Top Tips – Researching WW1 Soldiers on War Memorials

TopTips for Researching Individuals Commemorated on First World War Memorials
Stour Provost Memorial North Dorset. Photograph by Norman Crabb

If you are looking for any one of 2,500 names on any of 120 Blackmore Vale War Memorials click here for a FREE NAME SEARCH. For list of all Blackmore Vale Towns and Villages covered CLICK HERE 

Before we get started here are some tips to remember.

*Names on war memorials are recorded in different ways.  *Names are not always recorded accurately, especially  initials and a surname. Incorrect first name initials on a memorial can lead researchers on a merry dance with the wild goose!                           

From the scanty surname and initial i.e.  ‘W. Smith’ to the most helpful detailing full name, rank and regiment and less often date of death ‘Private William ‘Jack’ Glencoe Smith 8th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers 16th August 1917 aged 18.’
Purse Caundle Memorial West Dorset displaying names as initials and surname. Photograph by Norman Crabb

 Top Tips for researching WW1 Soldiers on War Memorials

Here’s how you can use your War Memorial as a resource to discover who is commemorated on it.

Become a Detective for the day – or even longer – the hat’ll grow on you – promise!


Put on your detective’s hat!  Absolutely the best way to find a memorial is to explore for yourself, via the web as you are now doing,  then follow up, where possible with a visit to the village or town. The research underpining this website started in 1995, when academia was buzzing with  new ways to remember the First World War. Then it was not uncommon to arrive at a village only to be told ‘no there is no war memorial here!’   Be intrepid! Follow your instincts!  Thorough searches have revealed neglected treaures.  Long forgotten Memorial Plaques hanging in back rooms with faded inscriptions
Stowell Church South Somerset
No sign of a Memorial for Stowell South Somerset
Memorial Plaque for Stowell South Somerset

Firstly you need to find out where your local memorial is located. Remembering there may be more than one and the person you are searching for may or may not be commemorated on them all or even none!

Not every location has a memorial, more especially common, if there is no church,  one of the commonest places to find one. Sometimes villages/parishes joined together to produce one memorial covering several villages such as Longburton in west Dorset where Memorial Plaques  commemorate both individuals from Longburton and Holnest.
An example of a two parish War Memorial plaque for Longburton and Holnest in West Dorset

Responsibility for looking after a war memorials tends to lie with three main organisations. (1)  British Legion  click the link to find your nearest branch.  (2) Churches click the link to find your local Church  ‘A Church Near You  and /or (3) Parish, Town and/or District Councils clicking on this link will give you contact details of your local council.

Womens' Royal British Legion Flag
Womens’ Royal British Legion Flag


Take a note of relevant names. Expect to find names recorded by a variety of listings as detailed above


Your first stop for more information about your relative is the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Website address Phone or write to them (UK address)below. Click here for other countries

Head Office

Commonwealth War Graves Commission
2 Marlow Road Maidenhead Berkshire SL6 7DX United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 1628 634221
Casualty enquiries: +44 (0) 1628 771208


If you want to know more about your family, after you have gleaned all you can from any living relatives, then head for your local Family History Society. Here lies a gold mine of information and a treasure chest of resources. Societies offer a friendly place where you can meet like-minded people researching their families.  With access to any amount of records to help you with your search, as well as experienced volunteers on hand to give you help and advice, there is every chance you can fill up your family tree!

The local Society for the Blackmore Vale  is the Somerset and Dorset Family History Society (website based in Sherborne, west Dorset.

somerset dorset family history society

There are ten local groups spaning the two counties from Highbridge to Wimborne.  Click here for a list of  Family History Societies


Enlist the help of local historians.  The First World War is being commemorated in Villages and Towns across the UK. Check your local press for who is doing what.  Here in the Blackmore Vale,  a list of key contacts for each Town and Village is currently being compiled. Click here to read more.


Below is a list of reference and local studies providing a wealth of knowledge and information which can help you with your research.