Research War Memorials
One of the key aims of the North East War Memorials Project is to provide assistance to those Groups and individuals wishing to learn more about their local War Memorials, and those commemorated on them.

This research would, we believe, fall into two main areas, firstly, the background to the Memorial itself - its inception, design, construction and siting, and, secondly, the identity and background, including the service records, of those commemorated. Both areas are equally valid in terms of local history, though family historians are, naturally, more likely to be interested in the people behind the names.

Readers are invited to submit comments on, and suggest additions to, the material by e-mailing Entering guidance notes in the subject line of the message. This remains very much a “work in progress” and improvements will continue to be sought. In particular, the additional sources of information related to casualties from the Second World War, and subsequent conflicts, are being developed.

Researching the names on a War Memorial is probably getting easier as more and more books are published on different aspects of military and naval research, and as an increasing number of records are being made accessible on-line. While the trend for the greater availability of digital information, either in the form of the documents themselves, or searchable indexes, is of obvious benefit, it should not obscure the fact that, somewhere along the line of your research you will probably have to do more than sit at a computer. It will never be possible to digitise all records and at some point you will need to visit a library or an archive repository and turn the pages of a real book or document.

War Memorials -What can be found out?


When was the War Memorial built and dedicated? Some Memorials were dedicated before the end of the First World War.

Have there been any additions to the memorial? Such as World War 2 names or other conflicts since or omissions and corrections.

Dates of re-dedication/s, addition/s?


Where is the location of the War Memorial? Why was it located where it is?

Who owned the land or was there a special significance to the location allocated.

Is this the original location? Has it been moved to a new location, if so, why and when?

Design and Materials

What materials were used in the construction?

Is there a local reason why this design was chosen?

Who designed and / or made it?


What are the inscriptions on the Memorial?

Which quotation/s was used?

Which conflicts are commemorated?

Are there names?

What is recorded? Initials or forenames, ranks, regiments, date of death?

How are names displayed? -Alphabetically, by rank, Regiment or by Regiment precedence, which War, which other criteria?

Which names are actually recorded on the Memorial?

Does the Memorial include those who served?


Who headed the campaign to erect or create the War Memorial?

Who contributed to the funds?

Who unveiled or dedicated the War Memorial?

Who was at the dedication?


Who is the custodian of the War Memorial?

Who maintains it?

What is the condition of the Memorial?

Has there ever been any restoration work carried out on the memorial in its history?

Is it a ‘Listed’ Memorial? Has it been designated a Grade I or Grade 2 by English Heritage?

Carrying out the research

Sources for information are usually locally based, each community made the decisions about its own War Memorial. Check the NEWMP web site to find what is known already about the War Memorial and which sources have been recorded (if any).

Local Newspapers

These are primary sources of information about the local War Memorial. There are fundraising events, reports of meetings and requests for names and details to be included. There is usually a detailed description of the ceremony as well as photos of the Memorial including the unveiling, Dedication details, list of names etc. and sometimes listing of the people who were present. However, the newspaper reports are not fool proof, spelling and transcription errors are common place, and some reports do not give a full listing of the names.

All newspapers are being archived by the British Newspaper archive site.

However, very few local newspapers have been scanned at this present time (2014) and microfilm copies will probably have to be used.

Here is a list of Local Newspapers that were produced in the North East and current location of copies.

    • Alnwick Mercury-British Newspaper Archive Library.

    • Auckland Chronicle - Durham County Record Office

    • Berwick on Tweed- Berwick Advertiser.

    • Chester-le-Street Chronicle - Gateshead Library, have yearly CDs available from Chester-le-Street Heritage Group .

    • Consett Guardian - Durham County Record Office

    • Darlington and Stockton Times - Darlington Library

    • Durham Chronicle and County Gazette - Durham County Record Office

    • Durham County Advertiser - Durham County Record Office

    • Evening Chronicle - Newcastle Central Library

    • Illustrated Chronicle - Newcastle Central Library

    • Morpeth Herald-British Newspaper Archive Library.

