AT LEAST two Wiltshire soldiers who died serving the country in the First World War have still not been officially commemorated – nearly 100 years since war broke out.
And local historian Richard Broadhead, who this week launched the Wiltshire Soldiers website to document the county’s 12,000 casualties of war, said there could be as many as a dozen more soldiers from the Swindon area whose names are not recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission or Ministry of Defence, even though their names appear on war memorials or headstones in cemeteries.
The two men not commemorated are Tom Edward H Fox, who died aged 33 of wounds received in France and is buried in Radnor Street Cemetery, and Walter Thomas E Harris, 22, of Royal Wootton Bassett, who died in 1920.
Richard said: “I think it’s a scandal – I think we owe it to them to remember who they were and what they did in service to this country.”
The 47-year-old has been researching the first-of-its-kind project for 12 years without funding and his research has led to numerous graves being commemorated by the CWGC.
Most notably, this year his work for Finding The Forgotten saw Gunner George William Hicks, 23, of Shrivenham, added to the Roll of Honour along with five others, even though his grave still cannot be found.
And now he has released a list of more than 60 soldiers who are missing vital information needed to check if they are commemorated.
Richard, of Hilmarton, said: “Every year the politicians stand in front of the war memorial and whisper the words ‘lest we forget’ but they don’t even know who they are remembering.
“Just one guy who is forgotten is terrible but we don’t even know how many of the names on that list have been commemorated. The one thing we do know is the GWGC’s list is incomplete.
“We are doing them a disservice by not telling their story and I feel that is how we can best remember them. Not by standing in front of a memorial and muttering a few words.
“It is not as simple as picking the name off a war memorial and matching it up to a record on the Roll of Honour in a game of word association. It is a complex process that involves finding all the pieces of the jigsaw.
“We look through all available records, newspapers, memorials - not just one source. We won’t make up someone just to check that box and they will remain as they are until we have the necessary information, so I would appeal for the public to help us find out who these guys were.”
Matt Morris, spokesman for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, said: “This does happen and we thank local groups for bringing it to our attention.
“The decision rests with the MoD, who arbitrate commemorations, and if the decision is made to correct the errors of the past then we rectify it.”
Anyone with any information about the soldiers listed (left) should email Richard at email@example.com