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 WW1 names 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 WW1 plaques the names of 358 men, and one woman, who lived locally and who died during the war. Led by Christine Shaw, some of the 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 between 1914 and 1918, which published death notices and tributes to some of the local men who died.
We have also contacted Warwick’s churches and schools which have rolls of honour for those who died in the Great War, 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 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 almost 50 photographs of the young men posing in their uniforms. And we have found six servicemen who died in the war but whose names are not on the memorial for one reason or another. Their stories are told on the website in a section called ‘Not Forgotten’.
We are still searching for material to add to the website. If you have information about a relative from Warwick who died in The Great 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 the Great War 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. There is an interactive map showing where in Warwick the Fallen lived before going to war.
The stories uncovered have been used prominently during the centenary year in various special events. In October, Unlocking Warwick presented The Warwick Armistice Afternoon Tea in the ballroom on the final day of the Warwick Words History Festival. This combined an authentic 1918 celebration tea with readings about Warwick in WW1, some of the human stories uncovered in the research, poetry and songs from the period. The feedback afterwards was wonderful: ‘Informative, entertaining and moving’. ‘I found tears a in my eyes – a lovely afternoon’.
A week 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. Guests ended the walk in St. Mary’s to see the huge display of hand-made poppies and to hear about the sacrifices of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.
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 Armistice 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 time around the country at the same time.
The war memorial website has been posting news about the various events taking place in Warwick to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, which came into effect on 11th November 1918.
The section called ‘Do Your Own Research’ lists all the sources that can be used to find information about a relative. The Warwick War Memorial website pulls together in one place all that is known about Warwick’s Fallen both 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 in WWI.
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. Look at it here: www.warwickwarmemorial.org.uk