In 2001, Pam and Ken Linge visited Thiepval Memorial for the first time. They came to pay tribute to five of the 72,200 missing soldiers whose names have been engraved in this monument. Like them, these five men all came from the village of Haydon Bridge, in Northumberland (England). In the following years they returned to the Somme and came to understand the extent of the work done by the visitor centre of the Memorial. They ended up volunteering to find archival documents, such as photos, relating to the missing soldiers of Thiepval.

They began their research in the archives of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission which has been registering and maintaining, since 1917, the graves of all the soldiers from Commonwealth who died during the two World Wars. However the available documents only mentioned a name, a rank, a serial number and a regiment. They had no information about these soldiers' families, their age, a place of birth, where they lived or where they volunteered or were recruited.

So the Linges turned to other sources: the local newspapers and the Rolls of Honour. These are books published after the war by schools or professional associations. They mention the names of all the alumni and members who fought in the war. They also launched a public appeal for private individuals and associations to come forward and share any information they had.

The local newspapers proved to be the best sources of information on the missing soldiers. Although not always illustrated they often contained articles on men who had died or were reported missing and which provided valuable information for their research project. Given the great geographical diversity of the soldiers who fought in the Battle of the Somme their research in the local newspaper from the period between July 1916 until early 1917 was quite far-reaching. As of 2012, the Linges were able to compile 8,800 records on the missing soldiers of Thiepval.

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  • The Bacup Times, 22 July 1916, newspaper, coll. Linge © P&K Linge

    This newspaper, published in the village of Bacup in Lancashire regularly provides news about the men from the village who had gone to the front. It also provided the names of soldiers who were reported missing or were killed in action.

the Bacup Times