Exploring Forces War Records
Forces War Records has had a bad reputation among researchers. But some exciting new releases and a change in priorities could see all this about to change, says Simon Fowler
Forces War Records ( forces-war-records.
co.uk) specialises in putting military records online, particularly those relating to the First World War. Apart from the ‘Soldiers Died in the Great War’ dataset, there are lots of small resources that might, just possibly, tell you more about an ancestor.
Even so, it’s perhaps not the place to start researching your Great War kin. Dominic Hayhoe, Forces War Records’ chief executive, admits that it can’t compete with Ancestry or Findmypast: “People come to us when they have exhausted the big boys. And we hope that we can offer them a better experience.”
The site has had a bit of a bad reputation for customer care. “We were more focused on the technology than on the customers,” admits Dominic. “But we now have a large support team dedicated to helping members.”
As well as the records, there are lots of other useful resources, such as an informative quarterly e-magazine, e-books and individual war diaries (memoirs) written by old soldiers.
Until recently it probably hasn’t been worth subscribing to Forces War Records, but now some interesting datasets have been added to its offerings including the surviving WW1 hospital registers held by The National Archives (TNA) in series MH 106. This is a unique collection. Only a third of the registers is presently available, but more are being added all the time. Also coming online are WW2 Army casualty lists, also at TNA (series WO 417) and currently exclusive to Forces War Records, which provide information about soldiers who were killed, wounded, reported missing or taken prisoner.
Forces War Records is trying to offer more to subscribers with an improved customer care service and an array of
interesting new military collection uploads