The Fighting Bradfords: Scriptwriting Commission at Gala Theatre, Durham

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New Writing North is supporting Durham County Council to find a writer for a brand new play they are commissioning. The play will be part of the Council’s First World War Centenary commemorations. It will explore the war from a County Durham perspective, both at home and on the frontline.

The inspiration for the play is the story of the ‘Fighting Bradfords’; four brothers from the small village of Witton Park with an extraordinary record of military service during the war. The brothers collectively received two Victoria Crosses, a Distinguished Service Order and two Military Crosses. Three of them paid with their lives.

More generally, the work will rediscover stories from the local area, exploring the war’s impact for communities at home and the post-war effects on those communities, addressing universal themes such as bravery, strength, love and hope.

The Gala Theatre will commission a writer to create the play, and appoint a director to bring their vision to life. The final mid-scale production will premiere at the Gala Theatre in Durham in September 2016, commemorating the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.

The play is commissioned by Durham County Council and the Communities of the Bishop Auckland & Shildon area. An education and outreach project involving young people from five local schools will run in tandem with the production. There is the opportunity for the writer to be involved in the development and delivery of this project should they wish.


• Fee circa £7,000 + royalty payment

• Access to research materials at the Durham County Records Office and Archives and the Durham Light Infantry collection can be arranged, as can the chance to meet local families, individuals and groups with relevant links and stories to tell.

Expressions of interest should be submitted to [email protected] no later than Sunday 1st November in the following format:

• Writer’s CV

• Ten pages of an existing script

• A one page treatment outlining the approach you would take to the archive material and historic conten


Colonel Sir Thomas Andrews Bradford (1886-1966)

The eldest brother was the only survivor of the First World War. He was the best sportsman of the four, captaining Durham County Cricket Club. As a member of the Territorial branch of the Durham Light Infantry (DLI) from 1906, he was called up as soon as the war began. Within 24 hours at the Second Battle of Ypres, 180 of the 200 men in the company had been killed, wounded or were missing, and for his gallantry, Thomas was awarded the DSO. He lasted another year on the Somme before being pensioned off. In later life, he became chairman of Durham County Conservative Association and twice stood for Parliament. He was knighted in 1939 for public service.

Lieutenant Commander George Nicholson Bradford (1887-1918)

George joined the Royal Navy as a midshipman in 1904. On March 3, 1909 he single-handedly rescued an unconscious boy from a sinking boat in the middle of the English Channel. In April 1918 with U-boats creating havoc among English shipping, the Navy asked for men to volunteer for an operation to scuttle concrete-filled warships to stop the submarine activity. George volunteered to lead the party that would land on the harbour wall and take out the German defenders so that the warships could be manoeuvred into place. With enemy fire raining down on his assault ship, huge waves made landing impossible. George climbed to the top of an on-board crane and when the ship rose to the top of the swell, he jumped. He landed on top of the harbour wall and managed to secure an anchor-hold so his men could follow him ashore. But as he landed, every German machine gunner turned his fire on him. He was riddled with bullets, and fell into the sea. He was awarded a posthumous VC for his ‘absolute self-sacrifice’

Second Lieutenant James Barker Bradford (1889-1917)

James was the quietest of the four brothers. He was the last of the brothers to join up, but still found himself on the Somme in 1914, leading DLI bombing parties. He suffered gunshot wounds to the arm and was sent home to recuperate. He married a local girl, Annie Wall, and by early 1917 was back in the thick of the action. On 3 March on the Somme, he was awarded the MC for gallantly leading his men into an enemy trench, personally killing three Germans, capturing many prisoners and taking out two machine guns. On 11 May, just as he was being relieved after a week-long battle, he was hit in the left shoulder and thigh. He died in hospital three days later, leaving his wife a widow after six months of marriage.

Brigadier-General Roland Boys Bradford (1892-1917)

A born leader and a natural soldier, Roland was mentioned in despatches for his bravery in France before the end of 1914. He rose rapidly through the ranks, exhibiting tactical brilliance. He helped lead the 9th Battalion of the DLI and was awarded the VC for his ‘conspicuous bravery and good leadership’. Always immaculately turned out and dedicated to personal fitness, he was very popular with his men. He formed a battalion band, with instruments sent out from County Durham, a concert party, a football league and even a Shakespeare Reading Society to keep up morale. He led his men over the top, the day after his face had been lacerated by splinters from an exploding steel helmet. He was promoted to Brigadier-General – aged 25, the youngest in British Army history. Within ten days, he had to lead his brigade into the first major tank battle. With 500 tanks leading the way, he urged his men forward with great skill until he was struck by shrapnel from a stray shell which pierced his spine.