Essex at War on film

We were lucky enough to have Chris Church of Wire Frame Media film at Essex at War, 1914-1918 at Hylands House on Sunday 14 September, who has produced this fabulous short film capturing a flavour of the day. Have a watch for a snapshot of what went on, and if you came along see if you can spot yourself!

If you came along and would like to tell us what you thought of the day, do please fill in our short survey here.

Researching First World War servicemen

Has all the talk of the First World War this year got you curious about discovering your wartime ancestors’ stories? Or how about the stories behind the names on your local war memorials?

Tracing the stories of wartime servicemen can be challenging, but also fascinating, rewarding, and sometimes heartbreaking.

We have come up with some new advice sheets to help you trace wartime servicemen, along with case studies for the Army, Navy and Royal Flying Corps. Just click on the links below to download the sheets as PDFs.

Researching First World War servicemen

Army case study - Harry Lawrence Picking

Navy case study - Frank Herbert Mills

RFC case study - Kenneth Mathewson

 

A few other top tips:

You can access military records on Ancestry.co.uk free of charge in the ERO Searchroom or at any Essex Library.

If you are looking for someone who served in the Essex Regiment then the Essex Regiment Museum is a good place to visit or contact for information.

If you are looking for someone from Chelmsford who was killed in the armed forces during the war then see if they appear on www.chelmsfordwarmemorial.co.uk

You can always get in touch with us if you would like any further advice.

Essex at War, 1914-1918

I can’t believe it has finally come and gone – after 15 months in the planning, today was Essex at War at Hylands House. This was a big collaboration between ERO, Hylands House, Now the Last Poppy has Fallen, the Essex Regiment Museum, and many others. It’s always great to take the ERO out on the road to new locations, and we had a wonderful day meeting so many people. We hope that if you visited you enjoyed your day!

Essex Sounds Like…

For the past six months, we have been surveying people across Essex to ask them what they know about the Essex Sound and Video Archive (ESVA). The main aim of the exercise was to collect baseline data, so we will have some statistics to compare with similar surveys we plan to run after the You Are Hear: sound and a sense of place project. We hope this will demonstrate the impact of the project to the Heritage Lottery Fund, and that more people will be aware of us and have engaged with our treasure store of recordings.

We surveyed our long-suffering readers in the Searchroom, so frequently asked for feedback; visitors to events that we attended; and innocent passers-by who happened to be walking through High Chelmer Shopping Centre, Chelmsford on Saturday 1 March. We even roped in the aid of libraries and village agents to distribute our surveys. The end result was 185 surveys completed by people from near and far (even some from outside Essex snuck in).

Our main aim was to establish how many people had heard of the Essex Sound and Video Archive. Forty percent of the people who answered this question knew about the ESVA but had never used it, but another 54% had not even heard of us. We obviously have some work to do!

We collected demographic information about our participants, but we also took the opportunity to ask some more interesting questions about people’s perceptions of where they live.  Eighty-six percent of participants felt they belonged to some kind of community: mostly their town or village, but social or religious groups, neighbourhoods, and on-line communities also featured. Despite a few references to the stereotypes associated with Essex (thanks largely to a certain ITV television programme), most people had positive associations with the county. Several referred to it as home or felt rooted to it by family ties. Some mentioned its attractive features, such as the seaside, the countryside, the good travel links – and the fact that it’s not London. We hope to build on this  undercurrent of pride in the county by sharing what former residents have felt about their homeland, what they experienced, and what they felt moved to create in it.

The most interesting question to me was, ‘Which sounds represent where you live?’ Although it initially puzzled a few people, we eventually got some wonderful descriptions of the aural landscape of the county. The overwhelming majority of the responses were precisely what I would have identified in my own town: Essex sounds like traffic and birds.

