On 28th June 2019, the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Versailles that formally ended the First World War, the Unlocking Warwick research team were able to announce that they had found background information and personal stories for every one of the WW1 names on the plaques on the Church Street War memorial.
The Town Council’s volunteer group launched the project just over a year ago. With the aid of a small Community Grant from Warwick Town Council, this special website was created to give details of the 364 Warwick men (and one woman) who died in WW1, and fascinating features about the impact on Warwick of the 1914-18 war.
Now each of The Fallen from Warwick has his or her own page with details of their lives, and pictures sent in by local relatives. The Warwick Courier’s edition on the day of the centenary gave prominent coverage of the project reaching its primary goal.
Project Leader, Christine Shaw said, “It has been quite an emotional experience finding out the human stories behind the brass plaques on the memorial. The research team have spent hundreds of hours at the County Record Office combing through the archives to find the information about those who left Warwick never to return.
But the most valuable material has come from the people of Warwick, responding to our appeal for information, letters and pictures from family albums. The website now has some wonderful portraits of young Warwick men, proudly posing for the camera, who were to die on the Western Front or in the Middle East”.
The project has also uncovered some surprises. Researcher Tricia Scott discovered from the records at the Warwick Cemetery that some WW1 Fallen are commemorated there in family graves, and that a few who came back to Warwick with serious wounds and died here are buried in Warwick. She went to the cemetery and found several graves and memorials overgrown and neglected.
Tricia Scott explained, “I’d been researching David Wright who didn’t really seem to have a connection to Warwick and then I discovered that his wife, Ada, had died just 7 years after him and was buried in the Birmingham Road cemetery. So I looked in the memorials listing and found that David had been commemorated on her grave, so I made a note of where her grave was supposed to be. But the grave was so overgrown that if I hadn’t been certain that it ought to be there, I would never have found it. And when I saw the state it was in, it just seemed such a sad thing, that someone who gave his life had been completely forgotten. So I decided to go back with a scrubbing brush, to clean up the headstone, and some gardening gloves, secateurs and a hand fork so that I could dig out the brambles and cut back the hawthorn tree that had grown up over it. Because I had lots of sweet violets growing in my garden, I planted some of those. Here are some before and after pictures.
Then, having found that there were other families who commemorated their lost soldiers on the graves of mothers and brothers, I started looking for them. Now I am systematically going through the names of all The Fallen for whom we don’t have a photo, and cross referencing with the memorials listing, to see if there is any mention of them on a family member’s memorial”.
The Secretary of Unlocking Warwick, Rick Thompson, said, “The Warwick War Memorial website is now an amazing comprehensive resource for schools, researchers and for Warwick families who want to know about their relatives who did not return from The Great War. The project has revealed a host of personal stories which bring home the huge impact war had on the town, and the sacrifices made by so many young people, many joining up straight from school. It is right that they should have their stories commemorated in this way.
Pictures are still coming in as relatives discover them in family albums, and the volunteers will keep adding material as it is uncovered. If you have more information about the men from Warwick who are commemorated on the war memorial in Church Street, send it to Christine Shaw on firstname.lastname@example.org or leave it at the Visitor Information Centre in Jury Street, marked ‘Unlocking Warwick’ with a return address”.