Home Front

New for 2016 – a presentation to local organisations by members of the WVS and Home Guard. Uniformed personnel have visited the Trefoil Guild, GSK Retired Staff and Women’s Institutes telling the story the local civilian contribution to the war effort. We are already taking bookings for 2017!
Iris-WVS-(2014) Allan(HG)

Barnard Castle 1940s Weekend

Great News, the Barnard Castle 1940s Weekend has been set for the 24th to 26th June 2016. As well as our Operations Room, there will be other re-enactors, military vehicles as will as Services for renewal of marriage vows (Saturday) and a Parade service on Sunday. There is also intended to be a Dance on the Saturday Evening in the Parish Hall as well as craft and vintage fairs in the town. Save the dates!!

WAAFs – We need you.

If you already re-enact as a WAAF, or would like to, please get in touch. Our scenario of the Operations Room relies on having WAAF plotters to make the whole effect work.

Lincolnshire Lancaster Association Day

A fantastic day at Coningsby for the Lincolnshire Lancaster Association Day. Thousands of people many of whom came through our tent to view the Operations Room where we were using the new map and scenario based on RAF Digby.
The highlight for me was meeting the veteran Dambuster, George “Johnny” Johnson. Many thanks Sir.

A Momentous Day

FOR Joe Swinbank and many like him VE Day was a momentous occasion but far from the end of the Second World War.Joe-SwinbankA
He was a young man serving with the Army and recalls that on May 8, 1945, as millions rejoiced at Germany’s surrender, he was about to be deployed to Belgium but was instead diverted to Eygpt then Palestine.
Today (Friday) the 99-year-old, whose wartime duties included driving generals to the frontline, was the guest of honour at Barnard Castle’s VE Day 70th anniversary celebrations.
Mr Swinbank, who lives at Abbeyfield House, was delighted the town, where he ran a gentleman’s outfitters for many years, marked the occasion and paid tribute to those who fell during the war.
There were exhibitions at St Mary’s Parish Hall, including a replica operations room and display of wartime photographs and memories from local people.VisitorsA
Lifelong friends Jack Addison and Frank Gargett, from farming families in Cotherstone and Lartington, joined the Home Guard at its Barnard Castle headquarters, which is now a toyshop, and there stories included a training manoeuvre when they had to take Bowes Post Office.
There were also reports and pictures of the VE Day parties held in Barnard Castle, Romaldkirk and Middleton-in-Teesdale, tanks rolling through the town centre and fireworks and beacons throughout Teesdale.
At 3pm there was a two-minute silence and there will be an evening tribute concert by the Barnard Castle and Friends Band.
Allan Jones and Iris Hillery organised the event, which raised money for the Royal British Legion’s local Poppy Appeal.
Mrs Hillery said: “We thought we should do something for the VE Day anniversary and it grew and grew.
“We’ve been delighted how many people visited, found it interesting and wanted to commemorate the occasion.”
Mr Jones added: “It is important to remember that people sacrificed such a lot during those six years of war in order that we all have the democracy we have now.
“So many paid the ultimate sacrifice so even those of who cannot remember or weren’t alive can pay tribute to that.”
The town’s efforts to commemorate the anniversary led to it being chosen to represent County Durham in a chain of beacons being lit across the UK, at the going down of the sun tonight. (Friday, May 8)
The beacon, in the grounds of St Mary’s Church, will be lit by Chairman of Durham County Council John Robinson.
(Northern Echo, ( May 2015)

Appreciating the effort of our VE Day workers 

THANK you to all those who worked so hard to make the 70th anniversary ofVE Day so memorable at the Parish Hall on Friday, May 8.
The exhibitions were in formative and very well displayed.
Lunch was delicious and — thankfully — it was not rationed.
Returning in the evening for the concert, featuring the Barney Brass Band and Friends, we enjoyed a memorable night filled with nostalgia and lots of singing and flag waving by the packed audience.
Despite the torrential rain, the evening culminated with the lighting of the Beacon — the only one in Durham – outside St Mary’s Church. Our thoughts are very much with all those who suffered and gave so much for our freedom.
J & S H,

VE Day events raised £1,350 for Poppy Appeal

THE Second World War was brought to Teesdale as part of a commemorative event to mark VE day. An exhibition at St Mary’s Parish Hall, in Barnard Castle, included photos, displays about the home front, and replica models of Second World War planes.
Re-enactors brought a Battle of Britain operations room to life while visitors also had the chance to see two 1943 Willys jeeps, which were the same models used by thousands of servicemen as they landed on the Normandy beaches during D-Day.
One of the visitors to the exhibition was war veteran Joe Swinbank, 99, who was one of those driving a Willys jeep during the landings in June 1944.
Iris Hillery, who helped organise the event with her husband Allan Jones, said: “We had a steady turnout all day and all the people who came have shown a lot of interest and spent a lot of time looking around. The photos are fantastic and people have been sharing their own memories which I’ve really enjoyed hearing. We’ve managed to show a lot of different aspects of the war and we’ve been raising money for the British Legion.”
Mr Jones, who was dressed in RAF uniform, was among several re-enactors who explained how servicemen and women would have plotted the Battle of Britain in the operations room. He said: “I’ve been doing this for seven or eight years and slowly built up a scenario. Initially it was very hard to get my head around. The people doing it in the war must have been under tremendous pressure. It’s been a good day. People have been asking a lot of questions and the older generation have been very good at things like identifying the planes. It’s been worth putting it on to ensure that people remember.”
The Last Post was played at 3pm, which was followed by a two-minute silence.
A total of £1,350 was raised for the charity through donations and ticket sales for a concert in the evening. The money will go to the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal.
Barnard Castle Band entertained about 150 people with music from the era. Crowds then watched Durham County Council’s chairman John Robinson light a beacon outside St Mary’s Church – one of 100 across the country.
Barnard Castle town mayor Cllr John Blissett also led a tribute to the fallen. He said: “It’s been brilliant. It’s a good tribute and for me it’s the icing on the cake for my year as mayor. This is my last civic event and what a climax it is.”
(Teesdale Mercury, 12 May 2015)


