Cel­e­brat­ing Your Projects

Rose­mary Collins dis­cov­ers how the Isle­worth 390 project has en­cour­aged a com­mu­nity to com­mem­o­rate the lo­cal men who died in the First World War

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - CONTENTS -

The Lon­don bor­ough re­search­ing WW1 ser­vice­men

Like ev­ery town in Bri­tain, the West Lon­don bor­ough of Isle­worth has a war me­mo­rial. It lists 390 men from the area who died fight­ing in the First World War. To co­in­cide with the cen­te­nary of the war, the Isle­worth 390 project has been re­search­ing the men’s stories with the help of a team of lo­cal vol­un­teers, as project co-or­di­na­tor Su­san Casey ex­plains.

How did the project be­gin?

In 2013 we got to­gether with schools and churches, and formed our­selves into a group un­der the aegis of the Isle­worth So­ci­ety. What we wanted to do was find out more about the lives of the men on the Isle­worth Me­mo­rial – what they were like as peo­ple, their fam­i­lies, and how the war af­fected them. In Novem­ber 2014 we in­vited 390 chil­dren from lo­cal schools to come to the very first Re­mem­brance Sun­day ser­vice that the project was in­volved in. The pupils each wore a spe­cially de­signed sash with the name of a dif­fer­ent ser­vice­man on it. They walked to and from the me­mo­rial in a parade around the town, and then took part in the ser­vice. The tra­di­tion has con­tin­ued ev­ery year.

‘We tried to find out more about their fam­i­lies, what their jobs were and where they died’

What do the chil­dren think of the project?

On 2018’s Re­mem­brance Sun­day in par­tic­u­lar, the chil­dren were very ex­cited but also very solemn. Each one was given a scroll con­tain­ing a cer­tifi­cate and a page about their par­tic­u­lar ser­vice­man. We had feed­back from one of the head­teach­ers, who wrote: “The big­gest im­pact for the stu­dents is the scroll that brings into sharp fo­cus the fact that the name on their sash was a real per­son – a fa­ther, a son, a brother, a twin and a life lived in Isle­worth walk­ing the same streets as them be­fore their lives were cut short.”

How are you re­search­ing the ser­vice­men?

We did most of the re­search on­line us­ing search en­gines; web­sites such as an­ces­try.co.uk, find­my­past. co.uk and forces-war-records.co.uk; cen­sus records; and Army records. The 1939 Reg­is­ter was re­ally help­ful for find­ing in­for­ma­tion about where peo­ple lived af­ter the 1911 cen­sus. We also searched the his­tor­i­cal birth and death in­dexes on the Gen­eral Reg­is­ter Of­fice’s web­site ( www.gro.gov.uk). The Mid­dle­sex Chron­i­cle, our lo­cal news­pa­per, was a ter­rific re­source, and we con­sulted other news­pa­pers too. We talked to lo­cal peo­ple and gained in­for­ma­tion from them as well. We tried to find out more about the ser­vice­men’s fam­i­lies, what their jobs were, where they died, and as far as pos­si­ble what mil­i­tary records were avail­able.

When will the project be fin­ished?

We have all but com­pleted the re­search – we’re just down to 28 of the 390 names that we don’t have any in­for­ma­tion about, but we’re hop­ing to nar­row that down even fur­ther in the next few weeks. At the mo­ment the last batch of in­for­ma­tion is go­ing up onto the web­site, which has a page for each of the sol­diers.

What are your plans for the fu­ture?

We have re­ceived fund­ing for a book about the 390 that we’re go­ing to pub­lish this year. Also a short film about the project is in the post-pro­duc­tion stages – the same team has made an­other film about our work, which is on YouTube ( bit.ly/390film).

Chil­dren wear sashes with sol­diers’ names at one of the pa­rades

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