Iona’s memorial mystery

The war memorial on the island of Iona on the west coast of Scotland stands by the eastern shore near the ferry.  At a passing glance it looks quite ordinary, but in fact it contains a surprise.

Iona war memorial

Iona war memorial

There are two panels bearing the names of 19 men who died in the Second World War and only one panel naming the 11 who died in the First World War.  This is most unusual, for the total casualties in World War I far exceeded those of World War II.

The west panel with names from World War I

The west panel with names from World War I

We spoke to local people and asked at the Heritage Centre.  People speculated but no one knew the answer.  We then contacted Mrs Mairi MacArthur of the New Iona Press, whom the Heritage Centre had recommended as a historian of Iona.  She said that she had never been asked about this before.

The north panel with names from World War II

The north panel (left) and south panel (right) with names from World War II

The south panel, with names from World War II

 

 

Mairi said that the census of April 1911 showed that the Iona population was 222, of whom 104 were male.  A good proportion of them were either too young or too old to enlist for active service.  Also, many of the people counted in the census, such as boarded-out children and teenagers, and farm servants or labourers, in fact came from the mainland, and so would not have been included on the war memorial.  When it came to the Second World War, the island’s total population was a bit smaller but there were fewer boarded-out children and farm labourers so the pool of potential war-recruits had a bigger proportion of Iona natives.

Mairi hopes to do further research on this so I may provide more information in due course.

Henley-on-Thames
The war memorials on the front of Henley-on-Thames town hall show the more usual proportion, the First World War casualties are above the Second World War ones in these photos, and greatly outnumber them.

Henley town hall, with World War II names below those of World War I

Henley town hall, with World War II names below those of World War I

The memorial on Henley town hall

 

 

However, the Iona memorial has opened my eyes and when I was recently at Nobel House in Smith Square, London, for a meeting, I photographed the war memorials there.  (The building is now occupied by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and was formerly the Ministry of Agriculture.)  The memorials show 38 deaths in World War I and 43 in World War II.  I haven’t worked out why and unfortunately there is no helpful Mairi MacArthur to whom I can put this question.

The World War I memorial in Nobel House

The World War I memorial in Nobel House

The World War II memorial in Nobel House

The World War II memorial in Nobel House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About campaignerkate

I am the general secretary of the Open Spaces Society and I campaign for public access, paths and open spaces in town and country.
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2 Responses to Iona’s memorial mystery

  1. Sylvia Ronan says:

    That is interesting. Do you want a copy of the names of the brave young men
    on our Ludgvan War Memorial?

  2. Thanks Sylvia, is that First and/or Second World War?

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