Aaron Ditchburn

aaron Ditchburn WW1 RAMC

Possibly Aaron Ditchburn

Aaron Ditchburn was born 1896 in Gateshead. He was the son of John Ditchburn born 1870 in Wallsend and Margaret, born 1872 in Gateshead.

John was a general labourer. By the 1911 census John had died, leaving Margaret with 6 children. Aaron and his brother Thomas Lackenby Ditchburn were working as office boys.

The family moved to 20, Major Street, Hopetown, Darlington before WW1. A diary, written in a small accounts book, has been left by Aaron, along with many family photographs and those of friends.

Aaron mentions working all day as a stretcher bearer in his diary, hence the tentative identification of the photograph left as being of him.

The diary contains details of his journeys, postings, poems, addresses of family and friends, and a drawing of a ship. He had a girlfriend, Gertrude Copping of Gateshead, who at one stage had sent him a muffler which he received November 20, 1916.

The most poignant entry is on the 5th page:" My Dearest Brother was buried on the 26th of Jan. killed by a sniper. How we will all miss him at home for he was a dear one. My mother was bad with the terrible shock".

Silk sent to Gertrude Copping

Silks sent to Gertrude Copping by Aaron

Silk sent to Gertrude Copping

Silk sent to Gertrude Copping

Aaron Ditchburn's drawing of a ship WW1

Drawing of ship in Aaron's diary

Aaron also lost a mate, who died the same day as Aaron arrived in France. This mate was buried in Abbeville June 13, probably 1916. This mate may be Lance Corporal C.F.Chapman, 8th Battlion South Lancaster Regiment. He died June 12, 1916 and is buried in Abbeville Communal Cemetery, Grave IV.A.8.

Aaron's younger brother, William Robert Ditchburn, served in the Durham Light Infantry.

Aaron's war record has not been found. It can be roughly pieced together from the diary.

Aaron was sent to the Gallipoli campaign. There is an entry:" Chief engagement (RN), engaged in smaller actions and continuously under fire since 25 April, 1915. Before Krithia 28 April: 195, 6.7.8. May: 195, 4 June: 195, 13 July".

A year later Aaron writes:" Tuesday, April 11, 1916. From 9.30 a.m. we had shells and bombs dropping all over us. I can tell you I thought our time had come at last, well I did anyway. It was awful and it was very hot as well. Spent a night in the T-N-C-P with the concert. It was not up to much I can tell you and I was guarding the door.

Thursday, April 13, 1916. I was on the horse all day leading on. I can tell you it is very job the sun is awful here with the heat".

The next entry says that Aaron was still on board HMS St. Margaret: "I can tell you I am enjoying it. A treat, nothing to do all day long but sit in a deck chair. It is rumoured that some of us are going ashore and the boat set set on Tuesday or Wednesday and the doctor ask me if I was alright. Well I was. I have just seen an airship flying over us with two men in".

3 June, 1916. While we are in the Mediterranean sea I can tell you it is very rough. the waves are dashing up against the ship about 10' high. We have a cruiser leading us the way and she is nearly turning over it is that rough I can tell you. I will be glad when we get to our journey's end.

5 June, 1916. A rumour going about that there is to be a parade with blankets and everything else ready for disembarking tomorrow night.

7 June, 1916. We have landed at Marseille. It is a very good place indeed. Train to see big tree and houses, shops and every thing, big rocks about 10,00 ft high. It was grand.

Travelling time in train: 11 June stopped 2.45 p.m. till 3.25 p.m. 12 June stopped 1.10 a.m. till 2.00a.m. 12 June stopped 3.45 till 4.40.

Landed at Abbeville at 8 o'clock. This must have been June 13, 1916.

Aaron left Abbeville at 6 o'clock for the trenches. June 14 he was in billets at Wanel where the weather was bad and cold.

Aaron was on another ship HMS Menorice??? He says that it is a ship not "worth keeping for when you want to sleep you have to sleep on decks that is not covered by anything and if it rains you get wet through to the skin which does you no good and you have to sleep where the horses and cattle has been. It is awful to think that a soldier is getting treated the way he is. I can tell you I will be glad when I get off the old ship".

October 12, 1916. My Officer had me out in front of the parade to show the men how to come on parade with buttons clean boots clean and shaved. I was the smartest one on parade.

14 Oct. I was on duty at the C.C.. I almost....window pane.....

Left Etaples at 6.45 p.mp.. Arrived Rouen 1 p.m. Following day 18/hrs in the train, cattle trucks mind.

15 Oct. 1916. I was on duty at No. 5 G.H. stretcher bearing all day taking patient to the operation room and xray room. I saw some of the operations and the last man died.

Stacking wood up in a big pile somewhere in France on the 22 Oct. Rouen.

On the 9th of Nov. we were called out of bed at 1 o'clock on account of Zepps knocking about. It was an exciting time I can tell you.


Fallen Heroes NER Works Stooperdale Darlington WW1

Postcard of Darlington Fallen Heroes.

Amongst Aaron's family photographs there is one postcard. It honours the fallen heroes from the N.E.R. Works, Stooperdale, Darlington. There are 10 men:

J.T. Brown, E.T.C. HMS Fortune

Pte. T. Carr, D.L.I.

Pte. E. Cleminson, 5th D.L.I.

Pte. T.C.Cockburn, 2nd. K.O.Y.L.I.

Pte. R.A. Colebrook, 5th D.L.I.

W. Gibson, E.R.A., HMS Hampshire

Pte. C.V. Madden, R.R.C.

Ser. T. Searle, K.R.R.

Dri. W. Smith, R.F.A.

Cpl. R.K. Wright, 5th D.L.I.

It is quite sad as Aaron had several different addresses for Thomas Cockburn in his diary. One is 42158 Pte T Cockburn, 2nd K.O.Y.L.I., 2 Platoon, C Coy, Machine Gun, B.E.F./ Section.

Thomas died September 29, 1917, age 22. He was the son of Thomas and Margaret Cockburn of 30, Chandos Street, Darlington, native of Gateshead. Thomas is buried in Coxyde Military Cemetery, grave IV.C.19, Belgium

Aaron survived the war and later married Gertrude Copping in 1921 in Gateshead.

Aaron had a daughter, Gertrude W Ditchburn.

Aaron died in Darlington in 1953, age 58 and his wife Gertrude died in 1975.