Registers (published) – War Graves of the British Empire and Memorial Registers:

Cemetery Registers

Unlike the entries in the Imperial War Graves Commission Index to Cemetery And Memorial Registers of Those Who Fell In The Great War (click the link to learn about the Index) the WW1 published cemetery registers appear to have been published, as far as France and Belgium are concerned, simply after the work of Final Verification by the Works Department on a cemetery (together with the research work on casualties by the Director of Records and Registrar which we see in the Cemetery Archive documents) was complete. Whilst each cemetery had an individual cemetery number given to it by the early 1920s (click here to see a sample of these cemetery numbers from French and Belgium cemeteries, the numbers were allocated in alphabetical order) the numbers for the published series of registers seem purely to be based on the order that the material was ready to be published. This can be shown by looking at a page from one of the compilation library volumes that the Imperial War Graves Commission sold to bigger libraries (the index sheets and groupings were also used by the Commission in its own bound set of registers) for grouping and binding in the 1920s and early 1930s. The following pages come from Volume 11 of War Graves of the British Empire France FR 147-175. H.M.S.O.: London (1925) which was once owned by the Harris Free Public Reference Library in Preston:

War Graves Of The British Empire France Volume Eleven

War Graves Of The British Empire France Volume Eleven

War Graves Of The British Empire France Volume Eleven

The registrar numbers run between FR. 147-175 and the list has been put in alphabetical order. However when we compare the register numbers to the I.W.G.C. Index to Cemetery and Memorial Registers we can see that the published register numbers were determined by rough order of publication only, a small sample from the above list is enough to see this:

Cemetery I.W.G.C. Index number Published Register Number Area of France
Albert, Bapaume Post Military Cemetery 149 FR 150 Somme
Le Fermont Military Cemetery, Riviere 1132 FR 175 Pas de Calais
Warlus Communal Cemetery 2206 FR 159 Pas de Calais

Registers were also sold individually before the volumes for the particular year were put together by the I.W.G.C., for example the sample cemeteries had respective publication dates for the particular registers covering those cemeteries of 1924, 1925 and 1924 (the compilation volume was published in 1925). It was clearly important  to get the registers out to interest parties including next-of-kin. The compilation volumes other than being in a particular country appear to follow no deliberate geographical groupings.

Although the maps included in the cemetery registers often include other surrounding cemeteries not included in that particular registers (most towns etc. with a cluster of cemeteries feature in more than one register) as an individual member of the general public wanting to look at larger regional clusters of cemeteries there were three options as far as France and Belgium were concerned.  You could look at the publication of Sidney C. Hurt’s The Silent Cities (Methuen & Co: London (1929)) to use the maps/gazetteer designed by I.W.G.C. employee Hurst and endorsed by Fabian Ware or look at one of the many other guides to specific parts of the Western Front with perhaps a selection of the bigger cemeteries mentioned. Another alternative would be to go on a battlefield pilgrimage or visit organised by either a group like the Ypres League or a commercial concern. Finally you could contact the Commission for advice both at their London office or at the Enquiry Bureaux in France and Belgium.

However individual registers do sometimes group together smaller neighbouring cemeteries into one single publication, for example registers France 167-173 are grouped together and cover the neighbouring cemeteries of: Beauval Communal Cemetery, Gezaincourt Communal Cemetery, Gezaincourt Communal Cemetery Extension, Hem Communal Cemetery (St. Nazaire), Beauquesne Communal Cemetery and Terramesnil Communal Cemetery ( Ibid: France 167-173, names as per last sentence). However overall it remains the case that the registers or indeed the I.W.G.C. Index information cannot be easily regionally arranged (unlike many of the records available before the completion of the cemeteries i.e. Weekly and Communal Reports for example) and the function of these records seems mainly to have been to easily find individual records/burial locations for next-of-kin, not the partly geographical based research of the War and immediate post-war years. In part probably because of the small numbers of graves in many United Kingdom and Ireland cemeteries the War Graves of The British Empire series of registers unlike the French and Belgium registers are organised geographically by county and wider regions/bands of the country, with volumes being published to cover specific geographical areas. For example:

United Kingdom
Contents page from Volume 6. Volume 8 covers the smaller area of the East, North and West Ridings of Yorkshire, together with Durham and Northumberland.

