Imperial War Graves Commission Index To Cemetery And Memorial Registers of Those Who Fell In The Great War

Printed in 1930
Page from a volume of the Imperial War Graves Commission Index To Cemetery And Memorial Registers of Those Who Fell In The Great War Navy

The above is a page from one of the ‘Imperial War Graves Commission Index To Cemetery And Memorial Registers of Those Who Fell In The Great War’. One set is kept by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (C.W.G.C.) in its Archive (where it can be seen on request) and the other after being given to the Imperial War Museum was subsequently sold at auction in 2016 and is now in private hands. The picture above comes from one of the volumes that was sold and covers the Navy. The columns are headed: Official Number [Editor’s note: in the Army volumes this column is headed Regimental Number], Surname, Rank, Initials, Honours, Memorial, Country and Enquiry File Number. The British and Colonial units (excluding the Dominions, see note below) are sorted into a series of volumes by Regiment or Corps or Service. See the volume list for the numbers allocated to each unit, the country list for the country of burial, the memorial list for memorials (note that no country is given in the Index when a casualty is commemorated on a memorial) and a sample of the cemetery list. Each Regiment etc. is then sorted in all of the Index volumes alphabetically by surname (this is the method of sorting for the Dominions: Australia, India, Newfoundland, New Zealand, South Africa whose volumes are only sorted alphabetically by surname, not organised by service, regiment or corps). The C.W.G.C. holds a complimentary set of volumes known as the ‘Imperial War Graves Commission Index To Cemetery And Memorial Registers Of Those Who Fell In The Great War, Forces Of The United Kingdom And The Colonies’ (the only copies of these volumes are held by the C.W.G.C. Archives), which feature British Army and Colonial Army (the Dominions are not included) units in a list sorted alphabetically by surname. The column headings differ from the Index volumes as follows: Code Number of Unit [Editor’s note: at the right hand side of the page, instead of Regimental Number or Official Number in the Navy volumes] followed by Regimental Number, the rest of the columns being the same as that in the Regimental/Corps/Service volumes except for the omission of the Enquiry File Number column.

According to an undated note in the CWGC Archive file CWGC/1/1/17/15 (in the Part 9 Records Folder,  the note was originally copied from a file numbered W.G. 219)  from 1923 onwards punch card machines and the accompanying sorters/printers (tabulators) were hired from the Accounting and Tabulating Corporation of Great Britain, to print lists needed for the work on the Memorials to the Missing. Derived ultimately from the inventions of the American Herman Hollerith devised to tabulate quickly and efficiently the results of the 1890 U.S. Census, Hollerith’s technology was from 1911 in competition with a rival system also developed for the U.S. census by the engineer James Legrand Powers which had a number of advantages over the Hollerith machines, including crucially for its later work with the I.W.G.C. (Imperial War Graves Commission) the ability to print text. A history of the early competition between Hollerith and Powers designed machines can be found here. It was from this source that the machinery used by the Prudential Insurance backed Accounting and Tabulating Corporation of Great Britain was drawn.

The cards from which the information in the Index derive came from verified Register information for the cemeteries and the Memorials to the Missing which was complete by the late 1920s (see C.W.G.C. Archive W.G. 219/4/2 Memorials to Missing: Obtaining Correct Lists Box 1015. Preparing lists of Missing: The Check On The Enquiries Card Index. Douglas Cockerell Printing Advisor to Director of Records (30 October 1923)). Looking at some of the print dates/print runs on the forms used by the IWGC in the Index gives a range of dates for when it could have been produced, with respectively 28,000 (ready to be used with a tabulator and information printed on the forms) and 52,000 printed on 3/29, 5,000 and 30,000 on 6/30 and 3,000 1/31. It appears likely that the Index was produced between 1929 to 1931.

Information from a file on the adding of additional names to the Menin Gate, names the I.W.G.C. branch responsible for completing the production of the Index as Final Index Branch (C.W.G.C. Archive WG 219/2/1/15 Menin Gate Memorial: Additional Names: Menin Gate Memorial. Henry Chettle Director of Records to Fabian Ware (24 February 1931). Chettle states that the Regimental Index would be completed in March 1931 and that what he refers to as the ‘Overall Index’, that is the alphabetical index of British and Colonial (but not Dominion forces) now known as the ‘Imperial War Graves Commission Index To Cemetery And Memorial Registers Of Those Who Fell In The Great War, Forces Of The United Kingdom And The Colonies’ with being printed after the completion of the Regimental Index. We know that Final Index Branch was in existence by December 1929 as it is mentioned in a memorandum to the Director of Records from Memorials to the Missing and Cemetery Registers Branch (see Ibid. (3 December 1929)).

