With a new series of the BBC genealogy programme Who Do You Think You Are currently on TV we were reminded of a previous episode that talked about the tradition for choosing battle names for children during the period of the First World War and immediately afterwards. A project undertaken by the National Archives looked at the popularity of battle-related baby names and discovered that at least 1634 babies had First Word War related names, whether battles, heroes or “end of war” type names.
The most popular was Verdun after the battle that took place in 1916. There were 901 babies called Verdun in the years 1916 – 1919 and at least 30 of these were born in Swindon! Other popular names were Heligoland, Dardanelles, Loos, Vimy Ridge, Ypres (Wilfred Ypres Bruton was born in Swindon in 1918) and Somme (of which there were two in Swindon in 1916, twins who were a boy and a girl who had Somme as a middle name).
Girls were not spared this fashion, either. Some were given identical names to the boys (as above). Others were called Flanders, Mons and Jutland. In other cases there were feminine versions of the battles, including Sommeria and Arrasina or Dardanella. In some cases the names were given to recognise the sacrifice of family members in particular battles; in others, they were simply to show solidarity with the troops or with the civilian populations who were suffering.
Continuing the battle-inspired theme, there were over a hundred babies named “Peace” in 1918, 4 of whom were Swindon girls. Some children were named “Victory.” A few born on 11th November were called “Armistice” and a tradition that survives to this day is the increase in the number of girls called “Poppy” named around November each year!