We created a word cloud from all of the responses received: the bigger the word, the more times it was mentioned. How does the picture compare with your location?

sounds wordcloud aug 2014

Wordcloud of sounds associated with Essex, created with www.wordle.net

In the spirit of You Are Hear, we have a sound clip alternative:

At the moment the clip is just the words spoken aloud: the recording of the actual sounds will come once the project starts, with your help.

Thank you to everyone who completed a survey or helped to distribute them. Get in touch if you want to read more about the results.

Recording of the Month, September 2014: Mrs Cranwell’s Driving Test

Our Sound Archivist Martin Astell brings us another highlight from the Essex Sound and Video Archive…

SA 47/1/1/4/1

This month’s recording highlights the principal joy of working with oral history. That is, the fact that it is about people. Everybody has a story to tell, but some tell them better than others. Mrs Irene Cranwell from the village of Chrishall in Essex falls into the category of characters whose personality bursts out of the recorded interview, and in this extract she describes her somewhat unusual driving test in Cambridge.

Irene Cranwell died in 2010 at the age of 99, having become a local celebrity through regular contributions to a BBC Cambridgeshire radio show. She had been a teacher at Chrishall village school and later worked at Barkway First School and Icknield Walk First School in Royston. She also, apparently, had an impressive knowledge of local history and started a museum in Chrishall based on her own collection.

When listening to oral history interviews we should not forget the contribution of the interviewer who, in this case, has created a relaxed and congenial atmosphere, allowing the interviewee to express herself in a free and uninhibited manner.

Robert the Bruce – Essex man

As the people of Scotland prepare to vote in the independence referendum, Archivist Katharine Schofield examines how Essex is able to claim a connection with Robert the Bruce, who from 1306 became King Robert I of Scotland. 

D/DP T1/1770 - names Robertus de Brus

D/DP T1/1770 – names Rob’tus de Brus

The Bruce or Brus family held lands in Writtle, Hatfield Broad Oak, Terling, Hatfield Peverel, Lamarsh and Southchurch from a grant made by Henry III in c.1237/8 to Isabel de Brus.  She was the daughter of David, Earl of Huntingdon (brother of Malcolm IV and William I of Scotland) and Matilda, the daughter of the Earl of Chester.  Isabel’s brother John inherited the title of Earl of Chester from his uncle.  When John died in 1237 the earldom reverted to the Crown, and today is one of the titles of the Prince of Wales.  In compensation Henry III granted lands to his sisters and heiresses, one of whom was Isabel, wife of Robert de Brus, 4th Lord of Annandale (the great-grandparents of Robert the Bruce), who received various lands in Essex (if you get as confused with the genealogy in this post as we did, here’s a handy family tree).

Among the earliest records in the ERO are records of the Brus family in Hatfield Broad Oak and Writtle.  The deeds, although undated, almost certainly relate to Sir Robert de Brus, father of the future king of Scotland.  Deeds of grants of meadow land in Hatfield Broad Oak of c.1280 and c.1300 (D/DBa T1/44, 50-51126, 157, 159) refer to part of the demesne meadow land of Sir Robert de Brus which adjoined the land being granted.

D-DP T1-1770 Whole

D/DP T1/1770 – A much later copy of a quitclaim made bu Sir Robert de Brus

A release and quitclaim (renunciation of all future claims) which survives as a later copy was made on 22 May 1298 by Robert de Brus senior, Earl of Carrick, of half a virgate (approximately 30 acres) of land in Writtle to John Herolff (D/DP T1/1770).  Robert de Brus inherited the earldom from his wife, and today this is another one of the Prince of Wales’ titles, which he uses in Scotland.  Another quitclaim was made at Writtle on 4 August 1299 by Robert de Brus, described as lord of Annandale (dominus vallis Anandie) and lord of Writtle and Hatfield Broad Oak to Sir Nicholas de Barenton [Barrington] of 21 shillings annual rent for lands in Hatfield Broad Oak (D/DBa T2/9).

D-DBa T1-4 Seal

D/DBa T1/4 – This seal which belongs Sir Robert de Brus and shows the saltire or St. Andrew’s Cross, now an integral part of the Scottish flag.

