MOVING: Maurice and Joan Rodgers with the story of Joe Rodgers, which forms part of To Serve King and Country
MOVING: Maurice and Joan Rodgers with the story of Joe Rodgers, which forms part of To Serve King and Country

IT was a moving and emotional occasion when a new exhibition highlighting some of those from Teesdale who served in the Great War opened at The Bowes Museum.

To Serve King and Country is the culmination of a four-year research project which began with the discovery of an incomplete roll of honour of those from the dale who went off to war a century ago.

During the course of the project, some 2,000 names have been added to the roll of honour and some of their stories, along with artefacts, form the basis of the exhibition.

Relatives of those featured in the display were invited to have a look round after the exhibition was officially opened by Lord Lieutenant of County Durham Sue Snowden.

She said: “The exhibition explores the role of Teesdale and its communities during the First World War. It really does bring these stories to life. There are personal artefacts which allow us to have a glimpse of their lives and what it was like to serve in the trenches.

“The roll has come from all the townships in Teesdale. Started in 1915 and never completed, a further 2,000 names have been added and I am sure there will be more to come. One hundred years later, we are all connected to the First World War. It is important that we do not forget the events of a century ago. I hope this exhibition will be a focal point for this community.”

Jane Whittaker, head of collections at The Bowes Museum, said it was a “job well done” for all those involved in the project.

“Although not fully complete – and probably never will be – 2,000 names being added to the roll of honour is a marvellous result,” she said.

She said that while the roll of honour was the main focus of the project, there had been some community projects which had run alongside, involving everyone from hundreds of school children to inmates at Deerbolt Young Offenders’ Institution.

She paid tribute to the efforts of research advisor Judith Phillips and her small team of volunteers who had worked “long and tirelessly” on the exhibition.

Ms Phillips said it had been a privilege to work on the exhibition.

“Families have allowed us to use their stories and people with no direct connection with Teesdale have made it part of their lives. I hope you think it an adequate and proper remembrance.”

The exhibition continues until March 3 next year.

THE medals awarded to William Tarran are among the items on display as part of to Serve King and Country.

Sage Wealth MPU

Mr Tarran’s son Peter and daughter Suzanne Davies were among taking a look round the exhibition when it opened.

Their father received the Military Medal, British War Medal, Victory Medal and a medal presented by the ladies of Butterknowle.

He was just 19 when awarded the Military Medal. After the war he lived at High Startforth, working for Shell-Mex and BP at the Barnard Castle depot. When the Barney depot closed, he moved to Catterick and during the Second World War delivered fuel oil and petrol to RAF stations. Mr Tarran recalled how, as a young boy, he would accompany his father on the wagon.

“In the second war, they asked him to wear his medals. My dad would climb out of the cab and as soon as they saw the Bar, they would stand to attention,” said Mr Tarron.

Ms Davies said she found out about the project through the museum’s e-magazine.

“I read what Judith was asking, sent a story in about dad and it escalated from there,” she said.

Mr Tarron’s story is also featured in the documentary In the Pink, which has been produced by the Gaunless History Society and is currently being shown around community venues in the area.

MAURICE Rodgers shed a few tears when he saw his father Joe’s picture and story highlighted as part of the To Serve King and Country exhibition.

Joe Rodgers, from Barnard Castle, was born in 1899 and lied about his age when he enlisted in 1915. Initially a bugler, he later fought in France and having survived the war returned to Teesdale and worked as a gardener and later at Glaxo.

However, Joe’s father Joseph did not come home – he was killed in the early days of the Battle of the Somme in July 1916.

Mr Rodgers, who lives with his wife Joan in Barnard Castle, said his father also went on to be the sergeant-major in the Home Guard during the Second World War.

BERT Travis and his son, David, came along to launch of To Serve King and Country to remember the Croft brothers, who included his father-in-law Stanley.

Stanley, born in 1899, was the youngest of the family. Two of his brothers moved to Canada. Another, George Croft was awarded the Military Medal and Croix de Guerre, but was killed by a shell burst in 1917 aged 27. Thomas Croft enlisted in November 2014 and was discharged in 1916 with a leg wound. Walter Croft enlisted in September 2014 and served in the Navy until December 1918. Due to his age, Stanley did not see active service overseas and returned to Barnard Castle to his widowed mother and sister Nellie.

In the Second World War, Stanley became a lieutenant in the 17th Battalion of the Durham Home Guard. After the war, he became well known around Barnard Castle and Startforth as a milkman.