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Those Who Served
Pte. Alfred Russen Valentine . British Army 9th Corps Cyclist Army Cyclist Corps from Oldham
(d.5th October 1918)William R. Valentine
Edward Valentine . British Army Royal Inniskilling FusiliersDessie McGarry
L/Cpl. Reginald Valentine . British Army 13th Btn. Middlesex Regiment from 245 Shrewsbury Road, Forest Gate, Essex
(d.3rd Aug 1917)
Reggie Valentine was killed in action following the Battle of Pilckem Ridge on 3 Aug 1917. He had enlisted on 9 Sep 1914 at East Ham. He was the son of William & Sophia Valentine and my first cousin once removed. He had four brothers and three sisters.
Reggie's brother William Valentine died in South Africa in 1921 as a result of a medical condition from his service in the 6th Bn. Essex Regt. and 54th Div Sig Coy, Royal Engineers. He enlisted on 25 Sep 1914 at Chatham.Pamela Valentine
Pte. Robert Valentine . British Army Royal Irish Fusiliers
Private Robert Valentine served with the Royal Irish Fusiliers. He died at the Down County Infirmary on 12 April 1920 from wounds received at the Battle of the Somme; he was 22 years old. Robert was interred in Loughinisland, Co. Down on 14 April 1920.Dessie McGarry
Pte. William Valentine . British Army 13th Btn. Northumberland Fusiliers from Newcastle
(d.26th September 1915)Lawrence Valentine
Pvt 1st Class George D. Vallen . US Army Company F 146th Infantry Rgt from Akron, OH. USA
My paternal grandfather George D. Vallen Sr. was a Private 1st Class of the 4th Army Corps-37th Division-73rd Brigade-146th Infantry-Company F. I have many pictures taken from his enlistment time where he originally reported to Camp Akron at Silver Lake, Ohio where they spent a few weeks organizing and beginning their training. They were then transferred to Camp Sherman in Montgomery, Alabama for further training. That's where the pictures ended. From there they went to Camp Lee in Virginia and prepared for embarcation. They left Camp Lee on June 12, 1918 bound for New Jersey where they boarded the USS Leviathan bound for France.
They disembarked June 23rd at Brest, France. His group was involved in the following Battle deployments: Baccarat Sector, France – August 4 to September 16, 1918 Meuse-Argonne offensive, France – September 26 to 30, 1918 Meuse-Argonne offensive, France – October 7 to 16, 1918 Ypres-Lys offensive, Belgium – October 31 to November 4, 1918 Ypres-Lys offensive, Belgium – November 9 to 11, 1918 Embarked on the USS Maui on March 18, 1919 at Brest, France to return to the US. He was discharged the 13th of April. He also kept a journal from 1917 just prior to enlisting until he was mustered out in 1919.
He took it upon himself to convene a reunion of his Company beginning in the early 1940's and continued until about 1965. Because of that he was given some a record that had been used in their company headquarters that recorded the ins and outs of members of that Company. I have that book and have submitted it to RootsWeb.com so everyone will have access now to that information as it has a listing that containst the following information: Surname, First name, Middle initial, Serial no., DOB, DOD (which was upkept by my grandfather), Enlistment date, City reported to, Camp reported to, Initial rank, Rank as of Nov 1917 at Camp Sherman, Rank as of AEF October 1918, Remarks (many various: in hospital, training, AWOL, etc.),Rank as of AEF January 1919, Promotion, Date of Promotion, Transfers, Date transferred, Final assignment, Date, Next of kin, relationship, address, Soldier's address at enlistment, Previous company, date transferred, Furloughs/Leaves, and Other.James Vallen
Capt. John Franks Vallentin VC MID.. British Army 1st Btn. South Staffordshire Regiment from London
(d.7th Nov 1914)
Captain John Vallentin served with the 1st Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment during WW1. He died on the 7th November 1914, Age: 32 and is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial in Belgium. He was the son of Lucy Vallentin, of 116, Albert Place Mansions, Battersea Park, London, and the late Grimble Vallentin.
An extract from The London Gazette, No. 29073, dated 16th Feb., 1915, records the following:-
For conspicuous bravery on 7th Nov., at Zillebeke. When leading the attack against the Germans under a very heavy fire he was struck down and on rising to continue the attack was immediately killed. The capture of the enemy's trenches which followed was in a great measure due to the confidence which the men had in their Captain, arising from his many previous acts of great bravery and ability.S Flynn
Sjt. B. Van Praag . Army 15th Btn. Durham Light Infantry
Mjr. Crofton Bury Vandeleur . British Army Cameronians Scottish Rifles
Major Vandeleur escaped from Crefeld POW camp.
