Find My Past has released the South African Roll of Honour for the First World War. The date range is given as “1914–1918” so I set out to check whether those who died while on active service between 1 January 1919 and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s ‘end date’ for that war, are included on the South African Roll.
The CWGC ‘end date’ for the First World War is 31 August 1921.
Four handred and twelve personnel serving with the South African forces are recorded on the CWGC database for this period. I did not search for South Africans serving with British or other Commonwealth Forces.
The first name on the list generated by the database is Private Alfred John Stroud, who died on 16 February 1919. There’s no apparent logic to the order in which these names appear.
Alfred Stroud does appear on the South African Roll of Honour (1914–1918) with information matching that given for him on the CWGC database with the exception of a handwritten note ‘The Somme’ next to the Cause of Death which was given as DW (signifying ‘died of wounds’).
I looked also for Private Nicholas Koeberg of the Cape Corps and here again the South African Roll of Honour provides a little more information about the cause, for which the code, in his case is DS, revealing that he died of natural causes, either of sickness—perhaps influenza—or in an accident. Private Koeberg is buried in Egypt.
Driver S. Mokuena of the Cape Auxiliary Horse Transport died on 10 July 1919. He is buried near Arras, in the Duisans British Cemetery at Etrun. He has the DS code indicating a death from natural causes.
Probationer Nurse May Charlotte Flanagan, who died on 29 February 1920 in Boksburg appeared initially to be missing from the search for Flanagan on the South African Roll of Honour, which listed a D.A. Flanagan in the South African Medical Corps. Viewing the image however, it was clear that her initials were transferred from D.A. Fitzhenry in the line above. Several key details, including her age (30) and place of burial matched the information on the CWGC database. However, the South African Roll gives her date of death as 30.3.1920. Again, the DS code indicates she died of natural causes.
Finally I narrowed down the search to focus on deaths in 1921. There were 41 deaths, and apart from the first man and the last three on the list that was generated, all the burials were in South Africa. The first of the 41, is someone I had spotted on the first page of the previous search. He was Captain Edward James Lawlor, aged 46, who died on the 8 January 1921 and is buried at Vevey in Switzerland. The DS code for cause of death has been struck through by hand and replaced with the note DW—died of wounds.
An accolade (Distinguished Service to Researchers!)
When you view an image, you will see the note “Images reproduced by courtesy of Howard Williamson.” Curious about who this might be, I ran a search. You can read about Howard Williamson, and why he does what he does for our war dead. in this interview published in the East Anglian Daily Times. I’d like to praise his persistence and his generosity with his time, and to thank him for his extraordinary efforts to preserve records, to allow access to them online and to rescue from oblivion the stories of the people behind the names on medal lists as well as on Rolls of Honour such as this one.
Some general observations
- The South African Roll of Honour (1914–1918) observes the official end date of 31 August 1921.
- The South African Roll usually provides initials and not first names.
- All the personnel for whom I searched, regardless of rank, sex or ethnicity, appeared on the South African Roll as well as on the CWGC database.
- The South African Roll of Honour is organised in units, for example Infantry units, Mounted (Cavalry) Units, Medical Units and Service Units, amongst others.
- The South African Roll gives useful additional information by recording the cause of death. The first set of initials is the abbreviation in English and the second is the Dutch equivalent. (Afrikaans was beginning to be recognised as a distinct language but it did not become an official language until 1925.)
KIA is Killed in Action.
DW is Died of Wounds.
DPOW is Died whilst Prisoner Of War.
DS is Died in Service (and this includes natural causes, such as sickness, and accidental death).
MDP is Missing, Death Presumed—this is the South African equivalent of ‘MIA’ Missing In Action.
Some tips for research
- Search by surname only, unless you are searching for a particularly high frequency surname. Remember how May Charlotte acquired the initials of Sister D.A. Fitzhenry on the line above. I would not have found her had I searched for M Flanagan, M.C. Flanagan or C Flanagan. (I checked this! The search report noted ‘0 results’.)
- Tick the box for name variants if looking for a less well-known surname. Be aware that the typescript is itself a transcript of other records so errors may be present. This could be particularly so with names which at the time might be less well known. On the line above Driver S Mokuena’s name was Driver R Mokaena. It occurred to me that the typist may not have been familiar with the surname and that a handwritten curvaceous ‘u’ might have been perceived as an ‘a’. Searching again for Mokuena, but ticking the surname variants box, gave search results which included our Driver R Mokaena, as well as those with surnames such as Maconi, Makama, Makwane, Makwena. Mnyikinwa, Mokhine, Mokoni and Mokwana.
- Following from #1 and #2, it is not necessarily going to be ‘helpful’ to include additional information such as regimental numbers or units, even when you think you know them. It seems to me that this database is somewhat inflexible in that, if the data doesn’t match, the report will generate no results. It hasn’t been set up to include close matches on any of the data sets other than the name and surname.
- Always view the actual image first, rather than Find My Past’s transcription which may include errors. I always find it interesting to view the other names on that page, and to browse other pages, if I can spare the time.
East Anglian Daily Times, http://www.eadt.co.uk/ea-life/essex_why_i_ve_borrowed_57_000_to_help_my_dream_come_true_plus_howard_s_fascination_with_the_first_world_war_and_its_gallantry_medals_1_1146173 accessed 5 April 2015, 6 December 2011. [Short URL: http://bit.ly/1GCyVIP]
Find My Past, ‘South Africa Roll of Honour 1914–1918’, http://search.findmypast.com/search-world-records/south-africa-roll-of-honour-1914-1918, accessed 5 April 2015