Submitted by Olivia Wallis of Richmond. Thomas Cole, son of Ben and Jane Cole, was born in Gainford, Durham in 1882, though the farming family resided in the local village of Newsham. On 9th June 1906, Thomas married Margaret Ellen Watson in St Cuthbert’s Church, Durham and, by 1911, Thomas and Margaret were the parents of Thomas, aged 3, Mary, aged 2, and Ben, aged only 11 months.
Following the outbreak of war, though the exact date uncertain, Thomas enlisted at the neighbouring village of Dalton, and joined the 9th Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment.
Throughout his time with the 9th Battalion, Thomas wrote often to his devoted wife and children. In October 1916, Thomas wrote to tell his wife that he had become teetotal, news he expected to surprise his wife, explaining ‘I can’t drink French beer!’ Perhaps more poignantly, Thomas also expressed to Margaret his hopes of the future and a hope that future generations would never suffer the horrors of war.
Thomas never got to pursue his hopes, he was killed on 23rd June 1917, aged 35. The battalion war diary for 23rd June does not detail events of that day, it simply collates casualties for the month as 6 men killed, 1 wounded and 2 missing.
Private Thomas Cole is buried at Dickebusch New Military Cemetery, Belgium and commemorated locally on the war memorial in Newsham village.
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Richard Oliver was 22 years old when he enlisted at Cramlington in September 1914. He was from Esh Winning, Crook, Co. Durham and was a miner. He enlisted in the Northumberland Fusiliers but was posted to the Yorkshire Regiment. He served in the 9th and 10th Battalions and whilst with the 10th Battalion in 1915 he was awarded the Military Medal. He served in France and Italy and became disabled due to the effects of gassing. He was discharged in March 1920 and was initially given a pension of 8 shillings a week, but this was subsequently withdrawn and his appeal rejected. He left the army as a Corporal, he served in France from 1915 to 1917 and on the Italian Front from November 1917 until December 1918.
Maureen Hunt told us about her grandfather, William Smith. William was born around 1883 in Wirksworth, Derbyshire and worked as a bath attendant at Matlock before the war. He volunteered early in the war and possibly joined the High Peak Rifles (later 6th battalion, Sherwood Foresters). He recounted to his family the horrors of war, having fought at the Battle of Ypres. Later in life he complained of chest pains as a result of having been gassed in the trenches. He was taken prisoner by the Germans on 21 March 1918, during the German Spring Offensive. He did not return to England until 1919. Gardening became a favourite pastime, helping him to cope with the mental and physical scars of war. William died in 1962 at almost 80 years of age.
Submitted by Marcia Howard, a resident of Richmond. Albert William George Clifford was my maternal Grandfather born at Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire in 1886. Prior to his medical discharge in 1916, he was serving in Malta with No.1 Coy, of the Royal Garrison Artillery as a Gunner. He was subsequently presented with the Silver War Badge which in September 1916, King George V had authorised to honour all military personnel who had served at home or overseas since 4 August 1914, and who had been discharged because of wounds or illness. Following his return home to his wife and 2 small children in Gloucestershire, he became Chauffeur to the local doctor, where he also contributed to the recruitment drive popularly known as ‘Your Country Needs You’.