Methods – How the information was collected

An outline of the project

To document the Buckinghamshire men and women who lost their lives in the First World War we have progressively visited each village and town to photograph any war memorials, commemorative plaques, dedications, and any graves. Near the end of our project we have visited over 400 War Memorials.

More recently we have been investigating newspaper reports of fallen casualties who did not appear on a Memorial. We also wish to assemble casualties' military and genealogical details and for this we have called on the sources of information listed below. But the most important information has often come from relatives who, having seen our website, are sending us photographs and biographical notes.

At the outset we realised that we must define what we mean by ‘Buckinghamshire men’. To be included in the project, casualties must have either been born or died or lived or buried in the county. For example, a man could have been born in London but came to work in Buckinghamshire before being recruited to the services. A Lancastrian might never have been to Buckinghamshire until he was sent to a Buckinghamshire hospital where he died of his wounds. Both these examples would be included in our list.

Because some servicemen died of wounds after hostilities ended, the period of consideration was 1914 to 1921.

Some sources of information:

  • War Memorials
  • Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC)
  • Soldiers died in the Great War 1914-19 (Naval and Military Press) (SDGW)
  • Medal Index Card
  • Service Papers
  • Pension Papers
  • UK Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects
  • A comprehensive index of newspaper references to Buckinghamshire men who served in the First World War compiled by Clint Lawson
  • 1881, 1891, 1901, 1911 using; 1911 census using Find My Past
  • Baptism records including the database of the Bucks Family History Society
  • Inscriptions on Bucks War Graves and family graves
  • Unpublished information from descendents and other researchers
  • Civil Registration of births and deaths
  • Canadian Virtual War Memorial
  • Libraries and Archives Canada
  • National Archives of Australia
  • Australian War Memorial
  • Absent Voters List (1918
  • School Admission Registers
  • Trade Directories
  • Newspaper reports and obituaries
  • Parish Magazines
  • Marriage registers
  • Google
  • School Magazines
  • Who’s Who
  • Burke’s Peerage

An attempt has been made to record the following information for each casualty:

  • Forenames and Surname
  • Rank and Service Number
  • Regiment and Unit
  • Residence at death
  • Where enlisted
  • Age and date of death
  • How died and in which Theatre of War
  • Date and place of birth
  • Date and place of baptism
  • Grave/Memorial and Reference
  • Parents’ names and address, and father’s occupation
  • Wife’s name and address
  • Notes: a field that only appears in the tabulations when something of significance should be displayed

The strengths and weaknesses of the information

We have tried to be as accurate as possible but there is a significant proportion of records where the identity of individuals is ambiguous and the detail is not easy to interpret. We have tried to draw attention to these uncertainties in the tabulations of findings. But if anyone has information which contradicts or augments our observations then we would be very pleased to hear from you (using the ‘Contact Us’ facility within the website, for example).

The following paragraphs address some of the difficulties in the
interpretation of the evidence.

War memorials sometimes list names which cannot be found in the usual official records. Names appear in official records which do not appear on the expected war memorials. Sometimes it is difficult to determine whether men were listed on the memorial of the place where they were living on enlistment, or the place where they were born. On some war memorials, names, ranks and service numbers are given which helps to identify individuals. But on other memorials, adopting a policy of equality, only names, without further helpful details, are listed. Without this extra information discovery of individual identities is difficult if the name occurs commonly in the locality. Sometimes memorials list both men who served as well as those who died and it is not always easy to distinguish between the two.

There were occasional discrepancies between the sources of information. For example, the name HEWGAL appeared on the War Memorial, but the same man appeared as HEWGILL in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records, and yet from related evidence we know these two spelling variants belong to the same man. Where surname spelling variations were found, we have entered a separate record for each spelling variant.

Sometimes forenames were transposed – ‘John Arthur’ in one source appeared as ‘Arthur John’ in another, even though all other details were identical. Occasionally, digits in Service Numbers were transposed. Ages were not always precisely identical to the result of subtracting the date of birth from the date of death. Experienced family historians will not be at all surprised by such variation.

If the same man was found on several memorials, then a separate record is included in our database for each memorial location. For example, Mervyn Richard William ALLEN was recorded on memorials at Aylesbury Grammar School, Aylesbury Market Square, Aylesbury Holy Trinity and at Amersham. In consequence, four records for Mervyn Richard William ALLEN are included in the database, one for each location.

Baptism records were useful to confirm or ascertain the names of parents. Dates of baptism give an approximation of birth date but, of course, baptisms could occasionally take place months or years after the birth. The baptism records sometimes give an actual date of birth and this was occasionally our only source for this detail.

The 1891, 1901 and 1911 censuses were useful to ascertain the names of parents, the father’s occupation, and to corroborate the age of the deceased and his place of birth. Where parents’ details were not given at the time of death, the census information has been used. In these instances, the information is preceded with ‘1891:’, ‘1901:’ or ‘1911:’ in the tabulation of the search findings.