War Memorial Research (3): No easy match on the CWGC database?

In my experience, at least half the time, I can match a name to an individual without too much difficulty, particularly if there is information about next of kin on the CWGC database.  Here are some suggestions on where you might look for information about those whose names appear to be missing from the database or for whom the database offers too many possible matches.

Have they moved away? Bear in mind that soldiers on your War Memorial, who have no local address attached to them, are likely to have had some close local family connections, or to have hailed originally from your parish or town.  A not insignificant number may turn out to have been serving with Commonwealth forces following their emigration, or that of their parents.

George Brisco, who was serving in the Australian Forces, appears on the Sea Scouts’ Memorial Plaque inside St Peter’s Church in Petersham, though not on the Petersham War Memorial.  In George’s case, finding the Australian Service Records was quite an eye-opener running to 40 pages of high quality digital images.  In addition to his service records, the Australian Red Cross went to commendable lengths to track down other soldiers in hospitals and camps in England, who might be able to provide information about the incident in which George lost his life—just in that file, there were 45 pages’ worth of letters, records of interviews and communications with his mother.   The Missing Persons’ File included a fine photo of George in uniform.  You can locate and view records of those serving in the Australian Imperial Forces at the Australian War Memorial and at the National Archives of Australia.  Both organisations have sites that are easy to search and provide excellent information sheets.  The digitised records for WW1 service personnel are also free to view.  And while it can be months before one hears back from the CWGC, a query about the location of a diary, brought an answer within 24 hours.  Same day really, if you consider the time difference.  [Thank you, and well done, Australia!]

Finding people who have no obvious connection with the place: Of the six names on a Leicestershire War Memorial that I am researching, three had, initially, no obvious connection with the village.  Family Reconstitution techniques played a significant part in identifying the nature of their links to the village.  This is, however, time-consuming and if you know of someone who is doing a One Place Study on the place, they may be able to assist with that part of your research.

Finding natives of the place, whose names are missing from the War Memorial: If you would like to trace some of those who grew up locally, but whose names are not listed on the memorial, then the tactic of looking for the village or district as a birthplace, leaving the surname search box empty, often generates a number of results for soldiers who had been born there, but enlisted after moving away.

Were the service records up to date? Sometimes a war memorial will include rank, or the name of a regiment: note these down, but do not take these details at face value, particularly if you are unable to find a record for someone with a low frequency surname.  Soldiers were sometimes transferred to other battalions or to other regiments in the course of their service and news of promotions towards the end of a military life may not have reached the family or the committee responsible for the list.

Can you locate the soldier in the 1911 Census?  If you are able to access the 1911 Census, you may well find your soldier recorded with those parents or that spouse or living at that address.  Most of those named on war memorials will have been enumerated in the 1901 and 1911 Censuses so looking them up may help you to ‘flesh’ out the background of those whose Service Records have not survived.

Where in the UK was the regiment based?  If you know the regiment to which the soldier was attached, that can sometimes provide a clue to the region where your soldier lived or worked.  A search engine could be used to find out where the regimental headquarters were.

Research the whereabouts of the unit and the action around the time your person died.  British Service Records for ‘other ranks’, where they’ve survived, often provide no more information than K.I.A. or D.O.W.  If you are researching an officer, or an airman, you may find, or be able to deduce, more about their military service and deaths in their files.  Search The National Archives’ online Discovery Catalogue to locate the record reference in the relevant series or start at the Records page, by clicking on Looking for a Person, which, if you are not familiar with the site gets you to the search box with opportunities to find out more en route.

The inimitable site The Long, Long Trail is the finest information resource on WW1 and if you have queries, its companion site, The Great War Forum is outstanding.  Use the first site to find some background on the regiment, or key action on a particular day during the war, so that when you ask your question on the forums, you post it to the ‘right’ group.

Once you know the regiment, you are ready to look for the battle diaries of the battalion, the regiment and the division of which it was part.  Soldiers of other ranks are rarely mentioned by name, unless for something particularly noteworthy.  You can view digital copies of the diaries The National Archives at Kew, free of charge.