    • Newcastle Daily Chronicle - Newcastle Central Library

    • Newcastle Journal - Newcastle Central Library

    • Newcastle Weekly Chronicle - Newcastle Central Library

    • North Mail - Newcastle Central Library

    • North Star - Darlington Library

    • Northern Daily Mail and South Durham Herald - Hartlepool Library

    • Northern Echo - Darlington Library

    • Shields Daily Gazette - South Tyneside Library

    • Stanley News - Durham County Record Office

    • Sunderland Daily Echo - Sunderland Library

    • Teesdale Mercury - On line archive at 1854-1954

    • Shields Daily News- North Shields Library

    • Whitley Seaside Chronicle- North Shields Library

    • Visitors Gazette’ -North Shields Library

    • Whitley Bay Observer - British Newspaper Archive Library – Sept 1919 to Dec 1922

This list is not exhaustive!.

Record Offices/Libraries/Museums

These local resource centres should hold information about local War Memorials or records which have a connection to War Memorials. However, the archive offices do not always index their holdings under War Memorials or related headings.

They usually have general headings, e.g. Correspondence relating to St Mary’s Church. Searching on line using War Memorial, Roll of Honour, Cenotaph or World War 1 and 2 usually locates some items.

The best way is to find the notes or correspondence or even minutes of the church/organisations which have been discovered in your initial research. Company magazines and (potted) histories of local organisations or social groups can also be good additional sources.

Popular postcard/photograph local history books often include sections on life during the Wars and local Memorials.

Parish Churches

If a War Memorial is located in the Parish Church or in the church grounds/ graveyard there should have been a faculty from the Diocese which sometimes gives further information. These have often been deposited at Record Offices. Church Magazines are a good source. Clergymen have often retained Dedication leaflets in the Church records.

Non-Conformist Churches do not have to ask permission to add to or alter their buildings. However some Trustees and Society minutes have survived which may mention War Memorials.

Committee Minutes

Other groups would have had committee minutes but these have rarely survived. Most Head Teachers completed a daily or weekly Log Book which may detail War Memorials.

School and Company magazines also have additional information.

The architects who designed the Memorials can also be a source, especially their notebooks/sketches or plans.

The records of local stone masons are also a good source of additional information.

Local dignitaries also may have deposited their papers or personal letters, diaries etc. these could also provide further information.

Some resource material includes photographs. Please always get permission to use photographs and please credit the source.

Local Council Minute Books

The council member to be in attendance at a dedication ceremony or a presentation may be recorded in the Minutes as well as other additional information about the War Memorial and the dedication ceremony.

Tyne and Wear Archive and Museums.
Northumberland Museum and Archives
Durham Archives County Office.


There are 234 libraries in the North East, visited by 14 million people a year.

Below is a list of some of the libraries in the North East area.

Darlington Libraries.

Durham Libraries.

Gateshead Libraries.

Hartlepool Libraries .

Middlesbrough Libraries.

Newcastle Libraries.

North Tyneside Libraries.

Northumberland Libraries.

Redcar and Cleveland Libraries.

South Tyneside Libraries.

Stockton Libraries.

Sunderland Libraries.

1 Source North East libraries.


Use the NEWMP website for further additional links, to other local sources such as Newspaper articles, books and other Websites which may also help with research.

When you are finished your research, please send NEWMP any additional information, sources, other details and photographs.

Outside the North East area the War Memorial Archive (formerly the United Kingdom National Inventory of War Memorials) searchable database would find your information useful, this is being maintained by the Imperial War Museum and covers the whole of the country.

See also WMT. Advice about existing War Memorials, further resources and help sheets can be found at the War Memorials Trust.

The Trust is the only charity which funds EXISTING War memorials and renovation or repair work. War Memorials Trust.

Researching Names on the War Memorial

Please check with NEWMP to see if the names on your War Memorial have been researched already, or are being researched.

When a War Memorial was first proposed certain decisions were made about who was to be included or recorded on the Memorial. The names to be included on Memorials in Schools, Clubs, and Workplaces were easily established and were self-limiting. However for village, town or city memorials it was a more difficult decision.

Also, there is no law in the land which says that a name has to be on a War Memorial!

The criteria can vary:

• Only those born in the town or in the parish.

• Armed Forces – Army, Navy, RAF, and including Merchant Navy?

• Civilians killed by Enemy Action?

• Residents of the town or village at the time of their death?,

• Families’ wishes, not everyone wanted their relative’s name on the memorial.

• Were those who served, to be included, or were casualties to be included?

If you know the criteria used when the War Memorial was first inaugurated, it will help you to understand the original intent of the Memorial Committee.

