THE letters 'w,' 'm' and 'k,' are marked, more and more, in the quartermaster's log book. 'Wounded,' 'missing,' 'killed.' Then nothing. The book just stops.

That day was the first day of the Somme and there was no need to know the men's shoe sizes and uniform specifications any more. Too many entries of 'w,' 'm,' and 'k' to record. Of the 200 men of the DLI's D Company only ten reported for duty the next day.

Today that sad, little, functional quartermaster's book is buried deep in the archives of Hartlepool's Museum Service. The museum manager, Mark Simmons, points to a mud stain on an inside page. The mud of the bloody Somme incongruous in the dry, safe academic surroundings of a museum back office.

On the back page of the book the unnamed quartermaster has scribbled a quick calculations. He records 30 men killed, 68 wounded and 14 missing. He would have known each and every one of them. The youngest is aged 19, the oldest 40; but many men and boys lied about their ages, old and young.

Mr Simmons had been talking quickly, eager to answer questions about the vast conflict and what it did to his beloved Hartlepool. He explains the DLI and D Company had recruited very heavily from the town and surrounding areas and on the official D Company casualty list 24 men were from Hartlepool. But there's a quietness between us as we look at the book.

Remembering the Durham Pals on the battlefield where they gave their young lives
Help commemorate the sacrifices made by the men of the Durham Light Infantry at the Somme. In the month of July 2016, we are aiming to raise £10,000 to create a battlefield memorial to those who fell 100 years ago. To donate, either go to and make a pledge, or send a cheque made payable to Former Charities of the Durham Light Infantry to The Rifles Durham Office, Elvet Waterside, Durham DH1 3BW.

"It's terrible, isn't it," he says. "The most important artefacts from history are never dramatic, or rarely anyway. It is some little functional item like this that tells the story."

Our history man knows of an artillery observer’s account. Mr Simmons explains that the men would have markings on their uniforms so each battalion and company could be identified and observed. "The account says disappeared in the smoke," says Mr Simmons. "For more than 70 men that’s the last ever seen of them. Their actual bodies disappear. No trace."

The quartermaster's book had been given to Hartlepool DLI Old Boys Association in 1973 along with the association's own minutes. The minutes, often dry, mention the quartermaster's book, which had been donated by veteran John Scott. The book had; "proved to be of great interest," the minutes said, mainly for its next of kin references. The old comrades would visit and support the families of former comrades.

There's only one reference to The Somme in the Hartlepool 'old comrades' minutes in all the many years of meetings. In the early 60s a high ranking old soldier, Major AH Watson visited the men. The handwritten note recording the visit says: "Tributes were paid to those who had died in the year. Many had passed on but those who remain carry their age well. These are the men who seeing Lord Kitchener's fierce glare and pointing finger with the legend; 'Your Country Needs You,' signed on for three years or the duration. Major Watson pointed out many were afraid that the war would be over before they had a chance of doing real service. But there was enough enough for everyone by the time the Battle of the Somme took place." More than enough for anyone.

The books were handed to the to Hartlepool's museum service specifically so that the men who fought and died would be remembered. It becomes clear that the old soldiers worried that the sacrifice would be forgotten although there is very little emotion or discussion about what they endured. At one point in the 60s it is even said with a hint of bitterness that; "the young think us 'square.'"

D Company was involved in the protection of Hartlepool during the 1914 bombardment in which at least 130 people were killed. The outrage inspired many men and boys to join up in the cause and Hartlepool raised more money for the war effort than any other town in Britain. Those original defenders of Hartlepool and new recruits fought and sometimes died in The Somme.

In 1964 the bombardment was remembered in a memorial service. "The turnout of the public was poor," says the minutes, "although it must be remembered that it was a damned cold day. But I find that to the younger generation it is just another page in the history books like Alfred and the cakes."

The old soldier who wrote those words need not have worried. They have never been forgotten. And we intend to preserve their names in granite in France to ensure they never are.