Thursday 22 December 2011

Royal Cyphers on attestation papers

There is some great artwork on early attestation and discharge papers and here's an example from the discharge papers of 131 Private William Nelson of the 74th Regiment of Foot who left His Majesty's Army on the 31st July 1836 after 24 years and 129 days' service which included "7 years and 5 months in North America [and] one year and 8 months in the West Indies". He was discharged at his own request (and in apparently robust health) signing that:

"I perfectly understand , that in receiving my discharge at my own request, I entirely relinquish all Claim to Pension, and that, even if I should re-enlist, my past Services prior to the date of my present Discharge cannot be allowed to reckoned for the purpose of obtaining any benefit from Chelsea Hospital".

Little wonder that the army often struggled to recruit and was consistently below establishment (despite the relaxing of standards in height, weight and chest expansion) throughout the nineteenth century.  Still, the Royal cypher is excellent.

July 1915 attestation in WO 97

Here's an anomaly: a 1915 attestation within a pension series (WO 97) which supposedly ends in 1913.  David Marshall was 60 years old when he attested with the Rifle Brigade at Hereford on the 14th July 1915.  He had previously seen service with the Rifle Brigade and the 2nd Dorsetshire Regiment and gave his trade as General Labourer.  He was discharged after seven days.

Is this the latest attestation in WO 97?

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Samuel William Franklin - a mystery solved

My grandfather gave me the two photos I'm publishing on this post.  Both were, he said, of his mother's father, Samuel William Franklin.  Also passed over to me at the same time was a document citing 175 Colour Sergeant Franklin when he was serving with the 2/2nd Regiment of Foot.  Dated 14th November 1861 when he was stationed on the Greek island of Corfu, Col Sgt Franklin had sought "the indulgence" of getting married.  The request had been recommended by his Commanding Officer and counter-signed by Lt Colonel Bruce who commanded the 2/2nd Regiment of Foot. The marriage between Samuel Franklin and Sarah Nelson duly took place later that year.

The photo above was obviously taken many years later when Samuel had swapped his British Army uniform for a Salvation Army one.  The Franklin family were devoted Salvationists and Samuel's daughter Margaret, and in turn her daughter Queenie would follow in Samuel's footsteps, journeying to India and mixing with (and in Queenie's case marrying) other Salvation Army members.  But what of the photo showing a young Samuel Franklin in army uniform?

A few years ago I posted a query on a forum stating that Samuel had been born in 1833 and suggesting that the photo, taken in a studio in Colchester, Essex probably dated to the late 1850s.  I quickly received two responses stating that the uniform was wrong for the 1850s and that besides, the bursting grenades on the collar indicated the Royal Artillery or Royal Engineers and not the 2/2nd Foot, later the Queen's Royal West Surrey Regiment.  The 1890s was suggested as a possible date rather than the 1850s.

Last night. picking up threads again via findmypast, I found Samuel William Franklin (still in Corfu) on the 1861 Worldwide Army Index.  There appears to be no service record for him in The Chelsea Pensioners' series in WO 97 and I know that by 1871 he was back in England and is listed on the census as a sergeant instructor of Volunteers.  This was possibly the 1st or 2nd Volunteer Battalion of the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry as he was by then living in St Austell.  I did however, check on his children and was pleasantly surprised to see that his son, Samuel Franklin, born in 1863 in Gibraltar, followed his father into the army and joined the Royal Artillery at Colchester on the 7th January 1886. He attained the rank of Company Sergeant Major until he fell foul of the authorities in 1900 and was reduced to the rank of sergeant.  He was discharged from the army (by now serving with the Royal Garrison Artillery) on the 6th January 1907 having served exactly 21 years.  His trial in 1900 robbed him of a Long Service and Good Conduct Medal and neither did he qualify for any campaign medals, spending over 18 years in the United Kingdom and the remaining two and a bit years in Malta.  He died in 1910.

But for me, the mystery of the two photos is now solved.  They do indeed both show Samuel Franklin, albeit one is the father and the other the son.

Monday 19 December 2011

Wellington's Men on Find My Past

Find My Past has added 130,000+ records of men who served - or who could have served, under the Iron Duke.  The new Napoleonic War Records series (1775-1817) is comprised of the following three datasets:

1. Army of Reserve 1803
26,000+ records from WO 12 (muster books and pay lists) and E 182 (deserter bounty certificates) at The National Archives.

