Q. Why have an online memorial?
A. Whilst visiting Connaught Cemetery on the Somme some years ago, I discovered the grave of Pte John Anderson, a Swanscombe man killed during the battle of the Somme. On my return back to Swanscombe, I went to find the war memorial only to discover that unlike many other town war memorials, there are no names inscribed on it. I decided to research all the men of Swanscombe who gave their lives in the first world war and create a permanent online memorial to them. The irony is that the Swanscombe war memorial states "Their names liveth forever more" yet very few people know who 'they' were. On the approach to the centenary of the outbreak of the first world war (4th August 2014) I felt it was important not to forget these men.
Q. Where is the war memorial in Swanscombe?
A. The war memorial is located in the south west corner of the Recreation Ground, near to the gate on Gunn Road. It is a simple, free standing memorial inscribed "To the memory of all from this district who lost their lives in the defence of freedom. Their names liveth forever more. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them". There is a stone Roll of Honour on the side of All Saints Church, Galley Hill Road with names of those killed (see photo on 'Memorial Roll' page). St Peter & St Paul Church has Roll of Honour in book form.
Q. How can I help?
A. Information is the key to this memorial. Having researched my own families involvement I have uncovered numerous facts, including photos & medals (the website image is that of one of my great grandfathers, a photo discovered only this year). If you are related to any of these men and have any letters, photos, documents or ephemera relating to them, please contact me so that that information can be added to your relatives page.
Q. Why are there more complete records for some men then others?
A. There are some records that fully exist - Medal Index Cars & Soldiers Died in the Great War. These hold some useful details however the 'best' records to find are the soldiers Service Record. Sadly, about 60% of these records were destroyed during the second world war when the repository they were stored in was bombed by the Luftwaffe. Of the 2 million surving 'burnt records', some are complete where as others may be just a scorched fragment of one page. These records are held at the National Archive in WO 363. There are a further 750,000 records for men who were either already serving in the army before 1914 or who were discharged during the war for medical reasons. These documents are also housed at the National Archive in WO 364.
Q. Why would a man from Swanscombe end up in a non Kentish regiment? What reason would there be for them to end up, for instance, in the East Lancashire Regt?
A. There are a number of reasons for this. At the start of the war, many men decided to join the army and as a flight of fancy, men did sign up to 'far flung' regiments. Once the war was well & truely underway and the casualty list grew, whole blocks of men earmarked for certain regiments would be moved to make up shortfalls in other regiments. As an example, one of my great grandfathers joined the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers but within weeks, he & all the other men from his battalion with surnames starting with the letter H were moved to the Loyal North Lancashire Regt due to a shortfall. Possibly the saddest reason is the lesson learnt from the 'Pals' Battalions. Numerous battalions were raised and almost entirely filled by men from a particular area / town & often from workers from the same factory. Whilst admirable & fitting that men who knew each other & worked together would fight together, it was realised that when these battalions suffered heavy losses (The Accrington Pals suffered 235 killed & 350 wounded in the first twenty minutes of the first battle of the Somme), the life blood of an entire town or company could be destroyed in the metaphorical blink of an eye.
Q. Why are some Greenhithe addresses listed on the site?
A. Some parts of Greenhithe, around the Knockhall area, whilst being in the village of Greenhithe were also within the parish of Swanscombe. As such, the men living within the parishes of Swanscombe are remembered here.