Graffiti found in First World war tunnels prompts search for Durham soldiers

Families of Durham Light Infantry soldiers are being sought after wartime graffiti was discovered during underground battlefield excavations in Northern France.

A large project is underway to unearth the forgotten passageways from the First World War's Battle of the Loos and members of Teesdale and Weardale Search and Mountain Rescue Team (TWSMRT) have been part of the efforts.

Beneath the surface, several pen and pencil inscriptions have been scrawled on tunnel walls including names, service numbers and regiments of the men. When members of the TWSMRT realised that the soldiers were from the Durham Light Infantry they approached Durham County Record Office to try and identify the men.

TWSMRT’s Paul Allison, who was part of the team who found the DLI graffiti, said:

“The DLI probably weren’t involved in the tunnelling, but were a regiment in the line, and may have been living and working down there."

"We often find graffiti, but it is rare to find any that is identifiable to an individual, and, because it was the DLI, I took an interest."

Archivists at Durham County Record Office found the names and service numbers of three men. Volunteers from the Durham at War project used census and parish records to find out more about the lives of the men before they enlisted.

It was discovered that all three men were discharged due to becoming medically unfit for further service. Volunteers hope that the public's help will allow them to complete the soldiers' stories.

The men are:

Private Robert Richard Slater came from Ryhope, in what is now Gateshead, and later Thornley Colliery, near Kelloe in County Durham

Lance Corporal Reginald George Walker from Consett and later Chopwell

Private J. Brown, who researchers struggled to find much information about.

Anyone with information about the soldiers or their families is asked to get in touch with Durham County Record Office by calling 03000 267 619 or email