In about 1295 Sir Robert de Brus, Earl of Carrick, exchanged 5½ acres of land in Hatfield Broad Oak for 5¾ acres held by Hatfield Priory (D/DBa T1/4).  Brus’s seal survives on this deed and shows the saltire, still used today on Scotland’s flag, with a lion above.  The seals of Scottish nobility began to include the saltire or St. Andrew’s Cross from the late 13th century.

D-DBa T1-4

D/DBa T1/4 – in its entirity.

When Alexander III of Scotland died in 1286, his four year old granddaughter, Margaret, the Maid of Norway, was the closest heir to the Scottish crown.  She died in 1290 in the Orkney Isles en route to Scotland, leaving no obvious successor and Edward I King of England was asked by the Guardians of Scotland, who had been appointed to govern during the minority of the queen, to arbitrate between the many different claimants to the throne in what became known as the Great Cause.  There were 15 claimants, including Edward himself, but the two main claimants were two great-grandsons of David, Earl of Huntingdon (a grandson of David I, r.1124-1153): John Balliol, grandson of David’s daughter Margaret, and Robert de Brus, grandson of Isabel, Margaret’s younger sister (again, this family tree helps!).

In 1292 Edward I selected John Balliol, who had the best claim.  However, Balliol proved an ineffectual king and in 1296 Edward I took the opportunity to invade Scotland.  Having defeated the Scots at Dunbar, he deposed Balliol, took over the throne of Scotland and removed the Stone of Scone, which was used for the coronations of the Scottish kings, to Westminster.  The Scots fought back and the following year William Wallace defeated the English at Stirling Bridge.  Battles and guerrilla warfare followed.

In 1304 the Sir Robert de Brus, mentioned in the Essex documents, died and his son more commonly known as Robert the Bruce inherited his father’s claim to the throne.  At Brus’s death he held the manor of Writtle from the king for half a knight’s fee and the manor in Hatfield Broad Oak for another half.  Feudalism meant that all land was held from the Crown in return for military service, the provision of a knight.  Land that was held for one knight’s fee meant that Brus had to supply a knight (or sometimes the monetary equivalent) to the King for military service.

File:Robertthebruce.jpg

Robert the Bruce in a much later depiction

On 25 March 1306 Robert the Bruce was crowned king of Scotland at Scone.  As a result all his English lands were attainted or forfeited to the Crown.  The majority of the lands were later granted by Edward II to Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford and Essex.

There is one final reference to the Brus family in an extent (description of landholding) of the manor of Writtle dating from c.1315, possibly relating to the grant to de Bohun.  This describes free tenants of the manor who held land from deeds of the lord Robert de Brus [per cartam domini Robert de Brus], who is further described as father of the present lord King [pater domini Regis nunc est].

Bread, but not as we know it!

It has been quite a long time since we supplied you all with some intriguing, interesting and surprising recipes from our archive. So with it being “Bread Week” on the Great British Bake Off your humble correspondent scurried off into the repositories here at the ERO in search of bread recipes returning triumphantly with two corkers!

They are both found within the pages of the Lampet family recipe book. Though the volume is undated and the recipes are in a number of different hands, it is likely that they stem from the 1830s as one of the recipes is said to be copied from Lardner’s Cabinet Cyclopedia which was first published in 1830.

T/B 677/2 - This page, devoted to bread and flour, also has lists of measurements of flour for the purposes of poor relief.

T/B 677/2 – This page, devoted to bread and flour, also has lists of measurements of flour for the purposes of poor relief.

The first recipe as we teased on Twitter does indeed include a certain quantity of hydrochloric acid; no wonder you are instructed to knead the dough very quickly!  It is for an “unfermented bread” using only baking soda as a raising agent; it would be similar to a normal soda bread were it not for the acid. Does anyone out there know what the acid was intended to do in this bake?