In 1924 Douglas Cockerell stated that a tabulator could sort up to 2,500 cards per day in alphabetical order and the printer print details from around 10,000 cards per day (C.W.G.C. Archive WG 219/2/1/15 Menin Gate Memorial: Additional Names: Menin Gate Memorial: Machine carding Grave cases. Printing Adviser to Colonel Oswald I.W.G.C. (15 May 1924)). The code numbers which are used in with the Index had according to a note explaining the system used to produce the lists for the Memorials to the Missing been agreed on 20th July 1923 (the code numbers were allocated to units on 14 November 1923) and the interpretation of the British Army order of precedence on the Memorials was agreed at the same time (C.W.G.C. Archive W.G. 219/4/2 Box 1015 Memorials to the Missing: Obtaining Correct Lists: Procedure based on 12th June 1922, February 1923, and subsequent agreements. p. 6 & p. 11 (20 April 1925)).

Despite the title of the Index stating that it is an index ‘To Cemetery And Memorial Registers of Those Who Fell In The Great War,’ the codes used in the Index for cemeteries and most memorials are different to those used in the Registers. This is because the codes for the cemeteries and memorials were in use from 1923, whereas the code numbers used for the Register volumes seem only to have been allocated once the particular Register was ready for publication. Examples of how the Index and Register numbers differed can be found by clicking here. Examples of how cemetery codes were allocated for each country (each country also had its own code) are given here.  The I.W.G.C. solution to the problem of differing code numbers used by the Index and the Registers was simple, include both the code number for the Index and the Register number in alphabetically ordered lists of cemeteries for each country (with a separate single volume for the Commission Memorials to the Missing across the World).

A fragment from the lists produced during the 1920s for checking purposes survives, where a list of duplicate cards with slightly differences in the regimental number or spelling of the name had been printed out. The entries are from the Worcestershire Regiment (Code no 157) followed by the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (Code no 155)), to  from a list of names to be included on various memorials to the missing, including Le Touret, Loos, La Ferte Sous, Helles and one soldier buried at Azmak Cemetery, Suvla, Turkey. Unlike the surviving Index there is also a column for battalion numbers e.g. 1, 2/7 Worcestershire Regiment etc and the Regiments in the fragment have been sorted in order of Regimental code number, then by battalion and finally by date (again information which is not included in the surviving C.W.G.C. volumes). The date is shown in the format 10 3 5 with the years represented as 4 (1914), 5 (1915) and 6 (1916). The correct information has been underlined by a clerk, showing which is the correct spelling or number. The undated fragment can be found in C.W.G.C. Archive W.G. 219/4/2 Box 1015 Memorials to Missing: Obtaining Correct Lists. A memorandum following the list dated 19 August 1924 from Mr Davidson Memorials to the Missing Branch (M.M. Branch) to the Director of Records confirms that the list is a sample from a much larger list produced by M.M. Branch. Another smaller damaged fragment of a list for Code no 121, the Royal Engineers has six names on it, three of whom are commemorated on Tyne Cot, with one officer probably buried at Polecapelle British Cemetery. Only the columns for regiment and surname (the entries are arranged by surname, from Stow to Symons) survive, the other printed columns have not been preserved (see C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file SL 22/10960 Captain F.H.M Lewis Sherwood Forresters: the fragment is on the back of an Enquiries note (?/9/1924)).

Punch card lists produced from the Tabulator were even used to answer requests for lists from interested magazines such as the Scottish magazine “The Covenanter” (the regimental magazine of the Cameronians ‘The Scottish Rifles’) in 1927 for a list of Cameronians commemorated on the Menin Gate (see C.W.G.C. Archive WG 219/2/1 Box 1011 Memorials To Missing Menin Gate & Tyne Cot Lists: Director of Record I.W.G.C. to the Editor “The Covenanter” (22 April 1927) and another list sent to the Editor of the Surrey Times who wanted a list of the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment names on the same memorial (Ibid: Director of Records to The Editor “Surrey Times” (11 August 1927)).

There is also evidence in the C.W.G.C. files looking at production of the Missing Lists that the final format that we see in the I.W.G.C. Index was the product of both experience and deliberate decisions as to how much space/priority was given to each column, with for example in 1924 Douglas Cockerell the Printing Adviser/later Joint Director of Records responsible for the Registers plus the technical aspects of the process stating that 10 characters could be included in the ranks column, versus only five characters in the surviving Index (C.W.G.C. Archive WG 219/2/1 Box 1011 Memorials To Missing Menin Gate & Tyne Cot Lists: Lists For Contractors, Specimen lists for D.C.L.I. Director of Records & Printing Adviser to Fabian Ware (16 September 1924)). This reduction in the number of characters was to allow more space for other columns but it meant that it was much more likely that clerks would have to add in the missing part of longer rank descriptions, something that we find in some of the Registers amongst the handwritten additions.

