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Berkshire Family Historian
September 1999

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Berkshire War Memorial Project - an update

Alan Hutchins

In 1997 I discovered that the original war memorial transcription project started by Mike Wilshin in 1985 had come to a halt after his death. I decided to complete it and found that 50 memorials had been published and another 80 had been transcribed, but were in various stages of checking and typing. Some of the memorials gave a description and location and others did not (some had names of the fallen and others had inscriptions as well). I had no idea what had been checked, so I decided to verify all the memorials that had been done, as well as finding new ones.

The first (and logical, so I thought) step was to contact the Royal British Legion headquarters in Arborfield for a list of monuments in the county, only to be disappointed - they did not have one. At this point I decided to visit every village and hope to find them all. As some of the memorials previously transcribed were monuments, and some were plaques inside the parish church, it seemed prudent to visit every church as well. I obtained a list of all the parish churches in the county, some 278, from the Berkshire Record Office, photocopied my county map so I could mark off where I had been and set about my task.

I decided (rightly or wrongly) that the memorials I would transcribe would be those to a war or conflict, raised by parishes, villages, congregations, colleagues, etc, not those to individuals, raised by the family, and not on gravestones, as these would be covered in time by other projects transcribing churchyards. Also I would only transcribe memorials containing names, not dedication plaques on memorial halls etc. After visiting around 60 churches I discovered that the Imperial War Museum was working on a National Inventory of War Memorials. I contacted the project co-ordinator only to be told that they were collecting memorials to individuals and those without names. They were not, however, instigating the transcriptions themselves, but relying on individuals sending information. It was at this point that I realised that the project would take longer than originally envisaged, as I now had to revisit the 6o churches already done. I was not disheartened (much).

As there were now several types of memorial emerging, I decided to divide them into sections for ease of issue. Part 1 is to inhabitants of parishes, villages or towns and raised by their communities. Part 2 is to individuals, raised by family, friends or comrades. Part 3 is to members of church congregations (other than Church of England), schools, colleges, clubs, businesses and associations. Part 4 is to regiments and military units and Part 5 are memorials without names. Parts 1,2 and 4, when ready for issue will be complete apart from any memorials I may have missed, but parts 3 and 5 will need a great deal more work as there are many schools, businesses, village halls still to be visited. However, they will be issued anyway with the memorials completed so far. I am hopeful that parts 1 and 2 will be completed by the end of the year, and all other parts issued soon afterwards.

So, here we are two and a half years, 530 memorials, and thousands of miles travelling the county later. My spare time has been totally consumed by war memorials (weekends transcribing, lunchtimes and evenings typing), not having had any time for my other hobbies (family history, painting military figurines, and collecting and researching campaign medals), and still with 70 churches to visit. But the end is now in sight.

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Berkshire Family History Society 2001

updated 10th June 2001