May 25, 2015

New Zealand sheep breeding. The search for improved sheep fertility.


By Dr Clive Dalton

Sheep as land developers
Up to the 1960s, New Zealand sheep played a vital tool in converting native bush to productive pasture, so performance levels and especially fertility were not considered major issues.  The national ‘lambing percentage (number of lambs docked/100 ewes to the ram) was around 90%, and if a farmer got 100% then it was pleasing.  One good single lamb weaned per ewe was very satisfactory.

Things changed drastically in the 1970s when pressure came on to increase flock numbers, along with the drive to improve individual sheep performance and especially the national lambing percentage.  There was no shortage of proposals from scientists and farmers alike at the time.

NFRS and Sheeplan
The first was to boost stud flock performance through the National Flock Recording Scheme (NFRS) started in 1967 by MAF and guided by Professor Al Rae and his students at Massey College.  This was updated into Sheeplan in 1972, again by MAF and with plenty of input from stud breeders and breed associations.

As a scientist at the MAF Whatawhata Hill Country Research Station at the time, I acted as Technical Coordinator for Sheeplan to get all interested parties together, and update the scheme which was greatly helped by the arrival of the government’s first big IBM mainframe computer at Trentham in Wellington. The computer was used to process farmers’ data, which was only a small part of the other government requirements for the machine.

Sheeplan’s main feature was the development of Breeding Values and Selection Indexes for farmers sheep which they had never had before, and explaining all the new information was handled by MAF’s Farm Advisory Officers (Animal Husbandry) and Sheep and Beef Officers who serviced the country from each local MAF office.

Whatawhata breed comparison trial
My main role at Whatawhata was to run our breed comparison trial as the Coopworth and Perendale breeds had multiplied rapidly by the 1970s and their enthusiast promoters were making great claims, but there were no data on the breeds’ performance compared with the standard Romney bred on hard hill country. 

We were careful to start off with ‘good’ samples of 200 ewes of each breed approved by each breed organisations, and from then on the flocks were self replacing from their progeny reared at Whatawhata.  This was a vital feature of the trial, which didn’t happen in other breed comparison trials.

Fertility in many flocks
In terms of improving fertility, there was a lot going on at the time but looking back now, some of it didn’t get the publicity is deserved.  Some did but others did not.

The Wallace Ruakura Fertility Flock
Dr Lyn Wallace was a foundation scientist at the Ruakura research station and started selecting and using twin rams for a number of generations in a small flock of Romneys.

Great progress was shown and the overall fertility of the flock was a highlight of Ruakura’s work, which was highlighted at Open Days and conferences.  Neil Clarke carried on the work when Dr Wallace became MAF’s Research Division director, and then it was terminated as other projects claimed higher priority.  But the Wallace flock fertility genes were not offered nationally, and rams only went to a few interested local breeders, so had no real impact on the national flock.

The Raglan Ward flock
This was a flock of Romneys at Ruapuke near Raglan run by the Ward sisters. Like the Ruakura Wallace flock, they had run a closed flock for many sheep generations by only using their own twin rams, and clearly they had isolated a ‘big gene’ for fertility. 

At Whatawhata, the director Dr Doug Lang and scientist Graeme Hight got some rams from the Wards to use in the Whatawhata high fertility flock established in the 1970s from twinning two-tooths identified and purchased from the Lands and Survey Department at Waihora block near Taupo.  Contact with the Wards was not continued although the performance of the sheep was greatly recognised by the Whatawhata scientists.

The Waihora Lands and Survey flock
This was a large exercise started by Whatawhata staff who were allowed to go through the lambing paddocks at the Waihora block and catch and tag two tooths that had produced a good set of twins.  Of those still present at weaning, then 200 were purchased by MAF to start a high fertility line at Whatawhata.

Lands and Survey took up the concept to breed rams for themselves and it grew into a major business as Lands and Survey eventually became the State Owned Enterprise (SOE) of Landcorp. This exercise was one of the largest ‘Group Breeding’ schemes in the country where over 100,000 ewes were screened each season.

