On a large illuminated wooden board on the north wall of my church, St Andrew's in West Tarring, Worthing are the names of more than eighty men who died during (or just after) the war of 1914 – 1918.
The first name on the memorial is that of Wilfred Clarence Ansfield who is buried in the churchyard; the last is of Henry J Wenslake. In between are all those names – just names.
Sussex County Archives Office advertised for volunteers to help with their Great War Project, they were looking to recruit around 15. But over 140 people – including me – responded. And, because we can choose our own case studies, I have
decided I would like to research the names on the memorial in my church. I want to find out what I can about the people behind the names – where did they live, who were their families, what did they do before they went off to war, and where
and when did they die in the service of their country. Luckily for me, a friend has offered to help so that we can divide the task between us and make it just a little more manageable.
The Great War
Project will bring together the history of the West Sussex people who lived and served during the war years. It will document the lives of servicemen and women, especially those of the Royal West Sussex County Regiment, but also those of nurses, volunteers
and conscientious objectors. There will be case studies on the hospitals which cared for the war wounded, of war poetry written by local people, and of the flu epidemic which swept the country in the aftermath of war.
As well as the case studies, the first task for me and the other volunteers will be indexing the local newspapers covering the war years. County Archives describe this as the most phenomenal indexing project they have ever undertaken.
Together with between 50 and 100 case studies, the indexing work will be brought together in a book, a DVD and a website all to be launched in the Autumn of 2014, to mark the centenary of the start of the Great War.
It occurred to me that there might be living relatives I could contact who would be able to help me with my case study enabling me to present a more rounded picture than the facts and figures can provide. So I'm seeking help,
through the parish magazine and other sources, from those who might hold priceless information about the men behind the names. I will be detailing my research on this webpage in the hope that there may be readers with ideas to help me when I get stuck.
Soon the lives and times of those who lived through, and died in, the Great War will slip behind the curtain which divides the past from living memory. I am hoping that I will be able to produce a record
for my church which will help parishioners to see the people behind the names on our Church Memorial.