About The Volumes and Their Contents:

1) Handwritten Additions

The Volumes (see for the parts of the Commonwealth Armed forces of WW1 and civilian organisations employed on war work abroad, the Commonwealth did not exist in its present form during WW1, but it is a convenient term for the armed) show some of the limitations of the punch card technology employed. For example in the page above we can see that most of the entries have asterisks printed next to the entry in the rank column, indicating that handwritten additions have to be made to the entry in the Index. These additions appear for many entries across the volumes of the Index and also cover the need for additional letters and forward slashes to be added to the service numbers. We can also see in the page concerned that the Tabulator has not been able to cope with the ‘x’ in Alexander, requiring the I.W.G.C. clerks to handwrite the x. Following the printing of these volumes all missing letters, corrections and additions were added by hand. Once bound these volumes could not be added to except by hand. The punch cards used do not survive.

2) Enquiry File References in the Index

Aside from the cemeteries and memorials the Index volumes are alongside the printed Cemetery and Memorial Registers the culmination of work recording and identifying the places of burial/area in which the missing, work which the Army and British Red Cross began in September 1914.

The files identified in the Enquiry File Number column are files relevant to the Enquiry Department of the Directorate of Grave Registration & Enquiries Department from 1916. A brief explanation of the different file series which can be found in this column in the Index follows and is taken from the Graves Registration Commission/Directorate of Graves Registration & Enquiries/I.W.G.C. Record Glossary:

The two 'Enquiry' related file systems placed side by side.
The two major ‘Enquiry’ related file systems placed side by side (for the third see S.S.P burial files). The CCM file does not have a number in front of the slash (for why part of the Prefix file system number was dropped by 1922/not recorded in the Index see below) whilst 22/20064 represents an unusually late use of this system of files, first introduced in 1916 and apart from U.K. burials (Numbers 19/ & 20/) being phased out from the Autumn of 1917. The late serial number for John Alfred Philip Alford’s file (76553) who died in 1914 and is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial probably indicates that the first correspondence on him outside casualty lists was probably post-war. J.H. Alford’s file (he was with the Royal Naval Division in France) who died of wounds in November 1917 is a rather late issue for a 8/17/21/22/23 series file which were being gradually replaced/reissued in the new prefix series (AA, CCM, PH, SL, WW) from the Autumn of 1917 onwards. The entries also show whilst cemeteries were listed by country and cemetery the much more limited number of memorials to the missing were noted by memorial numbers alone (no country number given).

8/17/21/22/23 Number Series Enquiry Branch Case File series:

e.g. 2nd Lieutenant A.H.R. Rumilly, Worcestershire Regiment Enquiry File 8/3030. E.g. see an example of a number series file reference from a Graves Registration Report (Finals) here http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/34820/WARD,%20WILLIAM%20HENRY

An early D.G.R. & E/I.W.G.C. Enquiry file series that was probably in use according to surviving evidence by October 1916, replacing the AP/M Enquiry file series. The series is likely to be associated with the move of the headquarters of the D.G.R. & E. to London and the need for new file series to cover steadily increasing casualties on the Western Front from the start of the Battle of the Somme in July 1916. These file series appear to have dealt exclusively with enquiry correspondence regarding service personnel killed in France and Belgium. Around October 1917 they began to be replaced by the Prefix Enquiry file series which was used for C.W.G.C. enquiries related to theatres of war both on the Western Front and all other theatres of war (see AA, CCM, CDEW, HLG, SL, WW, YP Enquiry Department pre-WW2 Prefix File Case File series). Some surviving correspondence from these early file series survives in files re-registered in the Enquiry Prefix file series. E.g. see an example of a number series file reference from a Graves Registration Report (Finals) here http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/34820/WARD,%20WILLIAM%20HENRY.

Using an average calculated from the entries in the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders Index volume of 5% of the entries having listed Number Series Enquiry files in the Enquiry Files column gives an estimate of around 33,000 files Number Series files still in use in 1929/1930 (based on 5% of the total number of Commonwealth Casualties from WW1), although the actual number will have been somewhat lower as these file series were not used for casualties outside the Western Front and the United Kingdom (including numbers 19/20, see below).

19/20 Number Series Enquiry Branch Files:

File series related to U.K. service burials. Both series were instituted by 1919 and only began to be replaced by the Prefix series (see AA, CCM, CDEW, HLG, SL, WW, YP Enquiry Department pre-WW2 Prefix File Case File series) in the early 1920s (later than the corresponding 8/17/21/22/23 Enquiry files). Some surviving correspondence from these early file series survives in files re-registered in the Enquiry Prefix file series. In the 1919/1920 Imperial War Graves Commission Report it was noted that ‘The Commission have began to take over from the Commands and from the Dominion miltary authorities cemeteries in this country with their records. About 30 cemeteries have been visited and reported on..(C.W.G.C. (1920) Annual Report of the Imperial War Graves Commission. 1919-1920. H.M.S.O.: London: p. 11)’. The Army Commands into which the United Kingdom was divided in 1920 were Aldershot, Eastern, Irish, London District, Northern, Scottish, Southern and Western and they had been responsible for maintaining Army burials in the United Kingdom during the War (Editor’s note: free online copies between 1914-1919 of the Army List including more detail on the geographical basis of the Army Commands can be found here). In 1921 I.W.G.C. took over the role of supervising all U.K. WW1 related graves from the Army Commands and D.G.R. & E. (C.W.G.C. Archive Add 1/3/4 Box 2033 Taking over of D.G.R. & E. by I.W.G.C.: Conference held in A.G.’s room 23.12.1920).

