Digital Great War Roll Of Honour Launched At Glasgow University On November 11 2005

By David Prudames | 10 November 2005
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  • Archived article
Shows a black and white photograph of a young First World War army officer in cap and uniform.

James Ewing, a captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps - Special Reserve - 8th Welsh Fusiliers, was killed in action on May 9 1917. © University of Glasgow.

As people across the UK observed two minutes of silence at 11am on November 11, a slightly less traditional way of commemorating the sacrifice of servicemen and women was launched in Glasgow.

Staff at the University of Glasgow Archive Services have created a digital roll of honour to remember the contribution made by its staff and students during the Great War of 1914-18.

Containing biographies and images of some of the almost 5,000 men and women from the university who took part in the First World War, the roll of honour can be found on the institution’s website.

A dedication ceremony was held in the university chapel on November 10 2005 at the site of the physical roll of honour, which was unveiled by then principal Donald MacAlister in 1929.

Shows a photo of a series of memorial tablets arranged in a row in a chapel, underneath a series of stained glass windows.

The University of Glasgow chapel, where the original Roll of the Fallen is held. © University of Glasgow.

University chaplain, the Rev Stuart MacQuarrie led the dedication with the words used 76 years ago:

"To the unfading memory of the brave men and women who in the Great War gave their lives for us and the freedom of the world, we dedicate this memorial and we pray that their names recorded here may ever be an incentive to faithful and unselfish service for all who look upon them."

The roll of honour brings together background and biographical information about the staff and students from the university who served in the Great War as well as their service records and the historical context. But university archivist Lesley Richmond is hoping members of the public will help add to it.

"We would really like people to send information and/or biographies about anyone on the website for whom they have further details," said Lesley.

Shows a black and white photo of a young First World War officer wearing a uniform of tunic and kilt, leaning against what appears to be the wall of a trench.

Second Lieutenant Jack Lees Burton, 11th Black Watch Royal Highlanders, was a student at the University of Glasgow when he joined up but was killed in action. © University of Glasgow.

"The names on the memorial can often depersonalise the people honoured or make their names saintly, while the biographies show that they were ordinary people who made an extraordinary sacrifice when they were asked to give up their daily routines for the greater good of their community."

As happened throughout the country, when war was declared in 1914 Glasgow University saw a rush of volunteers among staff and students. Just six months later 1255 men and women from the institution were engaged in war service, 77% of them as commissioned officers.

Despite heavy losses the university continued to encourage its members to join up until compulsory conscription was introduced in January 1916.

By the time the armistice was called in 1918 4,506 members of the Glasgow University community had ‘done their bit’. Tragically, 761 of them didn’t come back.

Shows a photograph of the central tower of the main building at the University of Glasgow. It is a vast Gothic creation that streches into a bright blue sky.

The University of Glasgow gave some 4,506 of its staff and students to the Great War. © University of Glasgow.

"The University of Glasgow, like the schools which supplied most of its student body, did not have strong military links before 1914," explained Professor Hew Strachan, Chichele Professor of the History of War at Oxford University and a leading military historian.

"But this website shows how its members responded in greater numbers proportionately than any other British university, except those of Oxford and Cambridge."

He added: "The tragic consequences are all too evident, but many other features stand out, even for the casual browser. Above all, it is hard to imagine how the army’s medical services could have coped without Glasgow’s contribution."

Staff at the university archive services are now planning to create a digital roll of honour for those associated with the institution who served in the Second World War.

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