Group Breeding Schemes (GBS)
In these schemes a group of breeders (both stud and commercial) identified two tooth ewes under ‘easy care’ shepherding conditions that reared good lambs to weaning.  These were then sent to a central flock where they were mated to the top rams bred in the nucleus, and the next tier of top rams were returned to the contributing flocks at an agreed ratio of usually one ram for four contributed ewes.

These schemes had made spectacular progress in all-round sheep performance for commercial environments, and especially in fertility, and they produced sheep that farmers knew how to manage and which fitted in with market demands.

The Invermay fertility flock
In the 1970s, scientists at the Invermay Research Station near Dunedin led by Dr Jock Allison asked farmers to donate any old ewes that had consistently weaned a minimum of three sets of twins.  Breed didn’t matter and some amazing ewes were found which went on under Dr George Davis at Invermay to eventually isolate some major genes for fertility.  Farmers were delighted to donate their ewes and the project had great potential and at very little cost.  Sadly a business manager cancelled the project and the flock was culled.

The Booroola Merino
We included a flock of merino ewes in our breed comparison trial at Whatawhata but they were a spectacular failure because of the wet conditions.  My director Dr Doug Lang managed to get two Booroola rams from Dr Helen Newton-Turner at CSIRO in Australia but by the time they arrived, our Merinos were on the way out.  Two farmer brothers on the Booroola property in Australia had selected twins for generations and had clearly isolated a major gene for fertility.

So we gave the rams to Dr Jock Allison at Invermay research station to be used on their high country merinos at Tara Hills, and from there they got on to local farms such as Haldon Station in the McKenzie country where they made a major contribution to improving fertility.

Conclusion from these flocks
The conclusion was very clear.  There was plenty fertility genes in New Zealand in the 1970s to drive the revolution needed in the national flock, and the strong point was that these were in breeds that New Zealand farmers knew how to manage, and that produced wool the market accepted. 

But this conclusion seemed to have no major impact on the scientists who then urged MAF bureaucrats and politicians to consider importing sheep from UK and Europe.  The main argument put forward for importing new breeds was that the exercise would produce faster results.

Importations


Purebred Finnish Landrace

By the 1970s sheep researchers around the world had discovered the Finnish Landrace sheep, which produced ‘litters’ of lambs with many individuals producing in excess of quads.  These genes were seen as a guaranteed and rapid way to improve the national lambing percentage through crossbreeding.

In New Zealand, scientists at the Ruakura Research Centre’s Genetics Section led by Dr Alan Carter were most enthusiastic for an importation of new breeds, and especially the Finn. So they lobbied government over a long period, backed by their MAF Research Division colleagues. 
But Carter’s proposal was not supported by the then Director of Animal Health, Scotsman Dr George Adlam due to his concern over the risk of importing the slow virus disease called Scrapie with the sheep. His concerns were also strongly supported by Professor Neil Bruere of Massey University’s vet school.

But Carter never gave up and when Adlam retired, along with other bureaucrat changes in MAF, an importation of live sheep from UK (Finnish Landrace, East Friesian, Oxford Down and German White Headed Mutton or Oldenburg) was organised to arrive in 1972, and it certainly created both interest and concern from the different interested parties. All the scientists involved were certainly excited about the scientific papers that this work would produce, and farmer interest and benefits from it.

Quarantine
The sheep arrived into maximum quarantine on Soames Island in Wellington harbour, and then as they multiplied moved to Mana Island near Wellington, with their progeny then moving to Lands and Survey block at Crater near Rotorua.  Sadly a Finn ewe developed scrapie on Mana so the all the sheep were slaughtered and the land (Mana and Crater) banned from running sheep ever again.

A second importation of Finns along with Oxford Downs and Texels was imported as frozen embryos and semen in 1990 and successfully completed quarantine via Somes island and Hopuhopu farm near Huntly and were released to farmers though a joint MAF and farmer investor company called Sheepac.

