Shindler’s list: The story behind memorial names

Cllr Barbara Johnson, Harborough's Royal British Legion branch chairman the Rev John Morley, campaigner David Johnson and Cllr Phil Knowles
Cllr Barbara Johnson, Harborough's Royal British Legion branch chairman the Rev John Morley, campaigner David Johnson and Cllr Phil Knowles

The campaign to protect and preserve the war memorial portico at the town’s Cottage Hospital has put its significance at the forefront of many people’s minds.

The petition to save the memorial, in Coventry Road, has smashed the 1,100-name barrier and the anniversary of the start of the First World War later this summer will act only to heighten its sense of place and poignancy.

And so it got one historically-minded Harborough man to think more deeply about the story behind the memorial – and more specifically, the names on the four marble panels.

How did they go about compiling the 1,658 names? Who put the list together?

These were just some of the questions which intrigued David Johnson, chairman of Market Harborough Historical Society.

He unearthed the story of Shindler’s List.

No, nothing to do with German businessman Oskar Schindler who saved the lives of over 1,000 Jewish refugees during the Holocaust.

But a little-know tale about Harborough draper Frederick George Shindler who conscientiously compiled the list of serving First World War soldiers so their bravery and sacrifices could be remembered in perpetuity.

Mr Johnson said: “Looking at the impressive list of names on the panels in the war memorial portico, I wondered who had compiled such a labour of love. It must have been someone whose pride in the town was deeply rooted.”

The answer came from Barry Summers’ unpublished account called The Harboro’ Boys: those lads from Harborough who joined up and fought for King and Country in the First World War.

Frederick George Shindler owned Shindler & Douglas, the drapers of London House on The Square in Harborough.

He kept the Roll of Honour for the town and villages, and published weekly names of men on war service in the Mail’s forerunner, the Market Harborough Advertiser.

By January, 1915, some 628 men aged between 18 and 40 were on war service.

This he calculated to be 43 per cent of those eligible.

He gave regimental details and counted 59 “sons of Market Harborough residents” on active service.

These lists later became the official Roll of Honour and basis for the entries on the tablets on the war memorial.

He also compiled a list of those from Desborough who served.

After the war, Shindler became secretary of the town’s War Memorial Committee and was responsible for putting up the cross on The Square, unveiled in September 1921, and the portico in 1923.

Barry Summers’ Harboro’ Boys was nearly complete by his death in 2000.

It is full of the stories of individual experiences on the Western Front. The town’s historical society is set to publish his research later this year in commemoration of all those from the town who fought during the conflict.

Frederick George Schindler

The Shindler & Douglas drapers was based at London House on the east side of The Square, in buildings no longer there which have now been replaced by the parade of shops which includes Johnsons dry cleaners and the Age Concern bookshop.

Shindler was the rising star among a number of Harborough drapers at the time.

Advertising himself as “draper, milliner and ladies outfitter” his store had 11 display windows and was the leading drapers in town,

It was referred to as “Shindler’s” long after he left the business.