PIONEER Sidney Rutter kept a pendant close to his heart as he fought with the Royal Engineers on the Western Front. It was only a little bigger than a modern 10p coin. On one side was a picture of a young lady, her hair fashionably tied up with a red bow; on the other side was a picture of himself, looking as devilishly handsome as a 22-year-old coalminer from Evenwood can when he’s dressed in his khaki uniform.

Perhaps there was an identical pendant that hung round the neck of the young lady herself as she waited, hoping against hope, for his safe return.

He never came back. In fact, exactly 100 years ago today, Pnr Rutter was killed on his company’s bloodiest day.

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He was born in 1894, the eldest of Thomas and Sarah Rutter’s four children. By the age of 16, he was working down the pit where his father was a colliery engineman.

He enlisted at Darlington on August 16, 1915. His personal details recorded that he was 5ft 3¾ins tall and weighed 121lbs (8st 9lbs). Presumably his mining skills earmarked him for the Royal Engineers, and he reached the front on June 25, 1916.

Three days later, he was wounded, struck in the right arm by a shell, and he was hospitalised at Rouen for ten days before rejoining his unit.

In spring 1917, he was with Z Special Company of the Engineers, near Arras in northern France. At the village of Bullecourt, the Australians were having an appalling time attacking the Germans who were deeply entrenched in the Hindenburg line.

On May 6 – the third day of the battle – the Engineers were taking Livens Projectors to the crest of a ridge so they could be fired at the enemy.

The Livens Projector had been invented by Captain William Livens of Z Company. It was really just a tube buried in the ground and angled at 45 degrees, but it could deliver large quantities of flammable substances or toxic chemicals accurately over long distances. The first Livens Projectors fired three gallon drums full of oil which burst on landing and ignited. By the Battle of Bullecourt, they were also capable of delivering drums containing highly concentrated gas.

However, on May 6, as the wagons carrying the various pieces of the projectors neared the crest, a “chance shell” struck the cart containing the propellant charges – the explosive that was intended to fire the drum.

The explosion was huge, and immediately the enemy concentrated all of its fire on the area.

Forty-nine Engineers were killed, including Pnr Rutter.

On September 3, 1917, his family in Evenwood received his personal effects, including the pendant. They may have recognised the young lady, but her name is known no more. It would be too much to hope that, on the 100th anniversary of his death, someone might have the partner pendant lying around in a drawer, wondering whatever became of the devilishly handsome young soldier.

BLOB With many thanks to Peter Henney, the great-nephew of Sidney, and Evenwood historian Kevin Richardson who tells Pnr Rutter’s story, along with many others, on his website thefallenservicemenofsouthwestcountydurham.com

THIS splendid photograph is one of the Darlington items that will be on sale at the Darlington Book Fair next Saturday.

It shows the Cleveland Car Company garage on Grange Road which was demolished in September 1974. If you are struggling with the location, notice on the extreme right the distinctive entrance to Sloan’s billiard rooms, built in 1909 and still standing.

It is always said that the garage was demolished because the land was needed for the large inner ring-road roundabout at the top of Victoria Road, but the bathroom saleroom on the site today occupies a similar sized footprint.

It must have made an impressive entrance to the town centre, particularly with the mock timbered shop, now occupied by Geoffrey Gillow’s tailors on the opposite side of Grange Road. It, too, has fancy stained glass windows in it.

The Cleveland Car Company was formed in 1904 by Charles Dixon, the owner of the Cleveland Bridge engineering works, who needed somewhere to service his Rolls Royce Silver Ghost. He went into partnership with Owen Pease and developed the garage in a doctor’s former house on Grange Road which, of course, was then the Great North Road.

The Cleveland boasted that it was "the finest garage outside London" and that "our equipment enables us to build a complete car if necessary". It launched the town's first motor taxi service, in 1907, and owned the first charabancs - 18-seater open-sided vehicles which ran "weather and circumstances permitting". Those circumstances included having at least 14 paying passengers on-board before it moved.