Fertility of the Finn F1

Purebred Finnish Landrace
There’s no doubt that the Finn caused a spectacular increase in the national lambing percentage, especially in the first cross, which was attributed to hybrid vigour. The F1 was just the average of both parents so if you mated a Finn with 300% lambing to the 90% Romney – the average of 195% lambs born looked like hybrid vigour (positive heterosis) which it was not.

Unintended consequences
Looking back now at the contribution of the Finn, there were some clear unintended consequences which the enthusiasts at the time seem slow to admit now.

1.     As litter size increased, lamb birth weight decreased which led to higher lamb mortality, especially under the NZ traditional system of ‘easy care’ management.
2.     Rearing extra lambs (triplets and quads) removed from the ewe was never economic because of the price of milk replacer and the labour involved. 
3.     These smaller lambs from large litters were slow to grow and hence were on the farm for longer adding extra cost in animal health, crutching, shearing, fly control and dipping.
4.     The wool of the Finn added no great advantage to the national wool clip. Some enthusiasts claimed the extra lustre was of value and the wool trade didn’t agree.
5.     The carcass characteristics of the Finn added nothing of merit to the export meat market.

One noted Cambridge Coopworth breeder (Edward Dinger) who purchased Finns from Sheepac to incorporate into his flock, as the Coopworth Society officially allowed adding up to a quarter of Finn genes, now says that it was the worst decision he ever made, due to most of the points made above.

Where is the Finn now?
Finn genes can now only be found in composite breeds with a quarter Finn being the most you will find.  The wool trade never welcomed them, although enthusiasts at the start claimed that the extra lustre could be a good feature for some markets. It didn’t turn out that way.

Cost/benefits
It’s impossible to work out the overall cost-benefit of importing the Finn, as no account has been taken of the cost of both the 1970 and 1990 exotic sheep importations with the Finn being a major driver for both. 

Sheepac directors are adamant that they as a company made money, but this again is invalid, as they didn’t have to pay the importation costs.  The taxpayer paid!  Sheepac only bought the sheep off MAF and sold them, and MAF would have had no idea about the cost.

As one of my former colleagues said – nobody worried then or subsequently about the cost of the importations’, as ‘it wasn’t real money’!  It was taxpayers’ money!

May 13, 2015

New Zealand sheep farming. Missing sheep – where do they go?

 
By Dr Clive Dalton

 
How many of these sheep will disappear without explanation?
Accurate records
The first requirement of any researcher is to make sure that all records are accurate, so the resulting conclusions can stand peer review and are reliable for when the outcomes are used in practice. 

Breed comparison trial
From 1972 to the early 1980s when I ran the breed comparison trial at the MAF (Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries) Whatawhata Hill Country Research Station, looking at mainly Romney, Coopworth and Perendale breeds, I got very frustrated over the regular problem of sheep we had on the records from birth,  then just disappeared over time from the farm. 

Tallies never tallied
Our tallies never fully tallied over the year, and nobody could work out why.  It was particularly vexing because the farm was fully fenced, and there was no scrub on the grazed areas for sheep to hide.  It was standard practice as our technicians and stockmen had to bring the tags into the office of all dead sheep they found so the records could be updated.  We had a foolproof system - so we thought!

The problem I suspected was not unique to us at the Whatawhata research station. I was sure that other research stations had problems too, but we never discussed them as we were all very competitive and didn’t like to admit failure - and inaccurate records were certainly a failure.

Massey University research
So I was most interested to read recently that a team of veterinarians at Massey University were going to research the problem of ‘wastage in sheep flocks’, and were taking detailed records in a few fully recorded flocks to find out why sheep died, and how big the wastage problem was.  But what caught my eye in particular was that they had already found that sheep just went missing and could not be accounted for.

Dobbie–Dalton survey
What got me into trouble at Whatawhata was because I started to talk about the problem, and soon realised that it was one of those ‘don’t mention the war’ issues, and you never raised the problem openly. So I enlisted the help of my MAF colleague John Dobbie to collect some data, as he had spent many years as a Farm Advisory Officer in the MAF Hamilton office specialising in sheep and wool, so he knew what went on in the North Island hill country really.