2. Regimental Indexes 1806
97,000+ regimental records from the 1st-50th Regiments of Foot and the Cavalry, Foot Guards and Royal Waggon Train.

3. Foot Guards Attestations 1775-1817
9,000+ records from the 1st Foot Guards

Tuesday 29 November 2011

The British Newspaper Archive - British newspapers online

Now search online for your army ancestor in British newspapers thanks to a fantastic new resource launched today by brightsolid and the British Library. Register here at The British NEWSPAPER archive.

Thursday 10 November 2011

Faces of the First World War - IWM

The Imperial War Museum has launched the first 100 faces in its Faces of The First World War gallery over on Flickr.  This promises to be a fantastic resource.  Let's hope it will be fully indexed too.

Pictured above, Lieutenant Edward Percival Wildman Brown of the 1st Norfolk Regiment, killed in action on the 4th September 1916.

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Writtle war memorial

I was in the pretty Essex village of Writtle today, and not for the first time, spent some time looking at the names on the war memorial there.  I was explaining to my six-year-old daughter how every man remembered there was somebody's son, and may well also have been a brother, husband or father.  We started looking at instances where the same name was repeated and I took the photo below which shows three Everard men and four Brewster men.  I resolved to see if they were related and to see how much, in the space of an hour or two, I could find out once I reached home.

The first online resource I used was Soldiers Died in The Great War (SDGW). Both Ancestry and FindmyPast have this data-set as part of their online offering, (both licensed from The Naval & Military Press) but Ancestry's search is, for once, better than that over at FMP and so this is the version that I use. I also have the Naval & Military Press CD ROM of SDGW which is better still, but for this exercise, the online versions suffice.

SDGW can give a man's place of birth, residence and place of joining. It can also provide supplemental information such as a previous regiment served with and also distinguishes between killed in action, died of wounds, died etc.

SDGW is always only half of the picture however. To view details of where a man is buried and to see details of next of kin, a visit to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's Debt of Honour website is also essential. The CWGC details, whilst they may not always give next of kin information (this dependent upon whether it was supplied in the first place) may state a man's age or give supplemental information about the man's regiment. For instance, it was the CWGC which noted the Company that Robert Brewster (see below) was serving with when he died.

The information about when a man joined his regiment comes from my own research into army numbers and I have a separate army service numbers blog - and soon to be separate searchable website - devoted to this subject.  Here then, beneath the photo of the duck pond at Writtle on a glorious autumn day (memorial just visible on the right) are the basic military details of the Everard and Brewster men.


L/11300 Private Percy Edward Everard, 7th Battalion, The Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment). Born in Writtle, living in Writtle, enlisted at Chelmsford (as a career soldier) in Feb/Mar 1916.  Killed in Action on the 28th September 1916.  The son of Joseph and Margaret Everard of 4 Front Road, Oxney Green, Writtle, Chelmsford.  Buried in Connaught Cemetery, Thiepval (Somme), France.

88286 Private William Henry Everard, 25th Battalion, Machine Gun Corps, formerly 27294 Norfolk Regiment. Born in Writtle, living in Writtle, enlisted at Chelmsford. Joined the Norfolk Regiment in January 1917, transferred to the MGC in shortly afterwards (precise date unknown, but before May 1917). Died of Wounds on the 2nd May 1918.  The son of Frederick and Sarah Everard, of Writtle. Buried in Etaples Military Cemetery.

125412 Gunner Isaac J Everard, Royal Garrison Artillery. Joined the RGA in late 1916 or early 1917. Died 28th November 1918.  Buried in Writtle (All Saints) Churchyard.


13021 Guardsman Arthur Brewster, 2nd Battalion, Grenadier Guards.  Born in Writtle, enlisted at Romford in December 1906. Killed in Action on the 2nd November 1914. Commemorated on the Menin Gate at Ypres.

7591 Lance-Corporal James R Brewster, 1st Battalion, Essex Regiment.  Born in Highwood, living in Writtle, enlisted at Warley, Essex in June 1903. Killed in Action on the 28th April 1915.  Commemorated on the Helles Memorial, Gallipoli.

