THE  DOVER WAR MEMORIAL  PROJECT

 

war memorial at dusk, photographed by Michelle Cooper
 

 

Articles


About the Project

"THE VIRTUAL MEMORIAL" by Marilyn Stephenson-Knight

Warm-hearted, welcoming, lovely people. Since we began the Dover War Memorial Project on Remembrance Sunday 2005, that’s how we’ve found Dovorians, the people of my home town.  We’ve visited hundreds of homes, spent even Sidney Raysbrook, courtesy Mrs Averymore hours chatting on the ‘phone, and so overwhelmed our dial-up we had to go broadband! 

What’s it all about? The Project records the histories of all those from our town who died in the two World Wars of the last century. Some were forgotten, like Annie Keates. In 1917, aged 52, she was killed when a bomb blew out the back of her house in Glenfield Road. Her daughter, Evelyn, 12, died later from her wounds.  They’re buried in Charlton cemetery.  

Many have no grave. Over 100 Dovorians in World War I vanished in the mire at Ypres. Harold Casey, 19, was one, Stephen Palmer, 20, cousin to the famed Walter Tull, was another. Nearly 200 Dovorians were lost at sea, like Sidney Raysbrook, 30. In December 1941 his battlecruiser, HMS Repulse, was attacked by planes and sank off the coast of Malaya.  

They aren’t all on the Town Memorial outside Maison Dieu House. But on the Virtual Memorial website of the Dover War Memorial Project they are all remembered with honour and love. The site’s at www.doverwarmemorialproject.org.uk, and is currently attracting over 150 hits an hour - not only from Dover, but from Europe, Canada, Australia, the USA and even Japan.   

What brings them? Over a thousand Dovorian casualties, with pictures, anecdotes, extracts from letters, and commemorative verses chosen by their loved ones are there. Visitors come seeking their family. Over a dozen have found new relatives, and many more have learnt something more about them.  They come to remember too. It means a lot. Last Christmas Day one family distributed laminated copies of the Virtual Memorial about their dearly-loved lost uncle.   

Visitors come to learn about our past. One ‘A’ level history student told me that knowing about the people made her lessons at school more real. History isn’t just something that happens in books.  

Many visit to give and get help. We’ve advised on rededicating memorials, and around the UK and overseas we’re interacting with researchers, like the Channel Islands group and Ypres. Dozens of Dovorians served with Commonwealth troops, like Arthur Igglesden, from Dover bakery firm, Igglesden and Graves. Born in Australia, he later became a Lance Corporal in the Canadian Infantry. Researchers from the former Commonwealth are helping us find out more.  

Through the website, our town and its unique frontline story is seen around the world. Just as in war-time, this is the best of Dovorians standing together. Local researchers are overwhelmingly supportive. Families of casualties unstintingly lend photos, letters, cards, and medals, in memory of their loved ones. No one could be more welcoming. We love meeting you!  

The Virtual Memorial website is updated daily, but it still represents only a Shepherdswell memorial by Simon Chambersfraction of the information we have. So do ask – and do join in. If you have any information about our casualties, please contact us. See too the “How to Help” web page for other ways to be involved - or just give us a call! 

A good thing about a website is that it has few limits – other than the speed at which my fingers can type! So we’re also recording district memorials, because casualties can appear on several. Alexander Croockewit is on six, including Shepherdswell.  A seventh was his parents’ home. They named their house “Menin”; in 1917 he died on the Menin Road. Visiting country churches reminds us how beautiful is our corner of Kent. And, perhaps, what all our casualties died for.   

Most lie now in foreign fields. The volunteers from the Project’s “Dover Remembers” scheme visit their graves. They bring home photographs – and leave “In Memoriam” cards. One volunteer was stunned to discover his own great uncle. Harry Matthews was just 18, and all that’s left is his name on the Tyne Cot memorial, Belgium.  

“It’s so sad”, said one reader of the website. “Out came the tissues,” said another.  They’re right – it’s heartbreaking to learn about the lives that were lost, and the families who mourn still. But at the same time, another reader said, “I hope there is at least one member of a man’s family on the memorial still alive, to help with photographs and details to form a story to each and every man that died; it is the least they deserve. We cannot give as they gave, can we?” And that’s the point. We can’t.  

But what we can do is ensure that they are remembered forever, with honour, gratitude, and love. That’s what the Dover War Memorial Project does. We must never forget. The warm hearts of the people of Dover ensure we never will. 

This article first appeared in the Dover Express for 12th April 2006
under the title "We must not forget those who died for us"

The introduction to the article states:
Since its inception in September 2005 the Dover War Memorial Project has gone from strength to strength. Researchers Maggie Stephenson-Knight and Simon Chambers have visited hundreds of relative of those killed in the last century's two world wars to uncover the stories behind the names on the town's memorial. They have also spent hours in the Express archives and have set up a website documenting their findings, which received 155,000 hits last month alone. Here Maggie explains just how influential the project and its website have become. 

illustrations that appeared with the published article:
Sidney Raysbrook
Shepherdswell memorial





Copyright 2006-13 © Marilyn Stephenson-Knight. All Rights Reserved