Book now out of print

The book, “11th Durham Light Infantry: In Their Own Names”, published by Amberley Publishing in April 2011, has now been deleted from the publisher’s catalogue. Copies are no longer obtainable from the publishers but can be found via a variety of on-line publishers and in some independent bookshops. Following discussions between myself and the publishers, it has been concluded that this edition will not be reprinted in future and all rights have reverted to myself as author.

On 12 January in York I will be presenting the last public talk on 11th DLI to the Yorkshire branch of the Western Front Association. I will continue to do monthly entries on the website in line with the battalion diary and any other matters of interest, especially further information about men who served in the battalion and their families. I am still happy to make contact with other researchers and especially with descendants of men who served in 11th DLI in the Great War. Whether or not their will be a new edition of the book at some point in the future has yet to be explored and will depend on all the other history projects with which I am continually busy!

December 1916

The last month of 1916 was not to see any of the previous attempts at fraternization. Given the brutality of the previous months, this should come as no surprise. For the men of 11th DLI exhaustion would have put paid to any such thoughts anyhow. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, the battalion were hard at work in and around the trenches near Montauban and Combles. While the rest of 20th Division went on rest, the Pioneers remained in the lines – making tracks, carrying wood, digging a new Intermediate line, shoring up trenches and extending a light railway. Reinforcements arrived, but they were mostly former white-collar workers who would have found the work beyond anything they had experienced before in civilian life.

Although a few small parties were allowed away on leave, Christmas Day and Boxing Day found the men clearing decayed German corpses from the old battlefield and creating a mass grave (possibly the beginnings of the one now found at Fricourt). The Army Commander’s Christmas Greetings message will have met with no cheer in return. Major Hayes made impassioned pleas to Divisional HQ for a break, the battalion Adjutant filled the diary with painful descriptions of the state of the men, but it was not until the very end of the month that relief came. The exhausted men struggled out of the lines through thick mud, taking two hours just to get the transport moving. They got three days rest.

Serving in the Home Guard WW2

The latest release of documents on-line at The National Archives comprises some at least of the enrolment forms for the Durham County Home Guard during the Second World War, 1939-45. Undoubtedly many of the men who had served in 11 DLI during WW1 will have signed up and these records will be yet another resource to discover something of the post-WW1 lives of DLI men. Searching the records will not be easy, as it is only possible by the person’s name, but you get a reasonable opportunity to check whether you have the right man before committing yourself to paying for a download of the documents.

One who certainly appears is Richard Laurence Stapylton Pemberton, a highly decorated officer who appears in the Roll of Honour under P. I have now updated his details to show how, after unsuccessfully trying to serve in Anti-Aircraft batteries 1940-41, he remained undaunted and signed on with the Durham Home Guard at the rank of Major and served for more than four years. When the war ended he was even given the honorary rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

How complete are the records I cannot be sure, and certainly there is no sign of Hugh Lavelle, who may have served in the Home Guard at Stillington. Nor do the records include other allied home defence forces such as the Auxiliary Fire Service, in which my maternal grandfather, Fred Martin, served. But another resource well worth exploring.