‘The Missing’ are the soldiers of the First World War whose remains have either never been found, or were found but could not be identified.
Some are buried in the Commonwealth cemeteries, in graves marked with the words: “A Soldier of the Great War known unto God”.
When the Thiepval Memorial was unveiled in 1932, a total of 73,367 names were inscribed upon its pillars. This number regularly changes as more research is carried out and through scientific progress, which enables the remains of some men, recently found upon the former battlefields, to be identified.
The soldiers commemorated at Thiepval were posted missing between June 1915 and 20 March 1918. 90% of these men died during the 141 days of the Battle of the Somme (July to mid-November 1916); 12,000 of them on the 1st July, the very first day of the battle.
The five year long war caused the deaths of 10 million men; on the Western Front (from Belgium to Verdun) the total number of Missing amounted to almost a million. The average age of these men was 25.
The majority of the soldiers commemorated on the memorial are English, Irish, Scottish, Canadian, Australian and American soldiers enlisted in the British Army, and servicemen of the South African forces
Some well-known men commemorated on the memorial:
George Butterworth, Musician Rupert Inglis, professional rugby player for England Cedric Dickens, Charles Dickens’ grandson Hector Munroe, Saki, author of short stories Thomas Michael Kettle, famous writer and politician
Researching a Missing Soldier
The particularity of the Visitor Centre is the computer database where visitors can gain information about the Missing commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. This database is only available at Thiepval and was created in 2003 by Pam and Ken Linge, retired accountants from Britain who wanted to ensure the Missing were never forgotten by collecting as much personal information about them as possible. Today, the personal stories of almost 12,000 men of Thiepval are included in the database, an ongoing project that continues to grow each year. The base – which is on free access – is only available here in the Visitor Centre and updated periodically.
Others research websites
For more information about soldiers of the First World War, various websites can be consulted: Mémoire des Hommes, this website has been created by the French Ministry of Defence and provides information and records from its archival collections about French soldiers who fought in various modern conflicts. Sépultures de Guerre, now part of Mémoire des Hommes, enables researchers to find the graves of almost 660,000 soldiers who died in recent conflicts. Only soldiers buried in military cemeteries and plots maintained by the Ministry of Defence are included in its database. Commonwealth War Graves Commission, this website enables families and researchers to discover the places of burial and commemoration of 1.7 million men and women who died in the First and Second World Wars. Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge, this website is useful for researching the German war dead.