War Memorials and Rolls of Honour
There have been many wars in British history, but it was only in the twentieth century that memorials to the slain were created. Individuals had often been commemorated with plaques in churches and cathedrals, but these were usually for officers and only at the behest of their family who would pay for them. The second Boer War of 1899-1902 led to what we would now recognise as war memorials being created, which list names of the men killed in war. Often these were in the forms of plaques in churches but there were also ones in public places on large stone monuments; they exist in York, Cambridge and near Wendover in Buckinghamshire for example.
In Ealing and the surrounding districts there was much talk in 1918-1920 about how those men who had died in the First World War should be marked. It was felt that their sacrifice, tragic as it was, had been worthwhile because it had prevented much of Europe being conquered by German military might. It was also hoped that this war might be the last, and though this was not to be, those at the time were not to know this.
In January 1919, two months after the guns fell silent on the Western Front, it was suggested that a permanent memorial be built to those whose lives had been lost. Ealing Council formed a committee to oversee the collection and distribution of funds which were earnestly solicited. At first sums of money were given to individuals who had suffered from the war’s effects, often those whose health had suffered and to support the education of the children who were now fatherless.
By October 1919, £5,565 had been collected. In the following month, the location of the war memorial was being discussed. It had to be somewhere central, but also somewhere that was not at the busiest part of the town. It was decided that it could be erected to the east side of what was then Ealing central Library and is now Pitzhanger Manor. This would be an Entrance of Remembrance, with two walls listing the slain in alphabetical order. Awards of medals for distinguished conduct would be listed, but no other details.
It was also envisaged that a heavy gun mounted on stone would also be placed nearby, as a reminder of the conflict, but this idea was dropped (a tank was located at Dean Gardens in the 1920s, however). There would also be a tree lined walk from Ealing Green to the gateway, too, but again this was not adopted.
The architect was Leonard Shuffrey. He lived at Thorncote, Edgehill Road, in north Ealing. Tragically, his son, Gilbert, had been killed in the war and whose name was thus commemorated there. The memorial was made of Portland stone, built to last and cost about £1,500, and the inscription of about 1,000 names cost several hundred more pounds. The four urns on the pedestals, incidentally, came from Elm Grove, a house once on Ealing Common, demolished in the 1890s and once home to Spencer Perceval. The inscription on the gate reads, ‘In Proud and Grateful Memory of the men of this Borough who laid down their lives in the Great War of 1914-1918’.
It was unveiled on Sunday 13 November 1921. The memorial was officially handed over to the council and the then Mayor, David Hall-Jones, received it into their care. The bands of the Salvation Army and the Middlesex Regiment played on this occasion.
Although the memorial used the word ‘men’, this was not strictly true. On the memorial is the name of one woman. She was Alice Maud Harman who lived in Glenfield Road, West Ealing, and had worked in a munitions factory in Acton, where she had died in a fire in December 1916.
A few of the names on the memorial came from well known local families. Gilbert Shuffrey has already been mentioned but there were others. Horace Pite, the son of another Ealing architect, is commemorated, as is Wilfred Nield, son of Ealing’s MP.
Apart from the public memorial, which was added to in 1951 with names of those killed in the Second World War, there was also a Roll of Honour in book form which is less well known (it exists in Ealing central Library and can be viewed on request). The book is hard back, red leather binding and with a gold title, ‘Vincit Amor Patriae’, then has the borough coat of arms. It is not known exactly when this was created. Once again, this is a list of those killed locally in alphabetical order, but it does give a little more detail. The rank, unit and address of each man, if known, is included. Any medal for gallantry is also noted.
The names on the memorial and the roll of honour do not entirely overlap, though in many cases the same names can be found in both. Miss Harman, for instance, does not feature on the Roll of Honour and a few men listed there were from Hanwell, at a time when Hanwell and Ealing were separate districts.