Since the advent of the online Casualty Archive, including the main C.W.G.C. copies of pages from the Registers, it is clear that the Commission made both handwritten and typed amendments to the master copies of the registers. For an example of a typewritten list of amendments see the following register amendment slip which can be found under https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/72652/baskiville,-henry-alphonsus/

Such copies together with handwritten amendments would be needed to reflect updated information on casualties both for Commission staff and visitors to the cemeteries.

A letter on the C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file CCM 1/474 Captain F.L. Mond & Lieutenant E.H. Martyn who had been added to the Doullens Community Cemetery No 2 Register after it was printed in 1922 was lost when the register for that cemetery was lost in World War Two and a new copy was put in place without the handwritten amendment of their names that had been added after 1922 (See  C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file CCM 1/474 Captain F.L. Mond & Lieutenant E.H. Martyn: F.Tyrell to Mrs M Cippio (12 September 1951)). An earlier letter from 1939 where the amended entry for the same casualties had been missed by the relative during their visit to the same Cemetery explains that the normal pre-WW2 procedure was for the information taken from the correction slips to be written in ink on the particular pages of the register (Ibid: R. Howarth to Fabian Ware (9 August 1939)).

Although there is evidence from the portion of the ex-Preston Library bound copies that I have seen that amendment sheets were sent out with new printed copies between roughly 1922 to 1925 it looks unlikely that once a copy was received any further amendments followed (although the Commission did for example send out copies of the introduction to the Menin Gate after the beginning of production of the Menin Gate register to those who had received earlier parts of the names register, ‘as soon as construction is sufficiently advanced’). When there was new information this was not a problem as I .W.G.C. usually tried to contact the next-of-kin or if their family member’s remains had been found proceed to Final Verification before burial in a Commission cemetery. However as public documents the copies of the Registers in many libraries or held by individuals were not after receipt subject to the updates that have carried on to to this day  (paper copies of the registers are still kept at C.W.G.C. cemeteries although new amendments are no longer made to the master copies of the registers at C.W.G.C. Headquarters, with all amendments now made to records in the C.W.G.C. Casualty Archive).

Register Amendment Slip Page One

Register Amendment Slip Page Two

Register Amendment Slip 1922
The Hospital Farm Cemetery Elverdinghe Register Belgium 9 was printed in 1922.

Memorial to the Missing Registers

The process that lead to the creation of the Memorial to the Missing registers is discussed under Memorials to the Missing Branch. But in terms of these registers publication it is instructive to look at the publication dates for some of the volumes of the Menin Gate/Tyne Cot Memorial Registers, the Thiepval Memorial and the Villers Brettoneux Australian Memorial.

Volume Publication Date Part
Introduction To The Registers Of The Ypres (Menin Gate) And Tyne Cot, Passchendaele, Memorials Belgium 1927
The Register Of The Names Inscribed On The Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium Memorial Register Number 29 Volume 28 1928
Ibid: Soldiers from the United Kingdom, Elliott-Fox 1926 19
Ibid: Soldiers from the United Kingdom, Foxall-Grannon 1926 20
Ibid: Soldiers from the United Kingdom, Gransee-Harris 1926 21
Ibid: Soldiers from the United Kingdom, Harrison-Hollands 1926 22
Ibid: Soldiers from the United Kingdom, Hollaway-Jarvis 1926 23
Ibid: Soldiers from the United Kingdom, Jary-Knibbs 1926 24

In 1924 Douglas Cockerell, the man with overall responsibility for the Registers (Printing Adviser and later Joint Director of Records) stated that a decision had been taken that the Registers would be arranged alphabetically, ignoring rank and regiment. This would be a different format to the actual memorials which were divided by rank and then alphabetically by surname (C.W.G.C. ArchiveW.G. 219/4 Box 1015 Memorials to the Missing: Memorial Forms for the Salient. Printing Adviser to Captain Murphy Final Verifications (20 May 1924)). The only divisions in the Registers other than by volume/different parts of the Registers would be by country, with the Dominions having their own volumes (Canada, Australia etc.). This is the scheme we see carried through below and in the arrangement of all of the different Register volumes for the Memorials to the Missing, although for example the Helles Memorial in Turkey’s Register (MR 4) is divided by service (Royal Marines, Army etc), whether buried at sea, lost at sea on board particular vessels as well as a separate volume for the Indian Army in addition to a volume for the British/Australians who fell on the Peninsula .

