Rare Durham Light Infantry poster still up for grabs after failing to sell

Recruitment poster found amongst hoard of war memorabilia fails to attract buyer at auction

The DLI recruitment poster
The DLI recruitment poster

A rare First World War poster discovered amongst a hoard of war memorabilia is still up for grabs after it failed to sell at a book fair.

The recruitment poster had been found by book dealer Anthony Smithson when he unpacked a collection of Durham Light Infantry keepsakes which he bought at auction.

The archive had belonged to Lieutenant-Colonel Hubert HS Morant, commanding officer of the DLI during the First World War, who lived at The Hermitage mansion, near Hexham , and his son John, a major, who served with the regiment in the Second World War.

The family home was dubbed “the house that time forgot” as very little was thrown away over the years, turning it into something of a time capsule.

Last year 1,500 lots from The Hermitage were sold over four days by Newcastle auction house Anderson & Garland.

Mr Smithson, who runs Keel Row bookshop in North Shields , had hoped to sell the poster at Durham Book Fair which took place on Saturday in County Hall near the DLI Museum which now owns the diaries kept by Lieut Col Morant’ during the First World War. But while the archive – much of it Second World War memorabilia and also including DLI magazine The Bugle as well as books, such as 1930s Regimental Journal with descriptions of the DLI’s time in India and events such as the Lahore hockey tournament and Simla football competition – was bought by a private collector for £380, Mr Smithson said: “I didn’t sell the poster. I’ve no idea why.

“I had one person come in to the shop and inquire about it and that was it. It’s very unusual.”

Dating from around 1912-13 before the start of the Great War, the poster encourages “smart lads” to join the Durham Light Infantry.

It had been expected to generate interest because of the publicity about The Hermitage treasure trove and especially because this year marks the centenary year of the start of the First World War.

Featured on it is a picture of John Lambton of Lambton Castle in County Durham 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.

At the bottom are the words God Save The King. Mr Smithson had described the colourful poster as “striking”.

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

It promises “good pay, good food and good sport” to those who enlist and contains details of the battles and campaigns the regiment participated in, including Salamanca, Sevastopol, Inkerman and the Relief of Ladysmith.

Mr Smithson, who has been dealing with books for 20 years, attends book fairs and auctions at home and abroad and often comes across items of local interest which he buys with the hope of finding interested collectors who will keep them in the region.

Last year he created a lot of interest amongst movie buffs with an original, and signed, Get Carter script which he managed to acquire through his contacts in the United States of America.

Previously owned by Dusty Miller, a cameraman on the 1971 film classic which was shot in the North East, it contained several signatures including that of its director Mike Hodges and star Michael Caine and was, said Mr Smithson, a piece of film history and of Newcastle history.

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