William Henry McDonnell, H.M.S. Calliope 1916

t14949This photograph shows my Grand-Uncle William Henry (Ernie) McDonnell in a Dunfermline Photographic Studio, before he joined the Light Cruiser H.M.S. Calliope in July 1915.

Ernie born c. May 1897 at 30 Maritime Street in Stockton-on-Tees, was the first son of George and Maria McDonnell. 5′ 4″ William Henry grew up in the old Quayside district of Stockton, living variously at 12 Smithfield, 26 Garden Place, 8 Commercial Street, 10 Tees Street and by 1914 at 3 Paradise Street.

He was a Stoker in the Royal Navy during the Great War; he served from July 1915 aboard HMS Calliope, a modern, oil fired, light cruiser, which was hit by shellfire from German battleships at The Battle of Jutland in May 1916. He was awarded chevrons for his part in the battle and was granted his 1st Good Conduct Badge in July 1918 for 3 years ‘VG’ conduct in service.

Photograph and details courtesy of Anthony Pearson and the McDonnell family of Stockton.

Charles Whitehead, HMS Iron Duke c1915

t14918The sailor in the center of the photograph is my great grandfather Charles Whitehead. In 1915 he was living at 6 Denmark Street, Thornaby-On-Tees. From 1915 to 1919 he served as a stoker on the battleship HMS Iron Duke. He was at the Battle of Jutland on 31 May/1 June 1916. The other sailors are George whitehead (no relation), right and Paddy Roy ?, left.

Photograph and details courtesy of Martin Dunnill.

‘Beaconsfield Soldiers & Sailors ‘Welcome Home’ Association c1919

t14553Pictured on the left is the programme of a night of entertainment at ‘The Bungalow’ in Norton which was held on Wednesday 16 April, 1919 to celebrate the safe return of two local men from the Great War.

The associated poem was written by the Beaconsfield Soldiers & Sailors ‘Welcome Home’ Association Chairman Mr J Lillystone and printed on small cards which were given to those who attended.

Images courtesy of Vicky Cooper.


World War One ‘Soldier’s Penny’

t14206This ‘Soldiers Penny’ was given to my Uncle Billy Bonner’s family.

98 years ago on the 23rd April 1917, William Bonner was killed. Billy was serving with the Durham Light Infantry when he was killed at the battle of Arras, northern France.
As well as being St George’s Day and Shakespeare’s birthday, the 23rd April was also William’s 21st birthday.

Photograph and details courtesy of Anthony Bonner.


Stockton Man’s Great War Diaries

Roger Stamp PSRoger Stamp was born in Stockton in 1895.  He lived in Russell Street and attended Bailey Street School before working as a plater in Ropner’s shipyard.  In 1913, at the age of 18, he enlisted in the 5th (Territorial) Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry.  When the Great War broke out he, with the rest of his battalion, was at the annual summer camp.  The territorials were recalled to their depot in Stockton where they all volunteered for service overseas.

On 17th April 1915 the 5th DLI left Newcastle for Folkestone from where they sailed for France.  On the day he left for the front Roger began to keep a diary (much frowned upon by the Army) and continued to do so until he was invalided out of the army in 1918 after, in August 1917, being wounded for the third time.

He recovered from his injuries and after the war he emigrated to America where he worked as a gardener in Los Angeles.

Roger's DiaryNow, precisely one hundred years to the day that the events were first recorded, Stockton Library Service will be serialising Roger’s diary, day by day, exactly as he himself wrote them.  The diary gives a rare insight into the everyday life of a British infantryman in and out of the line in France and Flanders during the Great War.  You can see Roger’s diary as it unfolds at www.heritage.stockton.gov.uk

We are indebted to a relative of Roger, Linda Patterson, who originally transcribed the diaries and has very graciously given us permission to publish them.  We would also like to acknowledge the work done by Durham County Record Office and Durham at War in making these diaries accessible. The Durham at War project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Private Benjamin Brown, DLI

t13937This is a photograph of my father Benjamin Brown who enlisted in the DLI at the start of WW1 by claiming he was older than the required 18 years for the Army, I am sure many other men did the same – switch their ages to go off to war in what they thought would be a great adventure. Once they had sampled the trench warfare at battles such as Mons, Ypres, Passchendaele, and many others they would have realised war was not an adventure but a terrible experience for all involved.

My father would not talk about the war, like so many others but sometimes when he had had a few pints we learned snippets of some of his experiences which were very interesting, sometimes funny and sometimes tragic, as was the story about the time when they were watching this German as they thought in a forward position spying on them, they all lined him up and shot him. When they advanced later that day they looked for the Germans body only to find it was a British Officer who obviously had been spying on the German lines. The only consolation for Dad and his mates was that six or seven of the DLI had shot at about the same time so they did know who had fired the fatal shot. The DLI were famous as the fastest marching Regiment in the British Army, many of the Regiment were from Stockton and District.

Photograph and details courtesy of Ben Brown.