Sub-Lt. Leopold Edward Vanden-Bempde-Johnstone . Royal Navy (d.31st May 1916)
Sub.Lt. Vanden-Bempde-Johnstone was killed in action in the Battle of Jutland age 19S. Flynn
Pte. David Francis Ellison Vane . British Army 16th (Service) Btn. Royal Welch Fusiliers from Treharris, Glamorganshire
Private Vane (32700) served in the 16th (Service) Battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers. He was discharged on 21st September 1917 with a Silver War Badge. Later in his life, he emigrated to New Zealand.Gwen Pendlebury
C. S. Vane-Tempest . Army 5th Btn. Durham Light Infantry
Lt.Col. Bernard William Vann VC, MC.. British Army 8th Btn. Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby Regiment) from Cirencester, Glos.
Bernard Vann was attached 1st/6th Bn. Sherwood Foresters when he was killed in action on the 3rd of October 1918 and buried in Bellicourt British Cemetery in France. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre (France). Son of Alfred George Collins Vann and Hannah Elizabeth Vann, he was the husband of Doris Victoria Vann, of Coates Rectory, Cirencester, Glos.
An extract from The London Gazette, No. 31067, dated 14th Dec., 1918, records the following:- "For most conspicuous bravery, devotion to duty and fine leadership during the attack at Bellenglise and Lehaucourt, on September 29th, 1918. He led his battalion with great skill across the Canal du Nord through a very thick fog and under heavy fire from field and machine guns. On reaching the high ground above Bellenglise the whole attack was held up by fire of all descriptions from the front and right flank. Realising that everything depended on the advance going forward with the barrage, Col. Vann rushed up to the firing line and with the greatest gallantry led the line forward. By his prompt action and absolute contempt for danger the whole situation was changed, the men were encouraged and the line swept forward. Later, he rushed a field-gun single-handed and knocked out three of the detachment. The success of the day was in no small degree due to the splendid gallantry and fine leadership displayed by this officer. Lt. Col. Vann, who had on all occasions set the highest example of valour, was killed near Ramicourt on 3rd October, 1918, when leading his battalion in attack."s flynn
Capt. Frank Vans-Agnew MC. British Army B. Btn. Tank Corps from Florida, USA
Frank Vans Agnew, my great uncle, was a remarkable man: He was 46 when he travelled from America in 1914 to enlist, having been a veterinary surgeon, a farrier in Roosevelt’s Roughriders, an assayer at gold and copper mines in Western Canada and Kazakhstan, and an orange grower in Florida. Posted to the front in May 1915 Frank was soon in the thick of the action and in 1917 was transferred to the Tank Corps, winning an MC at Messines. He was wounded and captured in November and spent 13 months in POW camps before a spell in Copenhagen helping to repatriate British soldiers.
His later career saw him in Belize, prospecting for chicle trees, ranching in New Mexico and growing daffodils in Cornwall before his retirement, which was interrupted by two years in the Home Guard and three in the Royal Observer Corps. He died in 1955. I only met him once, about a year before that. Veteran Volunteer. Memoir of the Trenches, Tanks and Captivity 1914 – 1919 by Frank Vans Agnew (Ed. Jamie Vans) is to be published in about April 2014 by Pen & Sword Books.Jamie Vans
Pte. Bartholemew Redhead Varley . British Army 34th Div. Coy. Army Cyclist Corps from Washington
(d.16th Mar 1916)
Bartholomew Redhead Varley, Private 9528, enlisted at Newcastle and served in 34th Divisional Troops Company, Army Cyclist Corps. He died age 21 on the 16th March 1916. He is buried at Ration Farm Military Cemetery, La Chapelle d'Armentieres. His medal card records the award of the War and Victory Medals.
Bartholomew was born in Jarrow 1894,son of Robert James and Mary Ann Varley nee Redhead of 10 Musgrave Terrace, Washington. In the 1911 census the family is living at Spout Lane, Washington Village with Robert James(49) a Cemetery Superintendant and his wife of 21 years Mary Ann(48). They had 5 chldren with 3 surviving. Only two are living here, Bartholomew(17) an apprentice Mason and Rebecca who is 5 years old.Vin Mullen
Pte. Albany Thomas Frederick Varney . Australian Imperial Force 12th Light Horse Regiment from Australia
Albany Thomas Frederick Varney was born near Coonabarabran, New South Wales, in 1891. The 24-year-old contractor enlisted with the Australian Imperial Force on 29 March 1915 and departed Sydney with the other reinforcements for the 12th Light Horse Regiment aboard HMAT Chilka on 7 June 1915.
Soon after arriving in Egypt Varney was transferred to the 6th Light Horse Regiment in Gallipoli and served there until the evacuation in December. While on the peninsula he wrote of an amusing incident where the sauce bottle in his bag was pierced by shrapnel and leaked all over everything in the bag. He considered it another thing the Turks had to pay for.
