Durham Light Infantry, 25th Battalion
Before the First World War began in August 1914, the Durham Light Infantry, County Durham’s own infantry regiment, was made up of nine battalions each of about 1,000 men. There were two Regular battalions of full-time professional soldiers, many of whom came from outside the North East of England; two Reserve battalions of part-time volunteers and ex-Regular soldiers; and five Territorial Force battalions of part-time volunteers centred on key County towns. There was also a Depot or headquarters shared with the Northumberland Fusiliers at Fenham Barracks in Newcastle upon Tyne.
By the end of the war in November 1918, the DLI had grown to 43 battalions, as new Reserve, Service, Territorial, Young Soldier, and other battalions were formed. Of these 43 battalions, 22 served in war zones from the Western Front to the North West Frontier of India.
During the First World War, when a new recruit joined the Army, he was medically examined before being assigned a category. An “A1” recruit was considered fit for active service on the front line; a “B1” recruit was fit enough to serve in a garrison overseas, for example in Malta, or in France but not on the front line; whilst a “C1” recruit was only fit for garrison or other duties in Britain or Ireland.
A soldier’s medical category, however, was not fixed. Wounds, illness, or incapacity could see an “A1” soldier re-classified as “C1” and moved from a front line battalion to a home based unit. Then in March 1916, conscription was introduced in Britain (but not Ireland) for all single men aged between 18 and 41 and this brought many more category “C” recruits into the Army. In May 1916, conscription was extended to married men, and in April 1918 the upper age limit was raised to 51 years.
Three new DLI battalions were raised after conscription was introduced in 1916 – the 25th, 28th and 29th Battalions.
The 25th Battalion DLI was formed at Pocklington in the East Riding of Yorkshire in May 1916 to work as a labour unit for Northern Command. As a Works battalion, the conscripts, rated medically unfit for front line service, carried no weapons nor received any military training.
In August 1916, 25 DLI moved to Skipton and then, in April 1917, was renamed as the 7th Labour Battalion Labour Corps, losing all links with the DLI.
The Labour Corps had been formed in January 1917 and by the end of the war had 175,000 soldiers working in Britain.
Contributed by Durham County Record Office