80th Anniversary of the start of WW2

Mains House, Front Street, 1960s

It will be appreciated that we are approaching the 80th Anniversary of the Declaration of War in 1939.

However, it may not be always appreciated that Territorial Army Units in the Region were "embodied" on 24th August 1939 and that local units then began to be mobilised - one of the first being the 41st (Durham) National Defence Company, consisting of experienced older soldiers, who immediately took up their key role of guarding and securing vulnerable points - such as railway facilities and key factories.

It is likely that Private George Robert Milburn, who was killed in a railway accident on the night of 29th August 1939, while on duty at Croxdale Viaduct, near Durham City, was one of the first casualties of what became the Second World War. George was in uniform, on duty and armed. However, because his death took place before the formal outbreak of hostilities, he is not included in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records as a war casualty and was not commemorated using the familiar CWGC Headstone when he was buried.

His Memorial Page can be accessed here

The 70th Infantry Brigade came into formal existence on the 1st September 1939 as the three DLI Battalions (6th, 8th and 9th) of 151 (Durham) Brigade - which had recruited locally way beyond their establishments in accordance with Government plans - were separated each into two, with the "duplicate" Battalions - formalised as the 10th, 11th and 12th - now being grouped to form 70th Brigade, becoming one of the two Brigades in the 23rd Division - itself a duplicate of the famous 50th Division. Brigade HQ was at Mains House in Chester-le-Street.

Those from Durham who are aware of family members being mobilised in those duplicate Battalions in 1939 are asked to contact the Lead Researcher at to see if their relative(s) are already included on the Memorial database, provide any extra information they can, or add them to that list if they are not already there.