Thursday, 6 October 2011

Victorian service in WO 363 and WO 364

It's a common misconception that WO 363 and WO 364 are the sole preserve of service and pension records respectively for First World War servicemen. They're not. There are thousands of pre-WW1 service records and Victorian Army service records to be found here and whilst some of the men may have still played some role during 1914-1918, or at least volunteered for service during the Great War, many did not.

Take one of my medal group men, Colour-Sergeant Charles Smith of the King's Shropshire Light Infantry, for instance. I've written Charles on my British Army Medals blog. He appears in a photo of D Company's football team after they'd won the Company Challenge Shield in 1895/1896. I first looked for him in the British Army Service Records 1760-1915 collection on Find My Past. There was nothing there. So I had a look over on Ancestry lo and behold, there he was, nine pages in the WO 364 Pension Records. I keyed in his number and as if by magic he appeared. There would have been no point searching on Shropshire for the regiment because Charles joined up in 1879, prior to the existence of the KSLI. Instead, he's indexed as belonging to the 53rd Regiment of Foot. Charles was discharged in 1908, six years before the the First World War began, but having served nearly 30 years in the Army.

And what about the man whose attestation paper I've used to illustrate this post? This particular document dates to 1850 and is the earliest attestation I've come across so far in the WO 364 Pension Records. This man would have been 82 years old in 1914!

So don't rule out the so-called First World War records just because your man had been discharged from the Army before then. There are plenty of Victorian British Army ancestors to be found in WO 363 and WO 364.

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