The work of an IWM War Memorial Register volunteer fieldworker in Cumbria – missing names on war memorials, additional names on family graves… and a plaque commemorating an American Civil War soldier.


Stuart is part of a unique group of IWM volunteers, the field workers of the War Memorials Register.

Their role is to record war memorials – large and small – in their particular area. It often involves tracking down memorials in unusual places, such as factories, schools, libraries, local and national government offices, even shops and post offices – as well as churches and cemeteries.

The memorials they find are photographed and measured as appropriate to provide a comprehensive description and the results are added to a publicly accessible database maintained by IWM which contains almost 70,000 entries (1).

The post below gives a flavour of what Ian and his fellow field workers do. As will be seen, the skills of a detective can be added to those above.


IN CUMBRIA (MY HOME COUNTY IN ENGLAND’S LAKE DISTRICT in the north west of the country) I am now concentrating on recording gravestone commemorations, as I have now effectively completed as far as I ever will, recording actual memorials.

To date I have 6,500 memorials and gravestone inscriptions under my belt.

This necessitates revisiting as many of the churches as is now possible, after massive public transport reductions in the intervening years.

Surprisingly often I am finding – five or six years on from my initial visit to a site – new memorials.

However recently I revisited Ainstable, a small village between the banks of the River Eden and the North Pennines.

The WW1 memorial there is the lychgate of St Michael and All Angels church (2) which is reportedly made of timbers from old warships. It also has a stone plaque which names 10 men, but has an eleventh name blanked out, which is quite unusual.

Ainstable Lych GateB

The stone plaque inside the lychgate lychgate of St Michael and All Angels church showing where a name was removed. Image © Stuart Nicholson, 2017.

There appears to be no record anywhere of who this man was. It has to be assumed that he was reported missing, and ultimately turned up alive several years after the end of the war.

Of the ten casualties on the plaque one man is buried in the churchyard with a private – that is to say not the usual Commonwealth War Graves Commission – grave marker.

Three others (two of whom – James Wilson Elliott and Ernest Elliott – were brothers) have gravestone commemorations (3). Both served with 3 Battalion Coldstream Guards and died within two weeks of each other, James on 26 September (4) and his brother on 9 October 1916 (5) In addition their regimental service numbers are 16213 and 16215 respectively, indicating that they probably signed up together.

The remaining man was known locally as Louis Betton and was killed 13 October 1914 (6).

Although the date matches, Army and CWGC records show him as Lewis Batton, serving with of the 1st Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers (7). He is also commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial to the Missing in northern France. There is also a five year discrepancy between his age on the gravestone in England and that held by CWGC.

However what is of real interest here is that inside the church and erected for the First World War Centenary commemorations, is a simple time line of the war on paper added to the north wall of the church beside the window.

This not only gives the dates of death and the regiments that the ten Ainstable men served with, but also similar details for the nine men from the neighbouring village of Armathwaite (two miles away) who died during the Great War.

This ephemeral memorial almost defies categorisation.  It will not last for a hundred years, so has been added to WMR 3889, the War Memorial Register database reference for the lychgate at St Michael and All Angels.

It is simply one of the most educative and poignant memorials I have yet seen.

The timeline is a very good instance of our mission to educate, as well as just being a register of memorials. That part of the Mission statement was perhaps better expressed when we were called the War Memorials Archive.

Oh, and church also has a marble tablet memorial to John Yates Beall, a Confederate soldier who was executed at New York in the American Civil War (8) (9) (10) (11).


The memorial tablet to John Yates Beall. Image © Stuart Nicholson, 2017.

It has so far proved to be impossible to trace why that memorial is at this small country church. Much has been written about Beall, but nothing which traces his family to Ainstable.

So St Michael and All Angels Ainstable is full of interest. Besides the memorials above the church site has been a place of worship for the better part of a 1,000 years and the building incorporates features from Norman and medieval predecessors as well as other significant items (12) (13).

There never has been a WW1 memorial at the nearby village of Armathwaite (although one of the casualties – Lieutenant Charles Rushton Turner, RFA who died in October 1915 aged 40 and is buried more than 300 miles away in Christchurch Cemetery (14), Hampshire in the south of England – has an individual stained glass window by A L Moore and Company in the church of Christ and Saint Mary (15) in the village).

Armathwaite Stained GlassApixlHDRred

The stained glass memorial window to Lieutenant Rushton Turner, 3rd (‘C’ Reserve) Brigade, Royal Field Artillery.  Image © Stuart Nicholson, 2017.

Arthur Louis Moore was an English stained glass producer who was in business from around 1871 until around 1955. The company supplied stained glass productions to clients mainly in London and southern England but also elsewhere in Britain and abroad (16).

I had heard of the research being undertaken to identify the Armathwaite men, but all had gone quiet.

As I had started the day at Armathwaite and there was no new memorial there I was assuming the research project had never been completed.

The church of Christ and Our Lady in the village (17) does have a Second World War Roll of Honour with four names (18), but in the churchyard there is a gravestone commemoration with a fifth name – that of Flight Sergeant Norman Warwick, RAF, an air gunner who served with No. 156 Squadron RAF.


The grave of Isaac William Warwick and his wife Ann with an inscription commemorating their son Norman. His grave in Germany bears the simply and poignant inscription ‘Loves last gift, Remembrance’, apparently from a sonnet by Dante Gabriel Rossetti which was set to music by the English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams as part of his ‘House of Life’ cycle. Image © Stuart Nicholson, 2017.

He flew more than 30 sorties with his crew and had apparently previously flown with No. 460 Squadron RAAF.

