The Missing of the Great War

The war poet Siegfried Sassoon referred to the Missing of the First World War as ‘nameless names’. Who were the Missing, what was their fate, how were they commemorated, and is it a story lost in the past, or still part of the Great War battlefields today?

Below are some books relating to the Missing of the Great War. Click on an image to be taken to the Amazon Page for that book. Buying the book via this link helps and supports The Old Front Line podcast. Thank you!

Analysis of ‘No Knowns Graves’ as of 1937


Named burials in identified graves in cemeteries – 317,770
No known grave commemorations (named on memorials) – 213,077
Unidentified dead buried in cemeteries – 105,351
Men remaining missing – 107,726


Named burials in identified graves in cemeteries – 92,288
No known grave commemorations (named on memorials) – 102,424
Unidentified dead buried in cemeteries – 46,791
Men remaining missing – 55,633

Total Missing in Belgium and France as of 1937: 163,359

Source: The Immortal Heritage by Fabian Ware (Cambridge 1937)

Podcast Extras: Memorials to the Missing

17 Comments on “The Missing of the Great War

  1. A very moving episode this week. I remember as a child my grandmother sobbing quietly when we watched the remembrance service on TV and not understanding why. She lost her father at the age of 5 in 1918 and no memory of him. He was injured twice and was recorded as presumed missing on 12/4/18 and is remembered on the Ploegsteert Memorial to the missing. I visited Ploegsteert a few years ago and left a note for him from his daughter at the memorial. A second cousin who serves with the British Army has written a short history of his service and shared this with me so it serves as his memory. Charles Henry James Meek 27th NF attached 149 Trench Mortar Battery. His brother also sleeps nearby and we have visited him also.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t own the history that was written of him but would like to see it available for people to read if interested. I think I should email him and see if he would give his approval, it’s very detailed. If he says yes would you be interested in seeing it?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi , I have messaged my relative and he would be happy for me to send his research on our great grandfather to you. He is a retired Colonel in the Royal Marines so has written it from a military perspective and has included photographs as he was based at NATO HQ in Belgium. What email address shall I send it too? He also requested that he be contacted if the information was to be used further. Thanks Nigel

        Liked by 1 person

  2. My two great uncles fought together in the Battle of Festubert. Roy was shot and the story was Earl clipped his hair for their mother, At any rate, Earl had to leave his dead 17 year old brother and Roy was unfound or unknown. He is on Vimy. It has bothered me my whole life what that night must have been like. It involved capturing an orchard, which became known as the Canadian Orchard and never was relinquished back to the Germans, In there is a family mystery that we may never find answers to, but I dearly would like to know more. I was the only person in my family to go to Vimy to see him. I am told my family never mentally recovered and was broken to bits even though the three other brothers came home— broken men though.

    Thank you for a thorough look at the unfound soldiers.
    Elizabeth Hoyle

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Another great episode…we forget I feel that nearly every family has a story to tell from the Great War…..however minor and trivial it may seem…but they need to be shared as sometimes a small piece of the jigsaw is most valuable.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dates can be deceiving too, whilst researching a soldier from the 21st Manchester’s he is listed as missing along with many others on the CWGC as the 24th October 1917, however the war diaries clearly state that no casualties that day but a very similar number are lost on an attack at on the 26th…


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