A few local farmers  were willing to talk to us about the problem and give us their honest tallies of sheep losses they couldn't explain, and it was clear that if you had 3% disappearance you could rejoice, but when it got to 5% and even up to 9% on some farms, you kept very quiet and when asked, you always quoted 2-3%!  In Scotland it’s called ‘the black loss’, and you can’t imagine many Scottish shepherds saying much about their unexplained losses and giving anyone their tallies!

Table of data from survey


Possible reasons
We used to go around in circles suggesting possible reasons why we had sheep that were never seen again after their last recording. All ewes were weighed pre-mating, pre-lambing, and at weaning.  Lambs were weighed at birth, weaning and monthly after weaning up to June (7 weights on each lamb/hogget).

Our biggest Whatawhata loss was in weaned lambs from December into the New Year until about March, and among the breeds, the Perendales were the best at turning up at each muster.  The reasons for this were never worked out.

Everybody had a theory for missing sheep which ranged from misread tags, fly blown deaths, escaping through the boundary fence into the bush, and poor mustering which straggle musters never proved to be true.  Rustling came up as the final suggestion, but we could never find proof which would satisfy the police.

MAF Head office auditors
Things got so bad at one time that auditors in suits arrived from MAF Head Office in Wellington with new gumboots to count all the sheep on the station.  The technicians and shepherds thought this was a huge joke to have to muster the sheep, and I’m sure they just ran the same sheep around the yards for the auditors to keep counting.

Multi-million dollar loss
Then things heated up and I was called  to the carpet of the Director of Ag Research at Ruakura (Dr Lyn Wallace) because of the cover of the NZ Journal of Agriculture for February 1972.  I think Gordon McLauchlan was editor at the time.

The designer made a clever picture of sheep fading away into the distance, with the heading ‘Missing sheep - a multimillion dollar loss’.  If you put any sort of value on sheep, the problem certainly was a massive loss for the industry because of the large size of the national sheep flock at the time.
Unfortunately the article was published when Prime Minister Muldoon’s Sheep Retention Scheme was at its zenith – so we were blamed for inferring that farmers were collecting money for phantom sheep. Maybe they were, and there was always plenty of comment that it did go on.

Shepherds’ solution
But in my private inquiries, I learned of a way to successfully hide the problem used by shepherds at the Lands and Survey Department to keep their Field Officers off their backs.  They simply fudged the docking tallies (their first accurate tally) by keeping extra lamb numbers up their sleeves, to be drip-fed into the tallies later on in the season.   

This was an effective way to cover up lambs that simply disappeared without trace after weaning and the reasons could not be explained. Under  Lands and Survey management, shepherds had to tally sheep every time they were moved from paddock to paddock so there was regular monitoring for audit purposes.

Conclusion
There was no conclusion - and I have no doubt that the problem remains today.  Our missing sheep must have left the planet without trace!  I wish the Massey team better luck than we had at researching the issue.

Further reading
DOBBIE, J L; DALTON, D. C. (1972).  Missing sheep - a multimillion dollar loss.
NZ Journal of Agriculture, 124(2):19-20.

April 21, 2015

Northumberland history. War memorial - Falstone (North Tyne)


By Geoffrey Dagg, Donald Clegg and Clive Dalton

1914-18 and 1939-45 war memorial
Falstone
Today’s small village of Falstone at the top of the North Tyne valley and at the foot of the Kielder dam, was a much larger and busier place before the 1914-18 war than it is today.

Photos of the local school  before 1914 show over 50 pupils, and these numbers of young folk would grow up to work on local farms and estates, go into domestic service and work in the local coal mines, quarries and maintaining the roads in their part of the valley.



The Forestry Commission was not fully in business till much later with the first trees being planted on Smale around 1926.

So when the call went out in 1914 for young men to fight for King and Country, there would be no shortage of volunteers from the Falstone Parish to join what promised to be a great and short-lived adventure, and be ‘home by Christmas’!

Sadly 28 volunteers left and did not return, and after making the ultimate sacrifice were buried in foreign soil rather than in their quiet Border valley.