The following February Varney was transferred back to the 12th Light Horse Regiment and travelled with it across the Sinai, Palestine, and Jordan Valley. During this time he documented his service regularly in letters and postcards home, with detailed descriptions of the conditions and places encountered. In October 1917 he participated in the battle of Beersheba and in May 1918 sustained a gunshot wound to the leg. Varney sailed for Australia in July 1919 with the remainder of the 12th Light Horse.
He later enlisted for service in the Second World War and was assigned to part-time duty with the 25th Battalion of the Volunteer Defence Corps. Albany Varney survived the war and died at Coonabarabran in 1981.S Flynn
Sgt. Alfred John Varney . British Army 29th Btn. London Regiment from Bermondsey
Pte. Paul Vart . British Army 18th Btn. Durham Light Infantry
Pte. M. E. Vasey . British Army 24th (Tyneside Irish) Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers from Durham City
M Vasey was discharged in 1918 suffering from shellshockLynne
Sjt. T. A. Vasey . Army 2/8th Btn. Durham Light Infantry
Pte. William Oswald Vasey . British Army 18th Btn. Durham Light Infantry
Pte. Richard Vaughan . British Army Sherwood Foresters from Bettisfield, Shropshire
Richard Vaughan is my granddad, he lived in Bettisfield Shropshire but served under the Sherwood Forest Regiment until he was injured. He was born about 1886 in Bettisfield, and he died after the war was over.Jackie
Pte. William David Vaughan . British Army Royal Army Medical Corps
William David Vaughan was my great-grandfather. I've recently begun researching my family tree and have found he was a Private in the RAMC. I don't know much about his service except that he served in Salonica in Greece in 1916.Jenny Vaughan
Lt -Col E. Vaux . Army 7th Btn. Durham Light Infantry
CPO. Roy Clarence Vayne . Royal Australian Navy HMAS Sydney from Australia
Roy Clarence Vayne was born in Perth on 1 August 1900, and was just 14 years old when he enlisted with the Royal Australian Navy in February 1915. For the majority of the First World War Vayne served on HMAS Sydney, which in late 1916 was sent to serve with the Royal Navy's Grand Fleet in the North Sea.
There he received a pair of socks through the Rhynie Red Cross Society, knitted by an 8-year-old girl. Vayne wrote a letter of thanks back to the girl, detailing how he missed the sunshine in Australia and hoping the girl wasn't too disappointed that the socks went to a sailor instead of an infantryman. He returned home after the war and married in 1927.
Following the outbreak of the Second World War Vayne served as part of the auxiliary service and spent the majority of the war at the naval base HMAS Torrens. By the time he was discharged on 31 July 1950 he had attained the rank of chief petty officer. Roy Vayne died in Adelaide in 1967.S Flynn
Sgt Thomas Vayro . British Army 6th Battalion, B Company Durham Light Infantry from 71 Commercial Street, Willington, Co Durham
Thomas Vayro, A Volunteer Soldier who served in the Durham Light Infantry
My Grandfather, Thomas Vayro, was born in Aldbrough St John, North Yorkshire on 24th August 1883, one of the nine children of James Vayro (1853 -1893) and Elizabeth Pounder (1854 -1892). His father was a farm hand, who was constantly on the move, seeking and finding casual farm labour in the villages of Tunstall, Gilling, Hartforth, Forcett,Aldbrough, Skeeby, Easby and Coatham Mundeville, all close to Darlington in the North East of England.
On the 1891 census Thomas’ elder brothers William (aged 17) and Edwin (aged 15) were known to be working on farms in Snape and Moulton both near Richmond in North Yorkshire. The main family group were at Low Coalsgarth Farm in Easby. Unfortunately Elizabeth died of Cancer of the Uterus in 1892 and James died the following year of Diabetes. Consequently Thomas by the age of nine was an orphan and though this has never been proved it is understood that the youngest children Alfred, Thomas, George, Elizabeth Mary, and Harry were placed in a workhouse in Darlington, and it was here that Thomas may have developed his self-sufficiency and toughness and probably learned to fight off the bullies.
It is also rumoured that Martha his sister (17 years old in 1893) may have taken the youngest children to live with an Uncle George Vayro at Angram Cote Farm in East Witton but this also has never been proved. On the 1901 Census, Thomas, aged 18 was lodging with his sister-in-law Hannah (nee Sherrington), in Wesley Street, Willington, County Durham and he and his brother George were already working at Brancepeth Colliery. His elder brother William (husband of Hannah) was boarding at Mary Street in Stanley, near Crook and working at Sunniside Colliery.