3/3536 Lance-Corporal Robert Arthur Brewster, 2nd Battalion, Essex Regiment. Born in Writtle, living in Writtle, enlisted at Chelmsford in the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion in November 1914; subsequently posted to the 2nd Battalion.  Killed in Action on the 1st July 1916 whilst serving with C Company. Aged 26, the son of Mrs A M Brewster of Oxney Green, Writtle, Essex, and the late J Brewster.  Buried in Serre Road Cemetery No 2.

T/31141 Driver William Thomas Brewster, Army Service Corps. Born in Writtle, living in West Croydon, enlisted at Warley, Essex. Enlistment date unknown. Died on the 12th June 1915.  Buried in Longuenesse (St Omer) Souvenir Cemetery, France.


Information provided by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission does not give a lot of information about next of kin. Percy and William Everard were certainly not brothers - different parents are noted - and Isaac Everard, dying late in 1918, gets no mention on SDGW and has no next of kin noted.  The 1911 census however, notes that he was Isaac John M Everard, a 25-year-old married bricklayer.  His wife was 27-year-old Rose Ellen Everard and the couple was living with others at the home of 60-year-old George Day at The Causeway, Writtle.  So Isaac would have been born in about 1886. A check of the Birth records reveals an Isaac John Everard whose birth was registered at Chelmsford in the September quarter of 1885.  The 1891 census in turn shows him living at Oxney Green, Writtle, the son of Samuel and Sarah Everard.

So, three Everard soldiers and three different fathers: Samuel Everard, Frederick Everard and Joseph Everard.  Were these men related? A Frederick and a Samuel Everard both appear as brothers (living in Writtle) on the 1861 census and 1871 census returns.  Percy Everard, the son of Joseph and Margaret, was born in 1897 and he appears on the 1901 census as a three-year-old.  Joseph, born in Writtle, was 34-years-old and so should appear on census returns from 1871. I couldn't find him on the 1871 census but he's there on the 1881 census along with his siblings including a brother.... called Frederick. 

So in summary, the Everard men on the Writtle memorial were not brothers but William Henry Everard and Isaac John Everard could have been cousins.  Then again, William could also have been the cousin of Percy.  It would seem likely that there was a family connection and we also know, as a result of determing Percy's age from the Birth, Marriage and Death records and the 1901 census that he joined the army as a 19-year-old.  The L/ prefix to his Queen's number tells me that he joined as a regular soldier, almost certainly signing up for seven years and five on the reserve rather than simply for the duration of the war.  I'll come to the Brewster men on another day.

Sunday 23 October 2011

Army Deserters 1828-1840

There are some great Army Deserter records over on findmypast; records that make a nice complement to the Chelsea Pensioner records in WO 97.

Thanks to the efforts of the Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society, it's possible to view the details of over 34,000 men who deserted the British Army between 1828 and 1840. At an average of 2,615 desertions per annum over the thirteen years that the database covers, that seems like a lot of men. According to figures published in Alan Ramsay Skelley's The Victorian Army at Home (Croom Helm, London, 1977) however, those numbers are par for the course.  In 1862, 2,895 men deserted (1.4 per cent of the British Army as a whole) and over the next thirty-six years, the figure never dropped below that 1862 level and in fact rose as high as 5,861 in 1872; 3.2 per cent of the British Army.

There are plenty of service records in WO 97, and in fact in the WO 363 and WO 364 series for the First World War which show men having deserted.  Many of these men however, were recaptured or returned of their own free will and went on to lead distinguished careers.  I have noticed during my own research, that most soldiers who did desert, often did so within the first year (and sometimes even days or weeks) of joining.  As Skelley suggests, talking about the number of soldiers of the Home Army in prison:

"... younger soldiers were more prone to commit offences or at least were more likely to be caught for doing so, than older, more experienced men who by the time they had served six or seven years would have beome accustomed to the demands of military life, would have had the maturity to cope with the demands and might have achieved greater responsibility and greater freedom with promotion."

Deserters, when caught, could expect to be flogged or branded.  Although flogging was later restricted by the Mutiny Act of 1868 to active service and to certain offences committed while under sentence in military prisons, and later still (1881, the Army Discipline and Regulation Act) restricted to military prisons only, it wasn't until 1906 that corporal punishment in military prisons was abolished altogether.

