Tuesday, 26 February 2008

British Army WWI Service Records, 1914-1920

Ancestry are having a busy week this week! The pension records for WW1 soldiers have been online for some time, and not content with having uploaded the first batch of images from the medal index card collection for soldiers who served in the First World War earlier this week, Ancestry has now put the first batch of the surviving WW1 soldiers service records online, known as the "burnt records", due to damage caused to them in an air raid in WW2. These images come from the National Archives WO363 collection.

From the Ancestry site comes the following description of what can be found:

Approximately 5 million men served in the British Army in World War One (WWI). This database contains the surviving service records of non-commissioned officers and other ranks who served in WWI and did not re-enlist in the Army prior to World War II. With the second release, this database now contains records for surnames beginning A-H. Full surname range coverage will be realised with future releases. Names falling outside of this range that are presently included in the database come from records that were misfiled according to surname sequence.

These records contain a variety of forms, including:

Attestation forms - the form completed by the individual on enlistment
Medical history forms
Casualty forms
Disability statements
Regimental conduct sheets
Proceedings on Discharge
Cover for Discharge Documents
Index Cards

Information available in these records includes:

Name of soldier
Marital status
Regimental number
Date of attestation
Physical description

On the first search I made in this collection this evening, I discovered a 22 page service record for my wife's great uncle, who had enlisted with the Connaught Rangers. We knew he had died in 1914, but we now know that he had in fact joined the army in 1902, served at least six years in India, and was disciplined on at least eight occasions! Most definitely worth a look at http://www.ancestry.co.uk/ .


It looks like Ancestry may have been exaggerating again in their online source information for the collection, as the records that are online seem to mainly be from A-C just now, rather than A-H. But at least the ball has started rolling...

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