Nine young men gave their lives in the 1939-45 conflict, when conscription was the order of the day.

1914-1918 fallen
These would probably all be volunteers


Archibald Bell
John Dodd
James Armstrong Elliot
Richard E Harrison
Christopher Inglis
William Little
Matthew Robson
Walter E Sisterson
Thomas Welsh









William Armstrong
George Davidson
Christopher Elliott
Thomas Forster
George Hymers
James Jobling
Roger Robson Potts
John James Rome
David Steele
James Wylie







Frank Armstrong
John Darcy
Walter Dodd
Robert Newton Familton
James Hymers
David Jackson
William Moscrop
David Rolfe
Frank Steele










1939-45 fallen
It's not clear who of these were conscripts and who were volunteers.


Andrew Fletcher
Hector Inglis
Alex Philip Weir
John Lambert Bird

Thomas George Grimwood
Edward Fiddler
James Telfer Cowan
Raymond Terry








Stone masons who made the memorial. 
Beattie and Company of Carlisle

Request for information - The authors would greatly appreciate any information on the lives of these brave men before they went to war.

FURTHER READING
Grint, A.I. (2011)  In Silent Fortitude. The memory of the men of the North Tyne valley who fell in the Great War.   Ergo Press.  ISBN 978-0-9557510-9-7.

April 7, 2015

Northumberland history. Bellingham (North Tyne) – the Gingall gun

 
By Clive Dalton and Donald Clegg
 
Spring daffodils around the Bellingham Gingall gun
Generations of Bellingham folk must have looked at the old gun on its plinth, protected by iron railings near the Town Hall.  It never meant much to us locals, and certainly we were never told about it in any history lessons we got at school, especially at the Reed's school which I (CD) attended and was just around the corner from the gun.

The original timber of the gun always in dark red paint rotted away (in the 1970s ?), and was replaced with great skill by local volunteers. So it still keeps its place in local history, and now thanks to Wikipedia, we can find out  the  story that few locals were aware of, and as far as anybody knew, had not involved any Bellingham folk like those in the other wars.

The plaque on the gun 
The plaque says the that the gun was presented to the people of Bellingham by Commander (later Admiral) Sir Edward Charlton.  Why he thought Bellingham deserved such a gift would be nice to know.  The N.W. Fort Taku China was involved in the Boxer rebellion when the British invaded China to extend the empire, and presumably he served there on the HMS Orlando, although this is not mentioned in the Wikipedia report.



What is a Gingall gun?
From Wikipedia:
A jingal or gingall, (Hindi janjal) is a type of gun, usually a light piece mounted on a swivel; it sometimes takes the form of a heavy musket fired from a rest. Frequently a form of wall gun either by design or use. The weapon was used by the Chinese and Indians in the 19th century, such as by the Taiping armies. 


Who was Sir Edward Charlton (1865-1937)?
 
Wikipedia gives a full profile of him and his career in the Royal Navy. The fact that he was born in Newcastle may indicate some Northumbrian links with the wider Charlton family of Hesleyside Hall. This is speculation as no Wikipedia details are provided. 

He served in the Anglo Egyptian war and WW1 and retired from the Royal Navy in 1924.  There is no mention of him serving in the Boxer rebellion - and how he managed to claim the gun.



What was HMS Orlando?
 From Wikipedia

HMS Orlando was the lead ship of the Orlando-class of first-class cruisers built in the yards of Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company, on the Tyne at Jarrow and launched on 3 August 1886.

In 1899 she was assigned to the China Station, Captain James Henry Thomas Burke in command. During the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, sailors from HMS Orlando formed part of the force led by Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Seymour attempting to relieve the British Legation in Beijing.

The Gingall gun where is has stood outside the Town Hall guarding the Black Bull for over 100 years.  It has also guarded the Rose and Crown too (below)!




The authors would welcome any more information about the gun or Admiral Charlton's link with Bellingham.

