Stories of eight soldiers

The lives of these men provide a snapshot of the many who lived in Hampstead and went to war. They are all heroes. They include officers, non-commissioned officers, men and boys across the social spectrum. Although two were professional soldiers, the rest all volunteered to fight. They include boys from German and Italian families whose relatives may have been fighting for the other side. While most of them are buried away from home they are all commemorated somewhere in Hampstead.

Wreath

Source Sheena Ginnings

New End

Source Sheena Ginnings

Possible Activities

  • Research the life of a World War One soldier from your community
  • Walk round Hampstead to see where the 8 soldiers are commemorated
  • Choose one of the soldiers below and write a poem about him

Related Topic

  • The local regiments – recruitment and training (this includes an explanation of the different units)

Buried away from home

Soldiers buried on the battlefield – Right from the start of World War One the government made a decision that all soldiers who died on the battlefield would be buried close to where they fell. An Englishman called Fabian Ware, who went to France in 1914 with the Red Cross, realised how important it was that people knew where their loved ones were buried and that their graves were properly cared for. He started recording where graves were, and did what he could to maintain them, initially planting wild flowers over the places where men were buried.

As a result of Ware’s efforts the Graves Registration Commission was set up in 1915 to record where the graves were. During the war the Commission received hundreds of requests for details of soldier’s graves and by 1917 had sent over 12,000 photographs back home to relatives.

Honouring their sacrifice – The government realised that after the war people would want to visit where their loved ones were buried. In 1917 it established by Royal Charter the Imperial War Graves Commission, which took over the work of the Graves Registration Commission. This new commission immediately started planning permanent cemeteries to honour the war dead. After the war was over it undertook the huge task of establishing over 1,000 cemeteries and moving bodies to their final resting places. The commission was determined that these cemeteries would provide a fitting memorial to the men buried in them. It used the best architects to design the cemeteries and memorials, as well as the experience of Kew Gardens and the famous garden designer Gertrude Jekyll to advise on planting.

Soldiers who have no graves – Some soldiers’ bodies were never found and the Commission built huge memorials with the names of the lost dead inscribed on them. The largest is the Thiepval Memorial in France, which stands over 45 metres high and carries the names of more than 72,000 casualties from the Battle of the Somme. (See more about the Battle of the Somme under Further Resources below.) Another memorial is the Menin Gate where several Hampstead soldiers are remembered.

Role of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission – Later the Imperial War Graves Commission changed its name to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and it continues to maintain all war graves, wherever they are in the world. The Commission also pays to maintain some war graves in England including war graves in the Additional Burial Ground at Hampstead Parish Church and in the Hampstead Cemetery. These are the graves of men who were seriously wounded and came back to home for treatment, but who died from their wounds.

Memorials at home – Families also wanted memorials at home to commemorate their loved ones, because their families and friends were proud of what they had done. Today you can see memorials in schools (eg HPS, UCS), housing estates (eg New Buildings), workplaces (eg Hampstead Old Town Hall), and in almost every church in the borough. Being reminded of their commitment to what they thought was right, their courage and obedience when they were in frightening and dangerous situations, and ultimately their sacrifice, is a good reminder to us of important values that have shaped our nation.

Suggested Questions

  • Why was it so important to these men to join up?
  • Many of these men were very young. How do you think they felt about leaving everything they knew to go to another country to fight?
  • What values do these stories tell us about? Are they important today?

Further Resources

War Memorials Trust http://www.learnaboutwarmemorials.org/

YouTube – the Battle of the Somme – archive footing over an hour long but very interesting http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krT1lX_Dvm0

Commonwealth War Graves Commission http://www.cwgc.org/ On the homepage click on ‘Find a cemetery’ to go to a page with images of the cemetery you are looking for

Flickr http://www.flickr.com/ for images of the different cemeteries

Sources

This page was last updated on November 24th, 2014.

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