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
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