Although there was much discussion about a monument to mark Acton’s war dead; one suggestion being an arch of remembrance in the High Street, it was decided, as it was in Hanwell, that a better use of the money raised would be to put it towards building an extra wing to the local hospital. Yet those killed locally were remembered in a Roll of Honour book, as happened in Ealing. This was decided in a council meeting on 12 October 1920. According to the minutes, ‘the committee desired £30 to be spent on the provision of a book recording the names and services of local men who fell in the Great War. The book, it was suggested, might be kept in the local archives, and a suitable tablet at an estimated cost of £70 prominently displayed in the future extension of the Council Offices, announcing that the book was there and could be inspected by anyone interested’. I don’t know if the tablet was ever put up, but the book was missing for some years until the Acton History Society found it in Ealing Town Hall in about 1998. It is now safe at Ealing Library and can be viewed under supervision.
The book, in my opinion, is handsome produced and represented good value for money – costing the same as the weekly wages of ten working class men at the time. It is leather bound, with gold lettering and the title, ‘1914-1918 Borough of Acton Roll of Honour – “Let those who come after see to it that their names be not forgotten”’. The pages of made from parchment and the arms and motto of what was then the new Borough of Acton can be seen inside. The famous poem of Laurence Binyon follows – ‘They shall not grow old…’
We then have the list of names in alphabetical order, with rank, regiment, decorations and regimental number (but, unlike the Ealing roll, no address). Among those listed there are Captain Allastair McReady-Diarmid of the 17th battalion of the Middlesex Regiment, who won a posthumous Victoria Cross in 1918. There are also, unusually, two civilian fatalities; Dorothy Crowther who was a munitions worker and died in an accident, and Robert Dore who died from wounds from an air raid.
Although Greenford was then a small village just to the north of Ealing in the 1910s, nineteen of the men who enlisted in the Forces never returned. It us far smaller than the Ealing memorial and is in the form of a simple cross with the names of the Greenford fatalities. A Memorial Fund had been established in early 1920 with 47 members, each contributing money towards it. More money was raised when a collecting book was placed at the post office and by the year’s end enough had been raised to pay £150 for the cross.
Frederick Pushman of Hanwell was the builder, and he used Portland stone. The cross is thirteen feet high and apart from the names bears the inscription, ‘Ye who live on mid English pastures green, remember us and think what might have been’ and ‘Their Names liveth Evermore’. It was unveiled on 12 June 1921. Among those present were Lord and Lady Lawrence and Lady Mosley, mother of the district’s MP. There were also the relatives of the men who had been killed, specially invited and who stood in the immediate vicinity of the cross. It was unveiled by Fane de Salis, chairman of the county council. Wreaths were then placed at its foot.
Above: Memorial Service at Greenford War Memorial, Oldfield Lane
As with Ealing and Greenford, but unlike Hanwell and Acton, Southall has a prominent war memorial, too. This stands just outside the manor house and so is in a very central location. It lacks a list of names, but has the inscription, ‘In Grateful Memory of our local heroes who gave their lives in the Great War, 1914-1918’. It was unveiled on 8 April 1922 by Colonel Sidney Peel, DSO, MP for Uxbridge (Southall being in that constituency from 1918-1939). He gave a speech on the unveiling ceremony and a large crowd was gathered. About 800 men from Southall had been killed in the war.
Originally, the plan had been to raise money to build and endow a cottage hospital, but insufficient money was raised. A committee organised by the council decided to use the subscriptions raised from local people and local businesses (especially Otto Monsted’s) for a cenotaph memorial instead. The architect was Mr James Thomson, surveyor to the council. It was built by the Southall Masonry Company, run by Mr F.S. Honey, who had served in the Royal Engineers in the war and work was carried out by a man who had been wounded in the war.
The memorial was in Portland stone with a blue York stone base. It is 13 feet high and its base is five and a half feet by six feet. Originally there were bronze brackets at each side for flags to be placed there on special occasions.
Above: Southall War Memorial, The Green outside Manor Park
Other local memorials
There are many other, smaller, war memorials in schools, churches and workplaces to commemorate the fallen who were associated with those places. One of the largest is that at Featherstone School, Southall. There are only two other known local examples of a roll of honour in book form. One is that of the Otto Monsted Margarine Factory, for the 50 employees killed in the war. It had a picture of each man.
The other is the Southall Roll of Honour, compiled in the autumn of 1915 by a local business, which aimed to list all local men who had volunteered for military services, with rank, regiment and address. It notes if any had been decorated, killed, captured or wounded. It was also illustrated with pictures of some of the men. Unlike all those other rolls of honour and memorials listed, it included the living as well as the dead. Both of these are located at Ealing Library.