War memorials are a great source of information and supplement the official casualty rolls, they can provide first names, biographical details, exact cause of death and a clue as to where a man came from.
However, there are names on war memorials that just don't make sense, they are casualties but just cannot be found in the usual sources. I will write about three examples that I recently resolved as they reveal interesting stories and illustrate the need to "keep digging".
After the war the Royal Artillery erected a large memorial on The Mall in London - just down the road from Buckingham Palace. On the plaques arranged by battery are the names of all the gunners who died during the war. There are two that, until, recently were a mystery: Lts FC Fox and GTW Webb. Neither man in the official casualty roll nor in the November 1899 Army List which implies they weren't serving officers during the war, why then are they on the memorial?
On the casualty rolls there is an entry for a Trooper Francis Charles Fox, Border Mounted Rifles, the only similar record to Lt FC Fox RA; what if any is the connection. This research was resolved quickly by contacting the Library of the Royal Artillery. There records show Lt FC Fox was killed while serving as Captain with the Border Mounted Rifles. He was commissioned into the Royal Artillery in 1869 and resigned his commission in 1879. When he was killed at Caesar's Camp on January 6th, 1900 he was quite old for a trooper, fifty perhaps? I double checked his rank with a Border Mounted Rifles collector in South Africa and he was not a captain. Exactly how his name was added to the RA memorial is not known, but he had not served with the regiment for 20 years on his death. There must be other ex-gunners killed in the war who are not included. There is certainly a story to be uncovered on what Fox did between 1879 and 1900.
The Register, being an agglomeration of records from many sources, had a record for a GT (George Theodosius) Wynne-Webb, 2nd Lt RGA and Trooper Steinaecker's Horse who died May 28th, 1901 at Pietermaritzburg, previously a prisoner released June 6th, 1900 at Waterval. This last record comes from The Times and is not in the official casualty roll, he is described as "attached" to the RGA. Obviously there is a great similarity between GTW Webb and GT Wynne-Webb, but what is the connection between the two records?
A name like "George Theodosius Wynne-Webb" is ripe for internet searching, and so it proved. GTW Webb was born in 1876, educated at Merchant Taylors. He was first commissioned into the Royal Marines in 1894, resigned at his own request in 1895. His service record (ADM196/62/304) refers to "confidential reports". He then joined a militia unit, the Royal Jersey Artillery from which he was commissioned into the RGA in 1897. He left the RGA in July 1899, circumstances unknown. Almost immediately he sailed for southern Africa and on the outbreak of war was in or near Ladysmith where he became attached to the 10th mountain battery RGA. The Digest of Service for the battery describes him as "Mr Webb", hence The Times describing him as "attached". How this relationship came about is not known, perhaps he had pals in the battery who invited him along. Whatever the nature of the relationship "Mr Webb" accompanied the battery into battle on "Mournful Monday" and was captured in the ensuing debacle on October 30th, 1899. On his release from POW camp Mr Webb did not re-join the battery but instead turns up in Utrecht, eastern Transvaal employed at the customs office. On May 9th, 1901 he enlists with Steinaecker's Horse as Trooper 3783 but dies three weeks later of pneumonia. The connections that saw him attached as a civilian to the 10th mountain battery RGA persist after his death, his name is included on the RA memorial despite him not being a serving officer at the time of his death and his brief, and perhaps chequered, career when he was commissioned. As ever, "worthy of further research" - see this blog.
QM & Hon Captain EJ Piper:
The third example is Quartermaster & Honorary Captain EJ Piper 1st volunteer battalion King's Shropshire Light Infantry (KSLI). He is named on the Devonshire county memorial in Exeter Cathedral, but not the (KSLI) memorial in Shrewsbury which implies Piper did not die on active service with the KSLI. On the medal roll there is a record for a Lieutenant & Quartermaster EJ Piper 5th bn Imperial Yeomanry (IY), roll marked "deceased". His name is not in the official casualty rolls suggesting he died in the UK, but what are the connection between a man from Devon, the IY and the KSLI?
With no first names and a surname like 'Piper' there is not much to search on. Fortunately FindmyPast have uploaded a huge archive of British newspapers which are treasure trove for researchers. Experimenting with different first names "Edwin Piper" drew a direct hit. His obituary was published in the Western Times (Devon) on December 21st, 1900, and full obituary it is too.
Edwin Piper was born about 1841 in (or about) Exeter. He served for 30 years with the volunteers, the last 16 with the 1st vb KSLI and as Supply and Transport Officer, Welsh Border Brigade. On the otubreak of war he was offered the role of Supply and Transport Officer for the 5th bn Imperial Yeomanry, one company of which came from Shropshire. In South Africa he fell ill with dysentery and enteric and was invalided home. He had two operations in July, but never recovered. He left a widow and six children. He was a deacon in the United Methodist Free Church, Albert St.
I will continue to work through the "odd" casualties on war memorials, one that I am working on know is Lt SP Knowles, formerly 2nd Life Guards. So far I cannot find any likely casualties with which to work on; one day all will be revealed.