T/B 677/2 -  Unfermented Bread Take of  –Flour 3lbs averdupois                 -Bi-Carbonate of Soda powdered 4 dram                 -Hydrochloric acid – 5 drams fluid                 -Water- about 26oz fluid                -Common Table Salt – 4 drams The ingredients should be mixed well together – The Soda & flour first which is best done by passing the former thro[ugh] a fine sieve – stirring it well into the flour with the hand. The salt should be next dissolved & added to the Hydro[chloric]-Acid – a wooden or glass rod being used to mix them. The whole should be then thrown together & kneaded as quick as possible – The Dough thus made should be baked in long Tins and is sufficient to make two loaves – about an hour & a half is required in baking them.

T/B 677/2 – Unfermented Bread

Take of –Flour 3lbs averdupois

                -Bi-Carbonate of Soda powdered 4 dram

                -Hydrochloric acid – 5 drams fluid

                -Water- about 26oz fluid

               -Common Table Salt – 4 drams

The ingredients should be mixed well together – The Soda & flour first which is best done by passing the former thro[ugh] a fine sieve – stirring it well into the flour with the hand. The salt should be next dissolved & added to the Hydro[chloric]-Acid – a wooden or glass rod being used to mix them. The whole should be then thrown together & kneaded as quick as possible – The Dough thus made should be baked in long Tins and is sufficient to make two loaves – about an hour & a half is required in baking them.

The second recipe is something a bit less unusual. It is titled as a “French Bread” but on closer inspection it appears to be a form of brioche using a carefully prepared starter dough. Note the curious use of the word sponge while referring to the mixture. I am also reliably informed that a “peck” is  two (dry) gallons.  This recipe originates from Lardner’s Cabinet Cyclopedia and appears to be in the same hand as many of the recipes attributed to one Miss Lampet, although it is difficult to ascertain exactly who that is. It also has very few exact measurements, so it reads a bit like one of Paul Hollywood’s technical challenges!

T/B 677/2 - One for all the francophiles out there

T/B 677/2 – French Bread

The very light spongy & superior article called French Bread is made in the following manner.

If a peck of the very finest quality of wheaten flour is to be made into French rolls – a small quantity of it is to be mixed with as much warm water as will convert it into dough. In the water a handful of salt should have been previously dissolved-

About a pint of distillen yeast or if this cannot be obtained ale Brewer’s yeast which has been washed with some cold water to remove the bitterness is to be well worked into the dough. This is to be set by in a warm place to ferment. Meanwhile all the rest of the flour is to be Mixed with as much warm milk as will form a sponge. Half pound of Butter melted at the lowest possible degree of heat is to be poured on along with six eggs; and the whole is to be hastily mixed up together along with the sponge provided that it is sufficiently fermented and is sufficiently swollen

After the mixture let the dough be left in a warm place and when it has risen sufficiently let it be divided shaped into rolls and baked in a moderately heated Oven. The oven should as in all other cases have been perfectly heated before the Bread is just in and the heat should be equal throughout however difficult this may be to effect this in some ill constructed ovens.

So there you go, if you do try out the first one, we accept no liability for any acid burns. Also this whole recipe book amongst some others is available to view on our catalogue Seax. So have a go at some of the recipes and let us know how you get on! Finally, apologies for any transcription errors.

Secrets from the Asylum

Tonight on ITV the inimitable pub landlord, Al Murray, amongst others, will be discovering the secrets of their ancestors’ lives. One of Murray’s ancestors was committed to an asylum and the show will follow his discovery of what that meant for her and the other asylum “inmates”.

1st Edn OS Map 25" showing the County Lunatic Asylum in 1975

1st Edn OS Map 25″ showing the County Lunatic Asylum in 1875

After The Asylum Act of 1845 it became a requirement for each county to have its own asylum. The Justices of the Peace in Essex opened their County Asylum at Warley near Brentwood in 1853 at a building cost of some £66,000. It was then designed to hold 450 inmates. The institution finally closed its doors in 2001 and much of the site has now been re-developed into luxury flats. To get a flavour of what the asylum was like at the end of its life this website has a number of very good pictures.

