2014 will see the centenary of the outbreak of what has become known as The Great War.
At last nights full meeting of Thurrock Council, leader John Kent proposed a motion to set up a cross party working group to organise events to mark the outbreak of war.
A full discussion was had at the meeting but perhaps the most salient suggestion was made by Corringham and Fobbing councillor, Mark Coxshall.
Cllr Coxshall: “As we know events were sparked by an assassination in Sarajevo. A few years ago, I visited the Balkans and in particular the area of Srebrencia. I took my son with me and it was a harrowing but memorable experience.
“We have seen the council, through the Diversity Champions scheme, go to Auschwitz and go to Berlin. I think it may be an idea next year to visit Srebrencia.”
The motion was passed unanimously.
Instead of Councillors being whisked away to a freebie trip abroad a much better idea would be to find out who those that gave their lives from Thurrock actually are and create a permanent record of their sacrifice.
Every November poppy wreaths are laid at the various war memorials across the borough but what do any of us know about those lists of names engraved in them?
Those that died are aged from 18 to 60, they died from the first month of the WW1 in August 1914 and Thurrock service men were still dying months if not years after the end of hostilities in November 1918 from disease and wounds.
They died in the trenches, as prisoners of war and they died at sea from being torpedoed or their ships simply disapearing, they died of disease or wounds and training accidents.
Each name has a story, they had a family, they lived in the roads we are so familiar with. Yet who were they? Where did they live? Who were their families? Where did they work? When did they joint the Amry, Air Force or Navy?
Where do their mortal remains lay? How many Thurrock residents died as prisoners of war of the Turks and lay buried in Iraq? How many have no known grave or died at sea? And who are the war dead buried in Thurrock’s cemeteries? What is their story? How many died on the first day of the Somme or at Gallipoli?
The records are available to piece together the stories of those men that made the ultimate sacrifice.
The war memorials would be a start providing an initial list, the CWGC website will provide many more names as not everyone connected with the borough is listed on the local war memorials as many names for whatever reason have been missed off, many churches hold seperate memorials to those parishoners that died, many service records survive (although a large chunk were lost during the blitz). The medal cards exist for all servicemen so do the merchant navy records.Microfilm copies of the local newspapers are (or were) held at Grays Library from 1914-1918 and these contain death notices and photographs of those who died. The 1911 census is available which will give family and occupation details.
Instead of using taxpayers money to send people to Srebrencia – use it instead for the museum staff to compile a permanent records – using the resources available – of the men who gave their lives in WW1. The permanent record could either be a published book or a website.
A few years back the museum produced an excellant book on Thurrock during WW2. Perhaps it is time to produce a book on Thurrock during WW1?
PS What events did Srebrenica play in the outbreak of WW1?
Editor’s comment. I think cllr Coxshall was referring to the fact that WW1 broke out due to an assassination in Sarajevo and then we witnessed genocide in Srebrenica.
I think Ed’s idea re tracing history is magnificent and will work on promoting that.
At least five 17 year olds from Grays died during WW1 yet who they are has faded fom most peoples memories.
The Cllr’s ideas re Srebrinica are not relevant to WW1 but Ed’s are superb! They should be brought to the Council’s attention ASAP.
Eds idea would be much cheaper too!
For example who was Sapper Frank Daley of the Canadian Railway Troops – how did he get his Military Medal and why did he die aged just 22 on the 20th December 1918? His wife lived at 153, Cromwell Rd in Grays but do any of us know his story?
HE SURVIVED THE WAR AND DIED IN THE FLU EPIDEMIC.
Son of Michael and Margaret Daley, of New Hampshire, U.S.A.; husband of Elisabeth M. Daley, of 153, Cromwell Rd., Grays, Essex, England.
Awarded Military Medal on April 12, 1918 for “good work in the line” near Villers-Brettoneux on March 27-30, 1918.
So we now know a bit of Sapper Frank Daley’s story – survived the war but in a cruel twist died from the flu while still on active service in France with his wife waiting in Grays for his return that was never to happen. Plans to start a new life in the USA never fulfilled. Hundreds of Canadian Railway Troops died after the armistice – many from the flu.
But what of the hundreds of others from or connected to the borough? What are their stories? How many Thurrock sailors died during the sinking of the three British cruisers – the Aboukir, Cressy and Hogue – by a single German U-boat, U-9, on 22 September 1914?
And what of the borough’s merchant seamen? Their sacrifice is unrecorded – I don’t think they are recorded on any of the war memorials.
Unfortunately there is no permanent record of the men of Thurrock yet their are plenty of online resources and the wealth of information held at the library and museum in Grays – it would just need some time and a little money to start putting a permanent record together.
Separately what about the story of Thurrock during the war? What role did Thurrock play on the home front? The information is there for someone to research and put together.
There is already a book freely available about Thurrock during the wars with information on civilian casualties etc etc.but your idea Ed is excellent.
I would urge you all to look at the “Tilbury and Chadwell Memories” website which is a wonderful archive of people places and articles from years gone by,some really good photographs and anecdotes of life in the thirties and forties.