From civilian to soldier
Just before the Second World War began in September 1939, the DLI's Depot [Headquarters and Training Centre] was moved from Fenham Barracks in Newcastle upon Tyne to Brancepeth Castle outside Durham City.
There, during the long years of war, thousands of men put on khaki battle-dress for the first time, underwent basic training, learnt to fire a rifle, and were transformed from civilians into soldiers. The first unlucky conscripts lived in tents but by the end of 1939 the training companies moved into billets in the surrounding villages of Willington, Ushaw Moor and Meadowfield. Then in October 1940 a new purpose-built camp was opened in the castle's grounds.
Not all soldiers, however, were new to the Army in September 1939. Across County Durham, DLI Territorial soldiers were mobilised (called-up for active service) as war threatened and reported to their local drill halls for duty.