A/H 10/2/5/18 - A page from one of the female case books. The words used to describe her illnes are somewhat different to how we would describe them today. "Acute melancholia, morbidly despondant..."

A/H 10/2/5/18 – A page from one of the female case books. The words used to describe her illness are somewhat different to how we would describe them today. “Acute melancholia, morbidly despondent…”

Those documents which had survived the passing of time and the closing of Warley Hospital have now been passed to us at the Essex Record Office. These include Managers’ Minutes, Reception Orders, Case Books and Patient Indexes. We also have a range of Burial Registers which were kept by the Justices of the Peace. The majority of these documents fall under our A/H 10 reference and many of these can be searched in the Record Office, though it is worth bearing in mind that most records less than 100 years old are closed to the public and will have to be searched by one of our archivists (the exception to that being the Burial Registers which are held under references Q/ALc 12/1 to Q/ALc 12/5 and these are currently available to view on our catalogue Seax).

Q/ALc 12/1 - This is the first of 5 burial registers for the graveyard at Warley Hospital. They run from 1856 to 1935. Some burials of patients from Warley are also recorded in the parish graveyard of St Peters, South Weald.

Q/ALc 12/1 – This is the first of 5 burial registers kept by the Justices of the Peace for the graveyard at Warley Hospital. They run from 1856 to 1935. Some burials of patients from Warley are also recorded in the parish graveyard of St Peter’s, South Weald

Q/ALc 12/1

Extract from Q/ALc 12/1

If you are interested in what you discover with Al Murray tonight and want to find out more about life in the asylum or if you think you may have a relative who may have been in the County Asylum, please feel free to visit us or get in touch to discover the secrets that our records might hold.

‘Noble reponse to the call’: a look at the Essex County Chronicle of 14 August 1914

Following our recent post on how the Essex County Chronicle reported on local responses to the outbreak of the First World War, today we take a look at a few of the stories published the following week on 14 August 1914.

These snippets from the Chronicle give us a bit of an insight into the sorts of things that people were talking about and doing as the world slid into chaos around them.

 

Joining up

The Chronicle reported that:

‘Essex has already made a noble response to the call to arms, and every day brings trained men from her sons to rejoin the colours and come once more to the aid of the Empire. Recruits, too, are pouring in at all the offices, and both men and women are volunteering their services in whatever capacity they can best be of use. There is no shirking. All classes and people of all creeds stand together’

Recruiting for Kitchener’s New Army had already begun, and it was reported that large numbers of Essex Territorials had already volunteered for it.

The Chronicle also reported on a special meeting of the Essex County Territorial Force Association that had taken place in Finsbury Circus, which was addressed by the Earl of Warwick:

‘I don’t want to depress you too much, but you all must know the terrible anxiety that must exist for a very long time to come. Two enormous armies are face to face – the largest in the history of the world. We have been brought into this conflict, peace loving people as we are, through no fault of our own. We have to try in every way to go through with it for the best interests of this glorious old country. Not only are you fighting for everything you love and cherish, for your hearths and homes, and sacrificing yourself in their interests, but you have got to remember that this war has got to be fought to a finish.’

A report on mobilisation read by the Secretary stated that the force had started to receive call ups for various sections on 30th and 31st July and that ‘in the county of Essex they had been as prompt as any other county in England. All the Territorial Battalions were now mobilised’. They had been 1100 under strength, but all vacancies had been filled.

IMG_4008

Paranoia sets in

One story reported on 14th August suggests that parts of the county at least were on edge, and a tragedy was narrowly averted at Warley Barracks:

‘In the night one of the magazine guards of Warley Barracks fired at a stranger who made no reply when challenged. The man’s hat flew from his head, but he escaped. One of the subsequent shots fired at the fugitive struck a member of the Army Medical Corps, who had to receive medical attention.’

