A century after Spennymoor Town Hall welcomed back those who had served in the First World War, Sunday 21st October saw the premiere of a new film by Tudhoe & Spennymoor Local History Society about medical services in that war.
Behind the Lines was supported by the National Lottery through a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant to the Society from its First World Then and Now programme.
The Society’s film, which was made by Lonely Tower Film and Media, commemorates the service of four people from Spennymoor who returned to the town at the end of the war after saving lives on the Western Front.
Foremost among these was Sister Kate Maxey, a nurse who served in casualty clearing stations and hospitals in France for three and a half years before being wounded in a German air raid in 1918.
She carried on directing her nurses despite serious injuries and was awarded the Military Medal for her bravery.
Behind the Lines also tells the stories of two coal miners, Samuel Bott and Joseph Willis, who joined the Royal Army Medical Corps and who both won the Military Medal saving wounded soldiers on the battlefield in 1916.
In contrast, Spennymoor Maths Teacher John Leckie was a conscientious objector who joined Ambulance Train 11 to evacuate wounded from the Somme battles.
These different strands of Spennymoor’s Great War heritage are woven together in a 62-minute film, which, thanks to Spennymoor Town Council, was shown for the first time to an invited audience in the Town Hall where many “Welcome Home” events took place in 1918 and 1919.
It features the families of Kate Maxey and her colleague, Sister Edith Appleton, experts on the First World War, nursing and conscientious objection and a musical score played by Spennymoor Town Band.
The film music, which includes a newly commissioned piece entitled The Gallant Sister, was performed before the premiere by Spennymoor Town Band, finalists in this year’s National Brass Band Championships.
The History Society will be organising further showings of the film in co-operation with local groups and organisations but, in the meantime it is available free to view on YouTube.
Local history groups, schools and other organisations interested in the First World War are eligible to receive a free DVD and should contact the Society via its website at www.durhamweb.org.uk/tslhs.
Ivor Crowther, Head of HLF NE region, said: “The impact of the First World War was far reaching, touching and shaping every corner of the United Kingdom.
“Thanks to National Lottery players, groups such as Tudhoe & Spennymoor Local History Society are able to explore the continuing legacy of the war and broaden our understanding of how it shaped our modern world”.