If the person you are seeking is deceased, it is usually easier to trace.

Census Records.

Census records 1911.

Both Find my past, and Ancestry have previous census material on line.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission

This site which has been recently updated records all Commonwealth war dead from the First and Second World Wars. You can locate their grave or memorial, and sometimes the next of kin details are available. Please note every family/relative was offered a headstone where possible, sometimes the offer was not accepted, and the family/relative wished for their own remembrance family plot or headstone.

In 1917 the, then Imperial, War Graves Commission (now CWGC) was established and was made responsible for marking and maintaining the graves of British war casualties, to build memorials of those with no known grave, and to keep records and registers. The principles upon which the Commission worked were: each of the dead should be commemorated individually by name on a headstone (for identifiable remains buried in a cemetery) or memorial (where there are no identifiable remains); the headstones and memorials should be permanent; the headstones should be uniform, with no distinction made on grounds of rank, race or creed. The Commission has information about personnel in all the armed services who died between 4th August 1914 and 31st August 1921 and 3rd September 1939 and 31st December 1947.

The search can be undertaken on surname and initials,though only one search field is required, (not forename), also you can enter the Regiment or unit that they may have served in. Search by date of the casualtiy as well as cemetery if known.

Only 65% of the casualties have next of kin recorded, because not all the ‘Final Verification’ forms sent to the last known address of a casualty’s next of kin were returned. But the availability of the Census or the service record may provide further clues to the rest of the family members or next of kin.

Soldiers Died in the Great War

Soldiers Died consisting of 80 volumes is also available in a CD from Naval and Military Press. Parts of the Soldiers Died records are available on Find My Past. But be aware there are transcription errors.

Information provided is:

name, rank, service number (except for officers), unit in which they served, date of death, new information: place of birth (except for officers), place of enlistment (except for officers), place of residence (except for officers), mode of death, other units in which they served, and miscellaneous information, which can include decorations (there is a specific ‘decorations’ field in the officers section).

For army casualties in World War II the equivalent CD is ‘Army Roll of Honour - World War II’. Royal Navy and Royal Air Force casualties are not covered on either CD. If you require WW2 service records or details you need to contact the Ministry of defence.

Medal Index Cards
The Medal Index Cards (or Medal Rolls Index) were created towards the end of the First World War to enable the Army Medal Office to record, in one place, all the details about an individual’s medal entitlement. They have been microfiched and the fiches are now available on open-access in The National Archives as WO 372 (Service Medal and Award Rolls Index, First World War). The original cards have been given to the Western Front Association. The Medal Index Cards have been microfilmed by The National Archives and the films scanned, and they can be downloaded (for £3.50 per card) from Medal Cards.
The cards have a number of slightly different formats, but all contain:
  • name,
  • rank(s),
  • unit(s) in which they served,
  • service number(s),
  • new information:
  • first operational theatre in which they served (sometimes),
  • date they landed overseas (sometimes), and
  • medals to which they were entitled, with original Army Medal Office medal roll and page references (to WO 329).
The theatre of war is indicated by a code - 1 for service in France and Flanders up to 31 December 1915, and 1a for service there from 1 January 1916. If you need help in deciphering or reading these cards Medal cards, The guidance available will help you.
The medal rolls, WO 329 (Service Medal and Award Rolls, First World War), show the entitlement to the medals and the details of issuing the medals, but only give one more piece of information than the cards – the battalion number.
Officers had to claim their medals, but ordinary soldiers were automatically sent theirs. In the case of both officers and soldiers who had died in the war the medals were automatically issued to their next of kin.
All those who saw service overseas were awarded a campaign medal, and since there is no overall list of all those who served in the war, the medal rolls (and their indexes) are the nearest equivalent.
The First World War campaign medals were:
The 1914 Star (also known as the ‘Mons Star’), a bronze four-pointed star with a ribbon of red merging into white and then into blue. It was awarded for service in France and Flanders between 5 August and midnight on 22/23 November 1914, mainly to members of the Regular Army and Territorial Force. A bar or clasp with those dates was awarded to those individuals who had been under fire in that period. The recipient’s service number, name, rank, battalion and unit are stamped on the reverse.

