Rare DLI recruitment poster opens window on military past

A rare pre-First World War DLI poster is to return to Durham for sale

Anthony Smithson of Keel Row Books with a DLI recruitment poster
Anthony Smithson of Keel Row Books with a DLI recruitment poster

A rare recruitment poster tempting “smart lads” to join the Durham Light Infantry in the days before the horrors of the First World War is to return “home” today.

The poster, from around 1912-13, has emerged from the Northumberland mansion dubbed “the house that time forgot”.

Last June The Journal published features based on the First World War diaries by the commanding officer of the 10th Battalion The Durham Light Infantry, Lieutenant-Colonel Hubert HS Morant.

He lived at The Hermitage, near Hexham, a 25-room mansion which was the home of his family and where little if anything was thrown away, turning the house into a time capsule.

In June 1,500 lots from the mansion were sold over four days by Newcastle auction house Anderson & Garland.

Anthony Smithson, who runs the Keel Row bookshop in North Shields, bought two boxes of items – and discovered the poster amid an array of DLI keepsakes from Lieut Col Morant and his son John, who served with the regiment in the Second World War and retired as a major.

Now the military archive, including the poster, will be sold today at the Durham Book Fair in County Hall, near the DLI Museum.

The DLI recruitment poster
The DLI recruitment poster

The poster promises “good pay, good food and good sport” to smart lads who enlist.

“This striking poster is the sort of ephemera which does not usually survive but in this case it has done only because it has been kept with everything else at The Hermitage,” said Mr Smithson.

“The tone of the peacetime poster is in contrast to a few years later when conscription was introduced.”

The poster lists significant battles and campaigns in which the regiment participated including Salamanca, Sevastopol, Inkerman and the Relief of Ladysmith. Other images are a portrait of John Lambton of Lambton Castle who raised the regiment in 1756 and seven sepia photographs including Battalion sports teams from 1911, individual sporting champions in boxing (Corporal Sheriff, 1908) and sprinting (Private Vickers 1910), and group shots of the men in the Crimea 1854, South Africa 1899 and shooting (for sport) in India.

The archive for sale also includes runs from the 1920s of the DLI magazine The Bugle, and the 1930s Regimental Journal with descriptions of the regiment’s time in India and events like the Lahore hockey tournament and the Simla football competition.

There is also a History of the Polo Club of the DLI from 1919-26.

Books include The Soldier’s Welfare: Notes for Officers; Achtung Minen: Know Your Mines; Training on Board Troop Ships on Long Sea Voyages; The Germany Army in Pictures and The Way to Win Wars.

One 1943 book, titled Notes for Troops Proceeding to North Africa, contains advice if the reader is invited to a native home for a meal: “Leave some food in the bowl. What you leave goes to the women and children.”

There are also items from John Morant’s time in Iceland during the Second World War occupation of the country by British troops.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer