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.
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).
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).
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.
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) http://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/3889 – retrieved 24 October 2017.
(3) http://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/73773 – retrieved 24 October 2017.
(4) https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/542802/elliott,-james-wilson/ – retrieved 24 October 2017.
(5) https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/514625/elliott,-ernest/ – retrieved 24 October 2017.
(6) http://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/73774 – retrieved 24 October 2017.
(7) https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/823869/batton,-lewis/ – retrieved 24 October 2017.
(8) http://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/66901 – retrieved 24 October 2017.
(9) http://www.krystalrose.com/kim/BEALL/jyb.html – retrieved 24 October 2017.
(10) http://www.executedtoday.com/2010/02/24/1865-john-yates-beall-well-connected-confederate/ – retrieved 24 October 2017.
(11) https://www.geni.com/people/John-Beall/6000000031373121201 – retrieved 24 October 2017.
(12) https://www.carlislediocese.org.uk/church/ainstable-st-michael-all-angels.html – retrieved 24 October 2017.
(13) http://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/search?query=Ainstable&items_per_page=10 – retrieved 24 October 2017.
(14) https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/3073630/turner,-charles-rushton/ – retrieved 24 October 2017.
(15) http://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/66907 – retrieved 24 October 2017.
(16) http://www.vam.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/250127/moore_al_aad-2004-10_20140723.pdf – retrieved 24 October 2017.
(17) https://www.achurchnearyou.com/armathwaite-christ-st-mary/ – retrieved 24 October 2017.
(18) https://2ndww.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/the-war-memorials-of-armathwaite-cumbria.html – retrieved 24 October 2017.
(19) http://www.156squadron.com/view_aircrew.asp?pCrewId=1543 – retrieved 24 October 2017.
(20) http://www.156squadron.com/display_missiontogether.asp?pcrewid=1543 – retrieved 24 October 2017.
(21) http://www.156squadron.com/display_missionhdr.asp?MissionId=86 – retrieved 24 October 2017.
(22) https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2046745/warwick,-norman/ – retrieved 24 October 2017.
(23) https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2046745/warwick,-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 email@example.com or Karen Gurney ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) IWM London Volunteer Programme Manager.