A passing thought inspired photographer Innes Marlow to spend a year investigating the stories of soldiers whose names appear on Fareham’s war memorial. Kimberley Barber talks to him about what he discovered.
WAR memorials are a feature of most towns, but have you ever stopped to wonder who the soldiers actually were?
What did they do? Where did they live? How did their death impact on their community?
That’s exactly what struck photographer Innes Marlow when he walked past the war memorial outside Holy Trinity Church, in West Street, Fareham.
The 51-year-old explains, ‘I have lived in Fareham for 25 years and I have walked past that war memorial most days.
‘But I had never stopped and to look at the names. That day I stopped and realised how many names there were, and how much of a loss that would have been to the town,
‘That’s when I decided to learn more about it. Each of those names were a person and that person had a family and a life.
‘One thing that really struck me was that these men could have lived in my road and that 100 years ago that could have been me - being enlisted and giving my life.
‘That made it personal. These were real people, not just names on a memerial.’
After that, Innes, of Paxton Road, Fareham, spent a year researching the servicemen who were lost 100 years ago.
Diligently retracing the names through the War Graves Commission, he then travelled over to France and Belgium to see for himself where these men lost their lives.
As he retraced the final steps of men who left their homes in Fareham during First World War but never returned he documented each step and created an exhibition of images.
The father-of-two says. ‘It was something thatt I wanted to do for a while. It seemed right that after spending so much time researching them, that I went to find their graves, so that’s what I did.
‘Everywhere I went I put a little cross, that I had taken with me. Each time I took a photo and that’s how the collection started.’
Innes gathered hundreds of photos of memorials and graves that record some of the thousands who gave their lives for our freedom.
He says, ‘The research led me to small cemeteries on the Western Front where I found graves of soldiers who left our town 100 years ago, and also to larger memorials where there are 11,000 graves in one field, which really highlights the impact of the war.’
When Innes returned home, he spoke to council leader Sean Woodward about his project and Cllr Woodward commissioned the exhibition called the Lost Sons of Fareham to go on public display in Fareham Shopping Centre throughout Remembrance Week.
He says, ‘For me the thing that sets these pictures apart from just photos of graves is the way they have been lit, specifically to make them a little more worthy, they had to be artistically interesting as well as informative.
‘For instance the Menin Gate was photographed at 2.30am, for no traffic and no people.
‘This year there has been a tremendous amount of people taking an interest in the First World War, but I wanted to make them personal to people in Fareham.’
Innes also took photos to mark the Royal Naval losses as many Fareham men were lost at sea and have no grave.
He says, ‘It’s difficult to comprehend how many were lost in the conflict, hopefully these photos remembering local men will highlight some of the stories behind the names, and mean that those who acted with such bravery 100 years ago will still be remembered 100 years from now.’
Innes said the experience will stay with him for a lifetime and he hopes his work will have provoked people to think a bit more about the men that gave their lives for this country.
He said seeing the battlefields in Ypres, the trenches in Normandy and visiting the Menin Gate are all poignant moments for him. Innes even managed to find a soldier from his road, called Carles Albert Bannell.
He says, ‘When I walk past that house, I think about him. I don’t even know if the people that live there know the history or if they even think about it, but I do.’
While researching the names on the war memorial in West Street, Fareham, photographer Innes Marlow discovered several with poignant links for him.
Here are just three:
Serjeant Charles Albert Bannell, served in the C Company, of the 4th Battalion, Rifle Brigade.
He was the son of Mr and Mrs Bannell of 18 Paxton Road, Fareham.
He died on March 15, 1915 aged 23. His name is listed at Ypres on the Menin Gate Memorial.
Private William Russell, served in the Hampshire Regiment 14th Battalion.
He was the husband of Kathleen, of 77 Gordon Road, Fareham.
He died on September 3, 1916 aged 28. His grave is at the Ancre British Cemetery, Beaumont-Hamel, France.
The graves of members of the Hampshire Regiment who died on one night of gas attacks in August 1916, in Potijze Chateau Wood Cemetery near Ypres are all buried together in two lines.