AS PREPARATIONS gather pace to mark the centenary of the
outbreak of the First World War, one parish has set out to discover
the stories of 182 men listed on its war memorial.
Using records of St Mary's, Summerstown, in south London, and
websites such as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the Vicar,
Dr Roger Ryan, and a local historian, Geoff Simmons, have uploaded
details of 160 of them on the website
www.summerstown182.wordpress.com. The site includes a street map
with a poppy symbol on their home addresses.
Mr Simmons said: "The poppy map has become so dense that it is
difficult to read the street names. So many front doors to which a
telegram was delivered, and darkness descended. The effect,
repeated on a national scale, indicates the enormous impact of the
war on the British nation."
He was inspired to do the research by his own family
connections, he said. "My grandfather was wounded on the Somme, and
my dad, Robert, was a padre with the Royal Artillery, who was
captured on Crete in 1941, and spent four years as a prisoner of
Dr Ryan said: "This is a very suitable way of commemorating the
war. It puts faces and biographies into history. It's important
that people who are killed in war are not forgotten, particularly
people who come from ordinary backgrounds."
The project grew from an interview that Dr Ryan gave to his
local paper before Remembrance Sunday last year, when he sought
information about a person he knew only as "I. Clay", who, some
years before, had left a posy of artificial flowers on his doorstep
with a family tree of Private William Clay, requesting that it be
placed on St Mary's memorial, which includes his name. "I have
placed them there every Remembrance Sunday since," he said.
Mr Simmons offered to do some research, first on the Clays and
then into three Sunday-school teachers whose deaths in the Great
War were marked by a tablet found by Dr Ryan buried under the
vicarage compost heap, about 15 years ago.
Then they decided to research the lives of all 182 names on the
war memorial. "It has grown, and it is growing," Dr Ryan said. "But
unfortunately we still have not discovered who 'I. Clay' was. There
is a possibility that it is a woman called Iris, who is listed
among Private Clay's descendants, but we are not certain."