So the questions were “When did Thomas become involved in the Army? and to what extent did he serve his country, during The Great War?” My Grandfather seldom spoke of his war experience; he found it too painful, but in my childhood I had seen his 4 treasured medals, and a shell casing he had brought home, and learned that he had served in World War One in both Belgium and France as part of B Company, Sixth Battalion, Durham Light Infantry.
The publicity and interest in the Somme and “Pals” regiments made me determined to find out how exactly he had fought for King and Country in World War One. Except for a few old photographs of his time in the services, and the fact that my Aunts Ruth, Lillian, Edna and Uncles Harry and Raymond could give me very little information on where he had been and what he had done during the Great War, I had very little to work on to put together a picture of his Territorial Army life. <>At first I never really took much notice of the old photographs and certificates that I had collected from various relatives, which typically had few dates, places or names, but amongst them was a “Pioneer’s Diploma” for 50 years service from Durham Miners’ Association. There was also a “Roll of Honour” from the Willington District Working Men’s Institute showing a list of servicemen from the Willington area that had served in the forces between 1914 and 1919, “For King and Empire”. Among the 360 individuals that were listed, some with “Military Distinctions”, in copperplate script was a certain Thomas Vayro, my Grandfather.
So there were two things to tackle; I really needed to find out more about the DLI Battalion itself and also Thomas’s own contribution and movements during the War. As it also required careful detective work to identify the details in the photographs themselves I visited the Durham Light Infantry Museum, where the Military Historian, Steve Shannon identified the various uniforms and likely dates, and suggested that I should read “The Faithful Sixth” by Harry Moses.
There in the book he is shown as Thomas Vayro, Pioneer, representing the DLI at the Coronation of King George Vth, and also in the back row center of a group of officers at Souastre near Arras in 1917.
Many of the bits and pieces of information that I have found are gleaned from this book by Harry Moses, entitled “ The Faithful Sixth”, published by County Durham Books in 1995. Others have been taken from details in the photographs of Thomas “An Ordinary Soldier”, who unlike many of this comrades, survived the trench warfare, the German shelling, and the debilitating mustard gas and came back from the war relatively unscathed. I cannot guarantee that the details are 100% accurate, but being a member of the Sixth DLI Battalion, his orders would naturally take him to wherever they were at a point in time, and therefore are not simply assumptions on my part.
The earliest photograph I have found is of a company of 63 men who are all wearing “slouch hats” which were worn during the Boer War, (1899 -1902) with the peak pointing to their left. I think that the photograph dates from 1906 or 1907, and could show the point when the whole nature of The DLI Sixth Battalion changed due to the 1907 “Haldane Reforms” and when the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act became law.
Mid way through the Boer War, (in 1900) the 2nd Battalion of The DLI had been increased from 8 Companies to a total of 11, with four main companies A, B, C and D drawn from around the Bishop Auckland, Willington and Crook areas, but at this point they were virtually all “Volunteers”. Names of all these men who served in the Boer War are recorded on a bronze plaque in Bishop Auckland town hall (unveiled in 1903) as a record of the 1st Rifle volunteers of the Battalion that served abroad.
I am certain that Thomas never served in the Boer War itself, but because of the national demand for more armed forces that followed that war, Thomas enlisted in the Second Volunteer Battalion Durham Light Infantry on 7th April 1908, and shortly afterwards his Attestation Papers show he signed up at Ripon on 2nd July 1908 for 2 years. Those who served were allowed to wear an Imperial Service badge above their right breast, after volunteering for service abroad, but there is no Imperial Service badge on any of his uniforms.
Two photographs I have show him with colleagues in the dress uniform of the “Second Volunteers” D.L.I. Their uniform was at that time “Rifle Green” with red facings on collars, sleeves and shoulder bands, some with ornate sleeve decoration, small territorial volunteer army hats rather than peaked caps, and in my Grandfather Thomas’s case he is shown with a “crossed rifles” badge on his left sleeve. Both photographs show the men in front of tents, so it was obviously one of the weekend camps used for training purposes from as early as 1888 through to 1909. It is probably the Ripon camp of 1908.
The background of the men who had joined the original 2nd Battalion DLI was from local businesses, skilled and semi skilled workmen, with many employed in the local coal mines. The men who joined had been attracted by a feeling of patriotism, following the Boer War upset, and by a sense of duty and responsibility to their local communities. Drilling and rifle practice were apparently their basic routine activities.
