Many of you will be aware that in common with all other railway companies the SMJR lost many of its employees for all or part of the Great War as the patriotic duty to volunteer was overwhelming. Railwaymen were technically exempt but many chose to go to war. Some of them never returned and after the end of the war in 1918 most of the railway companies made an effort to recognise the contribution of their employees to the war effort and in particular to remember those who never returned. The large railway companies comissioned impressive memorials very often at more than one location, some even dedicated a locomotive to their fallen staff. In 1914 the SMJR payroll extended to approximately 212 (of which only 3 were women). At the height of the war nearly 25% of the SMJ men were away at war and the effect that this must have had on the company coupled to the difficuties of wartime operation would have been overwhelming. The new regime of management that joined after the formation of the SMJ in 1910 had made impressive inroads to bringing the struggling company into commercial success. The effects of the war must have been a bitter blow to their efforts and of course we know the outcome. Never the less the directors did not shrink from their patriotic duty and looked for a way to honour their staff. The method chosen was not unique but the way it was done linked the men to their roots in the area, their employer and their recent duties and sacrifices.The memorial was a screen printed card that was illustrated around the edges with details of the area the SMJ served emphasising the "Shakespeare" connection and showing a wounded railwayman returning to his duty with a typical SMJ 0-6-0 locomotive at the bottom. The centre panel listed alphabetically all of the employees that had served with their rank and regiment. The memorial was mounted in a sturdy glazed oak frame and enough were ordered to issue one for display at every SMJ station where they were normally placed in the booking hall or waiting room. Stratford had two, one in the booking hall and one in the admin offices. I have been told that one copy was presented to either the Mayor or Holy Trinity Church in Stratford but I can find no evidence to support this. Very few of these memorials have survived and those that have are not in good condition. The best one known is the one in the attached photos and the pictures speak for themselves.
So many of these memorials have been lost over the years. It`s pity that at the time,nobody saw fit to remove them,& place them at the nearest station,or depot.
Talking to the men who were working on the railways in the 50`s & 60`s,there was an overwhelming sense of apathy at the time. When I asked about the memorials at Leamington & Milverton sheds,I told "Ah well. Nobody bothered to get them!"
I think someone,I forget now who it was,said,"Nothing is forgotten more quickly,that a Hero!"
My understanding is that the late George Freeston of Blisworth managed to get hold of one of the Rolls of Honour, presumably from Blisworth SMJ station, and after his death it was presented along with many other interesting documents and artefacts, to the Northants Record Office. It is worth noting that, like so many railwaymen, 21 of the men served with the Royal Engineers. Those who joined the Warwickshires (13 of whom 4 were killed) were the unlucky ones, since of course the infantry suffered far worse casualties than any of the other arms in that war.
The whole question of First World War Company memorials is a somewhat depressing one, since a later generation seemed all too willing to let them be destroyed. The Great Central Railway for instance had no less than 10,190 of its employees servivng in 1914-18, of whom 1,304 were killed or died on Active Service. After the war one of Robinson's 4-6-0 express locos was named "Valour" and carried commemorative plaques, yet when the LNER scrapped the engine the plaques were thrown away (although I believe one was eventually saved). The large memorial at Gorton which recorded the names of the dead was similarly demolished and only replaced following an outcry. Similarly the LNWR named a "Claughton" 4-6-0 "Patriot" and gave it the number 1914 and finished it in plain black rather than lining it out. Its nameplate had the added inscription "In memory of the fallen L&NWR employees 1914-19". The LB&SCR named one of its big express tanks "Remembrance" and although the Southern Railway rebuilt the tanks as 4-6-0s they still retained the name. However when BR broke up "Remembrance" it all seemed to be quietly forgotten ,as was the case with the LMS and "Patriot". The GWR at least built a fine memorial on Platform 1 at Paddington and the Southern dedicated the main entrance to Waterloo similarly but later memorials to the 1939-45 war, in which railwaymen also played an important part both at home and abroad, seem to be entirely absent.
Mr Jennings - I am very grateful to you for posting the Roll, which I hadn't seen before.
William Stratford, as listed, was my grandmothers' brother and I wonder if any member would have heard of his involvement in the SMJ, ie, position, station or whatever. It would be another fantastic "nugget" to add to the family tree!