The image below, taken from the Army Deserters 1828-40 data on findmypast shows you the type of information you can expect to find.  The image at the top of this post dates to 1884 and shows a deserter having been apprehended.

Saturday 22 October 2011

Absent Voters 1918-1919

I've just updated the WW1 Absent Voters page on this blog.  There are a number of FREE Absent Voters Lists (AVLs) on the web, and others that are tucked away in lbraries and archives.  The AVL for Leeds used to be freely available but I see that this has since disappeared.  I suppose as Local Authority budgets become more and more stretched, we can expect to see more free resources being withdrawn and re-surfacing later as Pay-Per-View services, or included on Family History Sites like findmypast or Ancestry

Anyway, please check out my First World War Absent Voters page and if I've missed anything, do let me know.

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Wildcard military search on Findmypast and Ancestry

I must have searched tens of thousands of military records online and so I write this post with some degree of authority.

I should say at the outset that I find both sites to be a fantastic resource. For the First World War enthusiast, Ancestry has the service records in WO 363, the pension records in WO 364 and the WW1 medal index cards. That's pretty much a full set of WW1 records for other ranks and is an invaluable research tool. Ancestry also has the UK Military Campaign Medal and Award Rolls 1793-1949 AND the UK Naval Medal and Award Rolls 1793-1972. Given such an extensive catalogue, it almost seems churlish to mention that the two medal roll collections DO NOT include the rolls for WW1 and WW2.

For its part, has the WO 97 Chelsea Pensioner records 1760-1913 and the militia records in WO 96 between 1760 and 1915. That latter end date should be treated with a degree of caution as I've yet to find a militia record for 1915, and in fact by 1915 the milita had been long dead, replaced by the Special Reserve in 1908. Nevertheless, these record sets are extremely valuable and complement the records on Ancestry very nicely. Findmypast has more related military records coming up soon and one presumes they'll be of the same high quality as those in WO 96 and WO 97.

So plenty there for the military historian and on both sites you can search across regiments without having to input the name of a soldier. Findmypast provides a handy drop-down list of regiments whilst on Ancestry you have to input the name of the regiment yourself. This can be handy, providing that your spelling is up to scratch, but it also means that if you type in "fusilier" in the regiment box, you'll get results for the Royal Fusiliers, Northumberland Fusiliers, Lancashire Fusiliers, Royal Dublin Fusiliers, etc.

However, the main search difference between the two sites is the wildcard facility on search. On findmypast, if you're looking for, let's say, a Coldstream Guardsman with the number beginning with 3, you simply have to type in 3* in the soldier number box. You can use the wildcard asterisk on any combination of numbers. So typing 35* would bring up numbers beginning 35; 356* would bring up numbers beginning 356, and so on. You can even type 3*7 which would bring up all those numbers beginning with 3 and ending with 7. The flexibility that this type of searching offers has to be a good thing.

For reasons known only to itself however, Ancestry does not allow wildcard searching on any number or letter search of less than, or more than, three numbers or letters. So if you knew that your Coldstream Guard ancestor's service number began with 3, typing in 3* would bring up page explaining why your search hasn't worked. That's a shame because it would appear that a simple change in the algorithm could give Ancestry searches the same flexibility that you get over on findmypast, and with many of the burnt documents in WO 363 displaying burnt or water-damaged numbers, we researchers need all the help we can get.

I'm not sure where the image comes from that I've used to illustrate this post but I'll be happy to acknowledge the source if the owner gets in touch.

Tuesday 11 October 2011

FREE medal rolls online

There is a wealth of medal roll material available on line, much of it FREE.  Ancestry has an impressive collection of medal rolls between the years 1793 and 1949 BUT excluding medal rolls for the First World War and Second World War.  You can search the UK Military Campaign Medal and Award Rolls 1793-1949 but you'll need to pay for the privilege.  What you get in return is film of the rolls and transcriptions; still well worth the investment in my book.

