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Fallen WWI soldiers remembered

14 February 2014

Row on row: the poppy map produced by St Mary's, Summerstown fallen

Row on row: the poppy map produced by St Mary's, Summerstown fallen

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 war."

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."

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