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Phil Wood

Errors on War Memorials

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Kitchener's Bugle

Hi Phil, do you have any information on how the war memorial was created/funded and who had overall responsibility for it?

If you don't then a good starting point is the local press.

The reason why I mention this is because you may then get a good idea of the criteria for actually being on the memorial.

There are no hard and fast rules concerning war memorials, not even civic ones. The majority you will find are overseen by a committee but this is not always the case.

When we started the in depth research for the St.Helens memorial we quickly discovered that the committee made a ruling to only include the names of the fallen if this was directly sanctioned by the next of Kin. This then explained why so many where left off. 

 

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Phil Wood

I have a lot from the local press, but nothing specific to the criteria used to assess qualification - sadly the War Memorial Committee was separate from the Borough Council - if not some munutes would have survived.

 

However, I would assume that the seemingly very loose criteria would not have included putting men on the memorial twice - which was the reason for starting this thread.

 

Every other kind of mistake is also present - though the only commemorated survivor found to date is from the WWII section - so duplicated entries are not a surprise. But 6 out of 339 seemed quite a high number - I was really looking for the experience of other researchers with this specific type of error - and should have titled the thread better!  My issue is how much effort I should go to to find people who may well not exist? How much credence should I put in the theory that they are duplicate entries?

 

I have also considered why men are not on the memorial - and family objection is obviously a factor - along with the simple lack of anyone to put their name forward.  Two of the missing names were men who committed suicide in training - where these excluded by the organisers, or left off accordinig to the wishes of the family?  I wish I could find some detail of the Committee's deliberations!

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rolt968
15 hours ago, Phil Wood said:

I have a lot from the local press, but nothing specific to the criteria used to assess qualification - sadly the War Memorial Committee was separate from the Borough Council - if not some munutes would have survived.

 

However, I would assume that the seemingly very loose criteria would not have included putting men on the memorial twice - which was the reason for starting this thread.

 

Every other kind of mistake is also present - though the only commemorated survivor found to date is from the WWII section - so duplicated entries are not a surprise. But 6 out of 339 seemed quite a high number - I was really looking for the experience of other researchers with this specific type of error - and should have titled the thread better!  My issue is how much effort I should go to to find people who may well not exist? How much credence should I put in the theory that they are duplicate entries?

 

I have also considered why men are not on the memorial - and family objection is obviously a factor - along with the simple lack of anyone to put their name forward.  Two of the missing names were men who committed suicide in training - where these excluded by the organisers, or left off accordinig to the wishes of the family?  I wish I could find some detail of the Committee's deliberations!

 

I'm not sure that 6 duplicates out of 339 is necessarily unlikely. There are at least two different places where such errors could have occurred: when the list was compiled and when the inscriptions were made. Having said that I have seen a small memorial somewhere (alas I can't remember where) which had apparently the same name (initial and surname), twice and were actually two different men.

 

I have wondered if some large war memorials took some of their information from lists compiled by some other organisations in the town which could lead to duplication.

 

I wish I could answer the question about how long you go on searching for people who might not exist. On the positive side I have found three men who became "in from the colds" and one who probably should be. On the other hand I have one case where I am pretty sure (but no more than that) who he is but cannot see from the circumstances why he is on a war memorial - I still working on that. (I have a similar problem as I am trying to include relatives who were killed in WW1 - how do you know when you have got them all?)

 

I read as many men on war memorials books as I can and have noticed that in a number of cases compilers have included men on whom they admitted they could find no information on.

 

Working on a large number of small memorials lets me see a variety of criteria for inclusion. I tend to take it for granted that there may be missing names. In some cases the probable reason is fairly clear. I will include them in the final version, but do not feel that it is my place to suggest that they be added. (On one of two war memorials covering an overlapping area, one of two brothers is commemorated, but both are commemorated on the other.)

 

I hope this is some help.

 

RM

Edited a too to two!

Edited by rolt968

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Kitchener's Bugle

Are you absolutely certain that they are the same man. Do you have any evidence to support this?. How are the men listed on the memorial, Just their name?

(I am not questioning you Phil or your methods but just referencing mine and my friends mistakes etc.)

