THE small Durham village of Woodland, which straggles along a ridge above the Gaunless Valley, should be celebrating the centenary of its unusual memorial.

It was unveiled on October 2, 1920, and it commemorates the 63 men who served in the First World War – eight of them died, 43 returned and 12 served in this country.

What is so unusual about Woodland’s memorial is that it has never been re-dedicated for the victims of other conflicts and, uniquely in the county, its 63 names are recorded on a bronze plaque.

This may well be because most of the £320 cost of the memorial was paid for by the Cargo Fleet Iron Company in Middlesbrough, which owned Woodland’s colliery – a large concern, employing nearly 500 people when the memorial was unveiled, although it closed the following year.

In front of a large crowd, a Union flag was pulled off the memorial to reveal it to the world by Colonel HC Watson, of Barnard Castle. He had been in command of the 6th Durham Light Infantry when the war had broken out. They’d left from Newcastle station for Ypres on April 17, 1915, and were straight into action on April 24, with Col Watson desperately trying to control his lines using his whistle and voice under continuous fire on April 26.

At the end of the day, 42 Durhams had been killed. Col Watson collapsed with physical and mental exhaustion and was returned home. Once he had recovered, he took charge of the battalion’s training.

After he’d dropped the flag, the Woodland Silver Band led a parade to the village school where a public tea was held. It was followed by a concert and a dance which raised £56 – but still the village had to raise a further £10 to pay off the cost of raising a monument to its war dead.