In 2014 St. Michael’s embarked on a project to identify and study the lives of the individuals whose names appear on the various war memorials associated with the church. Those of my generation will remember filing past school memorials every Remembrance Day as a matter of course and wondering about the names. Instead of simply looking at a list of names carved in stone or cast in metal, which each November we “remember” as the rather impersonal concept of the “Fallen”, I hoped to build up a picture of their real lives, not only during the First World War, but while they were passing their lives in Chiswick and Bedford Park in the years before.
We were awarded, with much gratitude, a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to help us with our project for two years. We have build up a significant body of material, not only about the individuals, but also about the nature of the local community of Chiswick at that time and the impact of the War upon it. We hope that it will become a valuable resource for use by local schools, and other groups, by producing exhibition and study material, and as a permanent archive, as well as creating this website for more general interest.
We have made a great start, by identifying many facts about the 128 different people remembered in the Parish. A majority lived within the Parish boundary, and we have found people from all walks of life, involved in the War in a huge variety of ways. All armed services are represented, from Captain Hazeon, a Marine Officer on ill-fated HMS Hampshire, sunk with Lord Kitchener aboard; the numerous Subalterns whose life in the field averaged only six weeks, like Alexander Robinson and Maurice Clift; or Derek Lutyens, a Royal Flying Corps pilot killed while test-flying an aircraft in development; and from the medical, nursing and auxiliary sections of the forces, like our only woman casualty, Mrs. Violet Long. We even have our own “War Poet”, William Oliphant Down.
We have learned many poignant stories about the many Chiswick and Bedford Park families affected by the War, and also about how the local community viewed the War from the “Home Front”. Certainly, as one of the principal researchers, I have come to regard all the people from our parish community who died in the service of their country as my close friends.