A copy of a form to allow relatives to register graves in the U.K., with a print run of 10,000 copies (printed July 1920), survives in a C.W.G.C. Enquiry file (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file SL 21547 33660 Sgt. J.Quayle Cheshire Regiment: form stamped by D.G.R. & E. 18 August 1920. The file was originally registered under the Enquiry file number 20/29696), its contents include questions such as whether the relative wanted a temporary wooden cross whilst it was decided whether the grave would be permanently marked by the Commission, was there already a wooden military cross over the grave or whether there was already a permanent memorial over the grave? In Quayle’s case we can see the process unfolding from wooden military memorial to grave stone by looking at his papers in the C.W.G.C. Casualty Archive: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/3067000/quayle,-john/

AA, CCM, CDEW, HLG, SL, WW, YP Enquiry Department pre-WW2 Prefix File Case File series:

e.g. Captain J.E.W. Bath Royal Berkshire Regiment, Enquiry file (E-file) CDEW 34/16818. An Enquiry file would usually, but not always cover a single burial or missing person (sometimes multiple burials in one grave are covered by the same file). The section prefixes (AA etc. see Enquiry Branch. The list of regiments/corps/services covered by each prefix can be found here) are based upon the fact that service records were grouped under various Army/Navy/RAF and Commonwealth forces Record Offices, in the British Army’s case groups of Regiments/Corps. Around the end of 1917 it appears that the Enquiries Branch was organised into sections that would reflect the groupings under the Army Record offices with whom it was in constant communication, also unlike previous enquiry file series the new series would also include correspondence concerning casualties outside France and Belgium. Examples include the AA prefix which stands for (Royal) Artillery and Australian Army Record Offices; CDEW for Cork, Dublin, Exeter and Warwick Record Offices. For a list of the military and civilian units/organisations covered by each prefix please click here for ‘The Key to the Enquiry Prefixes’. The Prefix file series are the along with the Number files series and the S.S.P. burial report files the only surviving E-Files from the three pre-WW2 enquiry file series listed in the Imperial War Graves Commission Index to Cemetery And Memorial Registers of Those Who Fell In The Great War.

Using an average calculated from the entries in the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders volume of the Index, with 53% of the entries having listed Prefix Series Enquiry files in the Enquiry Files column, gives an estimate of around 590,000 files Prefix Series files still in use in 1929/1930 (based on 53% of the total number of Commonwealth Casualties from WW1).

 

https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/180304/alexander,-/
Entry for Naval Index for Able Seaman A.W.H. Alexander LZ/697. Entry for Naval Index for Able Seaman A.W.H. Alexander LZ/697. An S.S.P. Enquiry file number 389/1 is noted, suggesting the first part of a longer series of files presumably including other names on the list or report from which the information was taken. Alexander was part of the land based Royal Naval Division.

S.S.P. Files:

A system for referencing and filing reports of the location of the details and location of a burial submitted by either a Chaplain/other officer responsible for the burial or from late in 1916 the newly appointed Army Divisional or Corps (both larger units of the Army) Burial Officers. Examples of forms used by chaplains, other officers and Divisional/Corps Burial Officers can be seen by clicking here.

Any of these sources could produce reports containing multiple names, particularly in the case of reports by Divisional or Corps burial officers responsible for burial arrangements from respectively Divisions of 18 to 20 thousand men and Corps made up of 2 Divisions. Corps and Divisional Burial Officers responsible for co-ordinating the burial of casualties and maintenance of cemeteries in their area had come into existence by 1917, because of a realisation that regiments and other frontline units needed co-ordination to cope with the number of burials that needed to be made/reported and graves maintained.

Graves Registration Units and Sections were also expected to submit copies of any such lists they received (they would have properly been the first recipients as they had to register the graves) and many of the S.S.P. lists presumably came to H.Q. in London from this source. Henry Chettle, the future Director of Records for the I.W.G.C in his March 1917 visit to report on the records kept by some of the sections on the Western Front stated that duplicate copies of Divisional, Brigade, Regimental or any other list of burials should be forwarded to the D.G.R. & E. in London. Grave Registration Units were also to submit a weekly summary with reference numbers of the lists and names of lists sent (see the 1917 visit report by H.F. Chettle to the Graves Registration Sections on the Western Front in  C.W.G.C. Archive CWGC/1/1/13/16 ).

S.S.P. references in common with other file references are written on Grave Reference Reports as authority for information or amendments, in the following example (the third document in the set Grave Registration documents for this particular casualty) we can see a typed reference to SSP/5500/14, the last number showing that this report comes possibly from a set of linked or multipage reports under the SSP/5500/14 reference: http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/325928/REED,%20ARTHUR%20ERNEST .