It is well documented that the earlier 2nd Battalion Volunteers DLI was disbanded in 1908 and 8 new Battalion Companies were formed. A total of 30 officers and 770 men were transferred into the newly formed Sixth Battalion Durham Light Infantry. Presumably because he was already enrolled with the 2nd Battalion DLI Thomas would have been one of these men transferred alongside the others into this new Sixth Battalion fighting force in mid 1908. Thomas was already married at this point to his first wife Anne Dunn and the marriage ceremony had taken place at Durham Register Office on 21 st. September 1907. He was then aged 25 and was living in Park Terrace, Willington Co Durham. Anne must have been pregnant at the time, and succeeded in giving Thomas the first of his five sons. Unfortunately Anne died shortly after on February 1908 following complications. This could well have been his incentive for enlisting in the army full time, but of this I am not certain.
Returning to the 2nd Battalion Volunteers their Headquarters was at Bishop Auckland, under the overall command of Colonel the Honourable W L Vane. Two of the original companies were “B” company Bishop Auckland under the command of Captain W Wilkinson, and “C” company Crook and Willington under the command of Captain J H Ramsey. So in April 1808 the DLI was reorganised into 5 new Territorial Battalions, the 5th, 7th, 8th, 9th and the original 2nd Battalion Volunteers of which Thomas was a member, became what is formally known as the 6th Battalion DLI.
Their dress uniform was changed to Khaki with the volunteer cap badge retained. Later in 1910 all of the other Territorial Battalions in the DLI regiment changed again to uniform and badges of the “regular line” battalions. Except the Sixth Battalion, when Colonel Vane opposed the change so that the Sixth should retain its old connections as a “rifle unit”. All buttons and badges were black, Officers wore black belts and boots, and the cross belt badge stayed the same. Full dress included the Maltese Cross badge, otherwise the uniform of the 6th Battalion was the same as the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, and alongside other rifle battalions the DLI had no colours.
By October 1909 the 6th Battalion DLI had 960 on roll with 28 officers and 932 N.C.O.’s and men. This same year saw the beginning of weekend camps with the very first being held on 11th and 13th of June at Fitches Farm near Witton-le-Wear, commanded by Captain J H Ramsey. This location happens to be less than five miles from where Thomas was living in Willington. The same year a DLI camp was held at Blackhall Rocks near Castle Eden. And further annual camps were also held in 1910 at Rothbury, 1911 at Strensall, 1912 and 1913 at Scarborough and on the eve of World War One in 1914 the annual camp was being held in Conway North Wales, between 25th July and 2nd August.
Amongst the photographs that I have of Thomas are a series of images of various camps that he attended. One shows him at Strensall camp in 1911, with a home-made plaque bearing the name 6th B DLI, Cooks. Another, shows him having competed in a rifle competition, with four other colleagues, all holding lee-enfield rifles and a large shield trophy in the foreground, and could be at Scarborough in 1913. And several more in the traditional white “uniform” of army cooks at Conway in 1914.
The images of these men at Conway reveal some fascinating details. The Commanding Officer is shown not wearing black boots, but instead in his sneakers or tennis shoes. The burly butcher with his honing rod permanently slung on his waist from a chain, and at the other end, in rather grubby whites, a hard looking individual holding a cleaver.
Two further events in my Grandfathers life had occurred before he became fully involved in active service in WW1 itself. The first in 1911 was the Coronation of King George Vth, where the D.L.I. were well represented at all levels, to line the route of the procession, and possibly march in the parades.
In particular a “B” Composite Battalion had been sent including Private T Vayro “Pioneer”, who is named in the book “The Faithful Sixth”. From all accounts the term Pioneer is someone with practical skills, such as digging, carpentry, construction skills, and today may be roughly translated as an “engineer” or “craftsman”. This might reflect the work and experience that Thomas had gained from his time in the mines, and may even have been knowledge or experience with explosives as a “shot-firer” at Brancepeth Colliery.
The second event was that Grandfather Thomas married his second wife Ethel Poole (born 6th August 1887) at the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Old Elvet, in Durham City on 15th February 1913. Grandfather Thomas was then living at 71 Commercial Street, Willington. They went on to have a further three daughters, and four sons, one of whom was my father John William Vayro. Both of his Marriage Certificates and several of the Baptisms show Thomas clearly as a miner.
I already had his DLI cap badge, and a copy of a letter from King George V th congratulating him on his release in 1918, (which infers he served time as a POW.) I had traced his medal card details in the National Archives index, as Private Thomas Vayro, Regimental number 311, B Company, No 8 Platoon, Sixth Battalion, Durham Light Infantry. His army number was 250007. He was promoted to Sergeant on 12th March 1916, and disembodied on 10th March 1919.
Letters and small pieces of notepaper reveal information that his brother George, (who had emigrated to Canada in 1909) was with the Canadian Mounted Rifles in the 2nd Contingent at Stonecliffe Camp in Kent. George was registered as No 108598, B Squad 3rd CMP, with the 1st. Brigade C.M.R. C.O.E.F. and by the time he went overseas, attached to the British Expeditionary Force to France he held the rank of Lance Corporal. Thomas’s other brother Alfred was also serving with the Army Services Corp.