All of the other parts of the Menin Gate Soldiers From the United Kingdom alphabetical registers had been published in 1926, but the volume compilations for libraries of which they formed part were only issued in 1928 (Volumes 25, 27, 28, 30). Volume 26 of the Menin Gate register covering the Australians, South Africans, British West Indies Regiment and the Indians was not published as a volume until 1930, but the individual registers had been published between 1926 to 1929. This focus on releasing entire national sections of memorials for publication in the same year can also be seen at Tyne Cot (Memorial Register Number 30), where the soldiers from the United Kingdom registers were published as individual parts in 1927 and sent out to libraries in volumes in 1928, whilst the separate New Zealand memorial register part at Tyne Cot was published in 1926, with the volume (Volume 31) sent out to libraries in a compilation with the first parts of the United Kingdom register for this memorial (which as has been said were published in 1927). All volumes of the Tyne Cot and Menin Gate Registers were sent out with copies of the 1927 introduction to these memorials. The Memorial Register for Thiepval (Memorial Register Number 21) again follows the same pattern, with the parts of the memorial register including the names published in 1929 and the introduction to the memorial a year later. The following inserted in a part of the Menin Gate register sold to a member of the public explains the logic for publishing the introductions to the memorials later :

Note promising introduction

The Seventh Annual Report of the Imperial War Graves Commission states that ‘In cases where an illustrated preliminary part is printed separately, this is supplied without additional charge with every part published by the public (C.W.G.C. (1927) Seventh Annual Report of the Imperial War Graves Commission. 1925-1926. H.M.S.O.: London: p. 48)’.

This logic does not apply to the Australian memorial at Villiers-Bretonneux (Memorial Register Number 26) where the parts of the register were published in 1929 and the introduction focused on the register (not the memorial which was subject to several years of delay, with an official dedication ceremony only in 1938) published in 1931, the year that the volume was sent out to libraries. The work of verification and checking was completed several years ahead of the construction of the memorial in this case.

The introductions were also used on some of the bigger memorials such as the Menin Gate, Thiepval or Tyne Cot to give the panel references for the relevant panels for that Regiment or Unit, the Director of Records having set out in 1924 that this would be a better idea (Editor’s note: it saved space and labour in putting a Memorial Register together) than including the panel reference with each individual entry (see C.W.G.C. Archive W.G. 219/4 Box 1015 Memorials to the Missing: Director of Records to Director of Works (15 August 1924)).

The Register is the part of the Memorial to the Missing that could be changed, whereas panels once carved were not to be changed. In 1922 the Commission decided that no names should be physically removed from Memorials to the Missing to prevent damaging scars to the Memorial, even if a body had been found or for any other reason that would lead to the listed casualty no longer being counted amongst the missing (see C.W.G.C. Archive W.G. 219/4/2 Box 1015 Memorials to the Missing: Procedure based on 12th June 1922, February 1923, and subsequent agreements. p. 3 (20th April 1925)).  In 1927 a group of officer casualties from the 3rd Dragoon Guards were reported as missing from the Menin Gate Memorial by the then Lieutenant Colonel (Ibid: Lieutenant Colonel 3rd/6th Dragoon Guards to Secretary I.W.G.C. (17 May 1927). The response by the Commission was to propose to add their names to an addenda panel and have their names/details written into the Registers (subsequently and not reported in this file it turns out that four of the officers on the list actually have registered graves all certified by the early 1920s). However at the time of the suggestion of putting their names on the addenda panel one of the officers was found to have a grave and also to have already been commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial, as his body was identified in 1926 after the relevant panel had been carved. The response of the I.W.G.C. was to follow the above procedure, his name had been deleted from the Register before it was published, but his name remained on the Memorial panel (Ibid: Handwritten note to Director of Records and Principal Assistant Secretary I.W.G.C. at bottom of memorandum dated 20 May 1927).

The four officers who were were recorded in registered graves by the early 1920s were  2nd Lieutenant A.C. Clifford  buried at Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/137985/clifford,-/ , Lieutenant H.R. Talbot of the same regiment buried at Ypres Town Cemetery: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/446314/talbot,-humfrey-richard/ Lieutenant E.W. Chapman (Ypres Town Cemetery): https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/446225/chapman,-edward-wynne/ and Captain E. Wright (Ypres Town Cemetery): https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/446330/wright,-edwin/

Captain Edgar Ralph Coles was included in the Register (plus his name added to the Memorial, presumably on an addenda panel) https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1607280/coles,-edgar-ralph/ , as was Captain Thomas Villiers Tuthill Thacker, his name having already been carved on the Memorial panel when his remains were found and moved to Bedford House Cemetery, his entry in the cemetery records together with his name on the Menin Gate panel list can be found here: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/484628/neville,-thomas-villiers-tuthill-thacker/

Later amendments to the Registers were made by hand or pasted in.

