Walking through towns and villages, people will probably pause at the war memorial noting the names of those who answered the call but failed to return. Sometimes you can that the same surname cropping up again and again, which makes me wonder just how much pain one family might have endured. Today we take the presence of such local war memorials for granted, but as The Empires of the Dead, How one man’s vision led to the creation of the WW1 War Graves, by David Crane explains. the idea of local memorials was far from the government’s plans, although it was eventually accepted that bereaved families needed a focal point for their grief, as there was no grave in the churchyard where they could pay their respects.
Whilst there are approximately 68,000 war memorials in the UK, not every community has a war memorial. Some communities were fortunate as all the men who enlisted returned home. These villages are known as Thankful Villages, sometimes called Blessed Villages, and there are apparently 52 such villages. Of their number, 14 villages are “Doubly Thankful” as they suffered no losses in WW2, Upper Slaughter in Gloucestershire being one such example, despite its name. No Scottish Thankful Village has been identified
A project is being undertaken by Darren Hayman, who is visiting each of the Thankful Villages. He is creating a piece of music and a short film for every one, which focusses on village life. His website has lots of interesting information on the villages he has visited so far: http://thankfulvillages.co.uk/
You can read more about Thankful Villages here:
2017 sees some notable centenaries, and one significant centenary in 2017 is that of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, or as it was originally called, The Imperial War Graves Commission, which was established by Royal Charter in 1917.
Anyone who visits a CWG cemetery must be moved by what they see. Rows of, mainly, Portland stone headstones, the carefully tended lawns and gardens all of which pay homage to the fallen. Whatever their social background in life, in death, soldiers of whatever rank are treated equally, including those who are “Known Unto God”. The cemeteries as we now know them did not however, come into being without bureaucratic battles and the determination of Fabian Ware, sometimes called the unsung hero of the War Grave Commission. Ware ensured the graves of the fallen, hastily buried in battle, were properly recorded in order that once hostilities ended, the bodies could be reinterred.
David Crane’s book The Empires of the Dead, How one man’s vision led to the creation of the WW1 War Graves tells the story of Ware and the battles he fought to ensure that the fallen were appropriately commemorated. The gruesome task of recovering the hurriedly buried bodies from the various battlefields can only be imagined. Bodies were recovered and laid in the final resting places we know today. Ware was knighted for his work in 1920.
Crane’s book was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for non fiction in 2013.
If you follow the Commonwealth War Graves on Twitter @cwgc you may also like to follow @SirFabianWare as “he” tweets during 2017 about the lead up to the establishment of the Imperial War Graves Commission.
So whilst it seems inappropriate to wish the CWGC Happy Birthday, when it was born out of such sadness, I am sure that any relative who has ever visited a CWG cemetery or a researcher who has ever used their website, will want to thank them for the amazing work of the last 100 years, and long may it continue.
Happy New Year everyone.
I am a novice at this blogging lark, so please bear with me. I have been inspired by Jill Ball, who I met in Salt Lake City last year, and will be seeing again this year. She wrote a blog on Boxing Day called “Accentuate the Positive”, so this is my effort to do just that.
Accentuate the Positive
- An elusive ancestor I found was: Still searching!
- A precious family photo I found was: Photographs of my husband’s great grandmother, who died when he was 12 but had never met owing to a family rift.
- An ancestor’s grave I found was: Mary Ann Vann d 1854, sadly the inscription too badly worn to read.
- An important vital record I found was: The will of an uncle of husband’s great grandmother, written in 1873, which named her and made it clear the money was hers and hers alone.
- A newly found family member shared: Not a newly found relative, but one who told me about some family artefacts he holds & will send me photographs
- A geneasurprise I received was: Having my proposal for a talk at Who Do You Think You Are Live in April 2017 accepted.
- 2016 Blog I was most proud of well can’t answer this one other than to say I am going to try harder in 2017!
- I made a new genimate who: Actually I made several at Rootstech 2016, who I now follow on Facebook and Twitter.
- A new piece of software I mastered was: Family Historian.
- A social media tool I enjoyed using for genealogy was: Twitter particularly the #Ancestryhour tag. I tweet as @Historylady2013
- A genealogy conference/seminar/webinar from which I learnt something new was: Rootstech 2016 about Irish Records available on line.
- I am proud of a presentation I gave to Bradford Family History Society about Workhouse Records and Where They Can Lead.
- A journal or magazine article I had published, sadly none, but I had a couple of mentions in Family History Magazine for my tweets.
- I taught a friend how to: Use snipping tool.
- A genealogy history book that taught me something new: A Dictionary of Medical and Related Terms for the Family Historian by Joan E Grundy.
- A great repository / archive I visited: Edinburgh College of Physicians, wonderful venue and delightful staff.
- A new genealogy/history book I enjoyed was: Divorced Bigamist Bereaved by Rebecca Probert.
- It was exciting to finally meet: Jill Ball at Rootstech 2016.
- A geneadventure I enjoyed : Has to be Rootstech 2016.
- Another positive I would like to share is:. It is always worth going back and having another look for any new records which might have become available.
Whilst not on Jill’s list I am adding my 21st. What achievement are you most proud of in 2016? Graduating with Merit from the University of Dundee with a Master of Letters Degree in Family and Local History.