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

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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

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