First World War Plaque Commemorates Soldier – Now It Has Come Back To His Descendants

A photo of British troops entering Baghdad, 1917. George William Cawood died fighting in the Mesopotamian campaign. <a href=”URL TO IMAGE”>Photo Credit</a>
A photo of British troops entering Baghdad, 1917. George William Cawood died fighting in the Mesopotamian campaign. Photo Credit

Synchronicity is a meaningful coincidence; and “synchronicity” seems an apt word to describe the circumstance surrounding the return of an old plaque on the date that marks the 100-year anniversary of the death of the 19-year-old soldier it commemorates.

The plaque was discovered beneath an old shed in Weybourne, near Farnham, UK, in 1984 has been returned to its rightful owners three decades later.

The hunt for the plaque’s rightful guardians has also reunited a nephew and niece of the deceased soldier after heir-hunting firm and celebrities of the BBC program Heir Hunters – Finders International – helped to find the relatives.

David Brewer discovered the plaque in the early 1980s when he was renovating a house. At the time he did not realize the importance of what he had discovered since he had never seen an object like it. He said his first thoughts were that it was a type of memorial plaque that dated back to the Second World War. He put the memorial into a box in the loft and returned to renovating the house.

David moved away a decade later, and the plaque went with him.  In 2016, he came across it when clearing his loft.

After all that time he became curious to know more about the plaque and the person it symbolized, he said.

He discovered that the plaque was one of many issued following World War I to the next of kin of all British and Empire service personnel killed. This particular example commemorated a George William Cawood from Weybourne, Farnham.  He had served as a private in the Hampshire Regiment, and died fighting in the Mesopotamian campaign – modern-day Iraq – of the First World War on February 4, 1917.

George William Cawood is remembered at the Basra Memorial in Iraq that remembers the 4,682 service personnel during the campaign. Cawood is also remembered at the Hale war memorial in Farnham.

David appealed to relatives using the Farnham Herald as his message board. Subsequently, genealogists helped him trace George Cawood’s descendants so that the plaque could be returned to its rightful owners.

Daniel Curran, one of the genealogists, said they located a nephew and niece of the deceased: Michael Cawood, 79, and Thelma Barker, 83.  The two cousins hadn’t been in contact since they were children.  They also located six great nieces and nephews, Alton Herald reported.

Michael said his uncle died before he was born and even though his picture had hung in their house he knew nothing about him.  It’s wonderful that his memorial plaque has been returned to the family, in addition to reuniting him with his cousin Thelma.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE