Date of release: Monday, September 22, 2014

First World War dead commemoratedThe University of Greenwich has dug into its archives to commemorate the First World War. In a new online project, members of the public are being asked to contribute any information about the fallen listed on the university’s war memorial.

Fifty-five staff and students from Woolwich Polytechnic, one of the predecessors of the university, died in the conflict, almost all of them local to the Borough of Greenwich. Now University Archivist Will Robley is revealing archive secrets about them, and how the institution dealt with the impact of the war. His ongoing research is online at http://blogs.gre.ac.uk/universityarchive/, with previously unseen records available.

The archive includes copies of the Woolwich Polytechnic Magazine, created to remember those killed and stay in touch with those fighting. The latter’s letters to the magazine from the trenches contain some surprises, as one soldier boasts of the mahogany furniture in his dug-out, while another reports an officer complaining that his trench has no piano.

Other sources show the wider impact of the war on the ‘home front’. Classes for Belgian refugees were set up, while women working as domestic staff were given pay increases as they took on traditionally male responsibilities, though only ‘for the duration of the war’. However, Will says it is the casualties for which he needs the public’s help.

“Some years ago, Professor Peter Doyle’s research identified the names of the fallen on a number of war memorials, but more significantly in the records of the University Archive. To build on his work we hope to develop more detailed pictures of these men and their lives in the Borough as fathers, husbands, sons, and members of the academic and student body. We would like to hear from anyone who has knowledge of any of these men through either family or local connections. Remembering these them as more than just names on a stone seems a fitting tribute on the centenary of their deaths”.

Will’s project commemorates each man on the anniversary of his death, with the first being on 23 September.

The project runs alongside the online memorial created by Professor Peter Doyle for the fallen at http://w3.gre.ac.uk/directory/memorial/Part1.html

All the fallen are also commemorated on the plaque outside the Dreadnought Building, on the university’s Greenwich Campus.

Story by Public Relations