The Commonwealth War Graves Commission this year marks 100 years since the original organisation was set up. Sir Fabian Ware, the instigator, wanted to ensure the final resting places of the First World War dead would not be lost forever.
In May 1917, the Imperial War Graves Commission was established by Royal Charter. Today, as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, it cares for cemeteries and memorials at 23,000 locations in 154 countries. Commonwealth War Graves can be found at many sites in Hampshire, and the Find a Cemetery page on its web site (www.cwgc.org ) enables searches for them by location.
The National Inventory of War Memorials (www.iwm.org.uk/corporate/projects-and-partnerships/war-memorials-register ) contains information gathered by volunteers on war memorials in the UK, currently 70,000. Searching for Hampshire produces 2270 hits. The Hampshire war memorials site (hampshirewarmemorials.com ) contains details of 360 or so places and about 25,000 names.
Before the 20th century, local war memorials were generally to individuals, with the exception of the handful of Crimean war memorials, e.g. in Portsmouth. Communal war memorials were erected after the Boer War, although it was really with the First World War that they became more common. A decision was made early in that war not to repatriate the bodies of the fallen, and the communal memorials provided a focus for grief and remembrance.
If you are researching your local war memorial, you will find a variety of useful sources at Hampshire Archives and Local Studies.
The traditional image of a war memorial, a stone cross, is shown here, at Cheriton Green, in this 1930s photograph (HPP5/P3/66). Local memorials can take many forms.
Sources for researching them include:
• Newspapers: will probably give details of dedication and unveiling ceremonies, perhaps with lists of names on the memorials and possibly those attending the ceremonies, but it is helpful if you already know an approximate date, to avoid a long search
• Parish Council, or Parochial Church Council minutes: depending on whether it is a civil or ecclesiastical memorial, may contain details of how a memorial was funded, and why it was erected in a particular location
• Church faculties: the means by which permission was sought from the bishop to add a feature to a church or churchyard, they would have been created for ecclesiastical memorials. Faculties may contain details of the funding and erection of a memorial, sometimes with lists of names to be included.
Faculty, 1919, Sherfield English parish, for the introduction of an oak litany desk as a memorial to Eric Flint, killed in France in 1916
Faculty, Alton St Lawrence, 1903, (21M65/7F/10), tablet and gas standards as Boer War memorial. £50 was raised by public subscription for them.
• Parish/deanery magazines may contain monthly progress of a funding appeal
• Other parish records may include orders of service for the unveiling of a memorial.
Headbourne Worthy, order of service for dedication of war memorial, 1919, accompanied by a bundle of papers covering its funding, design and construction (21M62/PP2).
Not all of the men from a town or village who died in the First World War are always listed on a memorial, and conversely sometimes the memorial also includes the names of men who weren’t born in the area. This is a result of how the list of names was compiled. There was no blueprint for creating war memorials, and as families moved and local connections were lost, names could be missed, or potentially added to a memorial in a new location where perhaps a widow settled afterwards. Other war memorials might give more or different information, e.g. regiment, rank.
Archives will help you find out more about war memorials in other locations, including:
• Civil cemetery
• Local chapel
• School (or ex school)
• Village hall: inside (plaque or roll of honour) or hall itself
• Local employers’ premises
• Local clubs/organisations’ premises
• Local museum – memorial might have been moved from its original location to a museum, or the museum itself might even be a war memorial
• Civic buildings such as war memorial hospitals
Havant War Memorial Hospital, taken at its dedication on 27th July 1929.
• Trees (look out for plaques at their base)
• Public facilities, e.g. almshouses, benches, fountains, parks, gates
1930s County Series OS map showing War Memorial Park, formerly Goldings Park, Basingstoke. Goldings Park was a late 18th century parkland purchased by the Borough of Basingstoke using the War Memorial Fund. It was opened as the War Memorial Park in 1921.
If you are researching the military careers of those commemorated on war memorials, sources from The National Archives (TNA) may be available online, often through pay-per-view sites such as Ancestry or Find My Past. These are accessible free at Hampshire Record Office.
You might also want to consider looking for:
• Rolls of honour
• School magazines, or possibly log books
• Regimental histories and archives
• London Gazette for citations, see http://www.gazettes-online.co.uk/
• Army List for officers only
Hampshire Archives and Local Studies regularly runs workshops on researching war memorials or tracing army ancestors, so please contact us for details.