Unlocking Warwick’s major research project, launched in 2018 to mark the centenary of the World War One Armistice, has been finding the human stories behind the names for both World Wars on the Church Street War Memorial and posting them on a special website: www.warwickwarmemorial.org.uk
The Warwick War Memorial has on its bronze plaques the names of 362 men, and one woman, from WW1 and 122 men from WW2, who lived locally and who died during the war. Led by Christine Shaw, volunteers have been looking at online sources and have spent hundreds of hours searching the archives in the County Record Office. A particularly useful source of information has been the Warwickshire Advertiser, which published death notices and tributes to some of the local men who died.
As part of our research, we contacted Warwick’s churches and schools which have rolls of honour for those who died in both wars, and we have had a lot of help from The Fusilier Museum of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, and the Warwickshire Yeomanry Museum .
But importantly the project has also appealed to the public for photos from family albums, letters and other information about relatives who went off to the war and did not return. There has been a marvellous response from local people. We now have information about nearly all the names, and many photographs of the young men posing in their uniforms. And our research has led us to add two new plaques – for eight service men who died in WW1 and eleven who died in WW2, whose names were not on the memorial for one reason or another.
We are still searching for material to add to the website. If you have information about a relative from Warwick who died in either war, email Christine at email@example.com Or you can leave photos and info at the Visitor Information Centre in the Jury Street Court House, clearly marked ‘Unlocking Warwick’ and with your address, so that we can copy material and return it to you.
The website also has features about how both wars affected Warwick, the prominent role played by the local regiments, the memorials in other parts of town such as churches, museums and schools, and the story of the memorial itself, unveiled before a huge crowd in 1921.
The website pulls together in one place all that is known about Warwick’s Fallen as a tribute to those who lost their lives and also as a permanent resource for schools, historians, academics and local people who might want to know more about family members who died.
How have Unlocking Warwick used this resource to enrich our lives in Warwick?
The stories uncovered were used prominently during the centenary year of the First World War in 1918. Unlocking Warwick presented The Warwick Armistice Afternoon Tea in the ballroom on the final day of the Warwick Words History Festival, The feedback afterwards was wonderful: ‘Informative, entertaining and moving’. ‘I found tears in my eyes – a lovely afternoon’.
Later, 50 people took park in ‘The Warwick WW1 Walk’ which went from the Court House, the HQ of the county’s Army Pay Corps during the war, to the memorial where there were presentations about some of the names on the plaques.
Photos of The Warwick Fallen were used on the Unlocking Warwick Tree in the St. Mary’s Christmas Tree Festival. All the names on the war memorial were attached to key-bobs on the tree.
And on the Centenary Day itself, members of Unlocking Warwick read out all the names of the Warwick Fallen at the evening events in Warwick Castle, which included the lighting of a Beacon of Peace by the mayor, a ceremony repeated hundreds of times around the country at the same moment.
Since 2018, the research team and volunteers have continued with their work, adding new information as it comes to light, as well as fully researching our WW2 Fallen. The information found has been used to stage a number of events under the Unlocking Warwick banner – details can be found under the News and Features section of the War Memorial website.
The Warwick War Memorial Project was supported by a Community Grant from Warwick Town Council which paid for the design and construction of the website. Their ongoing generosity enables us to maintain the site.