After a two-year struggle, a campaign group called The Faithful Durhams feel they are finally making progress in securing a permanent home for the Durham Light Infantry (DLI) Collection.
The collection – covering 200 years of regimental history – was formerly housed in the Durham Light Infantry Museum at Aykley Heads, Durham City. Durham County Council controversially closed the museum just over two years ago, claiming there were an insufficient number of visitors.
Since that time, The Faithful Durhams have been demanding that the council find a full-time home for the collection of artefacts, documents and photographs.
The Faithful Durhams would like to see the whole of the Durham Light Infantry Collection reunited in one place. Currently, it is scattered across a number of different sites.
Much of the collection is in storage on an industrial estate, but some parts – including medals – are in a small exhibition on Palace Green. Other artefacts are housed at Shildon, Sunderland and other locations.
The Faithful Durhams feel that the council went back on a promise that the collection would not be split up after the museum closed.
The group are now, however, in talks with the council and the trustees of the museum and it appears a solution may have been found.
The council is currently moving the archives of Durham County Record Office from County Hall to a new home in Mount Oswald Manor, a grade-two listed building that was last used as a club house for the Mount Oswald Golf Course.
The Faithful Durhams hope space can be found in Mount Oswald Manor to house the complete DLI collection too.
The Faithful Durhams said, “This building needs an awful lot of money to be spent on it to bring it into full use again, and we want to make sure that during development and planning work there will be space for the collection to have its home.”
“The county archives are going to be stored here as well as the DLI archives, that is a certain fact, so it would be a marvellous thing to have the whole DLI regimental history housed as one. The idea of Mount Oswald is a history centre for Durham.”
The Faithful Durhams recently held a wreath-laying ceremony in Durham Market Place to mark the fact that two years had passed since the closure of the DLI Museum.
The group said, “Our service went really well. It was very emotional as a bugler played and the wreath was laid by a DLI veteran who had served in Northern Ireland.”
“We also had the support of the 68th Society, a re-enactment group, who stood around the DLI soldier statue in Durham Market Place to honour the DLI Regiment.”
“It was very well received by the public, who stopped and joined us in the minute’s silence and for the rest of the service even though it was very cold and very wet. We really appreciated that.”
“Veterans from the Hartlepool Branch of the DLI Association joined us and it was an honour and privilege to meet and stand alongside them.”
“Hopefully, we can continue working with Durham County Council and get our county’s regimental history back together. The lads who served in the DLI deserve their sacrifice and memories to be honoured correctly and we will not give up until we get that.”
“We want the public to know that we are still fighting and we want the council to know that, though we are in talks, we are still campaigning to make sure the collection has a permanent home and that it is home to the complete collection.”
“We have fought hard over the last two years to have our voices heard and finally it looks as though Durham County Council are taking notice of what County Durham people want.”
You can access The Faithful Durhams’ Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1734581256823784/about/.