JAMES MARCH 1918 - 1974

My father, James March, was born on Saturday 30th November 1918, at 39 Mary Street, Stanley, the third of four sons born to a shoe-repairer, Thomas March and his wife Mary-Ellen. He was baptized at the local church of St. Andrew on 22nd December that year

Thomas and Mary-Ellen March had moved to Mary Street from South Moor around 1916, and it was in the latter, at Maple Street, that they resided following their marriage in 1913. It was here, my father's elder brothers George and Thomas were born in 1914 and 1915 respectively. Sadly, George died within a short time after his birth, but Thomas lived a full life. My grandmother, herself had been born in South Moor, at
7 Poplar Street, the home of her grandfather
Robert Robson from around 1890 until his death in 1922, and my grandmother spent her childhood at this address until her mother's death in 1907. After that, she was cared for at 7 Poplar Street by her Aunt Hannah Lauretta (Henretta) and her half-sister Margaret (Meggie) Robson. Hannah Lauretta Robson, had married, strangely enough, a man named
James March in 1899, and in 1911 she resided at 25 Maple Street. She was here, next door to Thomas and Mary-Ellen, when the latter wed in 1913.

My father was educated at
West Stanley School, the site of this building formerly being a large garden owned by Mister John Chaytor. The garden was purchased in 1890 by the newly formed Tanfield School Board and the school itself was opened in 1891, Mr. J. A. Hodgson being the first headmaster. The two-storey extension to the school was built in 1898 and opened on 15th August that year. This site is now a Social Services Centre, but a wall engraving, telling that it was a school, is still very much visible. My father left this school in 1933 and started his working life as a coal miner, at the collieries of Holmside and South Moor. The former was actually situated in Craghead and was so-named because, in the late 19th Century, most of its workforce actually resided at Holmside. With regards to Holmside, my father's great-grandparents had lived here from 1873 until 1881, at Double Row, before later moving to Craghead.

My father still resided at 39 Mary Street in 1926, this being the year his younger brother, Henry March was born, but, by 1929 his family moved from Stanley, to a small hamlet called Blackhouse Village, more commonly referred to then as Clayton Ville. This village had been built in 1925 and consisted of 164 houses in total, being demolished in 1978 due to persistent drainage problems; thereafter, its residents were re-housed in Edmondsley's Jubilee Close. Clayton Ville was so-named after an early 20th Century schoolmaster. At Blackhouse Village, my father and his parents lived at
19 Clayton Ville.

When the Second World War broke out, my father joined, originally for a period of 4 years, the Territorial Army Division of the Durham Light Infantry, serving as dispatch rider with C Company 8th Battalion. His T. A. service lasted from February 1939 until 16th May 1939, when he was eventually posted. As the War approached, my father volunteered for regular service, and served with the DLI from September 1939 until June 1940. His army number was 4455956. It is of note that any working coal miner would have had the right to refuse his call-up.

It was the 10m June 1940 that the division my father served with was captured by German forces at Neuville in France, and he served the majority of the war as a Prisoner Of War, until 17th February 1945, eventually being liberated by the American 9th Army. From France, my father was eventually escorted from Poland to Muhlhausen in Germany, where he was imprisoned at Stalag IXC, and his POW number being 1018. In Germany, my father worked as a POW salt miner.

Stalag IXC had opened in February 1941 and was formerly used as a Nazi Youth Hostel. All its windows were barred or made secure with heavy gauge wire similar to pig netting. The headquarters was at Bad Sulza and held mostly French and Serbian POWs with three branch camps. The main one on the outskirts of Muhlhausen for British and American POWs, one at Langen Sulza for Russians and the third at Molsdorf for Italians. An airfield had been built round an old brewery at Rodigen ber Jena, just outside Muhlhausen. The hospital which was attached was an old stone and brick building about 70 yards long built on a steep hillside at one end of the village about 200 yards off the road which ran below the hill and up the hill to the village. A small river ran nearby parallel with the road on the opposite side to the hospital and a football ground on the other side of the road. There were no buildings between the river and the road where it passed the hospital.

Another larger hospital was built for the Germans about 150 yards from the POWs hospital higher up the hillside. It was comprised of three large barracks and some smaller huts. The total strength of the camp was 47,405 split up into 1700 labour detachments, about 40 being all British. Salt mining was the chief industry. Conditions at Stalag IXC were exceedingly bad in March 1941. Quarters were crowded, as many as 150 lived, ate and slept in a room measuring 120ft X 60ft. The dirt was frightful with many vermin and the hygienic facilities were primitive in what was described as the 'French style' or pit type. Later, in 1942, this was taken in hand and there were regular inspections, delousing and cleaning and each POW had a shower at least once a week. Laundry had to be done in the washroom and no special room was set aside for drying, consequently the room was always damp. There was no canteen and there were no priests of any religion. To foil escapes, all boots and trousers had to be handed in and locked up each night and all shutters had to be kept shut whatever the weather. The path between the barracks and the barbed wire was put out of bounds and any POW was liable to be shot without warning if they were seen there. Recreation consisted of organized P.T. every day and POWs were allowed outside the camp to the football ground between 2pm and 4pm. There were no indoor games, but an orchestra was formed. POWs slept in triple tier bunks with 2 blankets and a palliasse filled with wood shavings that encouraged lice. However, there was heating in the barracks. Stalag IXC, on its current site, is now a swimming pool (salt bath), and the camp itself, closed in 1945.

