Over the last year or so I have been involved in an interdisciplinary research project at the University of Manchester. As a team made up of just a very few people, we have, in the manner of a detective explored the lives of the men of St Anselm Hall who were killed in the First World War and in the Second World War. The research has been greatly assisted by a couple of key parishioners from St Anne’s, but I will respect their humility and not mention them by name.
On the sixth of November the completed work will be dedicated and lodged in a display cabinet in the Hall Chapel. Members of the Royal Artillery Band will be playing during the service and the Lord Lieutenant, the University Registrar, the Lord Mayor of Manchester along with other significant civic individuals will be in attendance. Significantly, relatives of the war dead will also be in Chapel, for an event that has never happened before.
We have managed to procure photographs of the men from various stages of their lives – some even as small children and members of Church choirs.
We have them in uniform; we have personal letters written, either by them or about them, by their loved ones; we have unearthed application forms, dance cards and images of them enjoying times with their friends in pre-war years.
We have discovered who their parents were and where they went to School; what they read at University, what their skills and interests were; the extent of the finds has been extraordinary.
In essence what we have done is to give these twenty-four men their identity back. They are no longer just a list of names in the Chapel Bible but lives with very real stories; stories involving sacrifice and tragedy that their youthful smiling faces in those old photographs could not possibly have imagined. What an amazing privilege to be part of that research team.
Over many years Scouts and Girl Guides at St Anne’s have told the stories of the men and women on our own War Memorial in our morning service and Act of Remembrance. It will be many years until we complete each one whose names fill the Memorial Book that are read out at each Evening Service on Remembrance Sunday. It may be though, that we might want to take one for ourselves and try to discover the life behind the name and perhaps give them back their identity too.
We Will Remember Them