Called Up and in the Colliery Inn

There was a standard procedure to being conscripted.

'You had to register when you were a certain age, probably 19 or 20. You used to have to go to to the dole office at Wheatley Hill, the old store, Haswell Store. And then I had to go to the chapel in Old Elvet in Durham, that's where you had to go for your medical for to go in the forces. I was interviewed by a Colonel--he had his crimson tabs on--and he asked me what I was doing, where I was working and all this patter and he says:

"Oh you just carry on with what you're doing Tunney and we'll send for you when we want you." So I got about another year before I was called up.’

And no one had any idea whether they would be going into the Army, the Navy or the Air Force.

'No, I didn't know a thing. Our Hubert was called up after me, because he was older, you see?' Elder brother Hubert Tunney, who later served as a Petty Officer in the Royal Navy.

'But the building trade--we were on shelters and things like that and we finished them all in all of the villages around here and then we knew we were going to be called up. In fact, there were three of us, we all got our calling up papers on the same day: Lloyd Saunders, Sid Craggs and me, we were all bricklayers. It was on a Thursday. An envelope came through the letterbox and there was a photograph of the King in. "Welcome to His Majesty's Army." So I says "Bloody Hell!"

You weren’t keen on the idea of joining the Army?

‘No, I'd have rather been in the Air Force or something. Anyway I says, "I'm going out for a drink." And like, later on in the night, I went in the Colliery Inn and had one in there and I says, "I'll go down the Spearmans." The Spearman's Arms, on Hartlepool Street. 'I went down the Spearman's. Why, Sid Craggs, he used to live at Wheatley Hill. Anyway he come in.

"Hello, Sid, what's brought thou down here tonight?"

'He used to come down on a weekend, but never during the week, very rarely. He says: "The waddn't guess?" I says, "What?" He says, "I've gotten me calling up papers!" I says, "So have I!" A few minutes later Lloyd landed in. He says, "You'd never guess. I've been called up into the bloody Army!" I says, "We all have!"'

NEXT: ‘Ginger’ Dawson and the Railway Tavern and a first night in Brancepeth Camp.


The Spearman's Arms pub in 1969
Tom Tunney in 1939

Top: Tom Tunney, photo probably taken around 1939-40.

Immediately above: Thornley looking down High Street towards Hartlepool Street and the Colliery Inn, which is the big white building at the bottom centre. The entrance to the pit is off the main road, in the middle of the picture, to the right. School Square is up the side road to the left. This photo was taken in the early Fifties. The Colliery Inn survives as a private house. All the other building were demolished in the early Seventies.

Bottom: the Spearman’s Arms in Hartlepool Street was built in the 1850s and is one of the oldest buildings left in Thornley. Closed as a pub in the Seventies, it also survives as a private house.