ARMISTICE Day in 1918 must have been greeted with relief as well as joy by Mary Farrow and her husband, Charles.

They had both witnessed the horrors of war and experienced the pain of loss, but when the guns at last fell silent 99 years ago, they must have hoped for a better future and a peaceful life together with their new baby.

When peace was declared, Charles, 28, serving in northern France with the Royal Field Artillery, was granted 14 days home leave and he dashed home to the North-East to celebrate with Mary, 25, and their nine-month-old daughter, Carol.

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The Northern Echo: NORTH-EAST CHAMPIONS: Durham County rugby team on March 28, 1914, with Charles Farrow (left of the centre row) and his brother Joseph (second from right on the back). Seven of the 15 died in the First World War. Back row, from left: DH Blakey (of Gateshea

NORTH-EAST CHAMPIONS: Durham County rugby team on March 28, 1914, with Charles Farrow (left of the centre row) and his brother Joseph (second from right on the back). Seven of the 15 died in the First World War. Back row, from left: DH Blakey (of Gateshead, killed July 1, 1916), RH Robson (master at Middleton-in-Teesdale school, killed at Ypres in 1915), JHT Farrow (gassed, April 1918), AT Harrison. Centre: CO Farrow, J Thompson, C Pickersgill, FE Chapman (captain), WA Robertson, AJ Dingle (son of the rector of Egglescliffe and England rugby player, killed in the Dardenelles in 1915), JP Sivewright. Front: R Noble (of Gateshead, killed July 1, 1915), AM Gelsthorpe, J Ainslie, HJ Dingle (captain of Durham University rugby team, brother of AJ Dingle, killed at the naval Battle of Jutland)

But tragically, as a recently restored white cross in Gainford churchyard shows, there was to be no better future or peaceful life for either of them. Within three weeks of the armistice, they would both be dead, killed not by enemy guns but by the Spanish flu that swept around the globe and killed more people than the war itself.

Their sad story has been pieced together by Gillian Hunt, a civil servant in Darlington’s Department of Education offices, after she saw an article in The Northern Echo about the restoration of the white cross.

She’s discovered that Charles and Mary must have met in Hartlepool, where they grew up.

Charles had been orphaned at just two weeks of age and was brought up by an aunt on the Headland. He became an apprentice marine engineer and played rugby for Hartlepool Rovers and County Durham – he and his elder brother Joseph were members of the county side which won the North-Eastern championship in 1913-14 (seven of the 15 didn’t survive the war, including Joseph, who was gassed in April 1918).

Mary was the daughter of a ship-owning coal exporter. On December 16, 1914, she had huddled in a cellar with 20 petrified others as three German warships bombarded her Headland. She saw “an ugly black smoking mass” – a shell – bury itself deep in the house next door, killing the neighbour’s wife outright.

Even more remarkable is Mary’s educational career. After attending Westwick Lodge School for Girls in Barnard Castle, she’d graduated from Armstrong College in Newcastle (then part of Durham University) with a BA and had gone to Cherwell Hall Training College in Oxford (later part of Oxford University) to become a secondary school teacher. Her first job was at Chelmsford County High in Essex.

Charles joined up on the day war broke out in 1914, and they appear to have been hastily married in Hartlepool on May 7, 1916, probably to fit in with his leave ahead of the great push on the Somme of that summer.

When Mary became pregnant, she gave up her teaching post and returned to the North-East to have her baby, which was born in early 1918.

With Charles, promoted to 2nd Lieutenant, away fighting, how she must have feared getting the dreaded telegram from the front telling her that her husband had been killed and her daughter would grow up fatherless.

But at 11am on November 11, 1918, those fears could be put away – Charles had survived the slaughter, and soon he was back in Mary’s arms.

They went to celebrate the joy and relief with Mary’s parents, who now lived in North Terrace, Gainford. What they were doing in Gainford is unclear – they were quite well off, so they could have moved there to escape the bombardments that rained down on Hartlepool, or perhaps their house had been badly damaged during the 1914 attack that killed their neighbour.

But it was at North Terrace that Mary died on November 25.

She was one of the 100 million victims worldwide of the Spanish flu epidemic that swept the globe as the war was ending. Indeed, in the week she died, the epidemic was at its height. Nationally that week, more than 5,100 people died, and locally in Darlington, 41 people died; in Stockton, 51 died, and there were scores more deaths from Bishop Auckland to Guisborough – even political campaign meetings for the election were cancelled.

And it was at North Terrace on December 2 that Charles, who had spent the full four years of the war dodging death on the battlefield, passed away, another victim of the epidemic.

He was buried beneath the same white cross as his wife on December 4, although it seems the military authorities needed some convincing that he hadn’t just deserted.

As a visitor to the village, Charles wasn’t listed on Gainford war memorial, and over the years, the monument in the churchyard slowly toppled over. Last year, though, parishioners paid for its restoration, which inspired Gillian to research the story.

Are you connected to Charles and/or Mary? We know their baby, Carol, was not survived by any of her children, but many people must have known Mary’s brother, Harry Lister, who died in the early 1980s having been a deputy Lord Lieutenant.

He was a well-known figure at Hartlepool Rovers home matches with his little dog. Charles’ brother, Joseph, was gassed in 1918, but left four young children and so may have descendants. Please email chris.lloyd@nne.co.uk if you have any information.

With many thanks to Gillian Hunt for her help.