Village remembers its World War One fallen

MAN OF LETTERS: Easington Lane miner Alexander Mackenzie Jobey, who sent his little niece Beryl scores of notes from the trenches.
MAN OF LETTERS: Easington Lane miner Alexander Mackenzie Jobey, who sent his little niece Beryl scores of notes from the trenches.
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A TRIBUTE to the fallen of World War One has been unveiled in a Wearside village.

Volunteers from Easington Lane Community Access Point have spent the past two months creating a memorial garden to mark the 100th anniversary of the conflict.

FAMILY TREASURES: Bob Moody at the World War One exhibition at Easington Lane Community Access Point with mementoes of his great uncle Alexander Jobey.

FAMILY TREASURES: Bob Moody at the World War One exhibition at Easington Lane Community Access Point with mementoes of his great uncle Alexander Jobey.

The results of their work were unveiled at a Great War Commemorative Service on Monday – when councillors and villagers gathered to pay tribute to their lost heroes.

“We wanted to mark the start of World War One with something that would last for at least the length of the four-year conflict,” said Access Point chairman Bob Moody.

“A great many men from Easington Lane fought in the war, and we thought a Garden of Remembrance would be a respectful tribute to their bravery and sacrifice.”

Bob joined forces with Access Point president Harold Watson, as well as volunteers Andrew Husband, John Cook and Michael Trevitt, to carry out work on the garden.

The men even chipped in with donations for the plants, with other support provided by Heritage Lottery Fund, the City Council and Durham Community Foundation.

“Bishopwearmouth Horticultural Nursery helped with planting too, Hay Metal Craft at Easington Lane did the artwork and Hetton Quarry donated the stone,” said Bob.

“It really has been a community effort, and we are very pleased with the results. It is a peaceful spot where people can come to remember those lost to war – all wars.”

Features of the garden so far include stonework pigeon baskets, to mark the work of war carrier pigeons, as well as artwork centred around an original Great War helmet.

Future plans include adding seating – when funds are available – as well as creating a Field of Remembrance, filled with wooden crosses with personal messages on them.

“We would like to thank everyone who has helped,” said Harold Watson. “Building this garden has brought out a real sense of community spirit – which is wonderful.”

In addition to the garden, volunteers have also created a World War One exhibition within the Access Point building – filled with vintage photos and war memorabilia.

Wartime postcards and posters, as well as medals, maps, military items and details on local Great War soldiers are all on show – together with letters from the trenches.

“Some exhibits are very poignant, especially the letters,” said display organiser John Cook. “They really do catch at you and we’ve already had at least one tearful visitor.

“We are now hoping the exhibition will expand and grow over the next four years, as we are encouraging visitors to bring along their own memorabilia to put on show.

“It is important to mark the centenary of the start of World War One. The display and memorial garden are our own personal tributes to those who fought in the conflict.”

Visitors are welcome to visit the garden and exhibition at Easington Lane Community Access Point, in Brickgarth, on any weekday until 2018. Admission is free.

“The work carried out by our volunteers has been exceptional and unbelievable,” said assistant centre manager Michelle Baines. “They have all worked so very hard.

“It has been amazing to see all that hard work come together just in time for the war centenary. I’m sure both the garden and the exhibition will prove hugely popular.”

•Easington Lane Community Access Point is open from 9am-4pm on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9am-8pm on Thursdays and 9am-3pm on Fridays.

Other soldiers remembered at the exhibition

•Private Thomas Harland Breckon, of 2 School Houses, Elemore Lane. Served with the DLI. Worked as a checkman at Elemore Colliery until retirement in 1959.

•Private William Lowes, of Store Terrace, Brickgarth. Worked as a miner at Elemore Colliery and interned as a prisoner of war at Stammlarger, Gardelgene.

•Private Thomas Philips, of Elemore Lane. His father ran the Albion Hotel. Thomas served in the Royal Artilley and ran the Fox and Hounds at Nog Row, Hetton, on his return.

•Private Richard William Robson, of Easington Lane. A miner who served with the Yorkshire Regiment. His son, Jim, became an electrical engineer at Elemore Colliery.

•Private John Reed Sanderson, of Bradley terrace. Served in the DLI and was horse keeper at Elemore colliery until his retirement.

•Private Arthur Barnfather, of Frederick Terrace. The painter and decorator served with the Royal Army Service Corps and was killed in action near Amiens on April 19, 1918.

Letters from the front

LETTERS sent from the trenches by Easington Lane miner Alexander Mackenzie Jobey form the centrepiece of the new World War One exhibition.

The wagonway man fought with the Alexandra, Princess of Wales’ Own Yorkshire Hussars, seeing action at the Somme in 1916 and the Battle of Arras in 1917.

But, when granted time away from the bloody fighting, he wrote notes and postcards to his little niece Beryl back in Easington Lane – which she kept until her death.

“Alexander was my great uncle; my grandmother’s brother,” said Bob Moody. “Aunt Beryl always treasured his letters and, when she died, they passed down to me.

“She always kept them locked away, which is why the postcards are still so vivid today. I find them all fascinating, and I’m sure visitors will be interested as well.”

Alex, one of seven children, was born to blacksmith Alexander Jobey and his wife Ann in 1888. Most of his short life was spent at 24 Elemore Lane, in Easington Lane.

After leaving school at 11 he worked at Elemore Colliery but, when war broke out, he signed up almost immediately. By the autumn of 1915, Alex was fighting in France.

“Beryl was very young when he went to war. He always called her ‘My Little Lass’ and signed his notes ‘Uncle Anger’ – because she couldn’t say his name,” said Bob.

“He sent her literally dozens of cards and letters, most very cheerful and colourful – obviously designed to appeal to a small child. But many are extremely poignant too.”

Indeed, one such letter – sent from the trenches of France on Boxing Day 1916 – includes promises Alex was never able to keep, as he would be dead within a year.

“My dear Little Lass,” he wrote to Beryl. “I was very pleased to get your card and letter yesterday, Christmas Day. You are getting very good at writing letters.

“I would like to hear you sing Noel. We will sing it together when I come home though. Best love, and a lot of kisses, from your Uncle Anger.”

Within months of writing the cheerful little note, Alex was sent to fight at the Battle of Passchendaele – a bloody, and brutal, campaign with 244,897 British casualties.

The former miner was injured during fighting and, on October 23, 1917, died of wounds. Today Alex is remembered at Bailleul Communal Cemetery in France. “He gave his life for King and Country and I believe it is important to remember him, and all the others like him, through exhibitions and gardens like ours,” said Bob.