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Andrew Northcote (1890-1969)

Spennymoor man who was blinded in both eyes following a gunshot wound to his face

Born on 21 April 1890, Andrew was the son of Richard and Margaret Northcote. The family surname appears differently on different records, sometimes spelt as Northcott, Northcotte or Northcool. Andrew was one of eight children born to Richard and Margaret, although three of these children did not survive past infancy.

Andrew’s father and brothers worked both in the mining and steel industries. At the time of his attestation, Andrew is listed as a cokeman, a worker involved in the ‘intermediate’ stage between the coal and steel industries.

Andrew attested on 1 February 1915 and was posted to the Yorkshire Regiment just over two months later. He joined the 6th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment in France on 23 December 1915. Andrew served in France for around seven months before returning to England on 10 July 1916. He did not return to France until over a year later, in August 1917. Records unfortunately give us no further information on Andrew’s time in England. It is unclear whether Andrew was injured or unwell and spent this time recovering, or whether there was some other reason for him to spend this time away from the front.

Having returned to join the troops in France, Andrew served for a few months before receiving a serious gunshot wound to his face and head which left him blind in both eyes. Following this injury in October, he returned to England on 29 October 1917. He was discharged from the army on 17 December 1917 and granted a weekly pension for the rest of his life.

Following his injury and the resulting blindness, Andrew spent time at the 2nd London Hospital where the majority of those servicemen with severe eye injuries were cared for. Staff from St Dunstan’s Hostel for Blinded Soldiers and Sailors would visit the injured here to help them begin to adapt to their disability. Andrew, like many soldiers with this disability, then went on to stay at St Dunstan’s where the men would be taught Braille and new trades.

St Dunstan’s was founded by Sir Arthur Pearson, who had himself lost his sight. More information on St Dunstan’s can be found at the following link:

Durham at War Blogspot:

Arthur’s wife Lady Ethel Pearson was heavily involved in St Dunstan’s. She founded the Blind Musicians’ Concert Party, a group of musicians blinded in the war. This enabled them to make a living for themselves, and also to raise money for St Dunstan’s. The Concert Party came to Crook in November 1917, shortly after the time Andrew was injured, an appearance reported in the local newspaper.

The Auckland Chronicle reports a presentation of money given to Andrew at the beginning of January 1918, raised by the residents of Merrington Lane and the surrounding areas. The article mentions Andrew returning to St. Dunstan’s hospital following this, in order to attend a trade training course.

After his time at St Dunstan’s, Andrew returned to Durham and was living with his family in 1920. The following year he married Helena E Herbert in Essex. At the time of the 1939 Register, Andrew is living with his wife Helena in Essex and is listed as a disabled pensioner. Andrew died on 15 January 1969 in Brighton at the age of 78.

Andrew’s brother, William Henry, also served with the 6th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment. He was killed in action on 28 September 1916 whilst fighting in France.

Civil Parish: Merrington Lane

Birth date: 21-Apr-1890

Death date: 15-Jan-1969

Armed force/civilian: Army

Residence: 18 Thomas Street (1891 Census)
14 Burnett Street, Merrington Lane (1901 Census)
10 Parkin Street, Merrington Lane (1911 Census)
60 Ilfracombe Gardens, Ilford, Essex (1939 Register)

Education: Tudhoe Grange Board School

Employment: Labourer (1911 Census)
Cokeman (Service Records)

Family: Parents: Richard Northcote, Margaret Northcote
Siblings: Elizabeth Ann Northcote, John Northcote, William Northcote, Laura Northcote
Wife: Helena Northcote nee Herbert

Military service:

6th Yorkshire Regiment
Service Number 20268

Medal(s): 1914-15 Star
Victory Medal
British War Medal
Silver War Badge

Gender: Male

Contributed by Fiona Johnson - Durham