His first mission with the No 156 Squadron was in May 1943 and he was killed when on 11September 1944 when his aircraft failed to return from a mission to Geldenkirchen, in Germany.

After the war it was found that the aircraft had crashed near to the target with all the crew being killed. They now lie in Reichswald Cemetery near Kleve not far from the Dutch border, having previously been buried at Gladbeck, near Geldenkirchen (19) (20) (21) (22) (23).

In my day job I catalogue Solicitors Papers for my local Archive Service. When I open a new box I never know what I will find. But part of the cataloguing process is not just to list what is there, but to interpret, to tell the story, to educate. In most cases the original purpose of the papers, to undertake probate or to fight a court case is long gone, now the interest is genealogical.

Often teasing the story out takes time.

I undertake exactly the same process with the War Memorials which I record.




– retrieved 24 October 2017. The database has now grown to more than 72,000 entries.

(2) – retrieved 24 October 2017.

(3) – retrieved 24 October 2017.

(4),-james-wilson/ – retrieved 24 October 2017.

(5),-ernest/ – retrieved 24 October 2017.

(6) – retrieved 24 October 2017.

(7),-lewis/ – retrieved 24 October 2017.

(8) – retrieved 24 October 2017.

(9) – retrieved 24 October 2017.

(10) – retrieved 24 October 2017.

(11) – retrieved 24 October 2017.

(12) – retrieved 24 October 2017.

(13) – retrieved 24 October 2017.

(14),-charles-rushton/ – retrieved 24 October 2017.

(15) – retrieved 24 October 2017.

(16)  – retrieved 24 October 2017.

(17) – retrieved 24 October 2017.

(18) – retrieved 24 October 2017.

(19) – retrieved 24 October 2017.

(20) – retrieved 24 October 2017.

(21) – retrieved 24 October 2017.

(22),-norman/ – retrieved 24 October 2017.

(23),-norman/#&gid=null&pid=3 – retrieved 24 October 2017.


If you would like to know more about the work of the War Memorial Volunteers please contact the War Memorials Register team, Ian Hook and Catherine Long at or Karen Gurney ( ) IWM London Volunteer Programme Manager.

A disappearing wartime witness


ARRIVING EARLY to study documents in IWM’s collection recently, I spent time wandering around the local area.

This was no idle walk but a chance to hunt down something I have been looking for years.


I am on the hunt for the type of low-rise 1930s social housing once common all over Greater London.

More than that I am looking specifically for the fencing that surrounds these estates.

Just off  busy Kennington Lane I think I can see my quarry off to my right across the road.

I thread my way through traffic and walk down White Hart Street.

When I get there I meet a steady stream of people going to work approaching me, one behind the other, plugged into their music and staring straight ahead. I am the only one going against the stream.

Not for the first time.

I am invisible to them. Only an old man with a stick and a dog look at me suspiciously as I take pictures and touch the steel frames.


Former ARP stretcher converted to railings post-war at a 1930’s social housing development in Kennington, South London. Image © R Maddox 2017.


Note the bends in the tubing that served to lift the patient off the floor as wel as raising the ‘handles’ making it easy to pick up the stretcher. Image © R Maddox 2017.

Not very exciting are they?

Perhaps not. But these are genuine wartime witnesses.

According to the Museum of the St John Ambulance – a long-standing civilian first-aid (first response) organisation – the stretchers are some of the 600,000 which were produced for the Air Raid Precautions organisation in readiness for the anticipated Second World War (1).

This time everyone knew that this war was going to be different. Britain (including the capital) had been bombed sporadically but increasingly from 1915 during the First World war by airships and aircraft (2).

Often the targets of these raids had been hit more because of luck than judgement.

But this was enough to shake the authorities. Now and in the future any nation could attacked with almost absolute impunity as they crossed the skies far above defending armies and ships.

British politician Stanley Baldwin encapsulated much of the thinking at the time when he said in a speach in 1932 ‘the bomber will always get through’ (3).

Luckily London did not endure the number of casualties expected and at the end of the war there was a huge stockpile of stretchers. These could be used as replacement for the railings that had been removed from the capital’s parks and other places to make munitions.

Today the stretcher railings are a rarity.

Some were replaced when the social housing they surrounded were modernised, others were taken away because they had been unsafe.

There is even an organisation to preserve them. For more details visit .








When IWM lent some of its collection… to the Home Guard in case of German attack



An example of a First World War trench club in IWM’s collection. These and similar weapons were used by raiding parties to enter enemy trenches and capture items and personnel for intelligence purposes. Images © R Maddox 2017.


IT CAME TO LIGHT IN THE PRINTED MEDIA and online that certain aspects of the Falklands conflict were – as the Duke of Wellington may or may not have said about the Battle of Waterloo – ‘a damn close-run thing’ (1).

I’m thinking particularly about the seals in the inflight refuelling equipment fitted to the Vulcan bomber were not performing as they should and how redundant aircraft at museums and the entrances to air bases overseas had RAF technicians descend on them and ‘borrow’ items for the duration (2).

Nowhere near as dramatic is the fact that after British forces had withdrawn from Europe in June 1940 and left an enormous amount of materiel, the military actually asked the Imperial Museum to use some of its equipment for the war effort (3).

A number of artillery pieces and a quantity of optical equipment left the collection about that time, as well as items such as trench clubs that were loaned to the Home Guard, a volunteer organisation set up in 1940 that came under military control. Its purpose was to alleviate the regular army of many non-frontline duties such as guard military installations, maintaining road blocks, and to act as a first line of defence against invasion (4).