A PICTORIAL record of one of the country's most famous fighting regiments will be permanently preserved thanks to a £49,400 Heritage Lottery Fund grant.

All 36,000 photographs in the Durham Light Infantry (DLI) collection are to be digitised to make them available on the Internet.

The project is being overseen by the records office at Durham County Council, with the backing of the DLI Museum, its friends group and regimental trustees.

It will not only allow a full photographic archive of the famous "Faithful Durhams" but will ensure the originals, some dating from the mid-19th Century, are safeguarded.

The grant, backed by top-up funding of £7,100 from the county council, trustees and friends, will fund extra staff to catalogue and scan the photos. Efforts will also be made to identify unnamed soldiers.

The project should be complete by May 2005, after which a travelling exhibition will tour the county.

Keith Bartlett, Heritage Lottery Fund North-East manager, said: "The DLI is an integral part of County Durham's heritage.

"We were particularly keen to support this project because an increased understanding of the DLI will inevitably lead to greater awareness of the history of the community as a whole," added Mr Bartlett, whose grandfather served in the DLI, disbanded as a full-time county-affiliated regiment in 1968.

Ronnie Taylor, of Sedgefield, who served in the 1st Battalion DLI in the Korean War in 1952/3, said: "It's going to be first class. There's bound to be a lot of interest."

County archivist Jennifer Gill said: "We receive many inquiries from all over the world and the grant will ensure that people with Durham connections will be able to access their heritage as easily as possible."

The photographic archive will gradually be added to the DLI section of the website www.durham.gov.uk/ record office over the coming two years.