Wednesday, 6 August 2014

The First World War online - Naval & Military Press

Naval and Military Archive

The Naval and Military Press has long blazed the trail for naval and military books and offers arguably the most comprehensive selection of military books anywhere. I've been a customer - and a fan - for many years and whilst I would always prefer to buy an original regimental history or an original half-forgotten military memoir, the fact of the matter is that these books have become increasingly scarce and hard to come by. They were scarce when I first started seriously buying military books in the early 1980s. Now, many are virtually impossible to find, even if you do have bottomless pockets.

In addition to their impressive book catalogue, the company has also just launched a new website - Naval & Military Archive - which offers two extremely useful collections.

The first is a searchable database of the medal rolls for the 1914 Star, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Inter-Allied Victory Medal and Territorial Force Medal. The company has transcribed the information from the original medal rolls and the database - like N&MP's other databases such as Soldiers Died in The Great War - is effective and simple to use.  In many cases, the information you find on the rolls may be no more than you'd find on the medal index card - and in some cases in fact, less. On the other hand, some of the rolls state former service, giving battalion or unit details which may not have been included on the medal index card. In any event, no serious Great War researcher would NOT want to at least run a search on these medal rolls.

The other resource which is going to be a godsend for many, is the war diaries. As the website states,

"These War Diaries are the official accounts kept by most units of the British Army on active service during the Great War. Fully indexed, dates and locations of the unit are given along with intelligence reports, maps, precise plans for battles etc. These diaries are the most detailed, accurate and authentic accounts of what actually occurred on a daily basis during the war to the soldiers in the trenches."

So what could be better than to identify your ancestor's battalion from the medal rolls and then go straight to the war diaries to find out what he and his comrades were up to. And if your ancestor was an officer, you stand a greater chance of finding him mentioned by name, especially if he was a casualty.

I highly recommend this new resource which will become even better as more and more diaries are added. A site to bookmark.

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