On the campus of Digby Stuart College at the University of Roehampton there is a unique War Memorial that was erected in May 1918, before the First World War had ended. It features over 300 plaques, each commemorating an individual killed in or as the result of the First or Second World War or the war in Korea. Each person honoured was – or was related to – a student or teacher at one of the Society of the Sacred Heart schools, and/or was a friend or relation of one of the nuns.
Recently granted Grade II listed status by Historic England, the Memorial is also unusual in that some of those whose sacrifice is honoured are women and others who had non-combatant roles in the First World War, including six Catholic chaplains.
The wording on each plaque, written by the families and friends of those commemorated, is more evocative and detailed than is usually found on Memorials of this period. Examples include ‘killed in action in Belgium whilst leading his men, aged 19 and 11 months’, and ‘worn out by work in her hospital and heartbroken by the loss of her sons Hugh and Henry’.
Since 2014, students and staff at the University of Roehampton have been coming to the Society Archives to research the stories behind some of the names on the Memorial. The resulting exhibition at the University’s brand new Library opens 9th November to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War. Each of the 24 display panels will focus on a different person or group, such as the men who were among the first pilots in the Royal Flying Corps (later the Royal Air Force), the French and Belgian soldiers commemorated on the Memorial, the Irish nationalist politician Willie Redmond and the diplomat Hugh O’Beirne, who was killed alongside Lord Kitchener.
The exhibition will run for several months and will be open to the public. If you are interested in learning more about this exhibition or about any of the collections held by the Society of the Sacred Heart, please contact the Provincial Archivist at firstname.lastname@example.org