Site Introduction

This wholly unofficial website covers the history of the 16th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry. My research began back in 1996 as an effort to explore the war service of my late father Tom Tunney (Army Number 4469365), who served with Battalion from April 1942 through to being captured on March 2nd 1943 during the Battle of Sedjenane in Tunisia. My father was born in Thornley, County Durham in 1920 and was called up from his job as a bricklayer into the DLI at Brancepeth Camp in December 1941. As a POW he was held in Camps 66 and 53 in Italy and Stalag 4B in Germany, before being sent to a work camp of Stalag 4D at Bad Schmiedeberg, near Wittenberg, in October 1943. From there he was liberated by troops of the US 104th Infantry Division on April 30th 1945. After repatriation, he was posted to the 9th Battalion Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment and was demobbed in May 1946.

However, it soon became apparent to me that documenting the history of one's man's war service was impossible without reference to the other soldiers he was with at each stage of his Army career. My original aim was to write this material up as a book and this may still happen. However, I now feel that the logical place for all of the background information, photographs and captions I have gathered over the last seven years is within a website.

In the various sections of the site then, I have attempted to evoke the reality of life in the Battalion in 1940-46. The Battalion's name remained constant throughout this period, but the officers and men within it were in a near-constant state of change. According to 16th DLI veteran Tom Turnbull, of the 800 or so officers and men who sailed away to war on Christmas Day 1942, only 57 were still with the Battalion in early 1945. According to the 1946 Battalion History by Major Laurence E Stringer, casualties over the period 1943 to 1945 amounted to: 283 officers and other ranks killed; 414 officers and other ranks wounded; and 121 officers and other ranks missing.

Remarkably though, the unit retained its pride, purpose and distinctive DLI identity right though to the end. As Major Stringer wrote at the conclusion of his 1946 history:

'Both now and in years to come, every man is entitled to hold his head high and feel very proud if he is able to say: "I marched and fought with the 16th Battalion The Durham Light Infantry."'

The career of any wartime soldier was very much a mixture of chance and circumstance. This website is an exploration of the specific chances and circumstances which defined the history of the 16th Battalion DLI from its formation in July 1940 through to its final disbandment in February 1946.

Pte Tom Tunney 1942

Pte Tom Tunney, 15 Platoon, C Company, 16th DLI, Winchelsea, Sussex, 1942.
click to enlarge, DLI membership card, 1941

As with an individual soldier, in covering the wartime history of one unit itís impossible not to touch on the actions of other associated formations which were heavily involved in the same battles. Thus there will also eventually be some limited coverage here of No 1 Army Commando, the 70th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, the 2/5th Sherwood Foresters and the North Irish Horse. In particular. see the Battle of Sedjenane section in which I have already made a start on this.

The chapter headings listed on the Home Page are all broadly chronological in structure. There are many hyper-links between and within the sections, so the information can be read in a variety of different ways. More pages will be added in due course, but note that at the moment several sections are still being built up. For a general overview of the Battalion, I would suggest starting with the Concise History 1940-46 section, which reprints in full the brief four-part unit history which was published in the Battalion Magazine Geordie in 1945-46. Click here to go there..

Or, if you are looking for a specific name, please use the site search button below, it is highly effective.

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