Thanks again John, and best wishes to all.
Thanks for the information on these fascinating documents, and on the valour of those to whom they are a remembrance.
I see the scroll is signed "Harry Furniss", and a little research finds him as an illustrator of some repute (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Furniss for details), and whilst this would add material value to these documents, I think their value as a memorial to the servants of a long-gone railway is much higher. It would be nice if examples or copies (they would have been prints in the first place) were displayed in the towns and villages that the railway served, if their local 'history societies' were inclind to do so.
Thanks from me to Andy, to John Jennings and to everyone who posts rare stuff like this. History and they who created it are so soon forgotten, and knowledge of things past quickly disappears into a dark chasm of forgetfulness.
There are those personal historical mysteries too. An antecedent on mine who fell in the Great War, and who had been born on the Isle of Portland in Dorset, and had lived and worked there (as a schoolteacher), has his name and details engraved on the war memorial at Ashtead, Surrey. Nobody knows why.
David W might be interested to know that there is a file at the Public Record Office Kew under ref 'RAIL 674/11' which purports to contains EWJR /SMJR staff records 1873 to 1923. I haven't seen this one yet during my visits down there, so cannot be sure just what is in it, but it might provide a good starting point in his search for his relative.
Barry - that is most thoughtful of you. I have taken note of that.
Regards. David W.
Many thanks for your responses to my posting on the Roll of Honour. A number of associated matters have come to light and these replies may help. I forgot to mention the size of the glazed frame it is 3 feet by 4 feet and must weigh about 24lbs due to the thick glass.
To David Walker. Barry Taylor is correct regarding the entries at Kew but they are not complete. If you can give me a clue as to what William Stratford's grade and station(s) were I will trawl my records. I think he must be from the Eastern end of the line as I am very familiar with the Western end names.
Those of you who are interested in learning more about the men and families that worked on the line might like to read the blog on my page written by William Pettifer (with my notes). The East & West and SMJ were very much "family" lines and some of the names on the Roll of Honour feature that fact.
Thanks to Lloyd Penfold for pointing me to Harry Furniss. His background on "Punch" and other contemporary work solve the "mystery" of the style of illustration. Much comment was apparantly made about the buxom actresses attending the Bard of Avon. Many employees and certainly some passengers were "chapel" and I was told many years ago by long gone staff that that part of the illustration was a talking point for years. Typically one elderly occupant of the nearby British Legion club in Old Town, Stratford said the men who returned from War were pleased with it and comments like "we didn't have them in the trenches" were quoted!!
The Roll that George Freeston saved may have come from Blisworth but if it did there were two copies there because one clearly marked in ink copperplate on the back " Blisworth" survives in a private collection. I have always thought that the larger stations may have been issued with more than one. How many can anyone remember seeing displayed? I know of four that were still on the walls of station rooms well after closure to passengers. Of these only one got saved in pretty bad condition the others were claimed by leaking roofs or vandals.
The Roll was printed and produced for the Directors by Harrison of London.
I cannot find any evidence that NRM at York have a copy .. anyone know for sure??
Harry Furniss also illustrated the Roll of Honour for the London & North Western Railway, dated June 1919, of which 34% of the workforce (31,742 men) served. One man G. Branson, a Clerk, from Blisworth Station (LNWR) served as a Rifleman. Having looked at the large copy of the SMJR ROLL of HONOUR at Towcester Museum, it is undated, and mainly shows illustrations, around the edges, of the buildings and monuments one could visit in Stratford, emphasising the Shakespeare connection. Also there are illustrations of a signalman, a wounded soldier, and an 0-6-0 SMJ loco.
ive just read your posts from 2012 regarding your family member who worked for the SJMR before WW1. My grandfather (Thomas Frederick Brown) worked for SJMR up to 1916 before joining the Royal Engineers and is mentioned on the plaque on Stratford Station that is discussed on this forum. I realise John Jennings has passed away in the intervening period but I wondered if you had had any luck with John regarding your relative or perhaps with the staff records supposedly held at Kew.
David Walker said:
Barry - that is most thoughtful of you. I have taken note of that.
Regards. David W.