Following my column a few weeks ago when I mentioned the roll of honour on the wall of Lealholm Church, Tim Roy got in touch with some observations on the one in his own church, All Saints in Ingleby Arncliffe, which lies just off the A19 north of Northallerton.
Although I’ve seen many rolls of honours in churches all over the place, I must shamefully confess that I haven’t paid much attention to them apart from a quick glance as I walked past. But since I wrote about my ancestor with the unusual name (Neural Lacy, a cousin of my mum’s mum who was killed in Word War I), they have become much more than simply a list of names. These were real people, often young sons of mothers and fathers who must have been desperately worried when they went to war, not knowing if they would ever see them again. And as we know, many of them didn’t including Neural Lacy’s mother who (according to my own mum) never recovered from the 19-year-old’s loss. So what Tim has to reveal about these rolls takes on much more significance now that I know I have a direct link to one.
Tim explains that rolls of honour are contemporaneous records of those who went to fight in the Great War. The men who enlisted before the war are named first, not in alphabetical order but, where appropriate, in familial groups. Other names were added as men joined up on an ongoing basis.
Although communities chose their own designs and methods of honouring those who served and those who died, it seems that a variety of blank roll of honour templates were mass-produced from which they could choose a design they liked. This explains why Tim found at least one other church (at Daresbury in Cheshire) that has the identical roll of honour template to the one in Ingleby Arncliffe. There are many other designs that appear elsewhere, such as the one in Lealholm.
Tim writes that in Ingleby Arncliffe “The heading states: ‘Your prayers are asked for those who have gone to serve for our King and country by land and sea and air’ which suggests that names were added as men joined one of the armed services.” If you compare your local roll of honour to your nearest war memorial you can probably work out which men survived the conflict. In Ingleby Arncliffe, there are 24 men who appear on the roll, but not on the memorial, which means they were the ones who returned home to their families.
On the Lealholm Roll of Honour, a red star is placed next to the name of the men who died, and their names can be found at the front of the war memorial which was erected just outside the church. The other men who served but came back are included on the memorial, but on either side rather than front and centre. According to family history enthusiast Gillian Hunt, it is unusual to see the names of those who survived the war on these memorials. “Middleton-in-Teesdale war memorial, for example, has an inscription which remembers all those who served, but only lists the names of the fallen,” she says.
She also makes the sobering point that many soldiers were incredibly young: “The Ley brothers and Claude Wood (named on the Lealholm memorial) were leading men into battle when they were barely out of school themselves. Being privately educated, and Maurice attending Sandhurst, they would quickly obtain a commission. It is hard to think of any of them leaving the peace of the North York Moors for the horror of the Western Front.”
In terms of my own relatives, three Lacys are on the Lealholm roll of honour and the memorial, but it’s only the unusually-named Neural, who lost this life, whose name appears on the front. Gillian did some research on this name and discovered that Neural Ernest William George Lacy was born on January 1st 1898 to George William Lacy and his wife, Mary (nee Jimmison). She adds: “But the name is down as Nuhral. Never heard it before and has been put down as Neural on military records etc as that’s how it sounded.” She tried finding others with that name or similar, but he was the only one.
So the mystery remains, where does that name come from?
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This column appeared in the Darlington and Stockton Times on 19th and Ryedale Gazette and Herald on 17th May 2023