The photograph shows the names of the motor companies that the Cleveland dealt with: Thorneycroft, Garford, Lanchester, Bentley, Overland, Sunbeam, Standard and Daimler.

The notice on the tower on the left – we assume that this tower housed a lift that could carry cars up to the first floor, but we may be wrong – proclaims that this is “the best equipped garage in the north”.

But the most interesting notices are the two posters stuck to the windows. They are headed “Daily Mail” and they say: “No Soviet petrol sold here.”

If anyone knows what this refers to, or if you have any thoughts about the Cleveland Car Company or the date the picture was taken, we’d love to hear from you.

BLOB Darlington Book Fair is at the Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College in Vane Terrace on Saturday, May 13, from 10am to 4pm.

A FORTNIGHT ago we showed a couple of mystery pictures from Darlington library’s collection. The finest showed boys taking part in a three-legged race – but where?

“It was taken in Reeth,” says Janet Shaw, now in Darlington. “The house with steps was called Greensides and I used to stay here with my friend. The post office was in the basement.”

Several other people also identified Reeth as the location. We’ve also had lots of thoughts about the two other mystery pictures which we are in the process of working through.

MEMORIES 324 stopped off at the Weardale railway station that was called “Beechburn (for Howden-le-Wear)” – so called to avoid confusion with other Howdens on the rail network. In doing so, we added a new element of confusion.

“The item you said to be a Beechburn railway cap badge is almost certainly the small brass plate fixed to the leather cash bag used to transfer monies to a superior accountancy/banking station,” said Eddie Scarlett from Huntington, York. “On the outward journey, the neck of the bag was wax sealed, and when empty it was returned to the station shown on the brass plate. In some instances both stations would be named on the plate.”

THAT same edition featured a spread of pictures taken from Keith Kitching’s new book about the famous Darlington coach company, Scott’s Greys. It brought back pleasant memories for Ken Thurlbeck, of Stockton, of his childhood holidays in the late 1930s in Blackpool.

“I can recall early on Saturday mornings assembling in Darlington Market Place with our square, battered brown suitcases and we excited children carrying our tin buckets and spades prior to boarding the three or four coaches standing in echelon formation behind the Boot and Shoe,” he says. “We set off in convoy, and stopped at Hawes for a comfort break. I remember going into a large hall with long trestle tables at the end of which were large numbers of cups. Once we were seated, a lady with a massive tin tea pot started pouring already milked tea with one continuous motion until the pot was empty or all cups filled.

“In those days, there were no motorways or many "A" class roads and our route continued along the line of the River Ribble, past Ingleton, where near the White Scar Caves the road was seriously bumpy and the drivers took great delight in driving as fast as they could to give us a foretaste of what the Big Dipper had in store for us.

“The journey to Blackpool took about five or six hours and I don't recall any breakdowns, there or back. However, I recall the grubby flat cap conveniently placed near the driver's cab, not to be worn but passed around near journey's end and filled with contributions from grateful passengers.

“My last journeys to and from Blackpool were made in 1949 and for Scott’s Greys truly lived up to their slogan "Glorious Runs and Safe Returns".”

HOWEVER, there is another side to the story. Richard Armstrong read the article “with a wry smile”. He says: “When Hillman Avengers were popular, a visit was arranged for staff from Darlington College of Technology to visit the works, and Scott’s Grey got the contract.”

The Avenger was introduced in 1970, and was made at the Rootes factory in Rylstone, Warwickshire.

“All loaded and off we go – well, as far as Blands Corner where the driver asked: "Does anyone know the way?" Fortunately, one of the staff had been many years previously and he was placed at the front of the bus to guide the driver.

“When we got to the site, Rootes were on strike. Security let us in for a quick look at the facilities and then, no tea or coffee and no lunch, we were back on the coach for the return journey. We stopped, I think, at Wetherby, and had just ordered a meal when the coach driver said he wanted to leave as the bus had only one rear light and no front lights.

“And it was getting dark.

“We then tried to get some of the lights to work, enough for us to be seen but not to see. Yes, we made it back to Darlington but Glorious Runs and Safe Returns, I think not.”