Specialist auctioneer and valuer Dix Noonan Webb have four medal rolls on their site.  All are free to search, but it's imporatnt to note that this is a searchable facility and not a browsable one.  The medal rolls are:

Military General Service Medal Roll (1793-1814)
Naval General Service Medal Roll 1793-1840
Army of India Medal Roll 1799-1826
India Mutiny Medal Roll - British Forces - 1857-1859

The first three rolls on this list were compiled by Colin Message, the India Mutiny roll by Kevin Asplin.

Kevin has his own, extremely useful, Asplin Military History Resources website and within this you can access the following medal rolls:

Nominal Roll for the Indian Mutiny medal 1857-1859 - a browsable roll but without medal clasp details.

Medal Rolls for the British Army's campaign in Burma 1887-1889.

Indian General Service Medal 1895-1902 - medals (and clasps) for the Punjab Frontier Campaign of 1897-98 which were awarded to the 2nd Battalion Highland Light Infantry, 2nd Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, and the 3rd Battalion Rifle Brigade.

Long Service & Good Conduct Medal awarded to members of the Royal Artillery between 1902 and 1912.

In addition there is a sample from the full QSA and KSA medal rolls to the Lancashire Fusiliers and details on how to order transcriptions of medal rolls for the China campaign of 1856-1860.

Sunday 9 October 2011

Warfare Magazine - Pen and Sword

Pen and Sword Books have a free online magazine called Warfare. Click on the picture above or the text link, to read issue 3 now.

Friday 7 October 2011

The War Graves Photographic Project - Latest News

I've just received the latest newsletter from The War Graves Project (TWGPP) and as one article mentions publicising the work of TWGPP, I thought I'd give it a mention here.

When I was living in India I did volunteer for the project and ended up taking quite a few shots of the memorial and graves in the Kirkee cemetery in Pune. However, my lack of travel opportunities whilst I was in India meant that I never did succeed in getting around very much, my forays pretty much limited to a few cemeteries in Bangalore.

But I heartily endorse the work of TWGPP and the excellent War Graves Photographic Project website which I refer to quite a lot. The project has already recorded over 1.6 million names and apart from anything else, is always a good bet for a name search when the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's Roll of Honour website is playing up due to a technical hitch. Unlike the CWGC site as well, you can key in a person's first name, not just the initials.

The War Graves Photographic Project website, like the CWGC site, is free to use although if you want to obtain a copy of a photo you'll need to pay £3.50 for an e-mailed version or £5.50 for a hard copy in the post. Run these sites alongside pay-per-view or subscription databases such as Soldiers Died in The Great War or the Army Roll of Honour 1939-1945 and you can build up an extraordinary amount of detail with just a few clicks.

Photo shows Ranchi cemetery, courtesy of James Day and TWGPP.

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.

Digitisation of WW1 War Diaries

An email yesterday from the Federation of Family History Societies begins:

"The National Archives is looking for volunteers to help ensure that the pages within a popular record series (unit war diaries from the First World War, catalogue reference WO 95) are in the correct order before a conservation and digitisation project begins."

This is great news. When I was at TNA a decade ago, some of the war diaries were in a shocking state and in need of conservation even then. Not only were they being pored over by thousands of researchers, but the photocopying assistants employed by TNA were also extremely heavy-handed at times. In fact I often used to think that the silent stewards who pad through the reading rooms at TNA reminding you not to breathe too heavily on the archive, would have been better employed reprimanding their colleagues in the photocopying room.

I can't imagine that the digitisation project is one which Ancestry would be interested in, so assume that this is an in-house project for TNA and will augment the war diaries that they already have online.

Image courtesy of TNA and Jeremy Banning.

Tuesday 4 October 2011

Dover War Memorial

Here's another nice tribute site which I'm happy to include on these pages: The Dover War Memorial Project. The photo is courtesy of John Latter and appears on the Panoramio site.

Sunday 2 October 2011

Chelmsford War Memorial

I'm adding pages of links to this blog - see the menu above - which will hopefully prove to be a useful resource.

A short while ago I was in my local church in Springfield, Essex and was somewhat taken by the war memorial there. I took photos, came home and after a bit of Googling came across a very impressive site commemorating the men of Chelmsford who died during WW1. It really does go into some detail and the site has been carefully and neatly constructed. A sister site commemorating the men and women of Chelmsford who died during WW2 is already underway and I wish it well. Both are fitting tributes to the men and women of Chelmsford who gave so much.

