Fascinating stories form part of Humshaugh First World War exhibition

Tynedale village set to showcase stories from First World War as part of an exhibition this weekend

Billy Lowes who lost his leg in a shell blast during the First World War
Billy Lowes who lost his leg in a shell blast during the First World War

Stories from Tynedale villagers who served their country will be the centre piece of a fascinating First World War exhibition this weekend.

The village of Humshaugh is commemorating the lives of its war heroes and the role played by villagers with a special two-day exhibition.

There’ll be musical performances and a themed café as well as memorabilia in the Village Hall, which is itself a memorial to those who died in the Great War.

There are 15 names on the World War One memorial in the village and many more men and boys with links to the village are remembered elsewhere.

The exhibition features the story of Billy Lowes. Billy was a miner before the war but lost his leg after being caught in a shell blast.

Back in Humshaugh he retrained as a tailor and worked from a one room shop, workshop and home opposite the Crown Inn.

There were no services so he used to get water from a tap over the road and a midday meal at the pub.

Humshaugh parish also had its own military hospital at Chesters for part of the war.

Christmas parcels sent by the village to the trenches consisted of a muffler, a pair of mittens, a loaf of bread, half a pound of butter and a chicken.

Others mentioned in the exhibition include the Beattie family lost two sons in the war. A third was wounded and a fourth was captured as a prisoner of war.

While Private Edward Thompson was awarded the military medal and his letters from the front graphically describe the grim reality.

Billy Lowes (right) lost his leg after being caught in a shell blast during the First World War
Billy Lowes (right) lost his leg after being caught in a shell blast during the First World War

One states: “I got wounded last Friday in the first advance. We cleared the first line of German trenches, and were making for the second, when I got a piece of shrapnel through my left arm.

“They gave us hell until we got into their trenches. Then up went their hands and ‘mercy kamrades’ was shouted on all sides. None of us, however, were in the humour to show much mercy and we let into them right and left. The first trench was heaped with dead.”

In his letters, Private Thompson also mentioned his first encounter with “caterpillars” – Mark 1 tanks, used for the first time in war at the Somme.

The event, which runs from 10am until 4pm on Saturday and Sunday has been organised by the Humshaugh Arts Project and all of the research has been coordinated by Jen Ogle.

Mrs Ogle said: “I began my investigations earlier this year when the village was rehearsing for its ambitious production of Oh What A Lovely War in March.

“The moving and thought-provoking show prompted many people to come forward with stories from their family archives. Even current Humshaugh residents who weren’t in the area 100 years ago were encouraged to share their WW1 stories from generations ago.”

Another WW1 connection came from the pianist in Oh What a Lovely War, Lucy Davison.

Her great uncle, Williams Mills from Sunderland, developed the Mills Bomb hand grenade at his factory in Birmingham. Seventy five million were manufactured in the First World War alone and later variants were in use until 1972. Mills was knighted for his services in 1922.

Francis Nohl has unusual links to the past. One of his ancestors on his father’s side, Erich von Maltzahn, was a soldier in the Prussian Army until just before the war broke out. Francis’s great uncle on his mother’s side was a British pilot who died in the conflict.

Admission to this weekend’s event is free.


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