Friday, July 06, 2007

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

I love the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website, it's a mine of information. Early in my research into my family history, I discovered their Debt of Honour Register and I've returned to it many times since then. Always I find it informative and absorbing, but sad as you can see the sheer number of casualties listed there.

To date, I know of 5 family members listed on the site - my grandfather, three great uncles and a cousin of my great grandfather. Each discovery in the CWGC database has led to a back story of which I was unaware and had not anticipated.

I always knew my grandfather, Alexander Colin Stewart, and his brother died in WW2. From the CWGC site, I learned he died as a civilian aboard the MV Henry Stanley. My mother had always said that he was travelling back to Singapore for his work at the time of his death (my grandparents lived in Singapore from 1930 to 1939). Now I know this isn't quite right. By December 1942, Singapore had fallen to the Japanese, so it's unlikely, to be heading there. So where was he going?

Looking on the CWGC site, I can also see the details of other casualties of the sinking of the MV Henry Stanley -

Ramsay Brown
Archibald Charles James Harry
John Charles Innes
Dennis Vincent Kelly
Stuart Low
John Morton
Noel Rushton Redfern

Before finding him on the CWGC site, I know very little about my grandfather's brother, John Henry Fraser Stewart. From the CWGC database, I learned that he was buried in Hong Kong, and a little searching on the internet led me to discover that he was a Japanese POW on Taiwan. It must have been a terrible experience.

On my father's side of the family, there are two brothers. William Fairlie Lambert died in 1916 and his brother George Lambert in 1917. George had just finished training for the ministry and there was a possibility that Willie would also follow this path. Many of their letters still survive and have been transcribed by the family. Their deaths had a profound impact on their family and they were very fondly remembered, stories of them being told to later generations.

Before starting my family history research, I was unaware of the existance of Alexander Charles Stewart. His father was a brother of my great grandfather, John Stewart, the brothers having been baptised in the parish of Caputh in Perthshire. While my ancestor John headed for south Lanarkshire, brother William trained as a Solicitor (possibly in Edinburgh) and settled in Turriff in Aberdeenshire. He married and had a son, Alexander Charles, before his wife died, presumably as the result of a miscarriage. However, it was only through finding the death of Alexander Charles Stewart in WW1, that I learned the story of his parents.

Behind the statistics, there is always a story - these are people, not just numbers and dates.

So, who do you know in the CWGC database?


DaisyGirl said...

I love digging through family history, don't you. You learn so much! How's your rr coming along? My linen came in today, so I'm off to grid my piece.

Sally said...

My grandad's cousin in on the Commenwealth War Graves Commission. I can't get onto the site at the moment to access the info but I know he died in on May 5th 1917 aged 25.

The Silver Thistle said...

I love family History. In a past life (BC - Before Children, lol) I studied genealogy at Stirling University. I'm fascinated by Scottish History.

It's been a lot of years since I've 'delved' though. It was pen and paper in my day, hahaha. I wish all the internet resources had been available back then, I'd have been in my element. Family History AND surfing. Bliss, lol.