Service Records Of Two Million First World War British Soldiers Now Online
Records typically stretch to 16 pages for an individual soldier Famous names include Noel Coward and Basil Rathbone Collection will be of huge importance to everyone wanting to discover more about a war hero this Remembrance Day
Service records contain a variety of information concerning all aspects of the army careers of those who completed their duty or were either killed in action or executed, including the soldier’s name, date and place of birth, address, next-of-kin, former occupation, marital status, medical records, service history, regiment number, locations of service and discharge papers.
Each service record contains an average of 16 pages of personal information;
The British Army World War One Service Records (http://www.ancestry.co.uk/
As approximately 60 per cent of the paper originals of the service records were destroyed by fire when the War Office in London was struck by a bomb in 1940 during an air raid, the surviving 32.5 million paper records now online have become known as the ‘Burnt Documents’.
Microfilm of the total 43 million pages of paper originals which comprise the service and pension records are the second most viewed collection at The National Archives, which maintains the collection and is Ancestry.co.uk’
Together, the service and pension records form the definitive source of information in existence on more than three million ordinary soldiers who fought in the British Army during World War One. The sheer volume of material has meant that the collection has been digitised in stages in a process that has taken three years.
Among the surviving service records are those of a number of both famous and ordinary, brave soldiers, including:
Basil Rathbone – the British actor best know for the portrayal of Sherlock Homes in 14 movies between 1939 and 1946 enlisted in the London Scottish Regiment in 1916. The discharge papers within his service record describe his eyes and hair as ‘dark’ and his complexion as ‘fresh’
Noel Pierce Coward – the flamboyant English playwright, director and actor was drafted for military duty in 1918. His service record details a head injury that saw him obtain an honourable discharge with a ‘30 per cent degree of disablement’
George Peachment – George’s service record reveals he was awarded the Victoria Cross – an accolade he received for his bravery in saving the life of an officer near Hulluch, France, where he was later killed in action. His record also features a letter from his mother requesting his personal effects after his death and a journalist requesting a photograph of him
Henry Mays – Henry’s service record contains a letter from his sister revealing that he enrolled under a false name to avoid being traced by his mother. This solved a family mystery that had spanned 90 years (further details and interview available)
The service records are the latest addition to Ancestry.co.uk’
Ancestry.co.uk International Content Director Dan Jones comments: “The service records will provide millions of people with information to help them better understand what their heroic ancestors were like as soldiers, including their performance in battle, their health and details of their general appearance.
“These are a welcome addition to the millions of military records available online at Ancestry.co.uk, including our ever growing collection of World War Two records.”
William Spencer, Military Records Specialist at The National Archives, comments: “It is fitting that the digitisation of surviving First World War soldiers’ records of service should be completed at this time. With Harry Patch’s death last July, any direct living connection to these records has finally been severed and marks the passing of this significant period in British military activity into history.
Digitising these records makes them accessible to people around the world, many of whom had ancestors who served in the “war to end all wars”, and who will now be able to discover so much more about them.”
NOTE TO EDITORS
*Based on market share of visits among all UK websites in the Hitwise Lifestyle - Family industry category, January-June 2009
Ancestry.co.uk is officially the UK’s leading family history website. It has more than 820 million searchable family history records in major collections including the England, Wales and Scotland Censuses from 1841 to 1901, the England and Wales Birth, Marriage and Death Indexes, 1837-2005, World War One British Army Service and Pension Records, UK and Ireland Parish and Probate Records and the British Phone Books, 1880-1984.
Ancestry.co.uk was launched in May 2002 and belongs to the global network of Ancestry websites (wholly owned by Ancestry.com Operations Inc.), which contains four billion family history records. To date more than 11 million family trees have been created and over one billion names and 22 million photographs uploaded. 8.2 million unique visitors log on to an Ancestry website every month (comScore, June 2009).
The Ancestry global network of family history websites: www.ancestry.com in the US, www.ancestry.co.uk in the UK, www.ancestry.ca in Canada, www.ancestry.com.au in Australia, www.ancestry.de in Germany, www.ancestry.it in Italy, www.ancestry.fr in France, www.ancestry.se in Sweden and www.jiapu.com in China.