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Commemorating those who fought in First World War

Postcard of Royal Field Artillery at Jhansi 1916-1917
Postcard of Royal Field Artillery at Jhansi 1916-1917

At the recent   FIBIS  20th Anniversary Conference, I felt moved by the talk given by trustee Geraldine Charles. She asked us to consider commemorating all those who had fought in WW1 and, in keeping with the theme of conference , focused her talk on those in India who were recruited into the armed forces. She mentioned that many of these men had been sent   out to Mesopotamia in 1916 – and I was later to discover that my grandfather had been part of this force.

It is, of course, vital that we never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice. At the 2015 WDYTYA exhibition in Birmingham,   our FIBIS stall stood in the shadow of the iconic statue of Every Man Remembered (see below) . Every time   the poppies fluttered around the gallant soldier symbolised there, I was filled with a wave of emotion for those who had fallen in the field of battle. Their names and details are recorded on the accompanying  British Legion ‘s website “ Every One Remembered”   (Maybe someone reading this will take a look and be able to add to the information hosted there).

Now, as we are drawing to the end of the 100 year WW1 remembrance period , it was good to hear a FIBIS talk that reminded me of the importance of also commemorating the individuals that took part and survived the   war.    A great many of these people lived with   the physical and mental scars received in that conflict for the rest of their lives. In   fact I recently researched the background to a man who, I was told, had continued to suffer from the effects of having been gassed.

The website  Lives of the First World War (LOTFWW)  has been set up by the Imperial War Museum to help piece together the life stories of those men and women from Britain and the Commonwealth who served in uniform and played a part in the First World War. it will become a permanent digital memorial.   Anyone can find a WW1 participant   to remember by using the search box .   Then,   as with Every One Remembered  , one can   register   at no cost and  chose to add a few biographical details and/or an image if desired. It is well worth searching on your family names as you may be surprised to find that your own relatives played their part.

As it is thought that over 60% of WW1 Service records were destroyed during the WW2 bombing,   medal cards have been used to create   an individual ‘s   basic LOTFWW record. Details of service may be held on other online websites such as findmypast or ancestry and these can be mentioned by contributors – which will assist identification by giving full name and service number.

Every Man Remembered with FIBIS stall in red beyond on left
Every Man Remembered with FIBIS stall in red beyond on left

If you know someone had a service history but is not mentioned then there is opportunity to supply proof and request that their details are added   so that they can also be remembered.

One can also “ adopt” a person who has not yet been remembered and thus commemorate their valour as above. If you are interested enough to do a bit of research then you may find a fascinating tale waiting to be discovered.   In passing,   I recall at the same   recent  FIBIS conference   at which Geraldine gave her speech,   former TV presenter Jan Leeming mentioned to me the story of   how   she had received the name   of a WW2 Battle of Britain pilot to sponsor and, intrigued to find out more about him , she uncovered an amazing story which later became a documentary. (You can read about it here)

Communities of names can be formed within LOTFWW  and Geraldine has created some communities with a connection to India – and many of the names there would be ancestors to FIBIS members.   Other communities on the site have various interests – for example,   a certain regiment or surname study,

The LOTFWW site will be closed to new entries   in March 2019. Before that, however, I shall be working towards commemorating a few more of those who fought   in WW1 and will , maybe, even share some discovered stories along the way. Hopefully, having read this , others will be inclined to do the   same.

Further Reading /Research Resource


Trustee and Research Coordinator for the Families in British India Society.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Thank you Beverly for your interesting and well-written piece. I felt inspired during the conference to put more details on the Imperial War Museum’s page, but hadn’t realised that the British Legion also have a commemorative site. I feel quite ashamed (but grateful) to discover that two of my relatives (both from India) have been remembered by complete strangers there. I must now add more details. I wouldn’t have known about it had you not written this blog – so thank you

  2. Steph

    I joined Lives of the First world War in 2014 when it started and found all my great uncles who died in WW1 and my Grandfather who survived. There is a link to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission so you can check where they died and what cemetery they are in whatever country they came from.

    Several times recently I have read that the Commonwealth service men/women are not remembered but we remember them every year on Remembrance Day at the Cenotaph when a member of each country of the Commonwealth places a wreath on the Cenotaph and there are often Commonwealth people in the march past.

    A lot of school children have been involved over the last four years in projects to find out about people on their local war memorial or members of their own family who died. I think it is vital to make sure every child is involved in this type of project.

    I have not yet looked at the Everyone Remembered web site but I will do now.

    I also think the Commonwealth War Graves Commission should be commended for their amazing feat of looking after so many war grave sites and keeping them looking so immaculate. Not only that but maintaining a really easy to use web site that holds such a vast quantity of names, where they are buried and information on all the cemeteries.

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