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Picture of Board of Trade Roll of Honour 1914 - 1919
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Click on the links to the left of this page to look at the name indexes for the First World War. So far, we have 310 names - 305 from the Board of Trade and five from the National Physical Laboratory. In all but a very few cases we have been able to supplement the name with personal details: these can be viewed by clicking on the individual name in the index. Read on for the story of the Board of Trade Roll of Honour, the original version of which has been lost.

The Board of Trade Roll of Honour, 1914-1919

In 1914 the Board of Trade had a staff of 7,500, of which 4,800 were engaged on labour issues - chiefly staffing the new labour exchanges. During the First World War, more than 2,000 staff left the Board to join the forces. Of these, 305 were killed in action or died as a result of the conflict. After the war, on the initiative of the staff, the names were inscribed on a handsome Roll of Honour, which was unveiled on 19 December 1923 in the Park or West Entrance of the Board’s headquarters by the Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, a former President of the Board of Trade. The Board's headquarters in 1923 were at Government Offices, Great George Street, London SW1. A full report appeared the following day in the Extract from The Board of Trade Journal, December 20, 1923: Part 1, including the text of Stanley Baldwin's speech: Extract from The Board of Trade Journal, December 20, 1923: Part 2

The original Roll of Honour, pictured on each page of this website, was lost at some stage in the Board’s history. It has never been found, despite diligent enquiries and searches during the 1980s and 1990s and advertising in the specialist press. A replica is therefore being unveiled on 11 November 2002 in the headquarters of DTI at 1 Victoria Street, London SW1, at the same time as the launch of this website.

War Memorial Committee, 1921-1923

It is clear from the files (now at the PRO, in the series BT 13) that the staff and the Board took the task of commemorating those who had died very seriously. A war memorial committee was appointed in December 1921 and met 15 times. The details of all staff known to have died were verified with their military or naval unit and efforts were made, through circulars to staff and by adverts placed in national newspapers, to identify any temporary Board staff who had died.

A competition for the design of the memorial was held among the staff. The winning design, selected from 15 anonymous entries, was that of the Board's senior draughtsman, Mr H. Slicer - a bronze plaque and frame, surmounted by a broken pediment with a representation of a galleon's hull, inspired by the Board of Trade crest. Throughout the project, the Committee’s work was considerably impeded by lack of funds , as the initial subscriptions had apparently been deposited in a bank which subsequently failed. Several more requests for subscriptions had to be made (the last two confined to headquarters and to heads of departments respectively). Eventually, sufficient funds were collected to commission an adaptation of Mr Slicer’s original design: a bronze plaque in an oak frame, rather than a memorial fashioned entirely from bronze. The work was carried out by William Morris Co (Westminster) Ltd, for £158.

About 120 photographs of the Roll of Honour were produced and sent to all the outlying offices of the Board, with the recommendation that they be framed and displayed prominently in each office.

The names on the Roll of Honour

The Committee decided that the Roll of Honour would contain the names of all those who, at the time of their enlistment, had been staff of the Board. This resulted in the inclusion of about 170 names which had already been commemorated on a Roll of Honour to staff of the newly created Ministry of Labour, which had taken over the responsibilities of the Board’s Labour Exchanges and Unemployment Insurance Department. This Ministry of Labour Memorial hangs today in the headquarters of the Department for Education and Skills, Caxton House, Tothill Street, London SW1.

In addition to the Roll of Honour in the Board's headquarters, several local memorials were erected by various departments of the Board. These included the Patent Office, the RGS, the Official Receivers in Companies Liquidation, the Bankruptcy Official Receivers and Staff and possibly also the General Register and Record Office of Shipping and Seamen. Of these other Board memorials, we have been able to locate only the Patent Office Memorial 1914-1918 now hanging in Concept House, Newport. We would be most interested to hear if any of the other memorials still exist and where they are today. You can contact the DTI War Memorials Project by post or email.

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The Roll of Honour in later years

We know that in the years between the wars, the Roll of Honour was a focus for remembrance within the Department, with wreaths and flowers regularly placed around it. In those years many staff would have known personally many of those who died and of course many would themselves have served in the war in some capacity - some of them in the same units and alongside their colleagues who did not survive. (This was particularly the case with members of the Civil Service Rifles - which was the natural choice of infantry regiment for many of the Board's staff, the largest unit represented on the Roll of Honour. No fewer than 37 (about 12%) of the Board's war dead were members of the Civil Service Rifles at the time of their death.)

In 1925 William Morris Co were asked to supply an additional oak panel to match the memorial with three ornate oak pegs for the hanging of wreaths. This was paid for by unexpected late dividends from the failed bank. And in 1936 further work was carried out, to substitute bronze letters for the wooden letters which had begun to break away from the oak frame at the foot of the memorial.

It is not known when the Roll of Honour disappeared. The last confirmed sighting of it came from a DTI pensioner in a letter to DTI News in January 2000. He recalled being taken as a child to see the memorial by his father, who had worked in the Board of Trade since 1907 and remembered some of his friends who had died in the war and were named on the Roll of Honour. The visit took place in about 1934 or 1935, when the Board's headquarters were still at Government Offices, Great George Street.

According to the illustrated history of the Board of Trade (Shoes and Ships and Sealing Wax by Susan Foreman, published by HMSO, 1986), the Board's headquarters moved in 1940 to Millbank (ICI House), in 1952 to Horse Guards Avenue, and in 1963 to 1 Victoria Street, where it remains today. It is possible that the Roll of Honour was lost in one of these removals. Another theory is that it was taken down and stored somewhere for safe keeping during the bombing of London in the 1940s and subsequently forgotten.

The absence of the Roll of Honour received some notice in the 1980s when Shoes and Ships and Sealing Wax was published, to mark the Board’s Bicentenary. A photograph of the Roll of Honour was reproduced on page 93 of that book - not a contemporary photograph, but one of the many which had been taken in 1923 and circulated to regional offices. Efforts to trace the missing memorial in time for the Bicentenary celebrations in 1986 were unsuccessful, as have been all others since.

Following this article, Extract from DTI News November 1999, further efforts were made during the subsequent two years, including advertising with the help of the Western Front Association and Friends of War Memorials, but again with no success.

The DTI therefore decided to commission a new DTI War Memorial, which was unveiled by the Secretary of State, Patricia Hewitt, on 11 November 2002. Meanwhile, various articles have appeared in our staff newspaper, DTI News, as follows:

 

Articles published in DTI News about the war memorials project
October 2000Some stories behind the names on the memorial: THE FORGOTTEN MEN Part 1; THE FORGOTTEN MEN - PART TWO (how Board of Trade men enlisted); and THE FORGOTTEN MEN - PART 3 (the story of John Cobb, who went down with HMS Good Hope).
April 2002Illustrated story of Edgar Donovan, Croix de Guerre Extract from DTI News April 2002
October 2002The story of Robert Williams who died in the Anglia Extract from DTI News October 2002
December 2002Account of the unveiling ceremony at DTI on 11.11.02 Extract from December 2002 DTI News

 

Pictures of the memorials can be seen to the left of this page. Please click to enlarge these.

Where is the missing Roll of Honour ?

We would, however, still be interested to hear any news of what happened to the original memorial. If you can help, please contact us at the DTI War Memorials Project.

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