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Matters of Life and Death
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In this unit you will:

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Learn how to use the CWGC Debt of Honour Register

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Assess the value of the above database compared with photographs as valuable sources of historical information

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Follow research trails to find out about Commonwealth citizens who died for their countries.

 

Key

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Printable task sheet

Virtual memorial, real lives and deaths

1.7 million men and women of the Commonwealth forces died in the two World Wars. One of the services provided by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is to keep records and registers containing basic information about all those who lost their lives. On their main website they have a search facility so that you can enter a name, and other known details, then, in seconds, you will see all the commemorative information that is held on the Debt of Honour Register. Look at the examples to see what you can learn from the information held on this database.

popup window Click here for annotated search of Frank Smith from the CWGC database

popup window Click here for annotated search of Alfred Howard Martin from the CWGC database

popup window Click here for annotated search of A A Thorpe from the CWGC database

 

Photographic memories

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Look at the photographs carefully. Consider when and why they may have been taken. Can you say from which Commonwealth nation the servicemen come and which war the photos show? Are they natural photos or were they staged? Write down as much information as you can about the people pictured in each photo. Now go back through your list and say and what can definitely be learned from a photograph. How much of your information is pure guesswork?

You are now going to compare photographic memories with factual records.

 

The Debt of Honour Register

The Debt of Honour Register supplies us with historical facts, from which we can go on to draw further conclusions. The photographs give us a different type of information. Each source has a place in putting together a complete picture of someone. It’s important to be aware of what you can’t find out from sources of evidence as well as what you can. There is certainly information that you will not be able to find out from either source, which may need further research.

  • The photographs and the database information might cause you to respond in different ways. How do you feel when you see one of the photographs? Is it the same feeling you experience when reading a Debt of Honour Register entry?
  • If you wanted to explore the life of a particular person leading up to his or her wartime death, what more would you need to find out? Using the information you already have, note where further research might be possible. Where might you look to find out more information?

Search and you shall find

Now it’s your turn to use the Debt of Honour Register.

1.

Go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website at www.cwgc.org You will see the search facility on the front page. For help on how to use the Debt of Honour Register click here and print off the information.

2.

Choose a name. At this stage it’s not important which name you use. You could put in your own surname and initials, and very often something will come up that matches your request. If you put in too many details there is less chance of finding someone. The search results may list several pages of names.

3.

Select a name, then print out the Debt of Honour Register entry that corresponds to your choice.

4.

Now, using the examples already studied for reference, write a profile of your chosen person, including everything that you can report from the information given to you and the conclusions that you can draw.

 

Research trails

Ussher Kilner - This will open a new pop up window Ronald Waterman - This will open a new pop up window William Malone- This will open a new pop up window David Carlson- This will open a new pop up window Elaine Balfour-Oglivy - This will open a new pop up window


Coming soon!

Additional Stories for Matters of Life and Death available on the website

India – Second World War
Dodla Ranga Reddy, a brave pilot, who lost his life saving a comrade.

Wales – First World War
Ellis Humphrey Evans (Hedd Wyn) a shepherd-poet who died in the Battle of Passchendaele

Scotland - First World War
William Carson Mair, a young sailor who was lost at sea on August 6th, 1914, one of the very first Commonwealth casualties of the war.

South Africa - Second World War
H.D. Freakes, a remarkable sportsman who died in a flying accident

Trinidad - Second World War
James Hyde, a Spitfire pilot, shot down in 1944



Have you a story you'd like us to tell? We are always interested to hear about the people commemorated by the CWGC and will be featuring more examples in the future.

We're particularly interested in any individual stories about men and women who served at sea or with forces from India, Africa or the Caribbean.

Contact us at cwgc.org with a brief outline of your idea.



Follow-up Activities - Pop up window Acknowledgements
 
   
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