A young man visiting Harwich meanwhile had filled some time by sketching on the pier: ‘He was promptly arrested by the military sentries on duty, and taken to the Redoubt. After detention for two hours he was released’. His story was presented as a warning to others.

Anti-German feeling was also quick to set in amongst some people, as is shown in this story from a hearing in Stratford:

‘At Stratford on Saturday, in binding over James Webster, 42, a labourer, of Buckhurst Hill, who was stated to have been engaged in an argument with an Englishman, whom he accused of being a German. Mr Ehot Howard said he hoped Englishmen would not annoy persons simply because they bore German names. Many of them were most faithful Englishmen, especially those of Jewish extraction, who had left their country to avoid oppression and appreciated the freedom of England. There was a large German colony in England who were most enthusiastic British subjects.’

 

Essex people trapped abroad

Some Essex residents had been in Europe when the war broke out, and some ran into trouble before they managed to make it home.

The Bishop of Colchester had been on holiday, and was arrested in France as a spy for snapping a photograph. The Chronicle reported that he was ‘pounced upon by the military and taken to a guardroom’, but after explaining managed to make it safely back to Colchester.

There had, meanwhile, been more anxiety in Brightlingsea. Several local men who had been at sea working on racing yachts had been held by the Germans. One man had returned home but others were still on the continent:

‘Capt. E. Sycamore, of Brightlingsea, arrived home on Tuesday from Denmark, where he has been staying with the British Consul, after having been detained in Germany. He states that he had some rough experiences in Germany, being twice imprisoned. He left his crew in Denmark; they were expected to follow on. Captain Sycamore arrived with nothing beyond the clothes he was wearing, all his other luggage having been taken from him while in Germany. Capt. Sycamore brought a reassuring message with regard to Captain James Taylor, of Brightlingsea, who, with his wife, is imprisoned at Hamburg.’

IMG_4012

County defences

People had already begun to mobilise to prepare to defend their county. In Maldon, for example, a meeting had been held at the Drill Hall to form a town guard for the borough and district. The guard was for men too old to join the Territorials who wanted to play a part in defending their homes. Nearly 100 people were reported to have attended, and apparently a large number of men enrolled and began to drill almost immediately.

IMG_4014

Unemployment and poverty

Across the county, local leaders had received telegrams from the Prince of Wales asking them to assist in the setting up of local branches of the National Relief Fund.

As mentioned in our post on August’s document of the month, unemployment and poverty were rapid consequences of the outbreak of war. Cllr Booth, Vice-Chairman of Burnham Council, said at a specially-called meeting to consider the local consequences of the war:

‘it would be necessary to form a relief committee, and that was his chief object in asking for the meeting. There was likely to be much poverty in consequence of the war, and they ought to make provision for this. He suggested that, with a view of providing employment, this would be a good time to proceed with the sewerage scheme. They were all agreed that this was necessary, and perhaps they might get assistance in carrying it out. He knew it would be expensive to borrow money at this time, but they ought to do what they could to provide employment.’

Local employment already being affected; the Mildmay Ironworks had had orders for piano frames cancelled, and the oyster trade was likely to have a bad winter. The council agreed to ask the Surveyor what useful and necessary works the Council could do to provide employment, and Mr Booth also proposed formation of a Relief Committee.

 

Preparations for the wounded

Local people quickly began to prepare to aid the expected numbers of wounded. In Burnham, a meeting was held at Mill Cottage to make arrange making clothes for wounded servicemen. The group who met had already received offers of help, both financial and personal. A series of first-aid lectures had also begun, and arrangements had been made to open two or three hospitals as temporary schools in the expectation that the wounded from naval engagements might be brought to the area.

IMG_4015

There was also a report on local Red Cross work. The Essex Branch of the British Red Cross was reported to consist of 73 Voluntary Aid Detachments, with a total personnel of about 2,000, three quarters of them women.

