Bravery of war dead brought to life as Remembrance Day tribute
A local historian has spent hundreds of hours researching her village's war dead so that their bravery will be brought alive for Remembrance Day.
Gail Hudson has even visited the French and Belgian war graves of dozens of First World War casualties from the West Rainton area to lay crosses at them.
Each has been inscribed with the phrase “Remembered with Pride and Gratitude by your home Village of either West Rainton, Leamside or Middle Rainton”.
Their stories will also be outlined at an exhibition taking place at the village’s St Mary’s Church this weekend.
Different organisations encompassing people of all ages have been involved in the community display.
Mrs Hudson, who lives in the village and is acting chairman of West Rainton and Leamside Local History Group, has scoured online archives as well as visiting libraries and Durham
Council Council’s records office to piece together the soldiers’ backgrounds.
She said: “I feel like I have got to know these men.
“I feel we are bringing them back to life or at least their memory so they are not just a name anymore.”
Mrs Hudson adds crosses to different graves and memorials every year when she accompanies husband Jim, 59, a Royal Navy veteran and former reservist, when he takes part in the annual 100km Ieper walk around the Flanders battlefields area.
She said: “The cemeteries range from small immaculately tended areas at the side of a dirt track to vast spaces of over 10,000 graves.
“They make you realise the sheer numbers who perished, fell and remain beneath the farmland of Flanders.”
Five of the 65 Great War casualties from the West Rainton area will also shortly have their names included on a plinth to be added to St Mary’s war memorial.
Mrs Hudson, 56, an advisor for foreign currency exchange Travelex, said: “We have discovered five names which for different reasons were not added when the memorial was opened in 1921.
“Some of them died after the war was over from injuries they had suffered during the war and some may have been still alive when the names were originally added.”
A temporary tribute will honour the missing five soldiers at the village’s Armistice Day service at St Mary’s Church at 10.45am.
The service will also remember the 12 servicemen from the Raintons to have died during the Second World War.
The exhibition featuring poignant silhouettes and the stories behind the war dead takes place at the church between 10am-3pm on Saturday and noon-3pm on Sunday.
*Mrs Hudson is looking for information on four of the village’s 65 Great War casualties.
Contact her on (0191) 5126420 if you have any details about E Bell, JT Bell, J Brown or WC Clark.
Soldiers' lives remembered
The tragic tale of one of the missing names on the war memorial illustrates how others lost their lives while supposedly safe at home.
Private Noel Coombes Trump, of the 3rd Battalion King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, who lived in Chapter Row, West Rainton, died aged 22 nearly three years after the end of the 1914-18 conflict after contracting TB while his shrapnel injuries healed.
Mrs Hudson’s research, however, has revealed that he passed the infectious illness on to his younger sister, Julia Agnes Trump, known as Dolly.
Mrs Hudson added: “Unfortunately she too has died at the age of only 15.”
Another of the soldiers to be added to the memorial, Private John William Myers, of the 16th Battalion Durham Light Infantry, did not even make it to the battlefield.
He enlisted in February 1918 and died just a day later in hospital from a ruptured appendix.
Mrs Hudson said: “He stood up and was prepared to go to war. So why not add him?”
Her extensive research has also uncovered darker secrets about the life of one of the 65.
She added: “There was one soldier who was married with children when there was a letter sent to his commanding officer by a woman asking why he hadn’t returned to London as promised to marry her sister.
“Apparently the sister was in a ‘delicate condition’ so you can only imagine that she was pregnant and being an unmarried mother was far more of an issue back then.
“Anyhow, he too died in the same year.”