Local History: Tank Week 1918

In January 1918, Middlesbrough was involved in a fundraising campaign launched by the British Government called ‘Tank Banks’ to raise money for Government War Bonds and War Savings Certificates. During this campaign, six Mark VI male tanks toured the towns and cities of England, Scotland and Wales. The tank was a weapon developed and introduced during the First World War; it was often used on the home front to attract people to large public meetings in town centres.

Middlesbrough Mayor, Mayor J. Calvert was informed that the tank ‘Nelson’ (number 130) would be making a week-long visit to Middlesbrough from January 14.

A public meeting about War Bonds was held just before the week-long event commenced; over 3,500 people listened to speeches from key local figures including the mayor.

During the event, Lt. E. Spence reminded the enthusiastic crowd about the achievements of Middlesbrough since the first outdoor recruitment session in 1914. This speech was followed by Corporal Brandon, a member of the tank crew who had driven it at the front, his words ended the night with thunderous applause.

The ‘Nelson’ officially arrived from Hull and was given a warm welcome, taking its place near the Bolckow Statue on Marton Road. To celebrate the visit, a long procession from Russell Road to the site of the tank was attended by the Mayor, MP Penry Williams and the Lord Lieutenant Sir Hugh Bell. The procession was watched by many local residents, where it was announced that £800,000 had already been raised by the appeal.

Visitors were allowed to visit the ‘Tank Bank’ from 10am to 8pm each day, often accompanied by special events and illuminations of the vehicle during the night time.

On the final evening, the Mayor thanked the town residents for their generosity during the week and paid homage to the tank crew. Celebrations were held with the national anthem as the huge audience watched the ‘Nelson’ leave the ceremony and travelled on its way back to the station for the last time. By the end of the week, a total sum of £1,957,232 was raised for the campaign; this was a record for a town of Middlesbrough’s size.

This local history story along with many others are showcased in Dorman Museum’s ‘Middlesbrough in the Great War’ exhibition, which is open to the public until April 6th 2015 and admission is free. The exhibition runs in association with Paul Menzies, Middlesbrough: Remembering 1914-1918, which is available from the Dorman Museum shop, priced at £12.99.



Six years ago Rosanne Lightfoot was a size 20, hadn’t done exercise since her school days and was on anti-depressants. Now she wears a size 10, gets a natural high from exercise and runs a community running club that attracts up to 100 people a session.

The Acklam housewife has been rewarded for her amazing efforts that are helping others to change their lives by receiving a Teesside Hero Award – along with husband Craig who helps run the club with her.

Rosanne and Craig are the driving force behind a running group that meets and trains on a Wednesday night no matter what the weather is like. People who like myself would never have dreamt of going outside on a cold, dark night let alone running in a group around a lake are inspired by Craig and Rosanne. There is a superb community spirit fostered and the tea and cakes on offer afterwards are welcome reward for all the hard graft outside. In fact it is the community side that is every bit as important to the 100-200 that turn up week in week out.

Anyway, going back to the award and it was a stunned couple that were presented with the trophy as Teesside Heroes. They received their trophy in a surprise presentation by charitable movement Middlesbrough and Teesside Philanthropic Foundation, watched by many of those who benefit from their twice-weekly sessions around Hemlington Lake.

Lisa Preston, of Foundation patrons Hunters estate agents, also presented a trophy for £1,000 for a good cause of their choice – with Teesside Hospice set to receive the cash boost.

Asked how they felt about the accolade, Rosanne, 52, answered: “It was a complete shock! I had no idea. Once I’d overcome the shock, I was swinging from the chandeliers.

“To be called a Teesside hero is amazing. We’ve taken our trophy to show everyone we know and the reaction has been astonishing because they keep telling us we deserve it. We just feel really proud to know that people think what we’re doing is really good.

“We do it because we enjoy seeing people excelling and coming on.

Rosanne’s life as a community champion who inspires dozens of others of all levels of fitness to run is a far cry from where she was in 2009.

Back then she was “size 18, going on size 20”, had been on anti-depressants for six or seven years and was still recovering from a breakdown

Rosanne’s life began to change on a Saturday morning six years ago when her then 14-year-old daughter Megan told her she wanted to take part in the popular Park Run in Middlesbrough’s Albert Park.

“I wouldn’t let her go by herself so I took her along and joined in,” she explained. I hated it – but Megan wanted to go back so I’d go along with her every week, hoping she’d get it out of her system.

