Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Getting the record straight

1. Headstone of Rifleman John George Mossop
St John's C. of E. Churchyard, Cleator Moor
2. Headstone of Sapper Peter Doyle, R.E.
St Mary's R.C. Churchyard, Cleator. 
During the course of researching the Allied casualties of WW1 and WW2, over the past few months I have found several of the records seemed to be incorrect or incomplete. This has included the citations of the two casualties from the Cleator Moor area of Cumbria whose headstones are seen in the above photographs: Rifleman John George Mossop (Photograph No 1) and Sapper Peter Doyle (Photograph No 2). 
For additional information click on ‘Comments’ below


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information

(1) Some types of documentary evidence required

Where I have come across a WW1 or WW2 casualty’s record and believed it to be incorrect or incomplete I have generally contacted the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Of course, in most instances the ‘official’ record is correct.

However, if one is asking for a record to be altered the CWGC require relevant documentary so they will update their records. It is not a simple matter to get an incorrect record straightened out.

Due to the volume of enquiries it has been taking the Commission about 2 months to investigate and reply to an enquiry about a casualty. Getting a record straightened out is not a quick procedure.

One enquiry I made was about Rifleman John George (‘Jackie’) Mossop, who died on 7 September 1944 (story posted to the 2WW Blog). According to the local press reports at the time AND also on his headstone, Jackie Mossop had been a repatriated Prisoner of War. However, the CWGC will require some further documentary evidence in addition to this before adding Jackie Mossop to their records. This is part of the reply I received in a letter from the CWGC about Rifleman John George Mossop:

“There may be a number of reasons why he was not considered to be a ‘war casualty’ for our commemoration purposes or, as our records are based on information given to the Commission by the relevant authorities after the war, it is possible that an error occurred and his details were not passed to us.

Before being able to pass this case on to our Records Department for further investigation, I must ask if you can obtain further evidence to support that John George Mossop both served in the war and that he died as a direct result of war injuries received. I request, therefore, that you send us a copy of his death certificate and any other supporting documentary evidence you can obtain such as a copy of his army service record, obituary, memorial card etc.”

(NB – Hence, because we do not have a service number or POW Number at the present time, it is difficult to ‘prove’ that he should be added to the CWGC listings. Hopefully, some relatives may yet have this information and be prepared to supply a copy).

There are some Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstones from WW2 within a few paces of Jackie Mossop’s headstone in St John’s Churchyard, Cleator Moor. For the moment, at least, he is not listed by the Commission.

Saturday, 16 February, 2013  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

(2) What does the CWGC require to amend a record?

This is what the CWGC website says about this point:

“The accuracy of our records is very important to us so we will amend a record if you provide us with the relevant documentary evidence that the one we hold is wrong. This can include a service record, birth, marriage or death certificate, please contact us if you would like advice on which is appropriate in your case.

We also need to be sure that the certificates you provide refer to the casualty in question so we must ask you to provide additional evidence to link the certificate or service record to the casualty. A memorial card or obituary notice is ideal.”

Click here for link to CWGC guidance on how to ask them to amend / add the record of a casualty:
CWGC: Amending Records

(3) Getting a record changed

From past experience, one point that was unclear was whether the Commission would recognise official Church records (such as a Baptism or Marriage Certificate) to confirm ‘Next of Kin’ details and place of abode. While relatives may well have Birth, Marriage, Death Certificates as a volunteer researcher for a town it would be too costly to purchase copies for all those whose details are missing, incorrect or incomplete. However, with permission I have been able to obtain the same type of information from official Church records. For example, a Church of England marriage register entry has information in basically the same format as the civil marriage certificate.

In the case of the Roman Catholic Church, all their ‘official’ records were written in Latin in the past. One appaent discrepancy this causes is a person’s first name is spelt differently from the usual English spelling (e.g. James becomes ‘Jacobus’). However, it is ofte the ase that the Church records will contain the information 'missing’ from the CWGC record provided this can be linked to the casualty in some way, such as a newspaper report or telegram from the War Office.

Therefore, in some instances the CWGC has accepted the additional evidence I have been able to provide them with, and amended the casualty’s record. From the Second World War these include the following whose stories have been posted to the 2WW Blog:

(a) 3601780 Lance Corporal Patrick (‘Paddy’) McCarron.

The Commission has now added the names of his parents (Nicholas and Isabella McCarron) as his 'Next of Kin' and that his hometown is Cleator Moor.
Click here for the link to Patrick McCarron’s citation on the CWGC website:
Lance Corporal Patrick McCarron

(b) 3601815 Private John McGrath & 5783471 Private Denis McGrath (Brothers).

The Commission has now added the names of their parents (Denis and Margaret McGrath), listed their hometown as Cleator Moor and that they were two brothers who died in the war.
Click here for the link to John McGrath’s citation on the CWGC website:
Private John McGrath

Click here for the link to Denis McGrath’s citation on the CWGC website:
Private Denis McGrath

Saturday, 16 February, 2013  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

(4) The evidence is not always accepted

The CWGC does not always change the record after being contacted by someone with evidence there may be a discrepancy. For example, WW2 casualty 21170125 Sapper Peter Doyle, Royal Engineers died on 13 November 1940. Sapper Doyle is buried in the same churchyard at Cleator, Cumberland as Private John McGrath.

While attempting to have Sapper Doyle's record details sorted out in the CWGC recors, the reply I received from the Commission states they do not accept there is sufficient evidence to add the names of Sapper Peter Doyle’s parents and his hometown to his citation record. Yet, Sapper Doyle died whilst on service in the UK, he is buried in his hometown, and his headstone also states he was in the Royal Engineers AND gives the names of his parents.

The documentary evidence I sent to the Commission was of a similar type to that sent for Private John McGrath (baptism / birth record / burial record etc). Could it be that getting the record amended depends on who looks at the evidence? Although Sapper Doyle has a private headstone the Commission do periodically look at this and accept he was a ‘war casualty’. It seems you also require some patience and ‘doggedness’ to get some records straightened out!

(5) Will all the records ever be correctly sorted out?

The examples quoted above all concern WW2 casualties. On the whole, where there is missing information for WW2 casualties they are easier to identify than WW1 casualties.

There are many more WW1 casualties with details missing or incorrect. Many of them will probably never be rectified. It may be that the information needed to get the record amended correctly no longer exists.

Saturday, 16 February, 2013  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Further reading

For further information and photographs posted elsewhere on this website about the casualties referred to in this article, click on the following links:

1. Rifleman John George Mossop

2. Sapper Peter Doyle

3. Lance Corporal Patrick McCarron

4. Privates Denis McGrath and John McGrath (brothers)

Sunday, 17 February, 2013  

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