Volunteers help reveal WW1 crew lists
Details of seafarers who served in the Merchant Navy during the First World War have been published online thanks to the work of more than 400 transcribers
Records of sailors who served in the Merchant Navy during the First World War have been released online.
More than 400 volunteers helped transcribe crew lists held by the National Maritime Museum and The National Archives, providing details of more than 750,000 people at sea in 1915.
Available to search for free at 1915crewlists.rmg. co.uk, the records display the names and ranks of each crew member on board a merchant vessel, as well as their home address, wages and dates of service.
Although most of the records concern male merchant sailors, a number of women – working as nurses, matrons and stewards – can also be located.
The majority of the documents were previously only accessible by visiting the Caird Library at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, which looks after 90 per cent of Merchant Navy crew lists from 1861, 1862 and 1865, and all subsequent years ending in ‘5’.
An additional 10 per cent sample of surviving crew lists is held at The National Archives in Kew, with all others from 1863 onwards deposited with the Maritime History Archive in Newfoundland – enough to fill six shipping containers.
To make the 1915 records searchable – specifically selected to mark the First World War centenary – the ‘e-volunteers’ downloaded scans of the documents to their computers and transcribed them from home. People from as far afield as Japan, Mexico and New Zealand took part, including several former Merchant Navy personnel with an interest in history. Between 2012 and 2015, the volunteers transcribed crew lists for a total of 39,000 voyages.
The stories of several fallen heroes were brought to light during the project, including that of Frederick Daniel Parslow, the first British merchant sailor to be awarded the Victoria Cross. While serving as master of the Anglo-Californian, Parslow was killed after the ship came under fire from a German U-boat near the Irish coast, sacrificing himself to save the cargo vessel and its crew.
By searching the database, it is not only possible to find Parslow’s details, but locate records that show that his son, also named Frederick, was second mate on board the ship at the time.
Janet Dempsey, Records Specialist at The National Archives, who managed the project in association with the National Maritime Museum, said: “This is a truly global project. It is a real eye-opener to read through the different nationalities who served in the Mercantile Marine. So no matter where you are in the world, have a search – you just never know who you will find.”
Main: A group of offifififififififififififififififififififififififififififififififi officers cers and sailors of the Merchant Service Right: The fififififififififififififififififififififififi first rst page of a crew list for the vessel VC featuring recipient the Frederick signature Parslowof VC recipient Frederick Parslow
featuring the e signature of