“I was last every week for months – but by the time Megan had had enough I was hooked! I used to chunter away to myself, saying ‘I hate this’, but then the feelgood factor kicked in. I started to get a natural endorphin kick from the running.

“I went from being size 20 to size 10, from taking 40 minutes to cover the 5k course to 26 minutes. I also realised there’s a lot of people out there who think they can’t run and don’t have support from others to encourage them to do exercise.”

Rosanne, who is profoundly dyslexic, set up community running club Swift-Tees, who now meet every Tuesday morning and Wednesday evening at Hemlington Habinteg Centre before making their way around a 5k course at whatever pace suits them.

Husband Craig, a plumber with housing group Thirteen, now coaches participants, while they have eight volunteers who are now qualified as Leadership in Fitness and Running trainers.

“We have so many amazing people who join us. Regulars include those with Aspergers and autism, ladies who’ve been in abusive relationships and even a guy who was having to learn to walk again after a brain tumour but has since run his first marathon.

“We’re a community support group really. It’s supportive, not competitive. We do have fast runners but some just walk and that’s fine. We’re called Swift-Tees because we’re anything but swift!”

Among those who take part are daughter Megan, now 20, who first inspired her mum to take up running and 22-year-old son Charlie – who suffers from Aspergers and is also dyslexic and dispraxic – who took part in last year’s Great North Run.

Fly Me to the Moon editor and keen runner Robert Nichols, who nominated Craig and Rosanne for the award, said: “Rosanne and Craig are at the forefront of a group that is helping people get healthy and forging a real community spirit. The number of individual success stories is amazing – and it’s all down to their inspiration.”

  • To nominate an unsung community champion as a Teesside Hero, visit www.teessidecharity.org.uk Winners receive a trophy, a meal at Mohujo’s restaurant in Billingham and £1,000 for a Teesside good cause of their choice.
  • To join Swift-Tees just come along on a Wednesday evening to the Habinteg Centre behind Hemlnigton Shops at 6pm. Whatever age or ability there will be a warm, friendly welcome and a warm drink waiting for you inside and plenty of inspirational people to help you to attain your goals.



Local History: The Middlesbrough Ambulance

This month marks the centenary of the return of the ‘Middlesbrough Ambulance’, an historic moment for Middlesbrough during the First World War.

Dorman Museum’s current ‘Middlesbrough in the Great War’ exhibit commemorates the legacy of how the First World War affected Middlesbrough and how local people contributed to the war efforts. On display is the story of the ‘Middlesbrough Ambulance’, as well as the two brave volunteers who drove the vehicle to the Western front.

The inception of the vehicle, which has now been planted firmly in local history, began when the British Red Cross called for more ambulances for the Western Front. Middlesbrough Borough Council offered their new motor ambulance for service, as well as two volunteers to drive the vehicle. They were Alderman Alfred Mattison, ex-Mayor of Middlesbrough and former player and chairman of Middlesbrough Football Club and Phil Bach, the then chairman of Middlesbrough FC and a former England player.

An appeal was sent out for donations of blankets, socks, knitwear and cigarettes to be taken within the ambulance on its journey. This was met with enthusiasm from many local businesses and organisations including Middlesbrough FC, the North Riding Hotel and one of the largest local retailers, Dickson and Benson Ltd, who sent cigarettes which included a message written by one of the company’s female employees.

The public were able to view the motor ambulance when it was put on display at Middlesbrough Fire Station.

On the morning of October 24th, a large crowd gathered at the Town Hall, led by the mayor, civic officials and local sportsmen to see to see Mattison and Bach leave for their heroic adventures. The crowd showed their appreciation for the two men with a ‘Three Cheers!’ as the vehicle left the town for London, where the ambulance was given a makeover to meet War Office requirements including the addition of the Red Cross logo.

They continued their travels to cross the Channel into Boulogne on October 29th 1914, where the ambulance transported the wounded from trains to local hospitals and Hospital Ships. With over three thousand casualties arriving in Boulogne each day, the men were kept busy until the ambulance was sent to the Front as one of a convoy of fifteen vehicles.

Middlesbrough ambulance

Later, Mattison recalled how their first “real glimpse” of war was a “dead horse lying by the wayside, a crudely fashioned graveside, the intense booming of the guns, the passing of the refugees and the glare of burning homesteads.” He told his family in letters that although the vehicle was difficult to drive due to its heavy weight and difficult road conditions, the Middlesbrough Ambulance was much admired by others, described as the “queen bee” of Red Cross motor ambulances.

