“I kept my promise to tell their war stories”: One For Evermore user’s commitment to sharing the stories behind our war graves

For Evermore is picking up media attention across the UK!

On 24th January, For Evermore volunteer moderator David Whithorn spoke with West Yorkshire’s Telegraph & Argus newspaper about his experience using our new digital stories archive.

Article published with permission of the Telegraph & Argus

“I kept my promise to tell their war stories”

In October 2023, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission launched their For Evermore Project - an online resource that collects stories of the war dead from both World Wars, ensuring that they are preserved for generations to come.

The CWGC’s enduring tribute to the men and women from across the Commonwealth who gave their lives ensures that they will never be forgotten.

As a volunteer for the CWGC, looking after war graves in six cemeteries, I heard they were looking for volunteer ‘moderators’ responsible for receiving these stories, editing and publishing them on the CWGC website

Applicants had to have a knowledge of the history of the world wars and writing/publishing skills. 

“In for a penny.,” I thought and sent in my name. No application form, no referees, no interview.

From hundreds of applicants, I was straight in. It seems someone had already recommended to appoint me, if I applied... my reputation had preceded me!

A close up of a notebook full of handwritten notes.

David's diligently details his moderation contributions and stories in his For Evermore notebook.

The learning curve was steep. As a retired scientist, a ‘graph’ for me was familiar, but meant something entirely different in the publishing software world! I persevered, and the stories started to come in.

At the outset, I decided to keep a notebook listing the names of stories of the war dead I had published. The stories coming in were mainly those of WW1 casualties told by their relatives for whom they no longer could be a ‘living’ memory - those coming in from WW2 were now at the very edge of that ‘living’ memory.

As the list grew, I decided to give myself a target. For a Bradford lad with a lifelong interest in the city’s part in the Great War, this would be a meaningful target indeed.

On November 6 1914, the Bradford Daily Telegraph published a list of the 1,000 men who had enlisted into the Bradford Battalion, better known as the Bradford Pals. I would match that number...

Over the weeks, the stories came in - British/ANZAC/Canadian/South African/Indian Polish in WW1 and WW2, servicemen/women, Army/Navy/RFC/ RAF, officers/other ranks, VC winners/ordinary Tommies.

So many familiar units, dates and places; I made no distinction. 

I did my very best to ensure each and every one of their stories would indeed be the best they could be for preservation - ‘For Evermore’.

Many of the authors were family historians with detailed stories of relatives or names on local war memorials. But it was the stories from ordinary families, a photograph, a remembered retold story, a bit of research maybe, that meant the most to me. These always got a little extra from the unknown ‘moderator’.

I wonder if the Lincolnshire family had ever known that their relative killed with the 16th West Yorkshires on May 3, 1917 had actually been a part of the Bradford Pals who fell at Gavrelle, and wonder how did the ‘CWGC’ know that? They know now. 


Introducing For Evermore: Stories of the Fallen - the exciting new way to read and share stories of the Commonwealth's war dead. Got a story to share? Upload it and preserve their memory for generations to come.

Share and read stories

Some stories said so much more than their CWGC database entry.

A 19-year-old RAF girl knocked off her bicycle and killed by a fire engine rushing through the blitz in Liverpool. An RN ship lost with all hands in WW2 - 850 men, no survivors, no battlefield or war cemetery to visit today. Numbers greater than some battalions on the Somme in 1916.

A Dutch lady submitted 69 stories of each Allied soldier who fell in the liberation of her home village in 1944; she used an online translator, much work for me, but it was her final story that made all the work worthwhile.

He’d been billeted in her parents’ house in 1945 with comrades. On leaving, he left a letter thanking his hosts for their hospitality, and was killed in action days later. This Dutch family had looked after his grave ever since.

I highlighted this story on Facebook and the granddaughter of that British soldier from 80 years ago found it!!

All through this I kept my eyes out for soldiers from Bradford. As I neared my 500th published story, there was one that I wanted to write and preserve ‘For Evermore’ for the city and people of Bradford.

Corporal Allen Lee in his WW1 era British Military uniform.Corporal Allen Lee: David has shared his moving story on For Evermore

I’d come across the medals of 16/772 Corporal Allen Lee of the Bradford Pals on eBay. It was what came with them that made this find so special. I won’t spoil this story, it’s one of the longest on CWGC For Evermore.

If you ever want to read a story about a Bradford Pal here’s the place to start, it’s one you won’t forget and a good one for young people to discover a tragic part of the history of our city.

Last week I met my 1,000 target, but this is not the end. Hopefully, you’re now inspired

to tell your own relative’s story for the CWGC. Here’s where to start. Give it a go.

Bradford raised a second battalion of Bradford Pals and two more battalions of Territorials in the Great War, whose stories could be uploaded, not to mention those from WW2.

In Bradford we have, in addition to information in the CWGC database and Family History software - the Bradford Roll of Honour. Bradford WW1 Group recently released a computerised database of 36,000 Bradford men who served in the Great War. What a tremendous gift to the city and people of Bradford today.

I shall carry on preserving stories for the CWGC.

A little over 40 years ago, thanks to a letter I wrote to the T&A, I met some of Bradford’s WW1 veterans.

One of these was Ernest Newsome, we became friends. One day, after a trip to York, Ernest was in tears.

He took my hands and thanked me for all I’d done for him...after all, he and his comrades had done for us... and told me it would be the last time we met. He asked me to promise ‘Do not let them forget us’.

I made that promise to Ernest. He died a short while later, but I keep that promise still.

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