Using an average calculated from the entries in the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders I.W.G.C. Index to Cemetery And Memorial Registers of Those Who Fell In The Great War, where 8% of the entries having listed S.S.P. Series Enquiry files next in the Enquiry Files column gives an estimate of around 88,000 files S.S.P. Series files still in use in 1929/1930 (based on 8% of the total number of Commonwealth Casualties from WW1).

The importance of the information filed in the S.S.P. series can be seen from a document discussing the location of the grave of Captain A. Roberts 15th Londons, which survives in the C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file, HLG 3/1224. The contents of two Corps S.SP. reports, SSP/65 and SSP/2649 (III Corps and V Corps) are discussed alongside another report S.S.P. 2948C. The S.S.P. reports in this case reflect some confusion over where Roberts and other casualties were buried. There are  slight differences in grid references and  also overlaps and differences in the names of the individuals covered in each report. S.S.P.s in this case were used as part of the process of elimination and investigation to identify the actual site of Roberts’ burial. Communal Reports were also used as part of the process (communal reports are discussed elsewhere ) and when the evidence pointed to one particular cemetery an exhumation took place. Roberts’ grave was identified by badges of rank and effects which identified him as an officer of his regiment and battalion, see concentration report included with his GWGC register entry: http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/261012/ROBERTS,%20ARTHUR

Although there is not a reference to the actual words behind the S.S.P. acronym, C.W.G.C. records do have references to these documents as being burial reports. See for example the C.W.G.C. Enquiry file for Lieutenant Robert Maule of the Royal Scots, where it is stated that there had not in May 1921 been a burial report, either through the S.S.P. system or through a letter received through Enquiries (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file P.H. 28/13699: Note to Registrar (24 May 1921)). A reference to an S.S.P. reference connected with the Gallipoli Campaign (Lancashire Landing Cemetery) and S.S.P. 5201/15 (C?) can be found on an Index card in a surviving Enquiry file (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file C.C.M. 25/12739, Lt-Col. R.H.N. Settle 19th Hussars and 21 Btn. M.G.C.: Enquiry Index Card Dvr. S. Weller A.S.C. No. 2 Div. Train (undated, back reused for Registrar’s Department notes 17 May 1919). Weller’s entry in the C.W.G.C. Register and his Casualty Archive papers can be found here: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/600545/weller,-/

Mention is made of Chaplain’s burial reports (which would have been filed in the S.S.P. series) as late as 1937 in a  Enquiry file. The reports helped confirm the identity of six soldiers and their officer found in Bernafay Wood North Cemetery in 1936 and subsequently reburied in London Cemetery Extension (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file C.D.E.W. 34/16970 Pte. 11928 W.C. Robinson 11928 D.C.L.I.: Director of Records to Enquiries (18 November 1937)).

There is also fragmentary evidence in some surviving Enquiry files that burial reports for enemy soldiers were also filed using the S.S.P. reference, for example on a surviving fragment of an index card for a soldier called Schuldenzurker whose burial was reported by the IV Corps Burial Officer (G.W.G.C. Enquiry file CCM 5/2250 Lieutenant F.V. Hall Royal Air Force (undated fragment reused for notes, first note to Major Chettle (21 December 1918)). A full card surviving in another file for L/Cpl. H Otte of the 374 German Infantry Regiment was based on information taking from the forces chaplain connected with Abbeville (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file CCM 25/12513 Brigadier General F. Wormald 12 Royal Lancers (the back of the card has been reused as a note for information to be put into two standard letters (3 December 1918)).

S.S.P. 4995 Files:

Information provided by the Germans post WW1 on burials of British/Commonwealth soldiers (often P.O.W.s) or graves lost to the Germans in the German Spring Offensive of 1918. Often associated with J.K. lists (see J.K. Lists below) or German Burial lists. A figure given by I.W.G.C. in 1921 for the number of previously registered graves lost during the War of roughly 42,000 graves would include many lost or destroyed in the 1918 Spring Offensive. The figure does not include the much larger figure of missing and unverified burials not registered with the C.W.G.C. in France, Belgium, Germany, some of which were buried and recorded by the Germans either after death in battle/following battle or during incarceration as Prisoners of War (C.W.G.C. Archive WG 1294/3/2 Box 1084 Exhumation. France and Belgium. Army Exhumation Staff: see undated lists and accompanying letters, followed by a note from Arthur Browne (Principal Assistant Secretary) of a meeting with a journalist (10 October 1921)). The same 1921 lists also make clear that by October 1921 the Directorate of Graves Registration and Enquiries (D.G.R. & E.) and Imperial War Graves Commission had located and registered 493,000 graves, of which 42,000 had been lost as discussed, compared to a then estimated figure of 739,000 deaths/missing in France, Belgium, Germany and the U.K. Including the 42,000 meaning that roughly 246,000 casualties were unaccounted for in I.W.G.C. records, of which only 122,000 were known to be missing or their graves known to be lost (42,000 plus 80,000 names known in I.W.G.C. records to be missing). Many had hoped that the German lists would fill much of this gap at least when it came to finding the missing burials that remained after the release of Commonwealth prisoners of war following the Armistice.