Similarly, Bach wrote to family that he was “quite enjoying” his time on the Western Front and that he “would not have missed it for anything.”

They bravely continued to transport the wounded until the end of November, often through gunfire. However, it became apparent that the Middlesbrough Ambulance was becoming less suited for the increasingly muddy conditions of the Western Front. Mattison and Bach returned to France on December 13th to complete various tasks, including another spell on the Front with the No 2 Medical Army Corps.

However, by New Year’s Eve, it was decided that the Red Cross had enough vehicles and their services were no longer needed.

Mattison decided to return home on January 5th 1915 after hearing about the bombardment in Hartlepool, taking personal responsibility for returning the vehicle in a fit state for the future. He believed the ambulance would be needed for more urgent duties back in Middlesbrough.

Bach continued to serve for a different convoy before making his permanent return to Middlesbrough in early December 1918.

Whilst their remarkable adventure was over, their legacy of the Middlesbrough Ambulance continues to live on to this day.

This local history story along with many others are showcased in Dorman Museum’s ‘Middlesbrough in the Great War’ exhibition, which is open to the public until April 6th 2015 and admission is free. The exhibition runs in association with Paul Menzies, Middlesbrough: Remembering 1914-1918, which is available from the Dorman Museum shop, priced at £12.99.

Middlesbrough ambulance


Whirling Dervish at Dr Browns

Thursday’s at Dr Browns Middlesbrough are now officially Whirling Dervish nights. Billed as “Middlesbrough’s most manic night of live music.” It is edgy, original but there is also a great atmosphere awaiting in a warm, homely haven from the raging winter gales. Oh and it is free entry. What more could you possibly want?

The other Thursday I caught a couple of fine guitar bands performing on the raised corner stage. Wooden Cousin, were formerly known as Wagon Shop. There are a couple of local comedy guys amongst the 4 piece; I remember their appearances at Arc Sketch Group and beyond.

Strong in the vocal department, powerful in their riffing, Wooden Cousin enjoy shifting gears and changing course and tempo mid stream. A bit Pavement in places, which is a very good state of affairs. Keeping with the unorthodox approach, the musicians switch instruments and even put the microphone aside to weave an instrumental our way. Two Left Feet, is a stand out song but Wooden Cousin have anything but two left feet.

Headliners Autumn Hostage have a little more bounce and pop sensibility to their alternative indie rock sound. The guitaring half of the Teesside four piece also interchange the odd vocal line between them as well as laying down outstanding tunes. They certainly have a bit of presence and a lead singer that grabs your attention. I really enjoyed the song Quarter Life Crisis, a clever pointer to their youthful stage in life with instant hit catchy, as well as quirky appeal.

Do have a listen to their sound cloud page autumn hostage soundcloud

Photos – Tracy Hyman



Young Rebel Set Town Hall Triumph

Let’s hope that 2015 contains as many happy musical highlights as 2014, a year that concluded with some sparkling Christmas shows.

It was a lifetime ambition achieved for singer Matthew Chipchase of Young Rebel Set as his band headlined the big festive bash at Middlesbrough Town Hall. Mid set Matthew confided to the crowd that as a teenager he had dreamed of one day standing on that stage and there he was looking out to a packed house of his home-town revellers. Last Christmas they headlined at the Crypt, a year on and it was a full house in the main hall. What a moment for him and all the band.

The pop duo Cherry Head Cherry Heart started almost immediately upon doors opening. Andy Johnson and Naomi Lowe ply us with their rich vocal harmonies and turn on the hot and cold taps for their kitchen sink dramas.

Teesside band Weird Shapes enjoy ploughing their own furrow. Twiddling the prog rock knobs and dials on their amps the band weave their weird shapes into a sonic stew.

Dropping down the A19 from Sunderland Hyde and Beast spice up the bill. The band created by the Golden Virgins and Futureheads’ drummers put so much beat and rhythm into their music, you have no choice but to follow the lead of their second album title, and Keep Moving.

So to Young Rebel Set and a euphoric Christmas show. There were plenty of singalong moments from the single list before they dived into the mature blend from the second album, Crocodiles. Oh and the cover of the Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody was absolutely belting and a special smiley moment. What a triumph.