Henry Doyleson of the Royal Field Artillery

t13909This photograph was donated by Lorraine Dayes whose Great Uncle, Henry Doyleson, is in the centre of the three men shown.

A copy of it was addressed, but probably not posted, to ‘Charles Malcolm, No. 77 Mess, HMS Queen Mary, c/o GPO London’, by his sister Mary Malcolm.  The message on the back of the card reads as follows…..

Dear Brother

Just a line to thank you for the PostCard you sent me but at the same time I thought you would have sent me one of your photos.  They have all got one but me so I hope you will send me one.  Mother got your photos Saturday morning.  Mother,  group and also the one of yourself.  Jane Garbutt got one and not Great Aunt (Fanan ?) so do not forget to send me one.  So don’t forget to send one (She repeats herself).

From Your Sister

Give Joe and Jock my best Love Mary


Charles was one of three Stockton brothers who were all stokers on HMS Queen Mary.  They were the sons of Mary and George Malcolm, 14 Union Street, Stockton-on-Tees. All three were killed at the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916 while serving in HMS Queen Mary. They were: – Charles Malcolm, stoker, 2655S, RNR aged 22; John Robert Malcolm, stoker, 1430S, RNR, aged 25; Joseph Malcolm, stoker, 2681T, aged 29. All are commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial. John Robert and Joseph were married. John Robert had a son John G. born 1915. Joseph had two daughters, Mary Elizabeth born 1910 and Janet born 1913.


Henry Doyleson was a Stockton man and a friend of the Malcolm brothers.  He enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery (regt. no. 34819) in the early days of the war.  He became a driver, responsible for driving a team of horses that pulled the big Field guns into and out of battle. His battery landed in France on 8th September 1915 in time to join the brigade as they prepared for what became known as the Battle of Loos or the Third Battle of Artois. The battle commenced on the 25th September 1915.  Henry was killed in action on the  26TH September 1915. He had only been at the front for 18 days before he was killed

Henry is commemorated on the Roll of Honour on plot/panel 3 of the Loos memorial, Pas de Calais.  The memorial commemorates 20,000 men who fell in battle and have no known graves.

t13908This is another photograph of Henry Doyleson.  It was probably taken shortly after he had enlisted and was posted from Salisbury Plain where his battery of the RFA was in training before going overseas.   The message on the back of the photograph has faded over the years but what can be read follows…..

One for Ike  and —-one for yourself.  Write back to the address we are at ——————— Salisbury.  Now firing the big guns for a week and then the  —– starts ——-with.  (Illegible words have been replaced with dashes).

Lorraine, who donated the photographs, would really like to find out more about Henry Doyleson.  He was her Grandfather’s brother but her grandfather changed his name to Dayes.  It is a big family mystery. Lorraine would also love to know who the other men in the photograph are…..  can anyone help?

Stockton Sappers c1916/17

t13735This is my grandfather Sapper Joe E Drinkel of the 225th Field Company Royal Engineers taken in France, he had just come in from the field. In the Royal Engineers he was graded a Saddler.

The second photograph is George Harland, a good friend of my granddads. I was given this copy by his family. George was also graded a Saddler. Both George Harland and my Grandfather were Boot and Shoe makers in Stockton.

Photographs and details courtesy of Denis Rigg.



From Beaconsfield Street, Norton to the Western Front

t13727Grandad Thomas Birtle was brought up by his maternal grandparents Thomas and Mary Ann Merrington. The 1911 census finds them living at 67 Beaconsfield Street, Norton on Tees. They lived there for quite a few years.

The first picture shows a very young granddad pictured in his Durham Light Infantry uniform in I think 1915. He joined up in September at the age of 16. The young child at his feet we believe to be a cousin but are not certain exactly which one. The Merringtons were born in the late 1850s in north Yorkshire.

At some stage granddad was transferred from the Durham Light Infantry (DLI) to the Highland Light Infantry (HLI) and by 1918 he was a sergeant. He always said that his being transferred was because he was a useful footballer and the HLI people welcomed him as an addition to their battalion football team. One of his new team mates played for Aberdeen FC in the 1920s and was capped by Scotland.

t13728Having been in France for some time Grandad’s luck was bound to run out and he was shot through his left elbow in august 1918 near the French town of St Quentin. The second picture can be dated to between the time of his wounding and April 1919 when he was discharged from the army. Facing the camera he is on the left of the picture and you can clearly see his left arm has been wounded. You can also see, that as a proud Englishman, he is wearing his bonnet.

Photographs and details courtesy of Martin Birtle.

The Great War Centenary Anniversary, 4 August 2014

t13670 t13671








I took these two photographs of the refurbished War Memorial and it’s newly relaid surroundings which all looked very nice in the mid-morning sunshine on Yarm High Street this morning.

To accompany the Yarm photographs I called in at Egglescliffe and photographed their War Memorial too which also looked equally resplendent in the sunshine.

t13672 t13673Photographs and details courtesy of David Thompson.