Dundee’s Great War Honour Roll goes digital

In a bid to attract the interest and support of students and geneaologists, details on 4,200 of the city’s war dead have been uploaded to an online database by history group Great War Dundee.

The decision to make the honour roll available online is part of Great War Dundee's Remembrance Day efforts. Photo: Leisure & Culture Dundee

With the passage of this year’s Armistice Day, younger generations are being encouraged to remember their city’s fallen soldiers with the creation of a digital Roll of Honour.

The freely-available digital list has been created alongside existing physical monuments dedicated to the city’s wartime heroes, such as the structure at Dundee Law, the volcanic hill that overlooks the city.

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The details of over 4,200 soldiers, returnees and civilians linked to the war effort have been collated and organised by Great War Dundee. The four-year-old organisation aims to share the memory of the city’s war efforts with a wider audience.

It also hopes that the digitisation will make it much easier for people to appreciate the sacrifices made in the conflict as well as trace the history of family members.

Dr Billy Kenefick, senior lecturer in History at the University of Dundee and chairman of the Great War Dundee project, said: “This is an ambitious interactive project, but with the help of local families, historians and volunteers we hope to create a lasting and fitting tribute to those of the city who contributed to Dundee’s efforts during the Great War.

“The idea is to give these men some substance to their lives. Eventually we hope the Roll of Honour will become an invaluable resource for local historians, genealogists and younger generations of pupils and students.

“Where possible, each entry will include a photograph and information collected from various sources. We now have biographical details of around 150 men, enabling us to build up a social history from what was previously a list of names. “

The logo of the Great War Dundee organisation, founded in 2011 and headed by historian Dr Billy Kenefick. Photo: Elsie McGaughrin

The project undertaken by the voluntary organisation is the first digital mass-memorialisation in Scotland, with the searchable online database including information on the postwar lives of the few to survive the conflict and return to Dundee.

Dundee University’s Dr Derek Patrick of the School of Humanities said: “Behind every name there is a soldier. Behind every soldier there is a family – and with every family there is a story. Most rolls of honour are lists of names. But if you can add a brief glimpse of their lives, or a photograph, or where they lived or worked, then it becomes a personal memorial.”

Out of thousands of inspiring stories is the tale of Gunner Robert Raeburn, who enlisted in 1915 and was killed in action mere months before the end of the war in 1918.

Private Raeburn’s niece has visited his grave at Poperinghe in Belgium several times, with this year’s visit seeing her bring one of the Tower of London’s ceramic poppies on the journey.

The soldier is one of many to be included on the Roll of Honour, which also reveals that Robert’s younger brother George fought in the war but survived to return to Dundee.

University of Dundee archivist Caroline Brown said: “One of the exciting aspects of the digital Roll of Honour is that it offers people the opportunity to tell us about their own family’s experiences during the Great War.

“It really is a community project, where everyone can become involved, and that will allow it to build into a unique and permanent archive of biographies and images – enabling Dundee’s memories and experiences to live on for future generations.”

The new Roll of Honour can be accessed on the Great War Dundee website.