Much less information was also typically found on a casualties military identity (service no, battalion etc) in a memorial panel (although the Helles Memorial includes regimental numbers) than in a Register and christian names were also not included, meaning that in 1925 a concession had to be made by the Director of Records that the regimental numbers of identically named casualties within regiments would be given to differentiate between them (Ibid: Final Lists for “Missing” Memorials. Director of Records to Fabian Ware (12 August 1925)).

Proof Readers Report

A fragment of a form for organising the proof reading of draft cemetery registers survives in a C.W.G.C. file (there would have been an equivalent form for the Memorial Registers). The form has space for recording amendments by the Cemetery Registers staff and for marking up printer’s errors (see C.W.G.C. Archive Box 1011 WG 219/2/1/1 Memorials To Missing Menin Gate & Tyne Cot Lists: undated and not filled in, the back of the form has been used for a note to Mr West dated 19 March 1926). An important job for such a large publishing project but also yet another example of the thorough organisation which was vital when attempting to ensure as few mistakes as possible in what was very much a politically and culturally area after the end of the Great War.

Sale of Registers to the Public

In a privately held copy of a letter from the I.W.G.C. dated 29 August 1928, the I.W.G.C. acknowledged that 3 shillings had been received from George Froome Esq. of 49, Rosemary Avenue, Finchley for Part 5 of the Loos Memorial Register. George Froome was presumably the brother of Lance Corporal Sidney Walter Froome: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1763329/froome,-sidney-walter/

A surviving fragment of an undated correspondence register in a C.W.G.C.  file (C.W.G.C. Archive WG 436/1 Box 1037 Graves of British Prisoners of War Germany: the fragment is undated but can be found on the back of a note to the Director of Records dated 7 February 1923) shows five 3 shilling postal orders received for the Corbie Register (Corbie Communal Cemetery and the Corbie Communal Cemetery Extension published in 1922), with one of those named, Mrs R.L. Brewster mentioned in her husband’s details in the C.W.G.C. Register: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/21239/brewster,-james/

In the 1922 I.W.G.C. annual report it was reported that ‘…Up to the present sales have represented 40 per cent. of the names included in the Registers..((C.W.G.C. (1923) Fourth Annual Report of the Imperial War Graves Commission. 1922-1923. H.M.S.O.: London: p. 16). We know from the correspondence register fragment that the I.W.G.C. was keeping records of who bought registers and this statement suggests an impressive take up of the first published registers by next-of-kin and other members of the public.

In the Twelfth Annual Report published in 1932 it was stated that by 1931 that 283,459 copies of Cemetery and Memorial Registers sold to the public was 283,459 and that 939 Register parts had been printed with only 13 parts left for publication (C.W.G.C. (1932) Twelfth Annual Report of the Imperial War Graves Commission. 1930-1931. H.M.S.O.: London: p. 22). By 1933 and the Fourteenth Annual Report this figure had changed to 940 registers with 11 parts unpublished (C.W.G.C. (1934) Fourteenth Annual Report of the Imperial War Graves Commission. 1932-1933. H.M.S.O.: London: p. 22). The last time that the printing of any outstanding WW1 registers is mentioned is in the Thirtieth Annual Report published in 1950 where it is again stated that 940 registers had been published and 7 were left to be published (C.W.G.C. (1950) Thirtieth Annual Report of the Imperial War Graves Commission. 1948-1949. H.M.S.O.: London: p. 22). In following years the series was stated to be complete at 940 parts.  Which cemeteries were covered by the remaining unpublished parts and how this problem was resolved (perhaps by incorporating the information as additions to existing registers) is not clear.

By 1955 copies of some of the Registers were becoming scarce and the long serving associate of Fabian Ware, Frank Tyrell asked that a copy of the register for Mory Abbey Cemetery was returned as there were no copies to sell (C.W.G.C. Archive CCM 11860 83623 L/Cpl. C. Mitchell M.G. Corps: Frank Tyrell to Basil Mitchell (21 November 1955)).