Pinpointing graves of brave war dead

John Chapman is trying to map all the graves of Ilkeston's war dead.
John Chapman is trying to map all the graves of Ilkeston's war dead.

An Ilkeston pensioner is appealing for Advertiser readers to help plot the graves of the town’s fallen heroes in time for next year’s celebrations marking 100 years since the start of World War One.

Two years ago, shortly after his wife died, John Chapman, 69, started to record the burial sites of Ilkeston soldiers who were killed as a result of conflicts.

He said: “I was visiting my wife’s grave in Park Cemetery and noticed some soldiers’ graves near to where she’s buried. I started having a look around the cemetery whenever I was there visiting and then decided to start up the research.”

Mr Chapman, a retired tool maker and Rolls-Royce worker, got in touch with the Royal British Legion and Ilkeston and District Local History Society as part of his research and he is now working alongside them to locate the graves and find out the stories behind the deaths.

He wants anyone who has any information, and in particular photographs of local soldiers, to get in touch via the Advertiser.

So far he has located 66 in Park Cemetery and several others in other local churchyards and burial grounds.

Mr Chapman said: “Most of the graves we have found so far are those of men who were wounded in battle and came back home where they died as a result of their injuries.

“Some had pneumonia and never recovered.

“In Kirk Hallam there is the only grave of a serving woman that I have found so far.

“She was a Land Army girl killed by machine gun fire in Torquay.”

Information that Mr Chapman has suggests that there were between 700 and 800 Ilkestonians killed during the conflicts.

He has also located the graves ofsoldiers killed in the Boer War and the Crimean War.

He added: “Those who died on the battlefield will be buried where they were killed, there will be a lot of graves in France and other places.”

Mr Chapman hopes to eventually put all of the information he collects online in a database.

He said: “This started as a bit of a hobby but it has become a full time job.

“I was expecting it to take me a couple of months but I think it will end up taking four or five years to complete.

“I think it will be an interesting resource.”