The are literally ‘some’ splendid websites out there where you can find details of the final resting place of your family hero who made the supreme sacrifice so we can eat cheeseburgers in peace…here are a few of my faves.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (www.cwgc.org)
In my opinion, this is the daddy of them all. Their Debt of Honour Register is the single most important registry of war dead that exists and should the first stop for anyone searching for fallen ancestors from the two World Wars. It contains details of some 1.7 million men and women who died during these conflicts as well as information on the 23,000 cemeteries and memorials around the world where they are commemorated.
You can search the register by surname, initials, year of death, conflict, area of service and nationality. This will give you a number of possible matches, once you have found your ancestor another mouse click will give you extra information such as regiment, age, cemetery or memorial, date of death and often details such as address and next of kin.
The website is not just a database of the war dead though, there is a great ‘histories’ section which gives a good overview of some of the major conflicts including The Somme and Ypres. There is a section for schools and a great audio/video section with some excellent videos especially on the new Fromelles Cemetery.
One thing that there isn’t, is individual images of headstones, memorials. They (the CWGC) do not offer that service. But that doesn’t matter because, my next website of choice, The War Graves Photography Project, does.
The War Graves Photographic Project (http://twgpp.org)
The guys behind this project are working towards the not insignificant task of putting together a photographic record of every single CWGC headstone and memorial. To use this site simply input your ancestors name into the search box and see what appears. If nothing is there it may be that the chaps with the camera has not got to that particular cemetery/memorial yet, so it is an idea to return to the site every now and again to check their progress. Once you have found your person, there is a small charge (£3 for electronic, £5 for printed copy) to order your photograph.
So, what happens then, if your ancestor was killed in action during one of the World Wars, but for some inexplicable reason he or she is not on the CWGC ‘Debt of Honour Register’? Well, fear not my lovelies, a great little project called In From the Cold will help you out.
In From the Cold (www.infromthecold.org)
This project is dedicated to tracking down those names missing from the CWGC ‘Debt of Honour Register’. So, if your search brings up a blank, get in contact with these chaps and they will do some digging on your behalf with the aim of getting official commemoration of the ancestor in question. Splendid.
WW1Cemeteries.com is a terrific site that acts as a comprehensive guide to all the memorials and military cemeteries in France, Belgium, UK, and worldwide. With easy to use indexes of all French, Belgian and Gallipoli cemeteries, a WW2 index, a VC index and a shot at dawn index this website is well researched and of great use. There are also thousands of photographs throughout.
Finally, We have all driven, walked or cycled past war memorials in or near our home towns, sat on benches or visited churches and schools which house memorial plaques and such like. The UK National Inventory of War Memorials (www.ukniwm.org.uk) is an ongoing project to compile a record of all war memorials across the UK, regardless of type. Covering all conflicts, more than 60,000 war memorials have been transcribed so far. The only downer on this site is there is no name search facility, however that will be added very soon. And there is a nice blog too.
These are just a few interesting websites, there are many more including regional registers, regimental sites and others…So have a quick ‘Google’, you never know what you might find.