The museum

The Fusiliers Museum of Northumberland’s displays give a contemporary presentation of Fusilier history from their origins in 1674 up to the present day

Arranged thematically, and brought to life through individual stories past and present, the museum follows a soldier’s journey from recruit to veteran

Between 2014 and 2017 the museum was completely redeveloped, with new displays throughout, thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund and the generosity of trusts, benefactors, friends and visitors

Collection Highlights

Boots

These boots belonged to Private James Flatow who wore them during the First World War (1914-1918).  Good boots kept in good condition have always been a basic essential for every infantryman.  In the First World War the waterlogged conditions in the trenches meant a lot of soldiers developed Trench Foot, which left untreated too long could lead to gangrene.  To prevent Trench Foot, feet needed to be warm and dry, very difficult in the trenches.  The response on the home front was a huge voluntary campaign to knit socks for soldiers.

Musket

Nicknamed Brown Bess, the smoothbore, flintlock musket was used by the British Army’s Infantry from around 1720 until the 1850’s.  Soldiers formed up in either two or three ranks, and loaded their muskets at the muzzle with a gunpowder charge and a musket ball rammed down the barrel with a rod.  Standing shoulder to shoulder, ranks fired together in volleys. Well-trained troops could fire up to three, sometimes four, volleys per minute. The musket’s effective lethal range was up to about 160 metres.  The Brown Bess is 1.5 metres long and weighs about 4.8 kilos.

Mess tins

These mess tins belonged to Henry McCreath of Berwick upon Tweed.  They were engraved with the badge and emblems of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers when he was a prisoner of war of the Japanese in the Second World War (1939-1945).   His Battalion was sent to Singapore just as it fell: they were prisoners of war for three years.  Put to work on the infamous Burma Railway, the prisoners suffered terribly.  These mess tins and their designs tell an extraordinary story.  Henry McCreath died in 2015, aged 99.

General Service Medal

The General Service Medal was introduced only in 1847; the first recipients were veterans of the Napoleonic Wars, which had ended in 1815.  This is the General Service Medal awarded to Peter Newnham (1793-1877); it bears seven clasps for the seven Peninsular War battles in which he fought, in one of which he was severely wounded.  After having run away from home aged 13 to join the Regiment, he served in the Fifth for 29 years.  In later life he received a veteran’s pension from the Chelsea Hospital; he died aged 84.

Wilhelmstahl Snuff Box

Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick presented this fine tortoiseshell snuff box to Colonel Marley of the Fifth in appreciation of the Regiment’s achievements at the Battle of Wilhelmstahl, 24th June 1762.  British and Hanoverian troops under Prince Ferdinand’s command surprised and overcame a French Army; the Fifth captured a large number of French Grenadiers.  Captain Thomas Bell of the Fifth fought at the battle and wrote in his Journal: ‘Our whole army crossed the Dymel, we at Libenau, to attack the french army – 1100 of the Granadiers of france and the Gran’drs Royaux were taken by our Regiment’.

Painting by Terence Cuneo

Terence Cuneo’s oil painting depicts the brave actions of Fusilier John Duffy for which he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.  On 20th June 1967 a helicopter flying Fusilier John Duffy and Lance Corporal Jim Keightley from an observation point in Aden was shot down and caught fire.  Duffy pulled the badly-wounded Keightley to safety, and rescued the unconscious pilot, Sergeant Martin Forde of the Queen’s Dragoon Guards, from the flames.  He then returned to the burning helicopter and retrieved a radio to call for help.

Drum Major’s Staff

Hall-marked 1785, the silver head of this Drum Major’s staff, the earliest known to have been carried by a Drum Major of the Regiment, bears three engravings: the regimental Latin motto, “Quo Fata Vocant”, or “Where the Fates Call”; the regimental emblem of St George slaying the Dragon; and the Roman numeral ‘V’ (five) for the Fifth Regiment of Foot.  “Where the Fates Call”: wherever the Regiment is called upon to serve, and whatever the Fates may bring.

Silver Centrepiece

St George, the soldier saint, has been the Regiment’s patron saint since the late 17th century.  The badge of the Regiment depicts the image of St George slaying the Dragon, and the traditional regimental day is St George’s Day, the 23rd of April.  This impressive silver centrepiece has graced the table at many a St George’s Day Dinner as well as on other regimental occasions.

Wooden carvings

These figures were carved by a German Prisoner of War held at Stobs Camp, near Hawick in the Scottish Borders, during the First World War.  They tell a story of a prisoner thinking of home.  One carving depicts a German soldier called to the war.  The other, dated 1917, shows a wife on her own at home with three hungry children.  Food is short and the children are clamouring for a piece of bread.  Prisoners produced items to sell, and a Northumberland Fusilier officer on duty at the camp bought these figures.

Concertina

This concertina belonged to Lance Corporal W Chippett, who took it with him on active service in the Sudan (1898) and the Boer War in South Africa (1899-1902).  Concertinas were invented in the 1820s and were very popular throughout the 19th century.  Soldiers on campaign made their own entertainment and their own music, carrying their instruments with them.  Corporal Chippett’s comrades must have appreciated his music after a long day’s march in the Sudan or South Africa, as well as on the troopships which took them there.

Standing Buddha 100-300 AD

This statue of a standing Buddha, dating from between 100 and 300 AD, was excavated on 29th March 1891 by three Fifth Fusilier Officers serving on the North West Frontier of British India.  The Buddha wears a monk’s robe, and raises his missing right hand in a fear-dispelling gesture with open palm.  Major Dyke, Major Kilgour and Captain Eagar excavated the statue in a valley, once part of the ancient kingdom of Gandhara, on the Silk Road, the trade route which stretched from China to the Mediterranean: the sculpture shows the influence of Graeco-Roman statuary.

Distinguished Conduct Medal

Private John Hodgson (1899-1967), from Blyth, Northumberland, volunteered aged 16 in 1915 in the First World War.  He was awarded the DCM in 1918 while serving as a Company Cook.  The citation for his Distinguished Conduct Medal explains this most unusual award:

“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.  He carried on as cook under intense bombardment of gas and other shell fire.  His assistants were killed, and the top of his cook-house blown away.  Nevertheless, working with his respirator on, he served the company with their dinners, showing great coolness and indifference to danger.”

Emergency rations

Captain A C Girdwood’s emergency rations from the Boer War (1899-1902).  Inside are two tins, one of concentrated beef and the other containing cocoa paste.  The rations were issued to all the troops for authorised use in emergency only.  Girdwood carried his throughout his service in South Africa.  Once opened the contents,with some hard biscuits, were designed to sustain a soldier for 36 hours.  The concentrated beef was boiled up with water to make a beef soup, and the cocoa made nourishing hot drinks.

Tin mugs

These tin mugs were made by a Fusilier Prisoner of War in Germany in the Second World War (1939-1945) using tins from a Canadian Red Cross food parcel.  At home in Britain shortages meant food was rationed: the butter allowance was 2 ounces (50 grams) a week per person.  The generous volunteers of the Canadian Red Cross contributed precious food parcels for the Red Cross to distribute to prisoner of war camps.

Certificate

Private Robert Johnson was awarded this Certificate by his home town, Amble in Northumberland, in recognition of his service as a Stretcher Bearer during the First World War.  ‘Stretcher bearers were wonderful people.  Ours had been the bandsmen of earlier days.  They were always called to the most dangerous places .. yet there were always men ready to volunteer for the job.’  (Captain Charles Hudson.)  Stretcher Bearers had the difficult, often dangerous, role of retrieving casualties from the battlefield.  They gave First Aid and carried casualties to the Regimental Aid Post and Casualty Clearing Station.