Forgotten War Dead to be Commemorated on The Somme

Posted on 27th February 2013 by Julie and David Thomson in General News.

This article by Jasper Copping first appered in The Telegraph on 24th February 2013.

But when the names of the dead, along with all others who fell during the First World War, were later collected by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), to ensure their sacrifice was remembered, that of the 21-year-old was not among them.

It meant that, due to an apparent bureaucratic lapse, Pollock, whose body was never found, was not recorded alongside his fallen comrades on any official memorial.

Now, after almost a century, that omission has been rectified after it was discovered by a team of amateur historians, and Pollock’s name has been added to the Thiepval Memorial, in France, to those missing from the battle.

He is one of almost 2,000 other “forgotten” dead from the two world wars whose deaths were accidentally overlooked by the authorities but whose names have now been added to memorials, following research by the In From The Cold Project (IFCP).

Indeed, so many “missing” names have been unearthed that a new memorial is to built in France, on the Somme because there is no room left on any of the existing ones.

(Imperial War Museum)

The group believe there could be as many as 10,000 more names which were mistakenly left off, but which could now be added.

The research was started by Terry Denham, a publishing consultant from Haywards Heath, West Sussex, after he investigated a case of a local man, Charles Baxter, who had died from an illness while in service in June 1915, but whose name was not recorded on any official memorial.

“After that, I was approached by an acquaintance to investigate another similar case and it snowballed from there. I realised there were a lot of people who had slipped through the net, so I set out to find them and ensure they received the remembrance they deserved,” said Mr Denham, 64.

In 2006, he teamed up with John Hartley, 62, a retired civil servant from Cheadle, in Greater Manchester, and they set up the project.

They accessed all the major lists and records of soldiers, sailors and airmen who died during the two wars – around two million names – and went through the registers line by line, checking each name against a database of those commemorated by the CWGC.

Each time they detected a missing individual, they investigated the case to verify that they had not been commemorated but that they were eligible, before passing on their findings to the Commission. The cases were then handed on to the Ministry of Defence (MoD), to authorise a new commemoration.

The pair started the project alone but now have assistance from a team of more than 100 volunteers. They fund the project themselves, apart from a single grant – they have not disclosed the amount – from the MoD in 2008 to pay for the cost of requesting the £9.25 death certificate and £3.36 service record of those they identify as “missing”.

They have now completed their searches of every available British casualty list from the two conflicts, and have successfully discovered 1,869 overlooked individuals who are now being commemorated. A further 354 names are still awaiting approval. Most are British, although there are also some Australian, Canadian and South Africa servicemen.

However, the project’s work is ongoing as the team are now researching lists of those who died after the end of the conflicts but are still eligible. They are also receiving individual cases from the public to investigate. The group are still submitting around a dozen new names per month to the Commission.

The vast majority of the missing names discovered so far are from the First World War. The CWGC was not founded until three years into the war, in 1917 – initially as the Imperial War Graves Commission – and did not start its work in earnest until after the war ended.

Its role was to ensure that every war dead had an official headstone or, if they had no known grave, were commemorated on an official memorial.

It drew up lists of the dead and set about trying to locate those already buried, but in an era before computers, many of the dead appear to have fallen from the records or otherwise been lost in the fog of war.

While some of the “forgotten” were recorded in “unofficial” memorials, in their villages, churches or workplaces, a large proportion were not on named on any.

Lance Corporal Paul Pollock

Many of those omitted were those, like Pollock, the son of a Presbyterian minister, serving in the Royal Irish Rifles, whose bodies were never found.

John Bull, from Stockport, was also killed on the first day of the Somme – July 1 1916 – and like Pollock his body was never recovered.

Bull had enlisted in the second Pals battalions of the Manchester Regiment in September 1914, alongside three brothers, Ernest, William and Abraham.

Due to an error, his death was not properly recorded – although that of his brother Ernest, fatally wounded on the same day, was – and his name was not passed on to the Commission, until it was found to be missing by the IFCP team. His name has now joined Pollock’s on the Thiepval memorial. The monument, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and built in the 1920s near the Somme battlefield, already contains the names of more than 72,000 soldiers with no known grave.

James Wright, a 22-year-old from Hull, a private in the East Yorkshire Regiment, died on the 13th November 1916, in France. His body was never found and his death not commemorated, until it was identified as missing by the team.

His name is due to be inscribed on a new memorial to be built in France to accommodate the new names being discovered by the project. Its exact location is yet to be finalised, but it is expected to be near to the Somme battlefield and is due to be finished by next year.

It will also include the details of George Wells, a private in the Royal Scots, who also died on the Somme, on the 21st July, 1916.

Although the father of three, a picture framer from Glasgow, was buried in France, his grave could not be identified at the end of the war, and he was missed off the Commission’s lists.

Other “forgotten” dead were buried, either abroad or back in Britain in marked graves, but their details never passed to the Commission, meaning they did not receive an official headstone or a place on a memorial.

Many of those overlooked died of wounds or illness, away from the front line, among them Reginald Buckman, 25, a footman from Ardingly, Sussex who was serving as a Bombardier in the Royal Field Artillery. He died of his injuries in hospital in London in October 1916, a month after being shot on the Western Front. He now has an official headstone on his grave in Highbrook, West Sussex.

Lance Corporal Walter Kimberley

Another was Walter Kimberley, who had been a professional footballer before the war, who played for Aston Villa, Coventry City and Walsall.

A Lance Corporal in the Coldstream Guards, he became a prisoner of war in Germany, before being repatriated due to poor health.

He was discharged in September 1916, suffering from tuberculosis, picked up while in captivity, and died less than a year later in April 1917. He has now been officially commemorated at his grave in Birmingham.

Several were overlooked having died of their war injuries or conditions after the end of the conflict. All such deaths up to 31st August 1921 – and up to 31st December 1947 after the Second World War – are eligible for inclusion, even if the servicemen had been discharged.

In addition, others who died in service before those dates – regardless of the cause of death, even if they died in accidents or of non-war related conditions – are eligible for commemoration.


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