The War Memorial
This article has been prepared in special recognition of the centenary of World War 1.
The memorial is located in the memorial garden, overlooked by Leyland St Andrew’s church, at OS map reference SD 542216 at the junction of Church Road and Stanning Street in Leyland.
The war memorial was built after raising the required £1,295 by public subscription, and dedicated by the Suffragen Bishop of Whalley on November 9, 1929. The names of the men who fell in the Second World War were added, the unveiling ceremony being held on Sunday September 16, 1951. These latter names were inscribed on two additional panels to the original memorial, one to the left and one to the right.
Subsequently a further small memorial was erected to the right of the main structure, to record the names of men who gave their lives in subsequent conflicts.
The inscription on the main structure reads: “Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends” [John 15:13]. The two wars are identified above the relevant panels. The Great War carries an inscription that refers to 1914-1918. This is not an uncommon dating on Great War memorials, but it is incorrect: it should refer to 1914-1919, as the war between Germany and the Allies did not end until the Treaty of Versailles which was signed on June 28, 1919. Germany’s allies, generally referred to as the ‘Central Powers’, were dealt with by separate treaties.
The inscription on the small memorial reads: “In memory of those who have lost their lives in conflicts since 1945”.
The Great War
Until 1939, the war that today is commonly referred to as World War 1 was known as the Great War and that is how one will see it described in contemporary letters and literature. Newspaper reports in the mid thirties did refer to concerns about a possible second world war at a future date.
Burial of the Dead
In the Great War, the Allied dead were interred in the country in which they were killed or died and it was not permitted for families to bring back the bodies of their loved ones to the UK. In France and Flanders initial burials would be close to where the men fell, and it was not unknown for them to be buried in the trenches that they had just lef,t to attack the enemy. An example of this is the burial of men of the Devonshire Regiment at Mansell Copse Cemetery in the French Somme Département, all killed on July 1, 1916, the first day of what became known as ‘The Battle of the Somme’ and post-war as ‘The First battle of the Somme’. Many men who died of wounds or sickness were buried close to the Field Hospitals and Dressing Stations in which they died. After the war many graves were moved to be interred in larger cemeteries such as Tyne Cot, close to Ypres. In Italy the rocky terrain on the Asiago Plateau [at 1000 Metres] was such that casualties could not be buried where they fell but had to be removed softer ground below the plateau.
Some sick and wounded of both world wars were transferred to hospitals in the UK where they died, and some died after being invalided back home. These men would be buried close to the hospital or in cemeteries back in their family or residence areas. Commonwealth War Graves Commission [CWGC] graves in the Leyland parishes are:
St Andrew’s churchyard 21
St James’ churchyard 2
St Mary’s [RC] churchyard 1
The Missing and Unknown
The industrial nature of the Great War was such that many bodies simply disappeared, were pulverised, so that interment was not possible, there were also deaths at sea. Some remains, for many reasons, could not be identified, although their regiment might be known. Some could not be identified because the soldiers collecting information, such as pay books and dog tags were themselves killed and the material destroyed before it could be recorded. Some men, a few, took the opportunity of the chaos of war to disappear: a Middlesbrough man turned up on his own doorstep in 1932 claiming to his wife: ‘I don’t know where I’ve been, it could be anywhere in the world!’. To give an idea of the scale of the problem for the authorities – in March of 1919 there were still over 300,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers unaccounted for. Churchill suspected that the Germans were hiding them as hostages, to strengthen their hands in the coming Peace negotiations.
Even now it is an unusual year when the remains of a soldier killed in the Great War are not found somewhere on the Western Front, although identification is unlikely, but not unknown. In the early years of the war the soldiers’ dog-tags were made of leather, long ago perished, whereas later they would be of metal. On March 14, 2014 there will be a re-burial service for Pte William McAleer and 19 unknown British Soldiers of the Great War at Loos British Cemetery.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission gravestones are of standard material and pattern irrespective of rank. Before standardisation, grave markers would be a white cross although some, like that of the Earl of Feversham, may have been of individual pattern. The Earl was buried where he fell and a cross was made by his men from oak beams taken from the wreck of a nearby barn.
The CWGC gave relatives the opportunity to add a personal inscription to the gravestone, but the cost would be prohibitive to many working-class families.
For the Commission's purposes, the two world war periods are classified as follows:
The First World War - 4th August 1914 to 31st Augus 1921
The Second World War - 3rd September 1939 to 31st December 1947
Men who died after the above dates are not accorded the CWGC gravestone.
Names on War Memorials
There is no common rule or pattern as to whose name was commemorated on any particular memorial whether it be that of a particular Local Authority, church or other community group. It is quite common for the names of those died in the Great War to be on more than one memorial; Town, Regiment, Church, Employer, Birthplace, Residence, Club etc, and some are commemorated on other gravestones and personal memorials of members of the same family.
Leyland War Memorial names
Great War 196
Second World War 74
Subsequent conflicts 4
Full list of names.
As with any transcription, errors crept into the process of the completion of many memorials. In the 1920s most lists were compiled in the handwriting of a clerk or priest, so transpositions, for example of capital letters, such as ‘P’, ‘B’, ‘R, ‘I’ and ‘J’ were not uncommon. Other mistakes were made, including the entry of the name of the person requesting the entry rather than the name to be commemorated and, perhaps the most common error – the omission of middle names. It must be remembered too that many people were semi-illiterate and did not know the exact spelling of the surname of person to be commemorated. So, as with all historical information, sources should be checked and correlated where possible.
Stan Grosvenor February, 2014