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Phil Wood
12 hours ago, rolt968 said:

I'm not sure that 6 duplicates out of 339 is necessarily unlikely. There are at least two different places where such errors could have occurred: when the list was compiled and when the inscriptions were made. Having said that I have seen a small memorial somewhere (alas I can't remember where) which had apparently the same name (initial and surname), twice and were actually too different men.

 

I have wondered if some large war memorials took some of their information from lists compiled by some other organisations in the town which could lead to duplication.

 

I wish I could answer the question about how long you go on searching for people who might not exist. On the positive side I have found three men who became "in from the colds" and one who probably should be. On the other hand I have one case where I am pretty sure (but no more than that) who he is but cannot see from the circumstances why he is on a war memorial - I still working on that. (I have a similar problem as I am trying to include relatives who were killed in WW1 - how do you know when you have got them all?)

 

I read as many men on war memorials books as I can and have noticed that in a number of cases compilers have included men on whom they admitted they could find no information on.

 

Working on a large number of small memorials lets me see a variety of criteria for inclusion. I tend to take it for granted that there may be missing names. In some cases the probable reason is fairly clear. I will include them in the final version, but do not feel that it is my place to suggest that they be added. (On one of two war memorials covering an overlapping area, one of two brothers is commemorated, but both are commemorated on the other.)1

I have two identical names where they are two people, where they seem to be one person and a couple of names which could be either of two people. 

 

I've had a few 'In from the cold', a couple who are unqualified for CWCG commemoration and nine for whom a lack of service records means it is very difficult to make a convincing case to the CWGC (and some seem more worthy of commemoration than others). Six who may be duplications and five I haven't identified at all - yet.  And I have a list of about 80 names to be investigated in terms of men who were, for one reason or another, omitted. 

 

As far as I can tell the Committee began by collecting names from pre-existing memorials and another list that was being prepared for another church memorial - presumably they added a few more and, perhaps removed a few (in particular there were some nonconformists were unhappy with the siting of the memorial).  They then printed the list in the local paper and called for more to be put forward - the list at that time included some of the possible duplicates. 

 

I am happy to admit failure when writing up the work - particularly on my website, where the story of a man can be edited at a moments notice to take account of new information. If and when a book comes along I shall find it harder to accept failure, but recognise that is is inevitable that I don't solve every mystery.

 

I shan't be giving up on any of them for a while yet - I'm certainly hoping that the release of the 1921 census will clarify a few issues (the memorial was erected in 1922)).

Edited by Phil Wood

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Phil Wood
9 hours ago, Kitchener's Bugle said:

Are you absolutely certain that they are the same man. Do you have any evidence to support this?. How are the men listed on the memorial, Just their name?

(I am not questioning you Phil or your methods but just referencing mine and my friends mistakes etc.)

 

No, I am not absolutely certain - how can I be? The names are surname and initial(s) - nothing more.  Of the six pairs of names I suspect may be duplicates I am more convinced by some than others.  For instance C T TAYLOR and T L TAYLOR seem very likely to both refer to C T L TAYLOR, whereas I am less conviced that E GILES and W E GILES are one and the same - though I can find no credible alternative for E GILES.  

 

What I was hoping for was other researchers finding similar duplications - so far only one - John(txic) - has reported similar duplications, and at a much lower rate/density of 2 in 720. 

 

I shan't stop looking. 

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John(txic)

Phil,

 

 

I was most fortunate that in our local Archives there was a contemporary handwritten Roll of Honour which made up about 75% of the names carved on the walls.  In that handwritten document there were several duplications, most of which must have been weeded-out when it came to carving time.

 

One of the duplications was listed twice - once with his 4-digit territorial number, and again with his six-digit number.  Another was the victim of appallingly bad handwriting, so no-one of that name actually exists.  Thankfully, his real name was on another page.

 

I believe I have found a third duplication: one man's details were submitted correctly, but a mistake was made when carving the name.  Possibly relatives, unable to find their man, submitted his name again - which was carved correctly the next time.  It was a good exercise to study the layout of the names on "my" memorial; from their presentation it seems there was a batch of late arrivals carved after the initial exercise, with two further small tranches added (at unknown date) subsequently.

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Phil Wood
2 hours ago, John(txic) said:

Phil,

 

 

I was most fortunate that in our local Archives there was a contemporary handwritten Roll of Honour which made up about 75% of the names carved on the walls.  In that handwritten document there were several duplications, most of which must have been weeded-out when it came to carving time.

