Who Do You Think You Are?

Expert’s Choice

Lucia Wallbank is a genealogis­t and the assistant curator at the RAF Museum


To mark the centenary of both the First World War and the creation of the Royal Air Force, the RAF Museum has digitised some of its collection­s.

Our Storyvault website ( rafmuseums­toryvault.org.uk) includes casualty cards from the First World War into the late 1920s. These cards are searchable by name for informatio­n on personnel who were sick, wounded, killed or reported missing. The first type, ‘Incident’, details the circumstan­ces, and sometimes the findings of courts of inquiry. The second type, ‘Person’, records what happened next such as hospital admission or acceptance of death for the missing.

As well as aircraft accidents, injuries and deaths by enemy action, there are deaths from natural causes and sports injuries. The cards can be used to trace prisoners of war before they were recorded by the Red Cross. However, there are some gaps: cards largely record officers, with fewer for noncommiss­ioned officers and men from the ranks. Fewer cards also survive from before 1915. Before the establishm­ent of the RAF in April 1918, only Royal Flying Corps (RFC) personnel were recorded, although later cards include transfers from the Royal Naval Air Service.

In addition, our collection of 25,000 First World War casualty forms ( casualtyfo­rms.org) record RFC and RAF officers, often supplement­ing what can be found in official service records. Despite their confusing name, casualty forms in fact contain details of service such as postings, periods of leave, promotions and decoration­s in addition to injuries, deaths and men who were captured as prisoners of war. The database is searchable by name, regiment and date of birth.

 ?? ?? This RAF plane crashed in Hanów, Poland, in 1935
This RAF plane crashed in Hanów, Poland, in 1935
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