The 11th (Service) Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry was originally formed in September 1914 from volunteers, most of them from County Durham, and the majority from coal mining communities. During training in the Surrey area they were attached to the 20th (Light) Division. In January 1915 they were converted into a Pioneer battalion, to provide ‘organised and intelligent labour’ for the Division. From that time one they were to serve both as workmen and as infantry, a flexible role for which they were paid an extra daily allowance.
On 20 July 1915 they sailed for France and remained on the battlefields of France and Flanders for the whole of the war. They experienced front-line action at Laventie, Ypres (three times), the Somme (twice), Cambrai and the Lens-Avion sector. When the fighting ended in November 1918 they were gradually demobilised, completing their tour of duty at Grenas in 1919, and returning to England the way they had arrived, but reduced to a small cadre.
In the spring of 2011 my book, The 11th Durham Light Infantry: In their own names, is published by Amberley Publishing of Stroud. The research that forms the basis for the book is too extensive and detailed to be included in an affordable and readable volume. This website is designed to complement the book by providing additional information about the battalion, the men who served in it and their families. It will also serve as a virtual meeting point for anyone interested in the story of the battalion and the people associated with it, especially those who have reason to remember those who served.
The book itself is remarkably different from any other battalion history, breaking new ground in historical research methods by fearlessly tackling the complex issues of records linkage based in the techniques of family and local historians. This is about people in war, not about war in which people are reduced to numbers. It demonstrates the sheer ordinariness of the men who served and the families and friends who provided networks of support. It embraces and celebrates their humanity and helps to fully appreciate their courage as humans, rather than as servants of power.
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