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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

CWGC or Not?


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I've been researching a list of 26 names on a school memorial. Some are listed by the CWGC and some aren't. What was the official policy?

R Eminson - joined as RFA officer, contracted pleurisy, died at home during convalescence - No Record

C F Clark - enlisted as a stoker, 1918. Died of pneumonia within two weeks of starting training - listed as 'Died'

W Kenning - invalided out of RAMC in summer 1916, to die January 1917 as a result of injuries - No Record

E S B Adair, died at home soon after starting training with the Artists Rifles - listed by CWGC

There is also an artillery casualty I know of listed on the CWGC site who drowned in clay pits whilst home on leave.

Why are some who died 'in uniform' not listed? Why does CWGC not include those who died of wounds, soon after being discharged as a result of receiving wounds?

Why include soldiers whose death was unconnected to the war?

I'm sure someone must know...

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The criteria for war grave status and listing by CWGC are as follows....

The person concerned had to die between 04.08.14 and 31.08.21 inclusive and then fit into one of the following three categories. Nobody who died outside the qualifying period can qualify for war grave status.

1) Any serving member of a Commonwealth armed force who died in the qualifying period of any cause whatsoever and in any location (killed in action, died of wounds, died of illness, died by accident, died by homicide or suicide, died by judicial execution).

2) Any former member of a Commonwealth armed force who died after discharge/resignation/retirement etc but within the qualifying period of an injury or illness caused by service with a Commonwealth armed force during the qualifying period. If the injury or illness did not actually cause the death but exacerbated another illness and thereby hastened death, the casualty qualified.

3) Any member of one of the Recognised Civilian Organisations who died during the qualifying period BUT who additionally had to be on duty at the time of death and to die of a war related cause (ie not natural causes or accident unrelated to the war). There is a set list of such civilian organisations (Mercantile Marine, Red Cross etc). This means that not all members of such organisations qualify. The definition of 'on duty' seems to automatically include anyone serving overseas.

The rules are exactly the same for WW2 except that the qualifying period is 03.09.39 to 31.12.47 inclusive. There is also a different and longer list of civilian organisations.

If a casualty can be proven concusively to fit into one of these groups, they will be listed once approved by MoD or similar authority in Australia, NZ, Canada, India and South Africa.

Sometimes men have been missed through clerical error and these usually come from the category of discharged men dying later with the authorities being unaware of the death.

However, often relatives and friends ascribed death to war causes when this was not accepted by the authorities. Local committees sometimes added these names and the names of men who died outside the qualifying period or who were non-qualifying civilians to village memorials etc and so will not be recorded by CWGC.

Also, many names on unofficial memorials are spelt differently to the name in the official CWGC list and are sometimes missed by researchers.

If you would like to post the details of any you have in mind, we can look at the specific cases.

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A point worth mentioning is that the CWGC was not formed for collectors and researchers. Their records were, no doubt, made available on the web for the main purpose of allowing relatives to find out about their loved one's last resting place or memorials where they are remembered and commemorated. By placing the records "on-line" it must have released a fair amount of man power who would otherwise have been doing nothing else but replying to enquiries. Also it is no good "having a go" at the CWGC (not aimed at you, Dave) if someone is not recorded who you feel should be. They are merely agents who are supplied with the names and information (by the Ministry of Defence, Terry ?). However they are a useful conduit, if there is sufficient evidence available, to pass information back to the MoD to get a claim substantiated.

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You are right (I don't think Dave was having 'a go').

CWGC is obliged under the terms of its Royal Charter to maintain and make available to relatives a list of names of the fallen from both world wars - along with the names of the civilian war dead from WW2 who died through enemy action. They used to do this by publishing paper registers but technology and costs now mean that they do this online.

I slightly disagree with Jim over the 'freeing up of staff' point. This was, no doubt, the intention of transferring the data to an online system but I suspect that it has had the opposite effect. The information is now available to a wider audience who can compare data with other online sources and official printed material. Any discrepancies can be communicated by the touch of a button through email.

CWGC still gets tens of thousands of enquiries each year and, agreed, the number of letters may have decreased but the easier to send emails will have gone through the roof. However, I expect the number of enquiry staff was reduced ahead of an anticipated fall in enquiry numbers!

Jim is right in that CWGC only record the information they have been given by the various military authorities. They have no remit to cross check the minutiae of such information to verify it although they will always amend any proven errors. They act as the first filter for possible cases of non-commemoration and, if they believe there to be a possible missing name, they pass the data to MoD (in the UK) for a final decision. That is how the system works.

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These are very informative, thanks. Glad you spotted that I wasn't having a go at the CWGC :D (sorry if it sounded like a moan). They've processed a couple of minor corrections I sent with great speed and courtesy, and I can recommend the free educational resources for use in school. It's so refreshing to be able to access information easily AND without cost.

The question was partly prompted by curiosity over how the final numbers of war dead are calculated. I assumed that the CWGC had the definitive answer, but from your replies I guess the answer is 'how long is a piece of string'. If our memorial is typical, up to 15% of Great War casualties died of illness before firing a shot in anger. Presumably this was especially true during the influenza outbreaks of 1918.

For the casualty who died six months after being invalided out, the school clearly considered him a casualty, but there cannot be much evidence left now to argue either way.

The other man not recorded had the following obituary (abridged):

"It is with deep regret we have to record the death on March 2nd of Richard Percival (Percy) Eminson,late RFA, ... The deceased donned khaki in February of last year and but few months had passed ere he was stricken with pleurisy and other allied troubles. After spending some months in hospital he was thought to be on the road to recovery and returned homein the Autumn, but unfortunately he had to take to his bed practically at once and was never able to leave it until his death as above stated... the service was conducted by army chaplain Capt W'm Jollans (?). Afterwards the cortege went to the parish church where the rector the Rev. J. Blew officiated, Capt Jollans assisting by reading the lessons...

This seems to fit the criteria 1). I've been able to contact some surviving relatives, so the decision about whether to take this further should probably rest with them.

Many thanks for your help


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The RFA officer you mention is a likely case and could be relatively easy to prove - with the death certificate and his military records. As an officer there is every liklihood that these survive.

I share the view of CWGC as laid down in their policies - that nobody has the right to deny a casualty his proper commemoration - even relatives. Back in the twenties some next-of-kin did ask for the names of their loved ones to be left off the official memorials to the missing but this was not possible. CWGC's Charter does not allow them to do this.

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