April 6, 2015

Northumberland history. Bellingham (North Tyne) war memorials



By Donald Clegg and Clive Dalton

The Boer War
Wikipedia provides a full history of the first Anglo Boer or Transvaal war from Dec 1880 to March 1881, and the second Anglo Boer war from October 1889 to May 1902.  The plaque on the memorial to the Bellingham men states that they lost their lives in 1900, 1901 and 1902.

The Boer war memorial in Manchester Square


The memorial was originally positioned in the middle of the road at the intersection of the Otterburn and Reedsmouth roads, and opposite Lloyd’s bank and Dobbin’s shop where it acted as a roundabout for the limited amount of village vehicle traffic up to the 1950s.  

 It had a water fountain and had metal railings around it for protection. It also has a metal door, presumably to service the plumbing.
Then for it’s own safety and that of motorists, especially the turning buses and stock wagons going to the marts, it was removed to a safer place for all concerned in Manchester square behind the town hall.




 It would be interesting to know who made the memorial - especially who carved the soldier and the wreath around the top. The light was not part of the original design but clearly now serves a valuable purpose. 

Fortunately the names of the 33 who died were carved on marble so have not deteriorated in the weather, as the names of the dead from later wars have which were carved in local sandstone.



 It is interesting to see the names on a smaller plaque. Perhaps they were added later, possibly for those who died as a result of injuries sustained in the war. It's also interesting to see that the men were divided into yeomanry who presumably were regular army, and volunteers who joined to go to this war.



The Great War 1914-1918

The lych gate into the Bellingham cemetery built for the 1914-1918 war dead.
It was built by Anthony (Anty) Charlton.
This war,  deemed to be ‘the war to end all wars’ took 32 young men from the Bellingham area to their foreign graves, and in this centenary of their deaths (2015), it’s especially fitting to remember who they were, as by now, there must be few who will remember them in person, and who would even remember hearing about their exploits from others.  Fortunately 33 others returned to carry on their lives and it is good that their names are listed.  This was not done on many other memorials according to Alan Grint.

1914-1918 eroded names on wall

Sadly their names carved on the wall of the stone lych gate of the Bellingham cemetery are weathering badly, and some are now very hard and even impossible to read. 

This is a tragedy for those who died and for their relatives.

The mistake was to use local sandstone as it absorbs moisture unlike marble, and expansion and contraction due to frost disintegrates its structure. 



But this should not allow the memory of their sacrifice to fade away. Their names need urgent attention and preservation.  Who has the responsibility for this and who could obtain some funds?

As with all WWI memorials, it is shocking to see the high number of young men (many presumably from the same family) who left the valley’s farms, estates, coal pits, quarries and shops for what looked like a short adventure, and to be ‘home by Christmas’ which was highlighted in the misguided propaganda to get them to volunteer.

Their names on the cemetery lych gate need to be recorded again in some more weatherproof form for all to see in future.  They also need to be recorded in some public archive or museum database, so they are not forgotten and can be accessed for further research by families in years to come as access to genealogy data via the Internet develops.  Otherwise all this valuable local history recording the shocking waste of young Bellingham mens’ lives will be lost forever.

It was a miracle that so many (61) returned to make a major contribution to village life and work.  It's a sad situation that those with a memory of them have almost all gone too.


Poor state of names on wall damaged by weather (frost) and mould
 You can see from the photograph some eroded  names, so here’s a list from what could be deciphered.  Details of who these people were would be welcomed by the authors.  

 Men who served and did not return - 32 now resting in some far off field
J Stanley Allen
G Armstrong
W Armstrong
E Armstrong
A Bowes
J R Clapperton
J Daley
Paxton Dodd
J Brown
J Fletcher
W Foreman
W Fox
R Glendinning
J Grieve
R Hedley
E Johnson
T Lauderdale
M Martinson
D McKie
T Robson
J Rae
A Rutherford
W Ninian Robson
T Storey
R Storey
J G Southern
T Spencer
Jos Turnbull
J P Waugh
T Wright
Basil White
J H Temple 