The 1914/15 Star, also a bronze four-pointed star with a ribbon of red merging into white and then into blue. It was awarded for service in France and Flanders between 23 November 1914 and 31 December 1915, and for those who saw service in any other operational theatre from 5 August 1914 to 31 December 1915. The recipient’s service number, name, rank and unit are stamped on the reverse.

The British War Medal 1914-1920, a circular silver medal with a ribbon with a central golden yellow band with stripes of white, black and blue on each side (the blue outermost). It was issued to commemorate the successful conclusion of the war and was awarded to service personnel and civilians who either entered a theatre of war or rendered approved service overseas (i.e. entering a theatre of war was not essential) between 5 August 1914 and 11 November 1918. Service in Russia in 1919 and 1920 was also included. The recipient’s service number, name, rank and unit are stamped around the edge of the medal.

The Allied Victory Medal 1914-1919, a circular bronze medal with a ribbon of two rainbows with red in the centre. It was issued to commemorate the Allied victory, was never awarded alone and went to all personnel (service and civilian) who had served in an operational theatre of war, i.e. to all of those who received the 1914 Star or 1914/15 Star, and to most of those who received the British War Medal. It was never awarded on its own. The recipient’s service number, name, rank and unit are stamped around the edge of the medal.

The Territorial Force War Medal 1914-1919, a bronze medal, was awarded to those who had joined the Territorial Force on or before 30 September 1914, who volunteered for overseas service before 1 October 1914, and who had served in an operational theatre of war between 5 August 1914 and 11 November 1918. Those who received either of the Stars were not eligible for this medal.

The Silver War Badge (sometimes wrongly called the Silver Wound Badge) was awarded to all military personnel who had been discharged as a result of sickness contracted or wounds received as a result of war service, either at home or overseas. It was a circular badge with the legend ‘For King and Empire – Services Rendered’ surrounding the George V cipher.

The trio of a Star, War Medal and Victory Medal was known, respectively, as ‘Pip, Squeak and Wilfred’, after characters in a Daily Mirror comic strip which was popular in the early 1920s when the medals were being issued.
These Medal Index Cards do not exist for other services in the Great War, or for any of the services in World War II, but Great War Medal Rolls are held at the National Archives for the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Naval Air Service. See below in Useful Addresses for other sources of information.
Useful books
There are a large number of relevant books which can be borrowed from local libraries, or, in some cases, can be purchased through a local bookshop. New books are coming out regularly, so a list will always be out-of-date, but some titles that may be of use and which are available at the end of 2007 are given below.
(a) Navy
N.A.M. Rodger, Naval Records for Genealogists, published by The National Archives (Handbook no.22), 1988

Bruno Pappalardo, Using Naval Records, published by The National Archives (Pocket Guides to Family History), 2001

Bruno Pappalardo, Tracing Your Naval Ancestors, published by The National Archives, 2003

Simon Fowler, Tracing Your Second World War Ancestors, published by Countryside Books, 2005

Randolph Cock & N.A.M. Rodger, A Guide to the Naval Records in the National Archives of the United Kingdom, published by the Institute of Historical Research, 2006

Tracing Your Family History: Army, published by The Imperial War Museum

(b) Army
Michael J. Watts & Christopher T. Watts, My Ancestor was in the British Army, published by the Society of Genealogists, 1995

Simon Fowler & William Spencer, Army Records for Family Historians, published by The National Archives (Readers’ Guide no.2), 1998

Norman Holding, More Sources of World War I Army Ancestry, published by the Federation of Family History Societies, 1998

Norman Holding (revised by Iain Swinnerton), Location of British Army Records, 1914-1918, published by the Federation of Family History Societies, 1999

William Spencer, Army Service Records of the First World War, published by The National Archives (Readers’ Guide No.19), 2001

Using Army Records, published by The National Archives (Pocket Guides to Family History), 2001
Norman Holding (revised by Iain Swinnerton), World War I Army Ancestry, published by the Federation of Family History Societies, 2003

Simon Fowler, Tracing Your Second World War Ancestors, published by Countryside Books, 2005
Simon Fowler, Tracing Your Army Ancestors, published by Pen & Sword Military, 2006
(c) Royal Air Force
I. Tavander, The Distinguished Flying Medal: A Record of Courage, 1918-1922, published by J.B. Hayward, 1990

Eunice Watson, The Records of the Royal Air Force: How to Find the Few, published by the Federation of Family History Societies, 1991

