Some fascinating details have already been unearthed about the role played by local men and others who were either born or went to school locally or had connections with town.
Museum volunteers have also recovered two long-forgotten memorial tablets which will form part of a display that will include other artefacts such as helmets, shrapnel and wartime publications.
A total of 275 names are listed on the war memorial in front of the main entrance to the Barnet parish church of St John the Baptist. So far all but about thirty have been identified, says Dennis Bird, one of the local historians working on the project.
We have found out something about nearly all of them...
“We have found out something about nearly all of them, where they lived, where they were killed and other personal information. But there are about thirty who we have been unable to trace.”
One of the names on the Barnet war memorial is “Anthistle, G”, who was in fact George Samuel Anthistle, a housepainter of Sebright Road. He was a private in the Bedfordshire Regiment and was killed at the age of 38 in the Battle of Passchendaele in August 1917.
George’s nephew Bert Anthistle, who is 92 and lives in Redbourn, says his father Albert, who was in the Hertfordshire Yeomanry, survived the war as did another relative Louis Anthistle, who was also a private in the Bedfordshire Regiment. Bert has fond memories of the family’s many connections with Sebright Road and life in Barnet.
Another casualty named on the war memorial is “Linkson, O.H.S.”, who was Oscar Linkson, a professional footballer, who used to play full back for Barnet Alston Football Club before he joined Manchester United. He was in Barnet’s championship winning team in the London League in 1907–8 and later in Manchester United’s championship winning-team of 1910–11.
Oscar was a private in the Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex, 17th Battalion), which was known as the Sportsmen Battalion. He died at the age of 28 in the Battle of the Somme and was one of three Manchester United players lost in the Great War.
In preparing the display for Barnet Museum, volunteers have made two most interesting finds. A memorial tablet formerly on display at the Margaret Road Secondary School in New Barnet has been recovered from storage, where it has lain unseen for the last 25 years. It commemorates 120 pupils who fell in the Great War.
Another school memorial to be displayed is a plaque from the former certified industrial school in East Barnet. After the school’s closure the plaque was removed and it has now been located at a successor school in Surrey.
If all goes to plan the exhibition and collection of life histories should be completed in time for the Museum’s annual garden party on 29 June.
Mr Bird is appealing to Barnet residents for help with the Museum’s research. “What happened after the First World War was that local committees often appealed for names to be included in memorials.
Sometimes the precise reason for the inclusion of a name or the connection with a locality has been lost over time.
“We aim to make our Great War centenary project as all-encompassing as possible. People living in Barnet who also lost relatives are being invited to participate in the project even if their relatives did not live locally at the time.”
Another Great War project underway at the Museum is a longer-term study by three volunteers who are researching the role of the Middlesex Regiment through the experiences of three soldiers, a reservist, a volunteer and a conscript.
The study will include visits to First World War battlefields and cemeteries.