 

One of the duplications was listed twice - once with his 4-digit territorial number, and again with his six-digit number.  Another was the victim of appallingly bad handwriting, so no-one of that name actually exists.  Thankfully, his real name was on another page.

 

I believe I have found a third duplication: one man's details were submitted correctly, but a mistake was made when carving the name.  Possibly relatives, unable to find their man, submitted his name again - which was carved correctly the next time.  It was a good exercise to study the layout of the names on "my" memorial; from their presentation it seems there was a batch of late arrivals carved after the initial exercise, with two further small tranches added (at unknown date) subsequently.

 

Layout is a problem - they decided to position the names by drawing them out of a hat.  The first two names are the only woman and the first man to die - after that it was random, apart from sets of brothers, who are kept together (except when they aren't).  So no clues there!  No numbers, no forenames - but some smaller memorials have forenames or military units - very much a subset of the main memorial, but useful nonetheless.  The other memorials around the town (churches, schools, places of work) also offer clues as to alternative initials etc - C Fisher for instance is unique to the town memorial - E Fisher in on the main CofE parish memorial, but not on the town memorial- Edward Fisher was a local casualty. Odds are that the C is an error - but, like with duplicates it is hard to prove there was no C Fisher. 

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Patrick H

My local memorial cross (in the church grounds) has 36 names. So far I have found 2 local men not on the memorial and 3 who have the wrong year of death. Fortunately the chairman of the Parish Council has said they will pay for corrections once my research is complete

 

Patrick

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Kitchener's Bugle
15 hours ago, Phil Wood said:

What I was hoping for was other researchers finding similar duplications - so far only one - John(txic) - has reported similar duplications, and at a much lower rate/density of 2 in 720. 

 

This is what we did when we created the Website :- 

 

The St.Helens Cenotaph has 2270 names listed. (From the Great War)

 

We referenced the already published material.

 

We then added in and cross referenced the names listed on all of the other memorials and Rolls on Honour within the Borough and added these in.

We then checked and have been checking any other potential source i.e. GWGC for Names, Absent Voters list, Newspaper articles etc.

We have been asking members of the public to contribute with information that they might have.

 

We had to set some criteria's on who would be included, which included, Born here, Lived Here, Worked here went to school here, Buried here etc. in other words had a strong association with the town.

 

This has lead to there being 3353 casualties from WW1 and 989 from WW2.................... of these some 368 have issues with them.

 

These issues include duplicates, unable to identify them (many alternatives), unable to make an association with the town, possible wrong spelling of the name and Initial etc.

 

It will of course take years to complete the project!!!

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Boreenatra

We have 4 main war memorials in Havering, and since 2013 when we were approached by the local authority to help look at what was then their plans for the 100th anniversary of the start ofWW1, we shared with then our on going Havering - Time To Remember project (a title not chosen without thought) with regard to those we considered to be missing from our local war memorials. Obviously, everything that has been said previously in this thread is common to us all. We took a step back and looked at it from as many angles as we could. As has been said, none of us were around when these memorials were first thought of. We tend to look through the eyes of modern day researchers and with all the tools we now have. I doubt there is one memorial anywhere that doesn't have something that we might consider not to be right. We have looked at over 500 locations in Essex and of the places that have memorials of say 30 names and over it is remarkable that most have a consistent 10% rate for either having errors or just can't be verified. It may be of course that we just can't find these names but as you are all well aware if you do this for any length of time, you check and recheck, look in more obscure places, talk to more people, look in more old newspapers and so on.

I think it should be remembered these memorials are civil and ours were not erected till the middle of 1921. Sadly we have no paper trail that would lead us back to how and why these memorials were started apart from the odd mention in the local press at the time. The civil authorities relied on public subscription and as has said before, casualties had perished up to seven years previously. Widows, especially those with children, often remarried out of necessity and new family units were created and often these families moved away. We are none too sure about names not going forward in case a son or grandson returned. The chances are by 1921, if they hadn't come back it was quite likely they wouldn't. There are so many reasons for names being either missing or just in error, and we now accept that that it how it was then.