On a separate list: Those 61 who served and returned.
R Allen
J Aggas
J Anderson
J Armstrong
J R Armstrong
Robt Armstrong
M Armstrong
? Armstrong
? Armstrong
A Andison
G Bell
R Brown
R Burn (? RJ Burn who was a farrier in the war and was the local blacksmith)
R E Charlton
W H Charlton(? Bill Charlton of Hesleyside estate)
Leo Charlton
F H Charlton
W P Collier ( ? He became the famed local photographer)
G T Colling ( ? Geordie Colling who was the key man in the Council roading)
J R Colling
A N Colling
J Coulson  ( ? The local saddler)
R Cowan
G Dagg  ( ? Geordie Dagg)
G Dagg
E Daley
P Daley
A Davidson ( ? Alec Davidson)
J A Davidson
Ewan Davidson
J Dodd
? Drummond
? Dixon
T H Glass (? Harry Glass who had the Railway hotel and local taxi)
Chas Gash
John Hall
Mat Hall
J I Hindmarsh (? shopkeeper in village)
R W Huntington
Gabriel Hedley
J Hutton
Jas Jameson
Hugh Johnson.
W Nixon

? Newcombe
? Pearson
Robt Potts
W Potts (? Willie Potts farmed at the Reenes)
Robt Proctor
A. ?, 
Peter. ?, 
P J Redpath
? Telford
? Thompson
R T Thompson
? Thompson
Hugh Thompson (? Transport company owner)
? Thompson,
? Thompson
? Thompson
Henry Thompson.


The WWI ‘Dead Man's Penny’
After the Great War of 1914-1918, when so many thousands of young men were slaughtered mainly in the trenches of France and Belgium, the British government saw fit to thank their parents for their sons' sacrifice by sending every one of them, (up to an estimated 1, 335, 000) a memorial plaque or medallion. These were about 4 inches in diameter and inscribed with the soldier's name and the words – ‘They Died for Freedom'.

Many families regarded the plaque as an insult to their son's sacrifice and returned it in disgust or threw it away. The plaque came in a presentation box and with a scroll signed by King George V. More information can be found on Google under 'Dead Penny'.  They were called a penny as they were cast from similar metal to the currency penny.

Don Clegg's Uncle Ernest - killed in battle in 1916 aged 20.
Below is the 'Dead Man's Penny' his mother received to record his sacrifice.

 

  
World War II 1939-1945
Thankfully fewer Bellingham men gave their lives in the second world war, but their loss is no less tragic to their families.  Plenty of Bellingham's now older residents will still remember them  - and also remember the grief that their families suffered when that fateful telegram on yellow paper arrived from the War Office.

We are not sure if these men were called up for active service or were volunteers. It's more likely that they were called up.

This plaque is in good repair after 70 years and seems to be of different stone to the sandstone used for the 1914-18 names, and will hopefully remain in this state.



 N T (Tommy) Batey - died of wounds at Dunkirk.  The youngest of the Batey's four sons who were stone masons and builders for three generations in Bellingham.

A T (Tony)  Chilman - posted missing after the fall of Singapore to the Japanese.  He was the son of the Lloyd's bank manager.  The only information given to the family was that he was killed in action.

J A (Jamie) Jamieson - killed in France aged 19.  Lived at Tarset.

S T (Thompson) Wait - killed in action aged 18.

J C (Jack) Mason:  Jack worked for the Bellingham butcher Stanley Telfer.   Jack  was in the Parachute regiment and had been killed a few days after D Day (possibly at Arnham). He left a widow and four daughters and would have been in his 30s.

F R (Fred) Warwick - captain in a tank regiment and killed in Italy. Fred's father was a tailor in Bellingham.

Missing off the list
?  Jim Bell.  The only son of Bob and Aggie Bell of King street, Bellingham who served in the RAF and whose Dakota went missing without trace in the Pacific. He worked in Cordiner's chemist shop before the war.


 Please send the authors and information on the early lives of these brave men. 

 FURTHER READING
Grint, A.I. (2011)  In Silent Fortitude. The memory of the men of the North Tyne valley who fell in the Great War.   Ergo Press.  ISBN 978-0-9557510-9-7.