Project underway to trace 182 soldiers on Earlsfield church war memorial

Wandsworth Guardian: Sheila Hill and Geoff Simmons Sheila Hill and Geoff Simmons

The homes and lives of the 182 men named on a church WW1 memorial are being mapped as part of the conflict's centenary.

Inspired by an appeal published in the Wandsworth Guardian last year to find the family of Private William Clay, graphic designer Geoff Simmons has joined forces with Reverend Dr Roger Ryan, vicar of St Mary's Summerstown to trace the stories behind all 182 names on the St Mary's Summerstown memorial.

Dr Ryan was left a tribute to Private Clay on his doorstep more than 20 years ago and wanted to trace his family ahead of remembrance Sunday last year.

After reading the story in the Wandsworth Guardian Mr Simmons, joined forces with Dr Ryan to raise money to restore a tablet in memory of three of the soldiers, former St Mary's church Sunday school teachers.

As the story unravelled he discovered the three men lived very close to each other and within minutes from his own home, in terraced houses at the back of the church.

Mr Simmons began to trace the other names on the plaque using information from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, parish magazines and census records.

Sheila Hill, of Tooting, and Dorothy Williams, of Preston, have also helped with the research.

So far the homes of 160 soldiers who once lived in the Earlsfield area have been found and published on a Google poppy-map on the project's website.

Included on the map is Sidney Howard Marshal, who lived in Diprose Lodge, choirboy Victor Le Strange Wayre, of Freshford Street as well as Private Clay, of Garratt Lane.

Mr Simmons now wants to turn the scheme into a community project and get school children to help with the research.

He said: "It is the little things like one young man - there was a 17-year-old on the HMS Invincible. Four men were killed in the battle of Jutland.

"The effect it has had on me personally is extraordinary. I have lived in the area for 15 years, it has made me look at it differently.

"What I like about this project is these are really ordinary men, mostly from quite poor backgrounds. They are mostly privates, ordinary boys, who have just been completely forgotten about."

Mr Simmons and Rev Ryan will be speaking about the project at New Wimbledon Theatre on February 4.

To view the map and find out more visit summerstown182.wordpress.com

 

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