WEEK 7 Ex­plore mil­i­tary records

Un­cover a trove of in­for­ma­tion about your sol­dier fore­bears by delv­ing into mil­i­tary records

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Like so many of us, pop star Cheryl dis­cov­ered that she had a great grand­fa­ther who fought as a Tommy in the First World War. Over 8.5 mil­lion men joined the Bri­tish Armyy alone and the cen­te­nary hash en­cour­aged the digi­ti­sa­tion of many mil­i­taary col­lec­tions. The Na­tional Ar­chives ( T NA) has a ded­i­cated page at na­tion­alar rchives.gov.uk/ first-world­war to help p peo­ple find what they need. Although a large per­cent­age of sol­diers’ ser­vice re­co­ords were de­stroyed dur­ingd the Blitz, thosee that sur­vive can be searched on An­ces­try annd Find­my­pastt, along with medal cards and rolls off hon­our. Some records, in­clud­ing op­er­a­tional war diaries,, can be down­loaded through TNA’s Dis­cov­ery cat­a­logue dis­cov­ery. na­tion­alarchives.gov.uk.

Find mil­i­tary per­son­nel

Find­my­past has per­son­nel records for peo­ple who served in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Mer­chant Navy, but TNA’s re­search guides at na­tion­alarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your­re­search are a good place to start if you al­ready know which sec­tion of the forces your an­ces­tor joined, and whether or not they were an of­fi­cer. The guides cover all of the ma­jor con­flicts and show what records sur­vive for peo­ple who have served crown and coun­try since the 17th cen­tury. Per­son­nel records from 1920 on­wards, in­clud­ing the Se­cond World War, are still held by the Min­istry of De­fence, but will be re­leased upon pay­ment of a fee if the per­son has died. There is in­for­ma­tion about how to ap­ply at ggov.uk/get-g copy-py mil­i­tary-y ser­vice- records. If an an­ces­tor died in the First oro Se­cond World War then they mayy ap­pear in the Com­mon­wealth Waar Graves Com­mis­sion dat tabase at cwgc.org, whicch gives de­tails of graves and me­mo­ri­als man­aged by the Com­m­mis­sion. A new pay-ptoview wweb­site at war- mmemo­rial. co.uuk con­tains over 280,000 naames, cov­er­ing fr­rom the 177th cen­tury up to re­cent con­flflicts and, al­thou­ugh only a small pro­por­tion sur­vive, the First WorldW War field am­bu­lance records at forces-war­records.co.uk may be worth check­ing. The wills of sol­diers who died be­tween 1850 and 1986 can be searched at gov.uk/pro­bate­search and the wills of Ir­ish sol­diers who served in the Bri­tish Army are on­line at sol­dier­swills. na­tional ar­chives.ie. It’s of­ten eas­ier to re­search the ca­reer of some­one who died on ac­tive ser­vice than those who sur­vived, but once you’ve pieced to­gether your an­ces­tors’ ser­vice his­tory you may be able to find out more about their unit and its move­ments us­ing pub­lished sources and diaries writ­ten by their com­rades. Lon­g­long­trail.co.uk is a use­ful re­source ded­i­cated to the his­tory of the Bri­tish Army dur­ing the First World War and of­fers a wealth of in­for­ma­tion about reg­i­ments and bat­tles as well as of­fer­ing a use­ful fo­rum. The Im­pe­rial War Museum has a Re­search Room in Lon­don where per­sonal diaries, let­ters, rare books, pho­to­graphs and au­dio record­ings col­lected since 1917 can be ac­cessed. Some can be found at iwm.org. uk/col­lec­tions. Reg­i­men­tal mu­se­ums can also be worth a trip, what­ever pe­riod your an­ces­tor served.

If they took to the seas, then a trip to the Caird Li­brary at the Na­tional Mar­itime Museum in Green­wich could be in or­der. Although the ma­jor­ity of ser­vice and op­er­a­tional records are at TNA, the Caird Li­brary has a fan­tas­tic col­lec­tion of books, im­ages and ephemera that can be searched at col­lec­tions.rmg.co.uk. Its re­search guides at rmg.co.uk/dis­cover/re­searchers/ re­search- guides are equally handy.

Over 8.5 mil­lion men joined the Bri­tish Army alone

Three First World War medics travel on a mo­tor­cy­cle with a side­car

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