The Chelmsford WW1 War Memorial site is here (and the photo above is taken from this). The Chelmsford WW2 War Memorial site is here.

Sunday 28 August 2011

New look and new prices at

Find My Past has a new look which promises to make navigation around the ever-populating site a good deal easier. Better still, the price of an annual subscription to the Full & Foundation package has reduced from £129.95 to £109.95, plus you still get the chance of a free 14-day trial.

Tuesday 16 August 2011

The Cenotaph and the disappearing pram

Here we have several versions of the same image. and as far as the lady and the pram goes it's a case of now you see it:

Now you don't:

Now you see it:

Now you don't:

I'm not sure why it was felt necessary to remove the pram but versions with and without pram appear throughout the 1920s whilst everything else in this particular photograph remains the same.

Friday 15 July 2011

Military glut on

Find My Past has just released the following data sets:

1861 Worldwide Army Index
Paddington Rifles 1860-1912
Royal Fusiliers 1863-1905
Surrey Recruitment Registers 1908-1933

The 1861 Worldwide Army Index is a useful source of information if you can't find your relative on the 1861 census as it contains the name, regiment and station of nearly a quarter of a million British Army other ranks serving in Her Majesty's Army at home and overseas.

The Paddington Rifles information has been compiled from muster rolls and contains details such as enlistment date and the man's occupation.

The Royal Fusiliers data is comprised from medal rolls for the India General Service Medal (Umbeyla Campaign), Afghan War Medal, Canada General Service Medal, Queen's and King's South Africa Medal and the Tibet Medal.

Finally, last but by no means least, the Surrey Recruitment Registers contain the often rich details of men who enlisted in the British Army at various recruitment centres in Surrey between 1908 and 1933.

Friday 24 June 2011

Hello militia

To mis-quote The Two Ronnies, "it's goodnight from and it's hello militia." I've abandoned the armyancestry website and will just use this blog to update new developments in British Army research. On that topic, I'm delighted to see that has just published half a million militia records. Click on the links on this page to read more.

Tuesday 29 March 2011

Using army numbers to trace service histories

Thanks to the efforts of the Luftwaffe during WW2, finding service records for WW1 soldiers can often be a frustrating task. However, if you know a man's number, all is not lost and there is still a lot that can be gleaned from it. For this post, I've taken a random number, 2345, and run a search on The National Archives site to see how many results are returned for "Essex". Here are the results:

3/2345 Pte J Winch
2345 Frank Martin, Essex Yeomanry
2345 John J Cook
2345 Arthur W Cranmer, 7th Essex
2345 Honace [sic] Thomas Reardon
2345 Henry W Williams

So, six results; one for the Essex Yeomanry and five for the Essex Regiment.

3/2345 Pte Winch served with the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion and his number tells me that he must have joined the battalion in the second week of August 1914.

2345 Frank Martin's number for the Essex Yeomanry dates to between June and October 1915.

2345 John J Cook's battalion is unclear.

2345 Arthur Cranmer served with the 7th Essex (that much is clear from the information stated on his card) and his number dates to early August 1914.

2345 Horace Reardon also has the number 275371 which indicates that he served with the 6th Battalion and joined up in September 1914

2345 Henry Williams' battalion is also unclear.

So by a process of elimination, John Cook and Henry Williams must have served with either the 1st or 2nd Battalions or the 4th or 5th Battalions. They cannot have served with service battalions as these numbers didn't start until around 12000.

If they had served with the regular battalions, they would have had to have enlisted around February 1888 and so we can pretty much rule this out as they would have been in their mid forties by the time Britain went to war. It's possible, but unlikely.

So we're left with the likelihood that the two men were also territorials, one serving with the 4th Battalion, the other with the 5th. A quick search on Soldiers Died in The Great War reveals that 2345 Henry Walter Williams was killed in action in August 1915 whilst serving with the 4th Essex Regiment. His number dates to September or October 1914. This leaves just John Cook, and the likelihood that he served with the 5th Essex Regiment, his number dating to around the 5th September 1914.

