We sometimes receive enquiries from people asking if their local memorial is the oldest known First World War memorial because it was erected before the end of the war.
In fact, it was not that unusual for memorials to be erected during the course of the war. The most common example would have been wooden or paper Rolls of Honour, listing those who were serving in the armed forces. Any deaths would then be recorded, for example with a red cross against their name.
Perhaps less well known is the fact that permanent stone memorials were also being erected long before the end of the war.
The earliest known permanent memorial for the First World War is a grey, granite cross from Rawtenstall in Lancashire. The proposal to erect this memorial came from a local councillor, Carrie Whitehead, who raised it at the Rawtenstall Council Cemetery Committe meeting on 16 June 1915, less than a year after the outbreak of war.
By September 1915, the memorial had been erected with nine names and an inscription which left the end year blank – ‘1914 – 19 ‘.
Further names were added throughout the war and eventually 332 men were commemorated on the memorial. Unlike almost all memorials erected after the war, and presumably because of the way in which the names were collected and added, the names themselves are not listed in any order.