Jump to content
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Mapping Casualties - Lists of dead are not enough


E Wilcock
 Share

Recommended Posts

On Wednesday my husband and I went to hear Prof Christof Rass speak at the German Historical Institute, London, on "Bringing back the Dead. Mapping the Military casualties of the Great War on Civil Society".

Prof. Rass explained the largely quantitative and geographical research he has lead on the volunteers from Osnabruck and from Aachen who died in or as a consequence of service in World War One.

His study mapped the social background and home location of volunteers, the location of deaths in action relative to the home town of volunteers, the extent to which the death rate per month for each town mirrored or failed to mirror the overall army death rate, the social consequences for surivivng families of losing sons and husbands.

There seemed to be some misunderstanding among German academics present of exactly what information has or has not survived in UK archives. Much of the wider social information revealed by this study of volunteers, might have been discovered in UK via the 1911 census which in many cases provides residential address,occupation and family setting for men who served.

On the other hands the German local government authorities recorded all residents and their families in Personal files and Adressbooks and when the system changed subsequently recorded the occupancy of all houses. This enables historians to see the downward social mobility of those who lost bread winners.

Professor Rass mentioned the very full lists of the war dead collected in some UK villages and towns and when I enquired about an example, the work down by Trevor Harkin in Coventry he suggested that these lists might be used in a similar way to explore the impact of the war on the civilian population. We gathered from another questioner that Heritage lottery money is being used to document the war dead of Islington.

It really seems to me that questions need to be asked about the use of public money to list only the dead. I welcome the initiative of the Imperial War Museum to rectify the balance and collect data on all who served.

However, I would like to see this extended to look, as Professor Rass has done, at what happened after the war. When studying the 4th South Midland Brigade of the RFA (Territorial Force) I have tried to link names to the 1911 census and look at what I am beginning to suspect was the detrimental affect of the War on men and officers who survived.

However, we In the UK do not as yet have the records to follow up the post war experiences of the people who survived, nor of the families of those who died. For that we need the 1921 Census which will not become available for study until 2021 more than two years after the centenary ends and after the date when the Imperial war Museum is going to call a halt to public contributions and remove its site from free public access.

I know very little about research on the First World War done in Europe nor of Forums comparable to this. So it was a welcome opportunity to hear a speaker from Germany. Professor Rass made me wonder about the timing of these public projects and the use or neglect of our many UK lists of those who fell.

I decided to post here to invite members views and a wider discussion

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You're quite right to ask the question...

I'm currently researching the impact of the Great War on my home town of Macclesfield, Cheshire.

In 1914 this was a small mill town of around 30,000 people that would see over 500 of it's sons make the ultimate sacrifice and many more, old before their time, come home from the war broken in body and spirit - a situation that affected every family and every street and was reflected in cities, towns and villages right across the country.

Many men who were deemed to be "able-bodied" did not receive any form of recompense (despite the lingering effects of gas poisoning, disease and mental trauma), whilst others were awarded only token payments that concluded soon after the war. Despite these restrictions, It should be noted that 10 years after the armistice, almost two and a half million men were in receipt of a pension for war disabilities of some sort (approximately 40 per cent of the soldiers who served in the war) and forty-eight special mental hospitals still tended 65,000 shell-shock victims.

For many ex-soldiers, their health continued to deteriorate as the results of their terrible wounds continued to make themselves felt. In 1928 alone, there were over 6,000 new issues of artificial limbs as a result of war wounds.

Going back to my home town, a gentleman who married and resided in Macclesfield following his return from the war, died in 1943 from blood poisoning that his death certificate recorded as directly attributable to a gun shot wound suffered during his service in France.

As for researching this information, the Genealogist.com is digitizing the War Office Casualty Lists (currently only 1917-18). Additionally, local newspapers, absent voters lists, Medal Index Cards/Silver War Badge lists and certain war memorials/rolls of honour can be useful sources.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Evelyn,

It really seems to me that questions need to be asked about the use of public money to list only the dead. I welcome the initiative of the Imperial War Museum to rectify the balance and collect data on all who served.

Thank you!

For that we need the 1921 Census which will not become available for study until 2021 more than two years after the centenary ends and after the date when the Imperial war Museum is going to call a halt to public contributions and remove its site from free public access.

Good point. Based on feedback on the forum, we've changed our minds about that. Lives of the First World War will remain active whilst people continue to contribute to life stories. As other data sources become available, such as 1921 Census, they can easily be referenced from within #LivesOfWW1.

best regards,

Luke (Smith)

IWM

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you so much, Luke. This is very good news and makes more sense of what I want to look at myself.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...