Who Do You Think You Are?
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.