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Bid to Honour the Missing Men of Stalybridge
Thursday 8th October 2015 @ 11:36 by Tom Greggan

It has been discovered that there are approximately 300 names missing from Stalybridge War Memorial.

The shocking finding was made by local author Kate Booth during some family research. An extension is currently being designed to accommodate the names but its estimated cost is an eye-watering £100,000!

Kate told the Tameside Reporter how her discovery all started with the story of a grieving Stalybridge mother. She said: “I found a very small article in an old Reporter about a lady called Mrs Marshall. It was only five or six lines long but it broke my heart. She lived in Carrbrook, in a place called Carr which used to be in the Mossley area- if you don’t know our local history, it’s very complicated!”

She continued: “After the war, Stalybridge insisted that you registered your family for inclusion on the war memorial. It didn’t happen everywhere but Stalybridge insisted. She walked down to Stalybridge Town Hall, from Carrbrook, to register her three sons who’d all been killed in the First World War; George, Fred and Harry. The registrar said no, because that part of Carrbrook was in Mossley.

“So the same day, she walked all the way up to Top Mossley to register her three boys and they turned her down because they said the boys should be on the Stalybridge War Memorial. So she walked back to Stalybridge but she was still turned down there.

“Now when I read that, I checked on the war memorial list that a friend of mine had and found that yes indeed there were all three missing. So I began to wonder then, who else is missing?

The designer's vision of what the Stalybridge War Memorial extension will look like.

The designer’s vision of what the Stalybridge War Memorial extension will look like.

“So I went through the newspapers again, right from 1914 to 1921 to look for references to Stalybridge soldiers. Then I made my master list and cross-checked this with the war memorial and found there were around 300 men whose names were missing.”

There are some explanations as to why so many names are missing, as Kate explains. “Some it was because they’d been born in the area but moved away to work,” she said.

“There was one man born in Millbrook but his family had moved to New Burnley. So obviously, they wouldn’t think of putting his name on Stalybridge War Memorial but technically he should be because he was born here and grew up here; they moved when he was a young man. His schooling was here and he should be on the war memorial.

“But there are some cases where you have a brother and some families have actually registered the brother that was killed fighting but not the brother who died of enteric fever (Typhoid) in Salonika; they thought it had to be somebody who’d been killed fighting. So you have odd cases where one brother is on and one brother isn’t.”

Kate and other reseachers who’ve contributed to finding all the missing men are determined to make sure the extension is as exhaustive as possible. She said: “What I would hate is for the extension to go up in 2018 and for somebody to come along and say ‘Oh you’ve missed my Uncle Harry’. But with the families having travelled to all parts of the country, it’s difficult. But we do what we can.”

Kate’s documented her findings in a book, ‘Stalybridge’s Missing Men’, which contains all the men’s names and, where possible, their stories. It can be found in Stalybridge Library. A book of ‘Book of Remembrance’ commemorating all the names is on display at Stalybridge Civic Hall.

Upon hearing of the missing names, the local branch of the Royal British Legion set up the ‘Friends of Stalybridge War Memorial’ group to raise funds for the new build.

The current site of where the proposed extension would go.

The current site of where the proposed extension would go.

Frank Smith is secretary of the group. He said: “Part of the group’s action was to promote the idea of building a new war memorial and the other half was to find out where we’d get the money from.

“So several campaigns were started, local businesses stepped in and that raised a couple of thousand pounds. Some of the pubs have been doing fundraising and local schools have been doing fundraising.

“We’re just a couple of grand short of the initial amount required to get it designed because you need to get it fully designed to get a build cost. Then we can look at the lottery as a source of funding and things like that.”

It’s hoped that by getting schools and local businesses involved with fundraising, they will continue their involvement once the memorial is completed.

Frank said: “The long term aim is not just to get these 300 names missing, it’s to leave it as a historic research project, so that schools and others who are going to be involved in the long term can use it for their own research.

“West Hill School have been doing research on the existing memorial; looking into all the names and trying to trace relatives. So it’s more of a community thing because everybody will be involved, from those that are researching it to those that actually have names on the old or new one.”

One problem with the extension is that the existing memorial is a listed building and so nothing can be attached to it. Therefore the new structure has to be in a similar style and made of the same material.
The extension is currently being designed by the architecture and design company Purcell. It’s hoped that it will be in place by the centenary celebrations of the end of the First World War in November 2018.