Ferryhill in theWars
The Great War or World War I
1914 - 1918
On August 4th, 1914 Britain declared war on Germany. In the North East of England, thousands of men - miners; factory workers; and other tradesmen - joined up with their local battalion. In Ferryhill, it was more than likely that men joined the Durham Light Infantry (DLI). They were then trained through either the Royal Air Force, the Royal Navy, or His Majesty's Army.
|A Durham Light Infantry Soldier - based upon the War Memorial in the garden of Ferryhill Town Hall.|
Due to lack of recorded personal memories or experiences in the Great War, it is difficult to judge how life was like in Ferryhill. However ration books were issued to every household by the Government.
The A167, running underneath the three bridges of Ferryhill was not completed until after the Great War. In 1914, the terraced housing in Dean Bank was built to accommodate the miners from Dean & Chapter Colliery. There were 999 houses, and a chapel to seat 600 people. A police station was also built to employ 1 sergeant and 6 constables at St. Cuthbert’s Terrace, but in the early 1970’s it was relocated in Church Lane. The former becoming a private family house. The building work was completely finished in 1916. 1n 1917, a flu epidemic hit the village and killed scores of people. Nearly every family suffered a death.
Durham Record Office holds a couple of Durham Light Infantry archives relating to soldiers connected to Ferryhill in the Great War:
18/242 Private Arthur Henry Corner
Lance-Corporal William Jopling
270150 Private Alfred John Pickering
No. D/DLI 7/537/15
At 11am on 11 November 1918, armistice was declared and fighting ceased. Peace declarations were read out in many towns and cities across the North East. In G.D. Wall's book "Memories of Ferryhill", page 6, shows a victory celebration occurring in the Market Place, in front of the Town Hall. Around 1920, a war memorial was erected in the garden of the Town Hall.
Click Here for "First World War Memorabilia from around County Durham"
World War II
1939 - 1945
On 3rd September 1939, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain announced that Britain is at a war with Germany. Many men joined up with local their battalion. Some young men joined up at the age of 16 or 17 as they lied about their age. Like the First World War, men of all trades were called up on National Service. The United Shoe Shop (which was then next to the Black Bull public house, now "Hall & Co Solicitors") was the place were men signed up. On 7th May 1940 Winston Churchill succeeded Chamberlain as Prime Minister. It was greatly due to Churchill that kept moral high during this war.
When the Second World War broke out, not all schools in Ferryhill had air raid shelters constructed within their school grounds. As a result, school children were told to use the "duck and cover" method - this was to place a mat underneath each school desk and during an air raid, children crouched under their desks. Within a few months shelters were built.
Every school provided their pupils with what can only be described as "Mickey Mouse" gas masks, which some children found uncomfortable and frightening, especially if the child was young.
In order to prevent windows being shattered and flying about if a bomb did fall and explode, all windows were taped up.
At night, there was not allowed any street lighting, and transport had to have their lights extremely dimmed. Houses had to ensure that each room with a window was fitted with long, thick curtains so that any inside light could not escape into the street. The objective was to prevent the enemy, the Germans, from bombing any location.
Air Raid Wardens patrolled the streets ensuring that regulations and restrictions of lighting was carried out to the strictest terms. If a house showed a bit of light, the warden shouted "Oi, get that covered!".
Air raid shelters were provided at nearly every street corner, a huge underground one was situated where the "Praxis" factory used to be, in Dean Bank. If there was an air strike, and people were inside the shelter, the warden would ask how many people were inside the shelter so they knew how many bodies there would be if they encountered a direct hit from the enemy.
If people felt uncomfortable using the shelter, or in the circumstance where they could not get to a shelter in time, they would use under their staircase in their house as protection, as this was deemed the safest place in the entire house.
The Government issued ration books for every household. Many shops - butchers, bakers, etc - took part in the rationing of food for their consumers. The Co-op store, once situated in Dean Bank, but is now located in the Market Place, was exceptional during the rationing, due to the dividends people got on their purchases. The weekly market was still carried out.
Sugar was black in those days, and the rarest of food people could purchase during this war was fruit. Fish and Chip shops did great business, and still do. It once cost 2d for a big bag of chips, and 5d for Fish and Chips. There were plenty of potatoes. Rationalisation meant purchases on small amounts.
The allotment gardens , situated at opposite ends of Dean Bank, were constructed and used to supplement the rations. If a pig could be bought and slaughtered, it would provide family with pork for quite a good time.
Three picture houses are known to have existed during the Second World War. These were The Gaiety, The Pavilion, and The Majestic (also known as "The Ranch" because of the amount of westerns it showed). Programmes were changed twice a week, and two houses were open on a weekend.
