In adjoining fields were other batches of civilians in a similar plight--they were going to form the 14th and 17th Battalions. It was hoped that these three Battalions would serve together as a Brigade throughout the war, but this was not to be the case, as we shall see later.

Whilst the tragedy of Dunkirk was fresh in the minds of all English people and a tenseness existed as to what was going to happen next, the Battalion commenced its training. Even at that earlier stage and untrained though hundreds of the men were, the Battalion had certain operational commitments to fulfil. There was a task to be done in the case of an invasion and this involved special training all the time; like everyone else in the British Isles, we were on our toes ready to deal with the enemy parachutist or any other scare that might develop.

During this period there were many orders and counter orders as to the correct Durham Light Infantry drill and, unfortunately, only a few could help in this matter as the majority of officers were from other regiments.

One of the most disturbing features of this initial training was the quick Light Infantry pace, which was very strange and difficult at first, especially with the added discomfort of being unaccustomed to Army boots. After a short while a number of selected men were sent off to Brancepeth for a potential NCO’s cadre and specialist training.

And so it was that, from these raw civilians, one began to see men who were shaping like soldiers. They were settling down to this strange new life and were already looking back to those first few days and laughing and joking at their own discomfort. But they will remember forever that day when they became members of the 16th Battalion The Durham Light Infantry.

Captain A Pearson MC


16th DLI the first address

The envelope above gives the exact address of the Battalion on its formation (note that the 1946 Battalion History records the camp as ‘Norton Hall’). Courtesy of Charles Bray.
Pte A Gray 1940

Above, Pte Alex Gray, 16th DL, 1940. ‘When we arrived at Norton Hall it was a sea of mud and I was asked or told to be a batman to two officers as they arrived. Unusual job in bell tents and mud! Later when they found out that I had X flags as a signaller, I was batman to Lt Girling, Signals Officer, until Thetford. Then I became a Don R. The comradeship in the Signals was the very best all through the war.’

Pictured left later in his 16 DLI service, Pte Ernie Scriven (4466045) was one of the recruits called up directly to Edinburgh in July 1940. Though most of the new intake were from the North East and Yorkshire, many were from other parts of the’ country. Scriven was called up from London, and after training as a signaller, was with the Battalion through to the end of the war. Courtesy Ernie Scriven.
Pte A E S Scriven, 16 DLI