Last of the Old Contemptibles

THESE two grainy photographs signify an event of real importance in Hartlepool.

They were taken in May 1964 and marked the last time that the flag of the Old Contemptibles was marched through the town.

The Old Contemptibles was the nickname which was given to the British Expeditionary Force which was sent to the Western Front during the First World War.

Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany is reported to have issued an order which called for the extermination of the treacherous English. He also called on his troops to walk over his enemy’s contemptible little army. And so a nickname was formed.

By 1964, there were only a handful of Old Contemptibles left in Hartlepool and four of them are pictured here. Their number had dwindled so much that a regular march past was becoming impossible.

Pictured are, from left to right, J.A. Smith, E.F. Bissell, J.M. Watkins and S. Forsythe who was the last of the standard bearers.

That last march past of the flag happened at the war memorial in Hartlepool with the Mayor Coun J Addison taking the salute.

The buglers of the 8th battalion of the Durham Light Infantry TA sounded the Last Post and the standard was then committed to the vicar of Christ Church for safe keeping, bringing an end to an era.

Were your ancestors among the Old Contemptibles.

Tell us about them. Contact Chris Cordner by calling (01429) 239377 or emailing