At this point I began to search for the finer detail for Thomas himself, and though it had required careful detective work to identify the details in the photographs, further factual information gleaned from “The Faithful Sixth” by Harry Moses was invaluable.
On returning from Conway Camp where they had received a telegram to mobilise, the Sixth Battalion stayed overnight in Bishop Auckland and on Saturday 8th August 1914 they paraded in the market place and marched to the Bishop of Durham’s Palace in Auckland Park. The following day they were put on war stations at Boldon near Sunderland, and on 19th August were encamped at Ravensworth Castle near Gateshead, a camp that was to last for over 3 months until they were moved into winter billets in the Bensham Area of Newcastle in November.
Captain F Walton left the Battalion for Le Havre on 10th April 1915, and the transport and machine gun sections left a week later. Meanwhile the main Sixth Battalion left their Billets on the 14th, and marched to Newcastle Railway Station where they boarded 2 trains for Folkestone. The Regiment sailed on the “Invicta”, landing at Boulogne on 19th, and camped at St Martin’s, Ostrovhe. The following morning they were transported by rail to Cassel and then marched the 8 miles to Hardifort.
On the 22nd April 1915 the Sixth Battalion were ordered to defend the villages of Ryfeld, Steenvorde and Vlamertinghe before yet another march to Ypres where heavy casualties had already occurred. Yet further on to Zonnebeke, passing the ruined village of Potijze and reaching the GHQ line that ran north from Zillebeke Lake to Wieltje and Boesinghe.
At the Zonnebeke Road the Battalion were stopped by heavy shell-fire and lay in the hedgerow until daylight. They were then ordered to move in support of the 7th DLI and the Shropshire Light Infantry who had been under heavy shellfire. On reaching a ridge “B” company (and I can only assume Thomas with them) moved to the front line alongside the First Battalion Hampshire Regiment.
There began an ordeal in the trenches, being constantly bombarded by German Artillery during the day, improving and repairing trenches by night, with little food or sleep. They had no periscopes for observing enemy positions and movements, no flares for illuminating “No-man’s Land” and no previous experience of this type of situation. Fortunately they were relieved five days later on the 30th April. A short sharp shock for those involved, but with only 14 NCOs killed and 55 other servicemen wounded.
Before the war public comments about the Territorials had often been derisory, they were described as “Fireside Soldiers, playing at war” as they passed on their way to the Drill Halls. These same volunteers faced extreme danger, and were now fighting for “King and Country” and there was much worse to come.
The situation at Ypres deteriorated and in early May 1915 the Sixth relieved the First Cavalry Division on the GHQ line at Zonnebeke Lake. Along with the 7th, 8th and 9th Battalions they became the 151st Brigade of the 50th Northumbrian Division. Both the A and B Companies were attached to the Scots Greys, while C to the 12th Lancers and D to the 20th Hussars, in order to give the Sixth “more experience of front line warfare”.
In late May the Sixth DLI left their trenches and was encamped in huts near Brandhoek. The Germans began a fierce bombardment at 3.30 in the morning on 24th whilst most of the Battalion were asleep. Gas had been released and reached their huts, and this forced a speedy move to Potizje Chateau. In June the Battalion were ordered to Sanctuary Wood, near Hooge, rather inappropriately named, for it had already seen fierce fighting and sacrifice. The B Company trench had been so badly damaged it could no longer be used. Consequently, more digging and repair work was required.
With his rifle skills, I feel sure that Thomas would have been an infantry marksman, but I have no proof that he was actually in the line of fire, and may well have been providing rations, or collecting supplies for the troops.
The other theory I have is that as a miner used to heavy digging at the coal face, with his “marrars” he may well have been employed digging and repairing trenches, and tunnels under no-man’s land to lay the mines under enemy lines. The DLI men had apparently developed a reputation for excellence in digging out and maintaining their trenches, to them it may have been just another day’s work, like loading the coal into the tubs at the coal face.
Later in the war a Second Lieutenant Lyon is recorded as saying “The Miners of Durham are some of the finest fighters the country possesses, rough in manner, they possess a power of endurance and a courageous spirit, admirable in adversity”. I would like to think he was talking about my Grandfather!
In December 1915 Thomas hopefully would have received news that his first daughter Mary had been born, but the Sixth Battalion had moved to La Maison Blanche bear Bailleul. On Xmas day they remained in reserve until 3rd January and were back in the trenches at Sanctuary Wood shortly afterwards. Mid-winter conditions, icy winds and heavy rain turned the ground into a quagmire, with many soldiers suffering from “trench foot”, and only copious mugs of tea and the occasional tot of rum to raise their morale.