Luckily, through sheer persistence and often some fairly near the knuckle bargaining with the local authority, we have had one of our memorials updated with the names of the missing, and another is having new panels being manufactured as we speak. One memorial in Upminster, which I think Patrick H will know, has 19 WW1 names that have been duplicated and are among 33 in total that appear twice in the WW2 panels. We find it extraordinary that each Remembrance Sunday, these names have been read out for so many years and yet why has nothing been done...................well now something is being done.

 

We decided to look at each location and start from scratch as if we were creating a new memorial, using the accepted criteria for war grave status today. We then looked at the actual names on the memorials and with a bit of practice you can work out in many cases why they are there. The usual stuff, birth, schooling, residence, marriage and the rest. This left a percentage that providing you can find data that verifies who they are, you could add more names that fulfil the same type of 1921 criteria. We then had to discard a number that had no verifiable military sources, census or other cross referring data. This left a realistic working list that included most of the names on the memorials. It also left that thing that upsets us all and that are the names that are on the memorials that we have no idea why and in most cases we have no clue as to who they are. We are not advocates of removing names from war memorials as we don't see it as our job. The changing history bit is subjective. Names are being added to the list of war dead, military and civilian even today so we see no difference to that. Another point is that some names on our memorials were added as a result of post WW2 conflicts and our 4 memorials have had 169 additions and corrections since WW2, mostly added by families of those casualties so again little difference between now and 1921.

We would suggest that if you can verify that names are missing then don't give up. Perhaps it's controversial but we believe local authorities have an obligation, even if it is just a moral one to commemorate their local fallen and to not do so in our view is churlish. Although no one on this forum will ever forget, it is most likely that after the end of 2018, the big deal in the media and elsewhere about WW1 will dissipate,  so now perhaps more than ever is the time to make sure that those who are not commemorated get the commemoration they deserve.

 

Steve

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rolt968

I should have mentioned another difficulty which I have encountered at least twice.

 

Under which surname did men who were illegitimate serve? Their mother's or their father's? I think I have mentioned elsewhere two brothers one of whom served under their father's name and the other under the mother's. This is difficult enough if the father's name appears on the birth certificate, but much more difficult if it doesn't.

 

I have found one man who luckily married just before using what I assume was his father's surname otherwise I would never have known who he was.

 

Returning to the question of men with the same name. I have wondered if sometimes committees did not realise they had two men with the same name and put a name on only once.

 

RM

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Phil Wood
10 hours ago, Boreenatra said:

One memorial in Upminster, which I think Patrick H will know, has 19 WW1 names that have been duplicated and are among 33 in total that appear twice in the WW2 panels. 

 

Duplication is the error I am most concerned with - and this seems an immense number.  How many names are there in total? Are these really duplicates on a single memorial ie names that are on the same memorial twice?  Over 200 of the names on the Newbury memorial are on two or more memorials in Newbury.  A few more are duplicated on local village memorials.

 

I have considered getting names added to the memorial (the local council seem happy wth the concept) - but there is a problem in terms of the limited space for such names within the memorial design. As I also put it forward for listing (it is now Grade II Listed) I have also made it that bit more difficult to make changes. 

 

I would have problems with using CWGC criteria - at least two of the existing names do not meet them! The other issue with the CWGC criteria is the lack of the key factor - local connection. Setting criteria for this is frought with problems - for instance we could go for 'Born in Newbury' - seems straightforward, but what about the lad whose parents lived in Newbury for 18 months, moved away when he was 3 months old and never came back - is that a good enough connection?

 

I am coming to the conclusion that a new memorial, to all with a remote connection to the town would reflect modern sensitivities and  thinking better than attempting to double guess the intentions of those involved in the original memorial. And I can't see any point in doing it before the 1921 census is released - so I am aiming at the centenary of the memorial unveilling (Oct 2022).

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Phil Wood
26 minutes ago, rolt968 said:

I should have mentioned another difficulty which I have encountered at least twice.

 

Under which surname did men who were illegitimate serve?

 

Or their step-father's - I too have seen instances of these.

 

I also have an interesting case - two brothers who died, one on the memorial, one not.   Why?  The uncomemorated lad was given up, aged 14, and subsequently sent to Canada by the Waifs & Strays. The estrangement between him and his father seems to have been very deep rooted!

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