We will remember them

 
 

 
 

was asked to do some research in preparation for Remembrance Sunday to mark the centenary of the First World War, and I was quite surprised by the results. At an early stage I spoke to a Diocesan official, and when I told him of my brief, he supplied the required

detail, and then asked if I was doing anything about the "Completely Forgotten". I was obliged to ask who they were.

 

There were no serving policemen killed in the 1914-18 war. Every man who joined the Colours, whether a reservist, volunteer or a conscript, was required to resign from the police on enlistment. A surprising number of reservists resigned on August 5, 1914 when they were recalled; sadly most of these

men paid with their lives, probably because the odds of surviving the whole length of the war was against them.

 

Very few men who had served in the police before joining the military are recorded on parish war memorials. One reason is probably that young constables would rarely be serving in the locality they were originally "from" and they would not have been recognised as "from" the parish they were serving when they enlisted. Neither would they be considered for their "home" memorial as they had left that locality.

 

The official I mentioned earlier told me that memorials in larger towns seldom list the names of the men killed. In those towns individual parishes often had a wall plaque style memorial inside the church, and on some the names would be listed, but men of a different religious persuasion would not be listed on a Church of England memorial. This was also a practice on village memorials which were usually organised by the Church of England.

 

In Cornwall there are dozens of memorials in Methodist churches, and this denomination also favoured the practice of listing their church members who served and survived, in a roll of honour.

 

Many major employers erected memorials on their premises. The Great Western Railway was one such company; they have a magnificent statue memorial at Paddington and lesser, but quite elaborate, memorials on most of their major railway stations. Police forces also had memorials for their men, usually in their Headquarters.

 

So who are the "Completely Forgotten"?

 

Looking back almost 100 years, it seems that the memorial erectors were a little unreasonable with the parameters of recognition they set themselves. As a general rule of thumb, to qualify for inclusion on a memorial, a man had to die before he was discharged from military service, and before November 11, 1918. although there are exceptions.

 

The peak year for erection and dedication of memorials was 1925, and I have been unable to establish how many of the 182,000 men discharged as "invalids" before the war ended, or those demobbed with appalling injuries after the Armistice, died before that date, when they should have been included on war memorials.

 

I have seen one Chief Constable’s annual report for 1916, where he informs the Watch Committee of one man who has returned from the trenches. A sympathetic doctor declared him fit to re-join the force, albeit to the Sick List, and after a couple of months he resumed duties but he was not fit enough to continue, so he resigned. Before the report was submitted, the Chief was able to tell the Committee that the man had died, but would not be a charge on the pension fund! The Chief did not bother to name him, and he is not recorded on the Police War Memorial, probably because he died after discharge from the Army.



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