The J.K. and other German lists were compiled by the Allies from German card indexes. A surviving example of one of the German cards can be found here (in an Australian Red Cross file): https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/R1497776 (Corporal Charles Joseph Smith) or to a slightly different design in the Australian service file for Robert David Burns (go to page 39): https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=3173058

In the following example, the JK list and S.S.P. 4995 reference both securely show this information to have come from German records, see Concentration documents in http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/461907/BELL,%20W

A newspaper article from April 1922 discussing the end of work by the D.G.R. & E. (Central Europe) says the following about the difficulty of compiling these lists once the problems of records being lost in 1918 has taken into account (C.W.G.C. Archive W.G. 436/1 Box 1037 Graves of British Prisoners of War in Germany):

‘…It has been the task of the Graves Directorate to trace these records which are not permanently lost and to copy out the names of the British contained therein. In this way 350,000 British names have been forwarded to the home authorities from the German burial lists alone in the course of the last 18 months, of which more than 15,000 referred to men whose fate has hitherto been unknown. In cases where grave-lists were irrevocably lost, hospital records, the rolls of prison camps and of similar institutions have been searched, and names thus found have been traced from camp to camp and hospital to hospital, until in many cases the place of the man’s death has been obtained and definite information forwarded to the authorities giving the name of the hospital or place of death of a hitherto missing man. It has been necessary to search and to correspond with over 50 German departments in order to obtain this information….lunatic asylums…were circularised…The commanding officers of German units fighting opposite British regiments and German officers who brought down British aeroplanes were written to in many cases…The Ministers responsible for the Graves and Casualty Departments of the Central European Powers were visited personally by the Chief of the Graves Directorate [Editor’s note: Major General Perceval] and steps taken similar to those taken in Germany to ascertain the fate of the missing men were equally taken in every country concerned…’

Examples in surviving C.W.G.C. Enquiry files include references to named German Burial Lists for a particular area such as G.B. (German Burial) List No 691 which was said to have been sent to I.W.G.C. on 26 May 1921 ( see C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file C.C.M. 25/12739, Lt-Col. R.H.N. Settle 19th Hussars and 21 Btn. M.G.C. E.M. Perceval Major General I.W.G.C. Germany to Secretary I.W.G.C. (8 August 1922)),. The memorandum also mentions German effects lists (presumably of Allied soldiers who they buried) (Ibid). In the same file a list on the file S.S.P/4995/1098 is said to report the same seven Unknown British Soldiers (U.B.S.) as the G.B. list (Ibid: Memoranda to Mr Davidson Registrar’s Branch (24 August 1922)).

Another example mentions the use of two G.B.  Lists connected to two old German cemeteries (one whose existence was in doubt at the time the memorandum was written) at Droogenbroodhoek Cemetery and Eppeville Communal Cemetery German Extension. The two connected S.S.P. numbers are S.S.P./4995/2246 and S.S.P./4995/1557, although it is not clear which S.S.P. applied to which cemetery (see (see C.W.G.C. Archive Box 1011 WG 219/2/1/1 Memorials To Missing Menin Gate & Tyne Cot Lists: Missing Memorials. Menin Gate and Tyne Cot. Registrar to Director of Records (4 May 1926)).

The Director of Records in 1928 stated that the Germans reported 38,691 burials via the Burial Lists with the figures including dead found by the Germans on the battlefield, those of Commonwealth soldiers graves in areas captured by the Germans, in addition to the P.O.W.s who died in German custody or shortly after the end of the War ( Ibid: Prisoners of War. Director of Records to Principal Assistant Secretary I.W.G.C. (22 June 1928)).

 

Entry for Able Seaman LZ/2932 Albert Edward Barnes from the Index
Entry for Able Seaman LZ/2932 Albert Edward Barnes from the Index. In the Enquiry File reference the number S.S.P. 4995/883/1 is noted, indicating a record based on a German postwar list. Barnes is listed on the Arras Memorial, his service record indicates that he was buried in haste during the German Spring Offensive of 1918 and his grave subsequently lost, although from the S.S.P. 4995 it appears that his grave is likely to have been noted by the Germans before it was lost.

 

The following entries on J.K. Lists and Enquiry Branch are included to explain the reference made to them when discussing S.S.P. 4995 files:

J.K. List:

Information provided by the Germans post WW1 on burials of British/Commonwealth soldiers (often P.O.W.s) or graves lost to the Germans in the German spring offensive of 1918. Often associated with S.S.P 4995 report/file references (see S.S.P. 4995). The J.K. and other German lists were compiled by the Allies from German card indexes. For an example see the Concentration and G.R.R. forms here: http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/491988/POWELL,%20G

In an answer to a Parliamentary Question on ‘British Prisoners of War, List of Names’, a British Government Minister stated that:

‘…So far as is known, the Germans have no such lists. All their records regarding prisoners of war, are made on index-cards. It is understood that the number of these cards, owing to the lack of system whereby one name sometimes appears on several cards, runs to several hundred thousand. These cards are being examined, but this must necessarily be a slow proceeding….’

