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Regional daily launches battlefield memorial appeal for county’s war dead

A bid to install a battlefield memorial to the men of a regional daily’s patch who died at the Somme has been launched by the newspaper.

The Northern Echo is aiming to raise £20,016 during 2016 to pay for a memorial to the 18th Battalion Durham Light Infantry, known as the ‘Durham Pals’, at the site in France where many of its members died 100 years ago.

The 18th DLI, comprised of volunteers from County Durham, is currently the only Pals battalion not to have its own memorial at the Somme, where 300 were left dead or wounded during the battle in July 1916.

The Pals battalions were formed during the First World War to allow friends, neighbours and colleague from the same area to serve alongside one another on the front line. The Somme offensive, which claimed more than one million lives in total, saw many of the battalions suffer heavy losses.

The Echo’s ‘Durham Remembers’ appeal, launched on yesterday’s front page, is being run in association with Durham County Council, the DLI Trustees and Durham University, with support from Durham Cathedral.

It is hoped the cash will be raised in time for November’s Armistice Day commemorations.

Northern Durham

Editor Peter Barron said: “We want to put right an historic oversight. The DLI is the only one of the Pals battalions not to have its own memorial on the Somme battlefield in France.

“The soldiers who died at the Somme deserve a fitting memorial.”

James Ramsbotham, chairman of the DLI Trustees, added: “The 18th Battalion of the DLI was a truly countywide regiment and a lot of those Durham lads are still lying in France where their blood was spilled.

“There is no memorial in France to them and their sacrifice and it’s time to put that right. It would be nice to see something that represents County Durham and the young men who gave their lives.”


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  • January 12, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    Thank goodness for that, a story from Peter Barron. I hadn’t seen one for a fortnight and thought something awful must have happened to him…

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  • January 13, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    There’s more to this campaign than meets the eye. Strange choice of focus given the council is closing the county’s DLI Museum – as some of the commenters on the story – – point out, surely that would have been a better subject for a campaign. It certainly would have been in Harold Evans’ day.

    Two of the comments from below the story:

    ‘The best way at the moment for the Northern Echo to “honour the sacrifice of Durham soldiers ” would be to stop “copying and pasting” Durham County Council’s propaganda and half truths about their heartless and despicable decision to close the DLI Museum against the wishes of the public.’

    ‘In my opinion – It seems the Northern Echo is going populist over a single battle since its campaign gets support from Durham County Council. Whilst this is honourable of the newspaper, it is also well known that the regiment museum is due for closure.
    The saving of the present day museum as a long lasting memorial should be the Campaign as online social media supporters exceed 26,000. Durham County Council Cabinet care not for the DLI or the honour and pride the regiment brings to this county. It is very disappointing that the Northern Echo appear to be lacking in its priorities.’

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  • January 13, 2016 at 6:53 pm

    This is exactly the type of content newspapers like The Northern Echo should be covering for its readership, many of whom wil have direct family ties with both world wars. It ticks the nostalgia box which we all know plays well with older readers.

    The Echo is to be congratulated for its efforts to right a wrong for its community. Shame more titles do not follow its lead in campaigning for its readers.

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  • January 14, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    Every soldier who died serving with the Durham Pals is already commemorated either in the battlefield cemeteries, through the corps and divisional memorials or on the Memorial to the Missing at Thiepval.
    The Somme is increasingly littered with unofficial memorials to everything from battalions to single soldiers. Some are “worthy memorials,” others are not.
    Erecting a memorial in France is the easy part. In the long term, who will protect and maintain it? Who will trim the grass, remove the graffiti, repair the crumbling fabric?
    Good intentions are fine but today’s shiny new £20,000 memorial could become tomorrow’s embarrassing eyesore.

    Peter Rhodes
    Author, For a Shilling a Day

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