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Thursday, 21 February 2008

World War 2 rolls

Many of the precedents set in the years following the Great War were again adopted after 1945. The creation of rolls was one such. The two illustrated here, Wythburn at the top and Westward below, are examples of the listings of names that were created.

Wythburn roll which covers the parishes of St John in the Vale & Castlerigg with Wythburn is peculiarly antiquated in design, employing a vaguely neo-gothic & Christian iconography that would seem more appropriate to a high Victorian city church than to a isolated lakeland chapel. The names of four dead in the central panel are sanctified by an associated cross in the central altar panel. The considerable number of those who served fill the side panels.

Westward is without symbolism and simply calls itself a Roll of Service. It is similar to Wythburn in the separation of the names of the dead but differs in the gender split and the details of service. Neither is signed though both were probably created by professional or semi-professional illuminators.

I find rolls like this fascinating. They illustrate both differences in the way the two wars were fought and perceptions of service. WW2 rolls have numbers of names of guys who fought and died in the Merchant Marine which are generally lacking in WW1 lists. They also show how the RAF, primarily bomber command, took huge numbers of men away from the Infantry Regiments that dominate earlier rolls. Nor did those that did serve in the infantry serve with 'Pals' type units whose losses cut swathes through local communities in 1916.

A further difference is in the gender of those commemorated. Though there are women named on WW1 rolls, primarily nurses, they do not appear in the same numbers as in the later rolls, a reflection of the growth of the women's armed services.

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