Workplace Memorials: If you are researching a workplace memorial, like the War Memorial at Waterloo, which lists railway employees, or even the small memorial inside the Royal Mail Sorting Office in Kingston upon Thames, bear in mind that they will record employees who may not have lived locally.  However, listing on a workplace memorial means that if you can locate the employment records for your soldier, at least some of his or her story will be revealed.  You may even find, if you contact the organisation’s archvist, that there was mention of his death or military service in its internal publications at the time.


Who was Ronald G. Bateman?

The identity of  Ronald G. Bateman is a question that’s occupying my mind, because he  is the last ‘unidentified’ man  on the War Memorial at the Church of St Peter in Petersham,  one of three War Memorials I am currently researching.  I blog about those commemorated on this memorial  on Petersham Remembers.  Although all those named have been researched, I’ve uploaded only a few posts.  Some of the research is more stub than post, but I have certainly enough to write about for all of them.  What’s held me back recently is that I’ve been taking a Military Archives module, part of an M.Litt programme in Family and Local History, offered by the University of Dundee.

But now that’s over, and I have no excuse for further dithering, I’m finding it hard to choose the candidate for my next post, from the remaining men (and one woman) on this War Memorial.  I may have to put the names in a hat, because they’re all potential favourites.

And then there’s Ronald, for whom almost my only clue is the R.M.M that follows his name.  I can’t find an R.M.M. on any lists of military abbreviations, but my gut feeling has been that it might represent  something along the lines of Royal(?) Mercantile Marine.

For all the military historians whom I pestered at Who do you think you are? Live 2013, here is proof of the “R.M.M.” I claimed for Ronald.

The horizontal line just visible above Ronald Batemen's name indicates the end of the WW1 deaths on that side of the memorial.

The horizontal line just visible above Ronald Batemen’s name indicates the end of the WW1 deaths on that side of the memorial.

Like many other War Memorial researchers, I am a fan of The Long, Long Trail, its associated Great War Forum, the Western Front Association,  and of Paul Reed’s Battlefields of World War 2.   Thank you to all of them, and to military historian, Peter Hart, who tried to pin down this abbreviation for me.

To start with, I had a bit of an ‘own’ goal:  on my impulsive, initial ‘just-out-of interest’ jotting down of the names, I missed the thin line carved above Ronald Bateman’s name and started looking out for him in the ‘wrong’ war!

Let’s look at the evidence and some of my more recent attempts  to identify him as a casualty of WW2. I should mention that I haven’t found the WW2 list to be without error.  A ‘Florence’ Naylor on the memorial is, I believe ‘Ivy May’.  Could the G conceivably be a C?  And the R.M.M. represent something else?

A Ronald C Bateman, who earned a Long Service Medal in 1964, certainly can’t be remotely considered as this Ronald Bateman.  Unless it’s another slip.

Searching for  R. Batemans on the CWGC database, specifying WW2 deaths but not a particular service, I found 4 results, none of which was a Ronald.  A search for ‘Bateman’ in the Merchant Seaman’s medals on BT 395 at the National Archives, gave 19 results.  None was a Ronald, and none was an R.G. Bateman.  There was a Richard Bateman (BT 395/1/1916), and also a Lawrence R. Bateman, whom I think we can discount.

So far I’ve found three Bateman deaths on vessels, none of them identified as a Ronald: on the Nerissa, in August 1942, on the Scotia O.N.144978, in July 1940-the Scotia was bombed and sunk in June 1940- and on the Devonshire in May 1943.  (The death of an  Elizabeth Anne Bateman came up in a search of BT 334.)

This afternoon I’ll be researching Petersham’s residents in the 1930s and 1940s.   I have a list of the WW2 names, in order of death, and will be looking in the local newspaper for reports in the weeks and, if necessary, the months following each death.  A report on Ronald Bateman might be a little difficult to find in a resource that’s not been indexed.  I hope for some serendipity surfacing here.