The Names List
In 1918, the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission decided to place lists of the Commonwealth missing in each sector of the front on a series of great monuments. The first such list to be drawn up was of the missing of the Ypres Salient and the very first monument to the missing was the Menin Gate in Ypres, which was inaugurated on 24 July 1927. The list was much too long to fit on the walls of the Menin Gate, despite their imposing scale. Two other monuments to the missing were required, in Passchendaele (Tyne Cot Cemetery) and in Ploegsteert (Berks Cemetery Extension), in order to find a place for every name on that first list.
There were no such lists of the missing from the armies of France, Belgium, and Germany or of civilian victims of the war. In recent years, the lack of those lists has been sorely felt. Every day, questions have arrived – and continue to arrive – at the research centre of the In Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres about war dead of whom nothing was known. Those questions made clear the need, even one century later, to commemorate everyone: nobody should remain unknown. It was this line of thought that led to the launching of the Names List project in 2003. It aims to compile a register of all victims who lost their lives because of the First World War in Belgium. The Names List is intended to include both military and civilians, both the friends and former enemies of the past, both Belgians and non-Belgians. It was estimated that the Names List would include 600,000 names in 2018: 210,000 commonwealth military (British, New Zealanders, Australians, Indians, Canadians, South Africas and Chinese), 79,000 French military, 44,000 Belgian military, 185,000 Germans and 24,000 Belgian civilians. USA military, Russian, Italian, Romanian and Serbian prisoners of war and French civilians still have to be added.
Over recent weeks, months, and years, the work of giving each victim a name and a story has continued. It is now estimated that the list will contain more than 700,000 names. People all over the world have the opportunity to add further data and information for each victim. Everybody can help to complete The Names list.
How can you find your relative?
Consult the online Names list on the website of the research centre of the In Flanders Fields Museum.
If you don’t find the name please have a look at the war dead register of the country of your relative. It’s possible that your relative didn’t die in Belgium but in another country.
- Commonwealth military: www.cwgc.org
- American military: www.abmc.gov
- German military: www.volksbund.de
- French military: www.memoiredeshommes.sga.defense.gouv.fr
- Belgian military: www.klm-mra.be/D7t/en/content/military-personel-files
If your relative survived the war and served in the British Army, you will need to contact the National Archives to find records about your relative. These records can give you insight into your relative’s military career, and his rank or unit.
For ANZAC soldiers, the Australian War Memorial has digitized most files on the soldiers who served during the First World War and they are all freely accessible for the public. And if you don’t know how to find them on the website, you can contact them and they will happily help you.
For Canadian soldiers, the Library and Archives of Canada has digitalized most personnel files and unit files. As is the same with the ANZACs, most is accessible for the public freely.
If you don’t find any information you can contact:
- The research centre of the In Flanders Fields Museum.
- The information centre of Commonwealth War Graces Commission in Ypres.