Forgotten Names Recalled: The Singapore Cenotaph Project


As expected the order of records arrived by post, a bundle of five officers’ records on enormous A3 sheets. The advantage of the size is ease of reading, the disadvantage is the weight. The upshot is that I am now photographing the paper copies as well.  Parcel of five officer records from the National Archives  

These records deal mostly with the deaths of the men, including copies of the telegrams sent to the families, letters from parents or siblings asking for information, requesting a death certificate, letters from lawyers concerning probate, in a few cases a list of personal effects.  One record has the basic details of a court martial for behaviour unbecoming an officer and a gentleman -- a sexual assault and indecent exposure on two of his men -- and he was aquitted. There was a shocking follow-up to the story but that's not a blog topic.

Three more days at the archives in Kew finished off the copying of the records. Photographing was a back-breaking process. Although the archives has tables of copy stands for cameras they are often booked up for days at a time. Even when I did manage to get a table with a copy stand I found that it was not much use for the type of records I had to copy. Around me were people copying at a rate of 50 pages a minute -- click, click, click -- because their files were filled with homogenous pages that turned easily.

By comparison the Minute Folders, as they're called, from the War Office or Admiralty or Air Force were compiled of many pages from different sources, different shapes and sizes and more importantly, textures. I had to be very careful turning the pages that were extremely fragile and could rip easily. That meant moving the file about, which in turn would mean lining up the file to the fixed camera over and over again. In the end it was easier to hold the camera and adjust it rather than the file. Sometimes it was possible to sit for smaller letters and telegrams, for others standing was the only way to get the whole page. Here is the final list of men who had some sort of record at the National Archives, some more useful than others.
Thomas Shirley King
William Robert Norman Leslie
Harold Millard
Kenneth Thomas
Edward Hampton Moss
Arthur James Basil Butcher
Philip Simons Picot
Harold Allan Ironside
Geoffrey Anthony St John Jones
Reginald Vaux Cuthbert
Guy Hatton Sugden
Bernard Cutbill
Percy Gold
John Archibald Rennie
Charles Eric Jupe
William Howard Newton
Alexander Millar Smith
Thomas Stewart
James Kerr
Edward Michael FitzGerald Law
Robert Archibald FitzGerald Law
Arthur Ronald Newman Wilkinson
Robert Allan McCulloch
Kenelm Cuthbert Vaughan
William Crew Tremearne
Richard Upton (RAF)
Benedict Godfrey Allen Bell (RAF)
Henry Graham Achurch (RAF)
Thomas Stuart Nash (RAF)
John Sharpey Schafer/Shaefer (Royal Navy)
Peter Fisken (Royal Navy Engineer)
My reader's ticket
So now I am finished with the National Archives at Kew, at least for this project. It has been an interesting experience, not least having a peek at the other researchers, some very serious academic types in tweed suits, others legal types in three-piece, pin-striped suits, and still others, younger people in jeans and sneakers who are probably postgraduate students working on a PhD.

Then there are the amateurs like myself, like the enthusiastic young man who told me all about his search for his dad's family in Scotland and was thrilled with what he had discovered and also the whole process of learning how to search for records. No matter who you are, though, you still have to go through the process of obtaining a reader's ticket which then lasts for two years. I noticed that some of the tweed-dressed men had actually worn out the bar code on the back of their cards, which says a lot for the number of hours they spend researching. I don't think that will happen to my ticket.

Rosemary Lim