Friends or “Allies” of the group include other re-enactment or living history groups. These are just some:

NEReenactorsWW2 Re-Enactors North East – A group” of about 40 re-enactors & individuals united by a common interest in the 1940s era, not bound by membership, rules & regulations, but gather together to socialise and educate members of the public.
MilitesMilites is a new society dedicated to bringing accurate, engaging and educational recreations of British history to sites and institutions around the UK.
dtvamvtlogo2 Durham Tees Valley Area Military Vehicle Trust – A group dedicated to the preservation and use of Military Vehicles from all eras but you dont have to be a vehicle owner to become involved. The group or individuals attend many National venues as well as Local Area events and, on occasion, international venues.
History WardrobeHistory Wardrobe – popular presentations on ladies fashions throughout history, given at venues across the UK, from village halls to stately homes including museums, heritage sites, literary festivals, historical societies, luncheon clubs, NADFAS and WI groups.


RAF Hawksmere
is a fictitious Royal Air Force station in the North-East of England for World War II historical re-enactors. The station is used by all three RAF commands, Fighter, Bomber and Coastal, and is home to five squadrons. Our aim is to further the remembrance of those who served with the RAF during the Second World War (1939 – 1945) by re-enacting as a “Living History” Group through talks, presentations and at commemorative events, hence our motto – “numquam obliviscar” (We will never forget).
The station was built in 1937 as the threat of war increased, initially with grass runways which were upgraded to concrete in late 1942. The runways are set at 30/210, 90/270 and 150/320
No 188 Squadron
Motto: Quaerat et Destruent – Seek and destroy
Formed as a fighter squadron at RAF Stradishall in October 1939, it was equipped with Blenheim Mk 1s, which it took to RAF Bircham Newton in February 1940, where the unit was transferred to Coastal Command. In April it moved to RAF Wittering, where it rejoined Fighter Command and the following month was moved to RAF Manston to fly defensive patrols over the Channel, but in July, a move to RAF St Eval in the South West, saw it back in Coastal Command, carrying out anti-shipping patrols over the Channel, and Irish Sea, having re-equipped with Beaufighters in October 1941. In February 1942 it transferred to RAF North Coates and was reduced toa skeleton squadron in size, but received new Beaufighters in March and resumed its previous duties, although these were now flown over the North Sea, however it did also operate detachments in the South West undertaking similar duties over the Bay of Biscay. In September 1942 the squadron moved to RAF Hawksmere
Squadron Code used: – XD
From To Aircraft Version
October 1939 September 1940 Bristol Blenheim
October 1940 September 1941 Bristol Blenheim
September 1941 Bristol Beaufighter

No 634 Squadron

Motto: Lorem uiam deferunt ostendit – This shows the route
Originally formed as part of the Light Night Striking Force, in No 8 Group at Oakington in January 1943, from elite crews within Bomber Command Squadrons, this unit is equipped with Mosquitoes. It was transferred to No 1 Group to undertake special operations within Bomber Command and has recently moved to Hawksmere in April 1943 as part of the Pathfinder Force (PFF).
Squadron Code used: – LQ
From To Aircraft Version
January 1943 De Haviland Mosquito Mk IV

No 629 Squadron
Motto: Defendere nobis certamen – We fight to defend
Formed originally as one of the Auxiliary Air Force Squadrons, equipped with Hawker Hart light bombers. As war approached, it was upgraded to Hawker Hinds in May 1938. In January 1939 the squadron role was changed to that of a Fighter squadron and was planned to receive Defiants, keeping its Hinds pending their arrival. At the outbreak of war in September 1939 it received its first Hawker Hurricane fighters and by the end of that same month it was flying the more advanced Supermarine Spitfire fighter replacing the majority of the Hurricanes, only a single Flight remaining.
No 629 Squadron was attached to No. 11 Group and operated over Dunkirk and throughout most of the Battle of Britain from various bases. It was initially based at RAF Gravesend, but moved to RAF Biggin Hill before the German offensive. At the end of August 1940 the squadron moved North to RAF Acklington for rest and recuperation, having sustained severe casualties. In January 1941 the Squadron was moved to RAF Hawksmere where it currently remains.
Squadron Code used: – VZ.
From To Aircraft Version
March 1936 May 1938 Hawker Hart

May 1938 September 1939 Hawker Hind

September 1939 September 1939 Hawker Hurricane
September 1939 February 1941 Supermarine Spitfire
February 1941 July 1941 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IIa
July 1941 August 1941 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vb
August 1941 Supermarine Spitfire Mks.IIa, IIb

No 641 Squadron
Motto: Impetus optima defensio – Attack is the best defence
Formed in March 1942 at Scampton for the purpose of developing and carrying out low level marking techniques, initially using Avro Manchesters but rapidly moving to Lancasters when the Manchester proved unequal to the task. The Squadron was heavily involved in the “1000 Raids” between May and August 1942. Later in 1942, operating Lancasters in No 1 Group, 641 Squadron became part of Bomber Command’s Main Force. The squadron was transferred to RAF Hawksmere during April 1943
Squadron Code used: – EU.
From To Aircraft Version
March 1942 Avro Lancaster Mk III


Pateley Bridge Home Guard –
A Unit created to inform the public about the wartime activities of the Pateley Bridge Home Guard Unit WR6. Its members are available to attend WW2 events in period uniform of this home guard unit.