In 1945, back on English soil, my father was treated for Neurosis, through his time in Stalag IXC and his official discharge was on 23rd January 1946, due to medical grounds. At one point, when my father was taken prisoner, my grandfather gave up his belief in the teachings of the bible he had preached from since his early days in Craghead. Following his discharge, my father went to live at 17 Larch terrace in Craghead for a while before returning home to 19 Clayton Ville. Larch Terrace was the home of his Aunt Hilda.

His first job back in civilian life saw my father resuming his trade as a coal miner, thought to be in Grantham, Lincolnshire, but he returned to County Durham not long after that. In the 1950s he continued to live at 19 Clayton Ville. His main interests at this time were Soccer and Cricket, but he also liked to attend Leek Shows, as photographed in October 1956 at The Fleece public house in nearby Edmondsley (pictured below). Right – My father, James March.











In August 1955, the Quinn family had moved from Keighley, West Yorkshire to Blackhouse Village and it was here, at 19 Clayton Ville that my parents first met in that year, although they did not start their courtship until 1957.
My mother, Annie Quinn, and her three brothers, one of which had died in 1942, were all born in Worth Village but their mother had originated from Edmondsley, and this was the area where the latter returned, bringing her children with her. As time went on, the Quinn's moved out of 19 Clayton Ville and moved to 52 Riding Hill in Great Lumley

In the late 1950s, my mother worked in a clothing factory called The Webwear, situated in Bloemfontein at Craghead, and my father, prior to their wedding, would often pick her up from work on the new Aerial motorcycle that he had recently bought. In 1957, my father was working at the Waldridge drift mine near Edmondsley, a small mine near the site of a short lived Victorian mine called the Byron Pit. It is possible, although not certain, that the Waldridge mine was once the setting for a French film crew who blew up a pit near the Byron for the recreation of a mine explosion.


Right – My parent’s wedding day reception in 1959 at Lumley.



From 1958, my father had worked at the Royal Ordnance Factory in Birtley, and on the 31st October 1959, my mother and he married at Chester-le-street Registry Office. Following their marriage, my parents had a week away in Doncaster and then settled into married life. For a while afterwards, they too, lived with the Quinn family at Riding Hill and in the summer of 1960, the rented rooms that my grandparent's had let at 19 Clayton Ville became available, and so my parents went to live there until 1961.

On 12m May 1960, a daughter was born to the couple, at the Princess Mary Hospital in Newcastle upon Tyne, whom they named Shelly Grace March, she being the eldest of four children born to my parents. During the summer of 1961, my parents moved to the Gateshead area, occupying premises at 38 Tin Street, Bensham.

It was here, at Tin Street, another daughter, Margaret Catherine March was born on 4 December that year, but by 1963, my parents had moved to east Gateshead, to the Old Fold Estate in Felling, where they rented the premises at 16 Friars Dene Road.

I myself was born at 16 Friars Dene Road on Saturday 24th August 1963 at six o'clock in the morning, but my parents never really settled there. In 1965, my father put a notice in a local shop window, asking if anyone in the Chester-Le-Street area wished for a house swap. Luckily, an elderly couple saw the advert and, had themselves, wished to return to Gateshead where they previously lived. The swap went ahead after arrangements with both area councils. Our family moved to the small colliery village of Sacriston, not

far from Clayton Ville. Here, we resided at 10 Morningside in the village.

Money had never been in abundance with my parents, and during November 1965 my father was involved in a quite serious motorcycle accident at
Chester Moor which put him out of work for 4 years. He was riding home in the late evening when the accident happened. These uneasy financial times lasted until September 1967, when my father received a payout from his army days. It was in the February of 1967 that another daughter, Kim March was born at Dryburn Hospital.

My father began working at Bede Engineering at Birtley in 1969, this year coinciding with his compensation payout from his motorcycle accident from 1965, this being settled out of court. Following a well earned holiday, my parent's decided to enter the paper-shop business. Premises were bought at 7 Water Street, Sacriston from a family friend, Gilbert Comby. I recall that it was a run-down abode that had stood many years, but with a bit of hard work, my parents made the place look respectable. When we originally visited the premises, a tramp was found to be using the downstairs bath as a bed. Water Street was demolished in the late 1970s.

Three months later, my father's world collapsed, when, on 18th September 1973, his beloved mother died, following a road traffic accident in Blackpool. My grandmother's funeral, at Sacriston Cemetery was held on 25th September that year, and the day before, the hearse had brought her coffin from Laygate Cemetery

Chapel in Blackpool to our residence. My father's tears, on the day of her burial are etched in my mind forever, as he held my mother and me tightly in uncontrollable grief. My grandmother was laid to rest in grave number CI34, the double grave that she shares with my grandfather.

The very last holiday that my father shared with us occurred in the summer of 1974. Due to bad weather conditions, our holiday in Blackpool had been cut short, and on 3rd August 1974 we arrived at Dene View Caravan Site near Crimdon Dene. We returned to Sacriston on 10th August, and I took full advantage of the school holidays by staying at my Grandmother Quinn's house in Great Lumley. I recall, on Wednesday 14th August, at around 10.30pm, my elder sister, Shelly, running in my grandmother's house with tears etched on her face and screaming.

At 9.30pm, an hour earlier, my father had collapsed due to a massive heart attack never survived. My father was buried on 20th August 1974 in Sacriston Cemetery grave number C228.









Above left - the last photograph taken of my father, about 5 days before his death.
Above right - My father's grave in Sacriston Cemetery.

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