Sunday, 3 August 2014

The First World War online -

On the eve of Britain's entry into the First World War, here's a quick look at what Ancestry has to offer.

The key collections here are the service records and pension records for British Army other ranks, silver war badge roll and medal index card collection. Every man who served overseas would have been entitled to at least one medal and the medal index card records basic details of entitlement, see below.

In the image above we can see that this man was awarded the 1914 Star and the British War and Victory medals. He also received the clasp and roses for his 1914 Star (ie the clasp worn on his 1914 Star medal ribbon, and the rose worn on his 1914 Star medal bar which told everyone that he was an Old Contemptible, an original member of the BEF). The annotation "SWB List E/112" tells us that he was also awarded a silver war badge. This entry often appears on cards simply as "List" followed by the reference.
Ancestry has digital images of the silver war badge roll which, however, you can't search by regimental number. Looking for Charles Sabourin brings up more information:
From this entry we can see that Charles enlisted on the 31st October 1900. The roll is of individuals discharged from the East Surrey Regiment and it is important to note that the enlistment date given is for the man's first enlistment which may not have been for the same regiment that he was discharged from.  For more information on regimental numbers check my Army Service numbers blog.
Actually, Charles Sabourin is a rarity because he also has a service record in WO 363 and a pension record in WO 364, both of which can be viewed on Ancestry.
These four collections: the medal index cards, silver war badge roll, pension records and service records, are the cornerstones for First World War army other rank research. Ancestry is less assured when it comes to the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy but these are well covered on FindmyPast which I will write about in another post. Ancestry does though, have a number of supplementary collections, a lot of these licensed from Naval & Military Press, which can fill in additional information about your First World War ancestor.

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