Rainham man seeks help putting faces to names on town's iconic war memorial
PUBLISHED: 15:00 29 October 2012 | UPDATED: 15:02 29 October 2012
A Rainham man is hoping to bring the town's war memorial to life by researching the men and women it commemorates.
The clock tower, which has stood in the centre since 1920, bears the names of 183 of the town’s war dead - and Sean Connolly has spent the last year putting together photographs and histories of those named on its carved plaques.
The Farm Road resident, 48, found himself drawn into the research after getting interested in his own family’s history in the military – before some photography work sparked his interest in the Rainham Village memorial.
“I was doing some work for a guy in Australia who wanted some pictures of the memorial,” he explained.
“On the back of that, I thought: ‘I wonder if anyone actually knows who they all are.’”
No one, including Havering’s Local Studies Library, did – so Sean set to work, turning first to service records and medal index cards to build basic profiles of where and when each veteran served.
To date, just 12 people remain unidentified – mostly from the Second World War.
“It’s been possible to track a lot of the First World War men through service records and medal index cards, and cross-referencing regimental histories and diaries,” Sean explained. “But this isn’t possible with Second World War men, as their records are still kept by the Ministry of Defence.”
Among Sean’s discoveries is a young man who falsified his documents so he could join the army when still underage – young Ralph Curtis of Berwick Pond Farm.
Second Lieutenant Curtis claimed 15 victories as a Bristol Fighter pilot before he was shot down and killed by none other than future Luftwaffe head Hermann Göring.
Once Sean’s work is complete he will present it to the Local Studies Library, which is housed inside Romford Library – but he’s hoping to plug the 12 gaps first.
He’s also looking for family and friends who can give his profiles of Rainham’s war dead more colour.
If you know of any family members from the local area who served or died in either of the World Wars, please contact Sean on 07929 545 590.