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The First World War Roll of Honour – A Collaborative Effort

By Astrid Purton, Graduate Trainee, University of Glasgow Archive Services

In the midst of the Centenary of the First World War it has become clear that on a local, regional and national level there is a drive to remember those who served and passed away in the chilling global conflict. In Archive Services for example, we have seen individuals, groups and communities visit our search-room for a wide variety of First World War related enquiries (including projects to rebuild WWI locomotives and boats, to piece together family histories and to update or create memorials).

The University of Glasgow itself is also hosting a number of commemorative events and projects to remember its students and staff who took part in the war. One such project is the development of the on-line Roll of Honour which currently features 441 images, 639 biographies and 4549 records of those who served.

Many of the biographies are written using University records such as:

  • Matriculation slips
  • Press cuttings and photographs (collected by chapel staff during the war-years)
  • Graduate schedules (or withdrawn files if the student was unable to graduate)
  • University calendars
  • Registers of the General Council

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We also depend upon some external sources, notably the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) to complete the biographies. But above all, contributions provided by individuals and groups- whether they are family members and/or amateur or professional historians – are warmly welcomed and essential to our work. Collaboration between us and others allows for our Roll of Honour to develop and for communities elsewhere to remember their soldiers in their own fashion. As Kirsty Nicholson explains in her recent blog post:

“Adding biographies to the Roll of Honour is helping communities connect and re-connect.”

One prime example of this has occurred recently when we were contacted by Ken Morrison, a volunteer for the Scottish War Memorials Project (SWMP) which is linked to the Scottish Military Research Group. This contact, and Ken’s contribution to our Roll of Honour – which focused on soldiers from Dumfries and Galloway -has resulted in thirteen updated and more comprehensive biographies and also created a localised representation of soldiers from the area to the benefit of a community. The biographies can be consulted here:

We’ve learnt that these young men from Dumfries and Galloway studied a range of degrees from Medicine and Law to Divinity and the Arts, and that they were the sons of parents from equally diverse backgrounds: farmers, school-masters, drapers, station masters, ministers, and medical practitioners. In addition, two of the students attended the same high school and perhaps knew of each other or passed one another in the corridors, while another student was President of the University of Glasgow’s ‘Dumfries and Galloway society’; some were married and had families before enlisting, others were younger and withdrew from their studies to serve, and both William Campbell and David Dempster were awarded the Military Cross.

As Kirsty Nicholson explains:

“The task [of writing biographies] is important because in doing so, everybody on the memorial becomes a real person, with a personality, instead of just a name recorded forever but barely known”.

How true this is in relation to these students from Dumfries and Galloway.


If you would like to contribute to our Roll of Honour by either sending us a biography or photographs – or any information about a former serving student – please contact us here. Your contribution is highly valued and essential to the development of the Roll. For more examples of family history sources in the University of Glasgow Archives, view our Flickr set.

On or near the centenary of the deaths of the individuals on our Roll of Honour, we read out their biography in the University’s Memorial Chapel and plant a poppy cross in our First World War Memorial Garden. For a schedule of cross plantings, check our WWI Events webpage – all are welcome to attend these events. We also tweet a link to the online profile from @GlasgowUniWW1.

WWI memorial garden courtesy of the University of Glasgow Library Photographic Unit

WWI memorial garden courtesy of the University of Glasgow Library Photographic Unit

To find out more about the Scottish War Memorials Project please see their forum here. This project is connected to the Scottish Military Research Group, ‘an association open to anyone with an interest in Scottish Military history and genealogy’. Founded in 2006, this site provides discussion forums and expert advice for conducting military history research. It has achieved some notable work including the recent transcription of the Glasgow Roll of Honour 1914-1918.

More information about those serving in Dumfries and Galloway can also be found here, thanks to ongoing work by Margaret & Graham Wright.

Finally but not least a big thank-you to Ken Morrison, Scottish War Memorials Project, whose contributions have enriched our on-line Roll of Honour significantly.


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