There is another photograph that is of interest that proves that war was obviously not all continuously digging, marching and confronting the enemy. In the centre of the back row of a group of 28 Warrant Officers and Sergeants, taken at Souastre near Arras in 1917 is Thomas now aged 34. In the foreground is a set of stumps, a bat and cricket balls. They were obviously relaxing and “out of line”, though I doubt if they were playing cricket in full dress uniform!
Thomas must obviously have received periods of leave between his terms of duty, but I have no dates for these, and his third son Alfred, wasn’t born until May 1920, well after the war itself had ended.
At the beginning of the Great War in April 1915 the Sixth Battalion had been thrown into battle against what was then a superior German force, and in May 1918 the Sixth again fought alongside their French Allies in a similar desperate battle until they were finally successful.
At some point during these final skirmishes with the enemy, Thomas was captured and held as a Prisoner of War for several months. Records of the dates and camp details have not yet been traced, and my search for information on his military life continues. The main Sixth Battalion continued to fight until 6th November 1918 (five days before the official end of the war) when they were demobilized and dispatched to base camp at É’taples.
It is only very recently that I had found out that Thomas had received a letter from King George Vth, commending him on his safe release and his return from active service for the country. At the end of the war Thomas received the 1914 -1915 Star, the 1914 -1918 War Medal, the Victory Medal and the Territorial Efficiency Medal. This latter apparently was normally awarded for long service, for being in the T.A. from 1908 to 1914, and his service years from 1914 to 1920 would count double.
After reading numerous articles about The Great War, describing the atrocities that took place, and realizing that many thousands of soldiers were lost in France and Belgium, I now understand why my Grandfather never wanted to talk about his experiences. Despite having received only small wounds, his experience of the gas released in the trenches caused him chest problems for the rest of his life.
He set about raising his family, and returned to work in the local collieries at Brancepeth, Oakenshaw and Sunnybrow where he continued until 1950, when at the age of 67 he retired having deliberately worked an extra two years to get an additional 6 pence on his weekly pension. Thomas had moved to Willington in 1900 to find work, went to war, survived the depression and he remained there until he died on 4th September 1966 aged 83. Coincidentally he was buried at St Stephen’s Church in Willington on my 25th birthday
By the outbreak of WW2 in 1939 Thomas had been in his 56th year and therefore too old to serve, but the Durham Light Infantry had set up an Infantry Training Camp near Brancepeth Castle, which continued through to 1958 and I can remember visiting the castle in the 1950s on a couple of occasions seeing the soldiers in uniform marching on parade from the camp and through the castle grounds
Historically the Sixth Battalion D L I had its early inception in the Durham Rifle Volunteers of 1859 and served through both World Wars until it was disbanded in 1968. On the second Sunday of September a reunion of the D L I Association is held each year in the Cathedral on Palace Green in Durham City.
My search for information on his military life still continues; alongside other general family research. Thanks to a fellow researcher I now have images of his full service records, which I thought were lost in the London blitz in WW2, but turned up as part of the “Burnt Documents2 in the National Archives. One area that I want to explore is the Red Cross records where I may find more information on the actual POW camp, and his dates of capture and release. He was posted missing in action on 27th May 1918, and could have been involved in the third Battle of Aisne in may 1918 where some 50,000 allied troops were taken by the Germans, and he may have ended up in the Crossen am den Oder Camp, for the rest of the war.
My own memories of my Grandfather are of a thin wiry man, hard as nails through many years of working in the mines, and because of his military discipline would take no nonsense from his children and particularly his grandchildren. Even in his late 70s his back was relatively straight, his vegetables were planted in his council house garden, and he still walked to the local club for a pint of ale with his friends who worked or fought beside him. Perhaps he had talked to them!
With my thanks to Harry Moses, author of “The Faithful Sixth”; an invaluable D.L.I. source record. Also to Steve Shannon, Military Historian, Durham Light Infantry Museum, Durham City.
Images to illustrate the story
1914 -1915 Star, 1915 -1918 War Medal, Victory Medal, and Territorial Forces Efficiency Medal
2 Durham Light Infantry Cap Badge
3 1953 Pioneer’s Diploma for T Vayro, from Durham Miner’s Association
4 1914-1919 Roll of Honour, Willington and District Working Men’s Clubs
5 1917 Warrant Officers and Sergeants “Out of Line” relaxing playing Cricket, near Arras in France,Thomas back row, fifth from left.
