There are three groups of men who can be fairly described as Mitcham’s unknown warriors. The first are men whose names appear on the Mitcham War Memorial but have not been commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC). It could be argued that they were once known in Mitcham, but a hundred years on there is no point of reference that makes them easy to identify, and their part in the Great War remains unrecognised. To date, four men have been found who belong in this group: George Henry Adaway (recognised in 2012), William Buck, William Cressey (a.k.a W. Creasy) and Leonard Henry Hall. These men are “Out in the cold“.
The second group of men appear on the Mitcham War Memorial but their identities remain a mystery. Again, these men may have been well known in Mitcham, but now there is no easy way to say with any confidence who they were, or what part they played in the Great War. The challenge remains to identify the 40 men who are in this group. They are “The Forgotten Forty”
The third group of men are the sons, fathers, brothers and husbands of Mitcham who perished in the Great War and for whatever reason do not appear on any of Mitcham’s memorials. These men can only be identified after careful examination of the CWGC records combined with information in the HMSO publications “Soldiers/Officers Died in the Great War 1914-19” of 1921 (SDGW), and other sources. A preliminary count puts a large number of men in this category, close to two hundred men, but many can be weeded out.
It is worth restating that in this context “Mitcham” does not simply refer to the geographical centre marked on maps, or the place where current and past inhabitants would say Mitcham was their home. We have to consider the greater area within the boundaries of the Mitcham Urban District council that was formed in 1915, an area which coincided with the boundaries of the wards of the newly formed Mitcham Parliamentary Division of 1918. (The MUD became a Municipal Borough in 1934 and was finally absorbed into the London Borough of Merton in 1965.)
Both the “additional information” record data at the CWGC , and the “residence” data from SDGW contain references to Mitcham for a good many men who actually lived just outside its bounds in places such as Beddington Corner, Mitcham Lane Streatham, and on the other side of the Wandle boundary in Morden. Others, when checked seem to have no connection to Mitcham at all, or have “residence” data that is erroneous, for example with addresses in Tooting that were recorded as being in Mitcham on their original attestation papers. After sifting through these records, more than eighty men belong to this third group! These men are “the Hidden Hundred“.