Harrogate’s War Memorial, unveiled on 1 September 1923 has stood in Prospect Square for nearly a century proudly recording the names of 1163 local men and women who lost their lives in two world wars. To mark this milestone, a project has been launched to match those names with their stories.
The project is being led by volunteers from a number of local groups and societies, and as plans develop they are now asking for community contributions related to those named on the memorial.
The centenary centrepiece will be a multimedia exhibition ‘More than a name on a Memorial’ to be staged in the splendour of West Park United Reformed Church running from 1 September to Remembrance Sunday on 12 November and free for the public to attend. It is being designed and constructed by local resident Terry Williams who was responsible for the highly successful exhibition The Story of Harrogate’s Railways which closed only a few months ago.
Nigel McClea, Chair of the Harrogate War Memorial Project Group, said:
Thanks to herculean efforts over many years by local historian Graham Roberts, all 1163 names have been researched and much has been discovered and recorded including military units, war records, photographs, cause of death, date of death and place of burial, although more than 300 of the First World War names inscribed have no known grave.
This on-going research will form the core of the exhibition but thanks to support from North Yorkshire library service, through Harrogate Library, we are now in a position to seek out family stories and memories.
The names inscribed on the memorial all had loved ones, families, friends and jobs. For example, would 2/Lt Walter Ogden have joined his family firm Ogden of Harrogate, the town’s historic jewellers still to be found on James Street? We’ll never know, he died in 1917 aged just 19 at the Battle of Cambrai.
2/Lt Donald Bell VC, the first English professional footballer to join the army in WWI, had signed his first professional contract with Second Division, Bradford Park Avenue in 1912 aged 22. Would he have ever played for a First Division club? We’ll never know. He died aged 25 in the Battle of the Somme.
These are just two stories from 1163. Graham has a lot of photographs of the 1163 named but by no means all. We would love to hear from anyone with an ancestor named on the memorial who might have photographs, or recollections of their experiences which might have been passed on through the generations. We would also love copies of things such as letters home or letters they received from home, extracts from diaries, battle orders or telegrams and anything about what these brave people did before going to war.
Copies of letters, extracts from diaries, written recollections and photographs can be emailed to Harrogate.Library@northyorks.gov.uk with the subject line ‘More than a name on a Memorial’ or taken into the library for copying. The library can’t accept original items and it reserves the right to reproduce and use in any form whatever material is submitted, not least as part of its local studies collection or other forthcoming exhibitions.
Further details of the War Memorial Centenary programme of events will be available in early June.