People had also been quick to volunteer buildings to be used as hospitals:

‘Since the commencement of the war many generous offers of private houses, institutions, and other buildings for use either as hospitals or convalescent homes have been made, and in many instances steps have been taken to equip some of these buildings at short notice.’

These buildings included Easton Lodge, Dunmow, Hylands House, Widford, Birch Hall, Theydon Bois and Sewardstone Lodge, Waltham Abbey. Many schools and other public buildings had also been identified as possible hospital sites.

The Palace Hotel in Southend, for example, had already been set aside for use as a naval hospital, to be known as Queen Mary’s Royal Naval Hospital, with accommodation for at least 400 patients.

IMG_4016

There was to be much, much more published in local papers on the war and the impact it was having locally over the coming months and years, and they make fascinating reading. If you would like to see for yourself, the ERO has some local newspapers available on microfilm, or you can visit ERO or any Essex library to use the British Newspaper Archive online for free.

All images reproduced courtesy of the Essex Chronicle

 

To find out more about First World War records at ERO, join us at the following:

A Righteous Conflict: Essex people interpret the Great War - A talk for the Essex History Group by Paul Rusiecki, Tuesday 2 September, 10.30am-11.30am, free, no need to book

Essex at War, 1914-1918, a day of events at Hylands House, Sunday 14 September (details here)

First World War memorials – who was included where?

Andy Begent has created a website recording biographical details of 460 men connected with Chelmsford who lost their lives as a result of the First World War, including photographs of them where possible. In this blog he writes of one of the unexpected tasks that he has dealt with in that ongoing project.

Recently someone asked me what had been the biggest challenges which I had faced during the creation of the Chelmsford War Memorial website.

Chelmsford war memorials homepageI think they expected me to respond by talking of the difficulty in researching the lives of the fallen so long after they died. Though that research can be time consuming, laborious, occasionally frustrating, yet often rewarding, I have found the biggest challenge has been the apparently simple task of determining whether a person should or should not be included on the website.

Early on in my research I was faced with a choice: should the website only commemorate those named on the Chelmsford Civic Centre war memorial, or should it include others that I had identified as having strong Chelmsford connections but who been omitted from that memorial?

I soon discovered that the process to select the names for the memorial had been imperfect. The draft list of names was issued as late as July 1923 to the public for comment upon, with the finalised list later determined by the Mayor and Town Clerk. That delay of almost five years after the end of the war meant that there was every chance that relatives or friends of some of those who could have been included on the memorial were no longer in a position to suggest their names.

Leading Seaman Samuel Allen Barnard, killed aged 26 when H.M.S. Vanguard blew up in 1917. Read his story here

My initial analysis also revealed that some of those named on the memorial had left Chelmsford several years before the war – some to settle in other parts of the country, and others who emigrated abroad, to Canada and Australia. They appeared not to have set foot in the town for some time, if at all, since their departure, yet their names were included on the memorial.

Having identified those potential shortcomings I decided I would include on the website all those mentioned on the war memorial plus those with a strong Chelmsford connection who had been omitted from the war memorial. I then just needed to determine what ’strong Chelmsford connection’ meant.

I looked to the past for clues.

Almost a century ago those erecting war memorials after the First World War had to determine their own inclusion/exclusion criteria, with the criteria varying from memorial to memorial. The Chelmsford approach seemed to be inconsistent, but maybe if I looked at other memorials I could identify best practice.

I soon established that war memorials that commemorated the war dead who attended a particular school, or church, or club, or place of work would have been fairly straightforward to compile names for – either the individual had attended or they had not.

Leading Mechanic Arthur Evan Thomas, R.A.F. Read his story here.

