Thursday, June 29, 2006

Putting the record straight

A photograph of the first page of names listed in the World War Two 'Roll of Honour' for Whitehaven, Cumberland. William H. Acton and his brother George Acton are the first two names listed in this 'Roll of Honour'. These two Able Seamen died on 2 November 1942 when their vessel, the SS Empire Leopard (London) was torpedoed in the North Atlantic.

Until June 2006, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records for William Acton did not list his hometown nor his next of kin although the CWGC record for George Acton was correct. After sending the CWGC the correct details for William Acton rhis hometown or family details. The Commission have now corrected William's record after being sent the documents they require as proof. Finally, after more than 60 years after the end of the war, William H. Acton's CWGC record has been put right.

[For more information about putting the record straight, see 'Comments' below]


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

As contributors to ‘The Second World War’ forum will know, one of the best sources of information about wartime casualties from the Commonwealth countries is the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. Indeed, while researching the wartime stories of many of the people I have written about, I have referred to the CWGC website on a number of occasions and know that the Commission is an excellent custodian commemorating those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country.

In a small number of cases I have found that some of the CWGC records are incorrect or incomplete. There could be many reasons why the records contain these inaccuracies, not least because the original records on which the website data is based are more than 60 years old. The Commission does recognise that some of their records may contain inaccuracies. They are prepared to consider updating a casualty’s record provided they receive sufficient proof warranting a change.

In most cases to update something such as the next of kin the Commission ask to be supplied with an official primary document related to a casualty, such as a Birth Certificate, Baptism Certificate or Marriage Certificate. They also ask for further supporting evidence linking this official primary document to a particular casualty, such as a wartime newspaper article.

It is one thing knowing that a record is incorrect, but it is another thing getting the necessary documentary proof together so that the CWGC will update their records. It could also be a costly exercise obtaining several copies of Birth Certificates or Marriage Certificates from local Registrars. Nevertheless, having obtained the necessary proof, much of it from the Cumbria County Records Office, I was able to send documents such as Marriage Certificates and a number of newspaper articles to the CWGC. No doubt due to the increase in family history research, the Commission have received a lot of enquiries of this nature. It has taken them a few weeks to check everything through, but they have eventually updated the records.

One Second World War casualty the Commission have now updated after reviewing the documentation I sent them is Able Seaman William Acton, who died on 2 November 1942 on board the vessel SS Empire Leopard of London. William had married only weeks before his death and somehow the next of kin information somehow must have got lost.

William Acton’s citation now mentions his hometown of Whitehaven, Cumberland, the name of his wife Mary Acton, the names of his parents and the fact that his brother George Acton was also lost when the SS Empire Leopard was torpedoed. The Commission have done a grand job in updating their records for the Acton family from Whitehaven. So thanks to them for their efforts. If anyone else knows of a CWGC record that is incorrect or incomplete, it is worth making the effort to put the record straight. After all, the person concerned, and the sacrifice of their family, deserve to be remembered.

Thursday, 29 June, 2006  
Blogger Steve Wright said...


You're doing a cracking job, keep going! I've got the Commission's Education Officer and a member of the PR Office coming to my school a week on Thursday. I'll be sharing stories like yours with them.

Friday, 30 June, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

FRank -
I couldn't agree more with your comment about - face it - CHEEP governments who leave their soldiers without the arms to look after themselves let alone anyone else and for more than forty years have watched a fine army in WW2 being reduced to a not very good police force.....happily this is changing and the new Government is now on the brink of spending some $17 billion to replace 35 year old equipment - and it's only Friday...maybe they will punch out another $5 billion to-day to celebrate Canada Day on Saturday !

Joseph - you will have learned that when an item is chipped in stone - it's very difficult to erase ?

Friday, 30 June, 2006  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Thanks for the comments folks.

Frank: I've seen the TV news reports about the Battle of the Somme anniversary. The BBC have also done a 'drama documentary' about the 'Salford Pals' to coincide with the anniversary. The similar ones the BBC did for WW2 seemed fairly well researched as much as one can do I imagine.

Many of my own relatives or their friends went away with the Border Regiment as 'Pals' in 1914. Such a lot of this little group never seem to have made it through to the Battle of the Somme. They started off with the 2nd Bn Border Regiment. By the spring of 1915 this Battalion strength had been replaced 1 1/2 times.

Bad as this was, what happened following 1 July 1916 was even worse just as you describe it, Frank. Until the Somme, the 11th Battalion of the Border Regiment still had something like a full complement of 28 officers and 800 men. They were all volunteers answering the call of Lord Lonsdale's famous flyer "Are you a Man or a Mouse? Are you a Gallant Patriot or a Rotter ... ?"

Within a short time, I think they had 23 officers and 500 men killed or wounded. The WW1 monuments in the middle of every village and town in the former counties of Cumberland and Westmorland (now Cumbria) with all the names engraved in stone are unbelievable. And of course it is like this not just in Cumbria, or even Britain, but in so many countries who were involved in the Great War.

Well Steve you have done really well to get two of the CWGC officials to visit your school. Communicating with young people about their role is really good. As you say Tom, once something is in stone it is difficult to erase, or change! One record, for Pte Isaac Cartmell 2nd Bn Border Regiment had the incorrect date of death because when the original handwritten record was scanned the number '5' was mistakenly transcribed as '8'. This meant his year of death was listed as 1918 instead of 1915. The Commission has now rectified this record to 1915.

Saturday, 01 July, 2006  

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