George and his Company were training on the French coast ‘…… it is very hot here…… very tiresome marching around in the sand all day….. we get better food than in Retford but not much of it.’ Three weeks later his letter reads, ‘…. I am…
Submitted by Glennis Robson. John Albert Lancaster was my uncle, he was my mother’s elder brother (13 years older). My mother spoke of much loved brother who was a source of goodness and “spoilt” his baby sister. On receiving the news of his death my grandmother picked my mother up from school. They made their way home down the back lanes to hide their tears from passers by. “Jack”,as he was known, was killed on the 16th of October 1917 at hill 60 in Flanders aged 19 after only a few months at the front. He enlisted in the Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) regiment on the 6th of December 1916 in Newcastle. His father William, a farrier, also joined up declaring that if his son was prepared to fight so was he. Unlike his son he survived the war. Having no known grave his name is on the Menin Gate. In 1988 my husband Keith and I visited the Western Front to see his name and the battlefield where he died. Since then “our Jack” has been in the consciousness of the wider family. Every November we place a poppy cross by my mother’s grave-stone in St Mary’s churchyard.
Wilfred Wood, an employee of the North Eastern Railway before the outbreak of war, served with the 5th battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment. His commanding officer, 2nd Lt G H Smith wrote the following to his father: “Dear Mr Wood – It is with deep regret that I inform you of the death in action of your son, Pte. W. Wood. He was instantaneously killed on the morning of the 19th instant by a whizz-bang shell, which dropped into the trench he was in; he was buried behind the line on the 20th, and a good cross is being erected to his memory. Words cannot express how deeply I feel for you in your great loss. He was a good soldier, and always kept up bright spirits. The men of my platoon join me in the deepest sympathy for you” 240637 Private W Wood died on 19 July 1917 and is buried at Heninel Communal Cemetery Extension.