That the compilation of information of these cards into list was due to work by British War Office staff as part of the post-Armistice British Military Mission to Berlin is also made clear in the same debate:

‘…The staff available in Berlin for search of German records consists of an assistant adjutant-general and two other Staff officers [Editor’s note: presumably officers with a working knowledge of German], with a clerical staff…’

(National Archives (TNA) file FO 383/499: Extract from Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, Thursday, 29th May 1919: 355)

The Director of Records in 1928 stated that the Germans reported 38,691 burials via the Burial Lists with the figures including dead found by the Germans on the battlefield, those of Commonwealth soldiers graves in areas captured by the Germans, in addition to the P.O.W.s who died in German custody or shortly after the end of the War ( Ibid: Prisoners of War. Director of Records to Principal Assistant Secretary I.W.G.C. (22 June 1928)). The number and details taken from the card are the same as can be seen on the documents in the C.W.G.C. Casualty Archive: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/270005/pascoe,-/

The Commission also had access to the Geneva lists of P.O.W.s (including those said by the Germans to have died whilst prisoners) passed to the International Committee of the Red Cross by the German Government during the War and sent on to the British Government. A note in an Enquiry file mentions that the I.W.G.C. know through a P.M. (Geneva List) about the death of a British private (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file C.C.M. 25/12739, Lt-Col. R.H.N. Settle 19th Hussars and 21 Btn. M.G.C.: C.L. Miskin Registrar to Deputy Controller (Assistant Director of Records), I.W.G.C., France (14 November 1922)). Hembury’s entries in the C.W.G.C. Casualty Archive (including references to an S.S.P. 4995 list) can be found here: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/572279/hembury,-james-william/

The Director of Records in 1928 stated that the Germans reported 38,691 burials via the Burial Lists with the figures including dead found by the Germans on the battlefield, those of Commonwealth soldiers graves in areas captured by the Germans, in addition to the P.O.W.s who died in German custody or shortly after the end of the War ( Ibid: Prisoners of War. Director of Records to Principal Assistant Secretary I.W.G.C. (22 June 1928)).

Enquiries Branch:

From its foundation in March 1915 the G.R.C. answered enquiries from both the public and the military about the burial and graves of Commonwealth service personnel in France and Belgium. It also supplied at no cost to relatives (paid for by a grant by the British Red Cross Society (B.R.C.S.), originally a grant of £50 per week to the G.R.C. and its successors that was also to help fund the care of war cemeteries see C.W.G.C. Archive Add 4/1/5 Box 2028 Graves Registration Commission: Secretary to B.R.C.S. Commissioner to Fabian Ware (23 November 1915)) photographs of war graves to relatives. By February 1916 the G.R.C. had become the D.G.R. & E. and from August 1916 the main office was based in London (C.W.G.C. Archive C.W.G.C. 1/1/1/34 DGRE 8 Removal of Directorate to London from GHQ, France: Fabian Ware to the Adjutant General (27 August 1916)). In the autumn of 1917 the Enquiry Branch appears to have been reorganised into sections to reflect the structure of the Army Record Offices (see AA, CCM, CDEW, HLG, SL, WW, YP Enquiry Department pre-WW2 Prefix File Case File series). A fragment of a blank list intended to be used to show the day by day correspondence dealt with by the different sections (AA. etc) can be found in a surviving C.W.G.C. Enquiry file (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file PH 24/11963 303088 PH 24/11963 303088 J. Adam 1/8th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders: undated fragment, back used for note dated 20 October 1921). The growth in the volume of enquiries by the end of 1918 was enormous. By April 1916 D.G.R. & E. reported that around 5,000 enquiries from families had been answered and 2,500 photographs of graves sent to next of kin ( (C.W.G.C. Archive C.W.G.C.1/1/26 Narrative Letters & Reports: Fabian Ware to Adjutant General (4 May)). The D.G.R. & E. end of 1918 report stated that 223, 126 letters have been sent out to answer enquiries about the location of graves (C.W.G.C. Archive WG 1609 Record of Directorate 1918: The Work of the Directorate of Graves Registration And Enquiries 1918 (copy report attached to minute dated 16 December 1918). With regard to photographs of graves 57,438 applications for photographs had been received and 33,437 photographs sent out (Ibid). By December 1919 the Enquiries Branch had transferred from D.G.R. & E. to the I.W.G.C. becoming part of the Principal Assistant Secretary’s Department ((C.W.G.C. Archive Add 1/3/69 Box 2033 Correspondence with General MacDonogh, Removal of D.G.R. & E: Memorandum written by Arthur Browne Principal Assistant Secretary: p. 1 (30 November 1920). By November 1920 around 500,000 Enquiry files had been opened and in November 1920 it was reported that Enquiries Branch dealt with 300 letters per day about individual graves, sent out 400 letters a day and had about 20 enquiries per day from people calling in at the I.W.G.C. offices (Ibid: p. 2).

