We may never know just how many Wigan men died

Local historian Tom Walsh
Local historian Tom Walsh

As the borough marks the centenary of the end of World War One the scale of the sacrifice made in Wigan has been remembered.

More than 3,800 names are listed on council-managed memorials to those who laid down their lives for their country between 1914 and 1918.

However, the total number of Wiganers killed in the war is quite difficult to work out as the tribute monuments were often not put together in a systematic manner and record keeping on the front lines during the conflict was often non-existent.

That means that historians who have tried to remember local fallen have regularly found duplication of names on memorials and fallen soldiers with war graves in the borough but who are not actually included in the lists.

Nevertheless, it is clear that the war had a massive impact on the borough, with 1,838 names of those killed on the Wigan town centre war memorial close to the parish church and 713 on the one in the middle of Leigh.

Work has been done to remember those who died from the local area in World War One by Scholes historian Tom Walsh and by the team at the borough’s Archives and Local Studies.

Mr Walsh says in total Wigan suffered 1,857 losses from the army, 20 from the navy, six from the Royal Flying Corps, the organisation that would go on to become the Royal Air Force after the conflict, and six from the marines.

There is also one woman listed on the memorial, Jane Johnston, who was on board a ship which was torpedoed by a German craft close to the end of the war, in September 1918.

Alex Miller, lead officer at the archives, says the online database of World War One information for the borough contains not only the list of names on the memorials the local authority maintains but all the biographical research the team has been able to do.

Their efforts include compiling the massive database of names of the fallen which we have used as the basis of our front page paying tribute to those who died.

Links to newspaper articles from the time have also been digitised and placed on the internet for amateur historians.

The borough’s service is also trying to track down men who had connections to the Wigan area but do not appear on the local monuments because they are remembered elsewhere.

Anyone wishing to look at the online resources for the conflict which have been produced over the four years of centenary commemorations can visit http://archives.wigan.gov.uk