ON THE RECORD

Records of more than 460,000 men who fought dur­ing the Napoleonic Wars, in­clud­ing troops at the Bat­tle of Water­loo, have been added to Ances­try

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Fam­ily his­to­ri­ans with fore­bears who served dur­ing the Napoleonic Wars could ben­e­fit from a ma­jor new record re­lease.

Ge­neal­ogy web­site ances­try.co.uk has digi­tised a large num­ber of muster books and pay lists held in se­ries WO 12 at The Na­tional Ar­chives, pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion about thou­sands of men who joined the Bri­tish Army at the turn of the 19th cen­tury.

Search­able by de­tails such as name and reg­i­ment, the records can re­veal in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing each sol­dier’s rank, move­ments and wages, plus the dates of their ad­mis­sion and dis­charge.

Al­though some of the ma­te­rial dates from as far back as 1779, the ma­jor­ity of records within the dig­i­tal col­lec­tion con­cerns mem­bers of the Cavalry, Foot Guard and in­fantry reg­i­ments of the line be­tween 1812 and 1817.

Cru­cially, this means it in­cludes men who fought at the Bat­tle of Water­loo, which saw the Bri­tish Army de­feat Napoleon’sp troopsp on 18 JJune 1815. Anal­y­sisy of the col­lec­tion also shows that the year of the bat­tle was a peak pe­ri­o­did ffor en­list­ments,li withih more thanh 250,000 men join­ing in 1815 alone.

Among the Water­loo veter­ans within the record set is Scots­man Charles Ewart, who served with the 2nd Royal North Bri­tish Dra­goons. Al­though very lit­tle is known about his early life, the solider achieved some­what leg­endary sta­tus due to his heroic ac­tions on the bat­tle­field.

One ac­count from his con­tem­po­rary Sergeant Ma­jor Cot­ton de­scribes Ewart as “...a man of Her­culean strength”, while an­other story claims that the skilled swords­man was ca­pa­ble of be­head­ing his en­e­mies with a sin­gle stroke.

How­ever, de­spite his mil­i­tary prow­ess, search­ing the pay lists shows that Ewart re­ceived a mod­est wage of 15 shi­illings and six­pence each month – roughly equ­uiv­a­lent to £ 47.10 in to­day’s money.

Mil­i­tary his­to­rian and au­thor Phil To­maselli said that the records would be use­ful to fam­ily hissto­ri­ans, as long as they used them care­fully.

“Th­ese muster lists are the only records that namme ev­ery man in the army at a given time and aree in­valu­able for re­searchers who know they hadd an an­ces­tor who served dur­ing this pe­riod,” he told Who Do You Think You Are? Mag­a­zine. “TThey will also give monthly snap­shots of where he was and any pro­mo­tions or pe­ri­ods in hos­pi­tal that oc­curred.

“Great care must be taken, how­ever, as there is llit­tle that will help iden­tify where a man came froom or his age so, with many com­mon names list­ted, you can’t as­sume that any in­di­vid­ual is youy­our rel­a­tive with­out more ev­i­dence.”

Th­ese are the only records that name ev­ery man in the army at a given time

FrenchF h cuirassiersi i charg­ing a Bri­tish square dur­ing the Bat­tle of Water­loo, 18 June 1815

TheTh mustert roll­sll recordd th thou­sandsd of f men whoh en­list­edli t d

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