The Masonic Hall, The Workingmen's Club, and at a hall on the corner of Dean Road (now a garage) held local dances at evenings.
In private homes, a wireless radio played music and news updates of the war.
First Aid Building/Bombiing
The Masonic Hall, situated at the east slope of Ferryhill, was used by the First Aid team during the war. A duty rota ensured that a trained first aid person was at the Hall. A "Fire Watch" was practised here.
It is not recorded that Ferryhill was actually bombed during WWII, as there were no factories in the locality which provided for the war effort, except at Spennymoor where the casing of bullets were made. However, between the 6th and the 7th July 1940, some trucks, an engine house and a cabin at Mainsforth Colliery (near Ferryhill Station) were damaged by a high explosive bomb, and in a field in a neighbouring town, Chilton, was bombed, but there was no lives lost.
Other War Efforts
In the neighbouring town of Spennymoor, there was a ROF (Royal Ordnance Factory) 21 building which employed men and women. Here they made bullets and shells, which were then transported to Newton Aycliffe to be filled with explosives.
The Home Guard practised shooting at one of the fields near Ferryhill Business and Enterprise College, Merrington Road. The Tower of Merrington Church was used as a lookout during both wars.
St John's Ambulance Brigade held meetings in a church owned by the Church of England, in Ferryhill. The Cadet and Nursing Divisions also held meetings there. The Brigade managed to purchase a large wooden building from Durham County Water Board and construction was laboured by the members themselves, as to reduce cost. This was situated near Dean & Chapter Colliery.
To supply the war with more metal, many railings, from gardens, and fronts of houses around Ferryhill were removed. If you walk at the front of Westcott Terrace, next to The Villas, you can still see on some of the old brickwork the remains of metal in the concrete.
Ferryhill Station Goods yard housed all the stock from York.
Durham Record Office holds an archive relating to Ferryhill in the Second World War:
No. D/DLI 2/6/10(827)
On 8th May 1945, victory was declared and many people celebrated by having parties in the streets and special church services were held. However, for people unsure if their loved one would safely return home, or already bearing bad news, it was both feelings of happiness, worries and bereavement.
Remembering the Second World War
It was recorded that there was 298 air raids alone in the North East of England.. Hundreds of people are killed as a result of these raids, but thousands more souls lost their lives fighting and dying in Europe.
Around 1920 a Memorial Stand was erected in the grounds of Ferryhill Town Hall for those who fought and died in the World Wars. Inside the entrance of Ferryhill Library, is the War Remembrance Book. Each page is a date with a related war soldier.
Soldiers Shot At Dawn
In 2005-6, The Northern Echo newspaper started a campaign to get the Government of Great Britain to pardon all the solders who were shot at dawn during the World Wars. I, Darrell S. Nixon, support this campaign.
Remembering those who sacrificed their lives in the World Wars.
The War Memorial in the garden of Ferryhill Town Hall.
Personal Photography - 2006
The Glory of God
In Thankful Remembrance
Of the Men of
Who Gave their Lives
For their Country
In the Great War
1914 - 1918
And the Second World War
1939 - 1945
Pass not this stone in sorrow but in pride
And may ye live as nobly as they died.
Bayles W H
Betton W E
Brown T W
Chaplow C H
Charlton J W
Corner A H
Coulthard R H
Cockayne C J
Davies E A
Davison J S
Emmerson J W
Ferry W R
Fletcher J J
Gill J C
Hodgson I W
Hopkins J W
Hunter C E
Jones H T
Monks H C
Nixon J R
Oxley W T
Pickering A J
Pratt J W
Richardson R D
Sawyer J H
Scott J A
Simpson J W
Stephenson E H
Stephenson J H
Stephenson J W
Stoddart W J
Urwin R S
Walker C H
White C H
The inscription and list of the dead in alphabetic order, on the War Memorial.
Sources of Information
Abley, B. "Ferryhill at War: 1939-1945', Ferryhill Town Council, 2005;
Dixon, A. "The People's History: Ferryhill and District", The People's History Ltd, 2001. ISBN: 1902527259. Pages 23, 36, 49, 74, 107-110, 112, 127;
Durham County Record Office/Durham Light Infantry Record Catalogue;
Ferryhill Woman's Institute, "History of Ferryhill, County Durham", 1960;
Wall, G.D. "Memories of Ferryhill", County Durham Books, 1994. ISBN: 1897585187. Page 60;
Ferryhill Town Hall Website;
Personal Photography and Research at the Town Hall Garden, Ferryhill, 2006-2007
My Grandfather, Joseph Varty, WWII reminiscences as a boy .