Enquiry File (E-file) Series: How they worked and what can we ascertain from looking at them?
The following is based on an email I sent to the CWGC archivist last year:
Sadly the helpful serial numbers before the main serial number used with prefix series enquiry files issued before the beginning of 1922 (see above, e.g. PH 41/20406 would be recorded as PH 20406 in the relevant I.W.G.C. Index to Cemetery And Memorial Registers of Those Who Fell In The Great War volumes (I.W.G.C. Indices) are not recorded in the I.W.G.C. Indices. However many references can be found in the C.W.G.C. Casualty Archive documents and can be used to make a rough estimate of when a particular file was issued, or changed from one of the earlier file series.

‘…1) The numbers Army record office prefixes (AA, CDEW etc) were introduced in October/November 1917. It is likely that the organisation of enquiries at D.G.R. & E and subsequently I.W.G.C. to match the Record Offices also dates from around this time.

2) Each prefix has its own run of serial numbers (the number after the /), so for example YP begins at 1 and potentially runs to the number of casualties for the units covered by the Record Offices/units covered by the prefix. So for example using the CWGC database PH has a total number of casualties of 73,556. CCM, CDEW would have a far larger run of numbers. Each prefix series run of serial numbers is entirely separate from all of the others.

So for example: YP 1/290 is the 290th PH number in the first block of 500 numbers, whereas YP 2/631 is the 631 PH number in the second PH block of 500 numbers. Number blocks seem to have been allocated early on in most series in blocks of 500, with sometimes larger blocks of 1000 and smaller blocks of probably 250 coming on. This is clear from dividing the second number by 500 and then seeing how far in advance or behind the first number is, so for example PH 41/20406 shows a pretty regular issue of blocks of 500 in the PH section, as 41/20000 would be 40/ and numbers between 20,001 to 20,500 are 41/. Looking at the early issue of files in prefix series through surviving E-Files such as YP in October to November 1917 the blocks become clear. Many more examples (although without dates of issue) to supplement the evidence for number blocks are available at looking at Comprehensive and Burial Reports which often feature Enquiry file references as authorisation for amendments. The LS (Location Sheet) references are of course completely separate as e.g. CDEW/LS/7/9021 as mentioned in earlier emails and my draft explaining how the pre-WW2 systems worked (a work in progress).

By contrast other series show bigger or smaller regular blocks sometimes issued in between the standard issue of 500, for example WW 50/22809 is 4 block numbers ahead from where it should be if blocks of 500 were always issued. Thus at some stage blocks perhaps of 250 have been issued inbetween the 500s.

From January 1922 the batch numbers drop out of use in Enquiries correspondence and rapidly with other correspondence from the different sections caught on the E-Files. So for example YP 1/190 would become YP 190. The I.W.G.C. Indices only include the numbers in this post 1921 format.

3) Why does this matter? If we use the first date on the file that the particular prefix file was issued, for example YP 3/1028 and match it up with the first bit of correspondence where the file number looks like it was typed in or purposely written on a memorandum, letter or index card we can see roughly when the file number came into circulation. In this case 11/11/1917. Usually there is also earlier correspondence on the file which has later had the file number written in in coloured pencil but the most secure date for understanding the run of file numbers is this first piece of correspondence issued using the number. It is also quite common to see earlier correspondence using the earlier 8/, 17/, 19/, 20/, 21/, 22/, 23/ enquiries file series (these are briefly discussed below).

If we put these individual file dates together for a run of files we begin to get a rough timeline for the series against which to date the issue of other E-files, for example the photographs taken of graves by DGRE photographers which many people have.

It is not all plain sailing as it appears that these batches were issued to sub-sections within the PH and other sections and sometimes the numbers waited a time to be used, but with the charting of enough numbers a pattern begins to emerge of roughly when a block began to come into use.

Using dates from runs of surviving numbers and the simple tool of dividing by 500 it also becomes possible to begin calculating estimated dates for the E-Files mentioned in the I.W.G.C. Indices.

4) … told me that understanding of the E-File prefixes had pretty much gone in the IWGC by the 1950s and this is also reflected in the practice in some cases by the mid 1930s of simply taking an older file. The following example is from 1938 where Enquiries simply took an old series 22 file in 1938, 22/334 which had come back to life and put a YP in front of the of the 22, making YP 22/334! A 1917-1922 YP22 file would be between YP 22/10501-YP22/11000.

5) I am still working on the older 8/, 17/, 19/, 20/, 21/, 22/, 23/ enquiry file series…It was also not automatic that every file in the old enquiry series straight away or at all was re-issued as a prefix (PH etc) file, although many were. Some correspondence continued on these older numbers until 1919/1920…’

 

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