Simon Fowler, Peter Elliott, Roy Nesbit & Christina Goulter, R.A.F. Records in the P.R.O., published by The National Archives (Readers’ Guide No.8), 1994

C. Hobson, Airmen Died in the Great War, 1914-1918, published by J.B. Hayward, 1995

William Spencer, Air Force Records for Family Historians, published by The National Archives, 2000
If you want to find out the action in which your ancestor was involved, the following series may help:

W.R. Chorley Royal Air Force Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War. Midland Counties Publishing. Several volumes as follows:
1939-1940 ISBN 0 904597 85 7
1941 ISBN 0 904597 87 3
1942 ISBN 0 904597 89 X
1943 ISBN 0 904597 90 3
1944 ISBN 0 904597 91 1
1945 ISBN 0 904597 92 X
Vol.7 Operational Training Units ISBN 1 85780 132 6
Vol.8 Heavy Conversion Units ISBN 1 86780 156 3
Vol.9 Roll of Honour 1939-1947 ISBN 1 85780 195 8

Norman L.R. Franks: Royal Air Force Fighter Command Losses of the Second World War. Midland Publishing. Vol.1. Operational Losses: Aircraft and Crews 1939-1941. ISBN 1 85780 055 9
Vol.2. Operational Losses: Aircraft and Crews 1942-1943. ISBN 1 85780 075 3
Vol.2. Operational Losses: Aircraft and Crews 1944-45 (incorporating Air Defence Great Britain and 2nd TAF) ISBN 1 85780 093 1

Ross McNeill Royal Air Force Coastal Command Losses of the Second World War. Midland Publishing. Vol.1 Aircraft and Crew Losses 1939-1941. ISBN 1 85780 128 8

Colin Cummings The Price of Peace: A Catalogue of R.A.F. Aircraft Losses Between V.E. Day and End of 1945. 2004; Nimbus Publishing; ISBN 0 9526619 5 0

Colin Cummings Though Without Anger: Losses of Transport and Special Duties Aircraft and Assault Gliders 1940 to 1945 2008; Nimbus Publishing; ISBN 978 0 9526619 6 2

Colin Cummings Lost to Service : A Summary of Accidents to R.A.F. Aircraft and Losses of Personel 1959-1996; Nimbus Publishing; ISBN 0 9526619 0 X (out of print;

Colin Cummings To Fly No More; R.A.F. Aircraft Accidents and Write-Offs 1954-1958; Nimbus Publishing; ISBN 0 9526619 2 6 (out of print)

Colin Cummings Last Take-Off A Record of R.A.F. Aircraft Losses 1950-1953; Nimbus Publishing; ISBN 0 9526619 3 4

Colin Cummings Final Landings: A Summary of R.A.F. Aircraft and Combat Losses 1946-1949; Nimbus Publishing; ISBN 0 9526619 4 2

Colin Cummings: Category Five: A Catalogue of R.A.F. Aircraft Losses 1954 to 2009; Nimbus Publishing; ISBN 0 9526619 7 9

Derek Walton;Northumberland Aviation Diary: Aviation Incidents from 1790-1999; Norav Publications, 1999.

(d) Merchant Navy
Christopher T. Watts & Michael J. Watts, My Ancestor was a Merchant Seaman, published by the Society of Genealogists, 1991

Peter L. Hogg, Basic Facts about Using Merchant Ship Records for Family Historians, published by the Federation of Family History Societies, 1997

Kelvin Smith, Christopher T. Watts & Michael J. Watts, Records of Merchant Shipping and Seamen, published by The National Archives (Readers’ Guide no.20), 1998

Simon Fowler, Tracing Your Second World War Ancestors, published by Countryside Books, 2005
(e) Civilians
Simon Fowler, Tracing Your Second World War Ancestors, published by Countryside Books, 2005
(f) General
Using Medal Records, published by The National Archives (Pocket Guides to Family History), 2001

William Spencer, Medals: The Researcher’s Guide, published by The National Archives, 2006

Internet sites and other souces.
With the growth of the Internet, there are far too many sites to list here, however, please use our links page on the newmp home page which will help your search.

A series of very useful leaflets on military/naval records and how to use them can be obtained from The National Archives and can either be collected or downloaded.

The Imperial War Museum also has useful leaflets.