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Half term at Beamish Museum will be filled with fascinating North East tales from the First World War

From a Victoria Cross hero to a footballer-turned-soldier, visitors to Beamish will discover amazing stories from the region's WW1 history

Beamish Open Air Museum
Beamish Open Air Museum

From a Victoria Cross hero to a footballer-turned-soldier, visitors to Beamish Museum this February half term will discover amazing North East stories from the First World War.

The bravery of Victoria Cross recipient Private Michael Heaviside and Sunderland AFC footballer Charlie Buchan are among the fascinating tales being shared at the popular County Durham attraction.

Visitors will also be able to take part in a training camp, set up in the museum’s Pit Village, to tell the story of the huge recruitment drive that took place in 1915.

Recruits will be put through their paces with drills and sports challenges. Visitors can sample food from the field kitchen, try on uniform, find out how to pack a parcel to send to soldiers, or join in with morale-boosting songs from a century ago.

Work from local groups and schools about how the First World War affected their communities will also be on display.

The activities, running between February 14 and 22, are part of four years of commemorations being held at Beamish to mark the centenary of the First World War.

Gemma Stevenson, community events officer, says: “We’re working with communities across the North East to explore local stories from the First World War. There are some amazing stories, some of which may have been forgotten or never told before.

“In 1915, there was a big drive towards recruitment, so we’re telling that story this February half term.”

The museum has been working with communities in Sunderland and Stanley to look at stories of local soldiers.

Private Heaviside, a 36-year-old miner, was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery during the First World War. While serving with the Durham Light Infantry in France in 1917, he twice went to the rescue of an injured comrade while under heavy enemy fire. He crawled over no man’s land to take food and water to the wounded man, before returning under the cover of darkness to bring him back to safety.

Beamish has incredible film footage on its website of Pte Heaviside returning to Stanley to a hero’s welcome, as crowds lined the street.

Charlie Buchan, who was born in 1891, was a Sunderland footballing legend who fought in the First World War. He made 441 appearances for the Black Cats and also played for England between 1911 and 1925. But in 1915 his football career was put on hold when he enlisted in the Grenadier Guards. Charlie saw action at the Somme, Cambrai and Passchendaele and won the Military Medal.

Beamish is open all half term from February 14 to 22 from 10am to 4pm. Steam train rides will be running at Rowley Station and Pockerley Waggonway and the ice rink will be open too. For more information, visit www.beamish.org.uk .

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