6 1906 DLI Second Volunteers in Boer War Uniform, wearing Slouch Hats
7 1908 DLI Second Battalion Volunteers, Thomas, middle row, centre
8 1908 Second Battalion Volunteers, Thomas far right, kneeling
9 1911 B Company DLI Strensall Camp, regular uniform, Thomas, far right seated
10 1913 6 th Battalion DLI Competition, Sergeant Thomas Vayro centre
11 1914 Conway Camp, “A likely looking lot “ of Cooks, Thomas next to CO in front row
12 1914 Conway Camp, Thomas seated, second right, in what looks like the cleanest “cook’s whites”
13 1913 Thomas, aged 30, before he married Ethel Poole
14 1916 Thomas and Ethel, with children, Thomas Henry standing (6), John William seated (2) and Mary Elizabeth (1)
15 1918 Letter from King George Vth
16 1917 Addresses for Private T Vayro, his future sister in law Mrs Rennison, and brother Lance Corporal George Vayro
17 1917 Addresses for his brother Lance Corporal George Vayro, and two of his sister in laws,Mrs George Vayro and Mrs Alfred Vayro
18 1915 April, Ypres Salient, Advance of the Durham Light Infantry, adapted from a black drawing in “The Faithful Sixth” by Harry Moses
19 1917 WW1 Postcards sent from France to Ethel, and his sons Thomas Henry and John William
20 1915 -16 Group of Officers, Sergeant T Vayro, back row, second right
21 1913 pre WW1, Thomas in Uniform, wife Ethel, sons Thomas Henry 4 standing and John William 1 on mother’s knee
22 1950 Thomas and Ethel at 19 Gardner Avenue, Willington, Co Durham
23 1958 DLI, Brancepeth Castle Parade, amalgamation of 1st and 2nd BattalionsJohn Rennison Vayro
Capt. E. H. Veitch . Army 8th Btn. Durham Light Infantry
Sgt. William Edwin Venning MM & Bar. British Army 1st Btn. Somerset Light Infantry from Tavistock
My Grandfather William Venning joined the Somerset L I and served as a regular until 1913/14 he then joined the Plymouth Police force. On outbreak of the 1st World War he was recalled and arrived in France on 22nd Aug 1914 as part of the BEF. He survived the war and re-joined the Police as he had gained Distinguished Service in the Field. Here in his own words are his actions:
4th Dec 1914 Mentioned in Dispatches by Field Marshal Sir J D P French. Whilst serving as a L/Cpl in the 1st Somerset Light Infantry, I volunteered with two men to reconnoiter at night, and prepare a sketch of the German Trench 150 yards away, which had to be done by crawling practically the whole of the distance. After obtaining the information required and turning back one of my patrol was shot. With great difficulty I got him on my back safely to our trenches, where it was found that he had been shot right through the head.
Also on 19th December 1914, my Company were ordered to make an attack at 1.30 p.m. on the German trenches all the Officers (seven in all) and senior N.C.O’s were killed. I took charge until relieved at 5 a.m. the following morning by a Q.M. Sgt when we were then ordered to retire to our old position 80 men were left out of the Company.
Military Medal dated London Gazette 11th November 1916 Whilst at Beaumont Hamel for reconnoitering on several occasions the enemy’s machine gun positions for Artillery information and Devotion to Duty. Bar to Military Medal awarded on 11th June 1917
Whilst serving as a Sgt. in the Mounted Military Police on the night of 29th May 1917 the Germans were heavily shelling the village of Vlamertinghe several men of the Royal Artillery were severely wounded I assisted in getting them to a place of safety. Also on the night of 30th May 1917 whilst on mounted Patrol between Vlamertinghe and Ypres. The Germans were heavily shelling the roads wounding about 20 men I rendered first aid and helped getting them to a place of safety. I then galloped back along the road between burning lorries and screens to turn back all traffic at the rear and divert along various branch roads.MJR Venning
Pte. Walter Venus . British Army 9th Btn. Northumberland Fusiliers from Jarrow
(d.7th Jul 1916)
Walter Venus, Private 23340, enlisted North Shields, served in the 9th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers and died age 19 on the 7th July 1916. He is remembered at Thiepval Memorial, Face 10B, 11B and 12B. His medal card shows the award of the War and Victory Medals.
Walter was born in Jarrow 1896, son of Isabella Hanna (formerly Venus nee Irving). In the 1911 census the family is living at 88 Queens Road, Jarrow with David Hanna(35)a Cartman, and his wife of 5 years Isabella(40). They have 2 children David (2) and Sarah (1). Also staying at this address are Isabella's two children from her former marriage, Walter Venus(14) and Isabella Venus who is 6 years old.Vin Mullen
Capt. Charles Edward Granville Vernon . British Army 5th Btn. B Coy. Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers from Dublin, Ireland
(d.15th Aug 1915)
Charles Edward Granville Vernon was killed in action at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli on the 15th of August 1915,aged 31 years The dearly loved elder and only surviving son of Colonel Granville Vernon, Bedfordshire Regiment, and of Rosalie his wife.s flynn
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