Other types of memorial would have been more challenging. Those that commemorated war dead of towns (and villages, parishes etc.) often used residency as the primary criteria for inclusion. Usually a person was included on such a memorial if they had been resident in the town at the time they began military service. They may also have been included if they died in the town as a consequence of their military service. Some war memorials broadened the residency scope wider than the individual; they may have included an individual on a town’s war memorial even if the individual did not reside in the town when they joined up or died, but their parents, spouse or next-of-kin siblings did, either at the time of them joining up or of their death. This broadening of scope means that some individuals’ names appeared on more than one war memorial – some of Chelmsford’s also appear on town and village war memorials in other parts the UK and further afield.

Even the boundary of a town can be difficult to determine. Chelmsford’s Civic Centre war memorial generally uses the Borough Boundary of 1923 but also includes residents from beyond. The 1923 Borough did not include parts of Widford which were added to the Borough in the 1930s. Great Baddow, Broomfield and Writtle were not absorbed in to the Borough until 1974.

Other criteria, beyond residency, may be considered when selecting names for a war memorial, including date of death, cause of death, and whether the individual was serving or had served in the military.

Corporal John William Hooker, 7th (Service) Battalion, Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, killed in action in 1918. His brother, George Alexander Hooker, was also killed in the war. Read his story here.

Some war memorials restrict their commemorations to those that died or were killed between the war’s outbreak on 4th August 1914 and the Armistice of 11th November 1918. Others stretch that to the Treaty of Versailles of 28th June 1919 when peace with Germany officially started. For the First World War the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) commemorates deaths from 4th August 1914 up to 31st August 1921. Others go beyond, recognising that the war led to wounds and illness that led to the deaths of servicemen for decades after the war. The last of those to die who is commemorated by Chelmsford’s Civic Centre war memorial is Douglas Havelock Newman, a former prisoner of war, who died on 7th May 1922, well past the CWGC cut-off date.

Some war memorials include only those who were killed in action or died of wounds. Others expand on that to include those that died of illness, accident or even suicide. The CWGC makes no distinction around causes of death when determining if a person should be commemorated. Chelmsford’s Civic Centre war memorial includes all of those except suicide, although two soldiers who committed suicide are buried in the town.

Some war memorials include only those who died whilst serving in the military. Others go beyond that to include ex-servicemen and civilians. The CWGC commemorates anyone who was still in military service or members of certain civilian organisation (such as the Red Cross) at the time of death, but also includes those who had left the military and died up to 31st August 1921 as a result of an injury or illness caused by or exacerbated by their service up to that date. The Chelmsford Civic Centre war memorial includes a member of the Red Cross, but it does not, and neither does the CWGC, include a civilian from Chelmsford, John Thomas Bannister, killed in a German air raid on London during the First World War.

Having pondered those factors I have ultimately come up with the following criteria which I employ to determine whether someone should be included on the website. You will see is not simple and certainly not as simple as I would have liked.

An individual will be recorded on the website where:

  • They are mentioned on Chelmsford’s Civic Centre war memorial or the Moulsham, Springfield or Widford war memorials, or
  • They or their assumed next of kin were resident in the Borough of Chelmsford of 1923 or parishes of Widford and Springfield at the time they began military service or at the time they were killed or died, or
  • They died or were buried within those same areas, and;
  • Their death is commemorated by the CWGC or their death is proven to have been as a result of an injury or illness caused by or exacerbated by their military service or enemy action.

Determining to what extent these criteria apply so long after an individual’s death is not always easy. We do not have comprehensive records of all those who served in the military nor of those who lived in Chelmsford. The 1914-15 and 1918 registers of electors provide some evidence which can be used, as do contemporary newspaper reports, cemetery and church records. Perhaps the greatest untapped source of information is the stories passed down through families and I hope that the war’s centenary will bring many of the latter to the fore.

If you would like to view the Chelmsford War Memorial website follow this link: http://www.chelmsfordwarmemorial.co.uk/Chelmsford_War_Memorial/Home.html

Andy will be giving a talk on some of the stories he has come across during his research at Essex at War: 1914-18 at Hylands House on Sunday 14 September. Click here for details.