Just to round things off, I checked the numbers on Ancestry and found that Horace Reardon's service record survives in WO 363 and shows that he joined the 6th Essex on the 18th September 1914. No records for any of these men survive in WO 364; at least not that I have found.

The army number information, and tying in those numbers to actual or estimated dates of joining comes from my extensive database of army regimental numbers and I have a separate blog dedicated to this fascinating study.

Thursday 17 March 2011

Ancestry - WO 364

Ive just noticed, somewhat belatedly perhaps that you can now search by regiment on Ancestry's digitised WO 364 series. It was always a big frustration for me that you couldn't do that when the series was first published. Well done Ancestry. Now if only you could search across both WO 363 and WO 364 at the same time on name, regiment and number...

Thursday 10 March 2011

Operation Big Ben - WW2

Another offer from the Naval & Military Press, probably the world's premier military-book retailer. The blurb reads:

The Anti-V2 Spitfire Missions 1944-45

Published price £14.99 this weekend only £2.95

Best known for being the first presenter of Tomorrow's World Raymond Baxter had a active RAF career as a Spitfire Pilot.

Flying with No. 602 Squadron RAF in September 1944. On 18 March 1945, he took part in a daring daylight raid on the Shell-Mex building in The Hague, which was the HQ for V1 and V2 attacks. The commander, Max Sutherland, received a bar to his DFC and the other four pilots, including Baxter, were mentioned in dispatches.

In an interview he described flying over a V-2 rocket site during a launch, and his wingman firing on the missile: "I dread to think what would have happened if he'd hit the thing!"

This highly significant book draws attention to one of the best kept secrets of the Second World War. Through Squadron histories, log books, official reports and interviews with the people who flew clipped winged Spitfires to dive-bomb V2 rocket sites towards the end of World War 2, a story as fascinating as the Dam Busters Raid or the Battle of Britain is at last fully told. The authors explain the difficulties of the missions, utilising the firsthand recollections of the men who completed the dive-bombing raids. They show the extreme dangers and complexities of dive-bombing as well as how to dive-bomb, all of which is supported by lists of the Spitfires that flew with the squadrons and V1 and V2 target statistics. This book is an essential reading for all those interested in the Second World War.

Craig Cabell and Graham A. Thomas Forward by Raymond Baxter
SB 206 pp Illustrated

To find this very special "this weekend only offer" look in our “SPECIAL OFFERS” SECTION ON OUR WEB SITE.

Published price £14.99 this weekend only £2.95

Wednesday 16 February 2011

Find My Past just became cheaper

It just became 10% cheaper to find your relatives. Click on the link to save on the price of a subscription to Find My Past. Go on, do it!

Monday 7 February 2011

War Poets

From Martin Chown of the War Poets' Association:

"I am on the WPA Committee organising this first study tour to cover the
writings of two lesser known war poets Blunden and Rosenberg- the one who
died, and the one who survived.

A new approach to the literature and perspectives of the First World War
will be taken with this special study tour to the Battlefields on the 95th
anniversary of the Battle of the Somme in 1916. Fall In, Ghosts is the first
tour to feature specifically the contrasting experiences and writings of war
poets Edmund Blunden and Isaac Rosenberg, whose reputations at home and
abroad have grown steadily over the past ninety years.

The tour will follow, for Blunden, his classic account Undertones of War.
This has just been re-published by Penguin with a new introduction by
military historian Hew Strachan. Both poets will be illustrated by their
poetry at relevant sites.

I hope you will be able to pass this on to people who might appreciate this
new approach to the literature of the first World War, especially covering
lesser known poets whose voices and experiences covered two years of
warfare, whose poetry was either fortunate to be sent home and published, or
lost in the mud, and published later.

The flyer can be found directly on the website: and the
organisers have a closing date of 30 April 2011."

Wednesday 2 February 2011

Army Ancestors on-line - 18th & 19th Centuries

This is a general overview of on-line sources to check. It is not complete and will be updated.

Find my 18th and 19th Century Army Ancestors

Find My Past has published the complete WO 97 series of Army pension records on-line. These, as the title suggests, are records for men who left the army between 1760 and 1913 and received a pension. There are over one million records in this series.

WO 96 is the series for militia attestations and covering the period 1806-1915. There are around 500,000 records in this series and these too will be available on the Find My Past website from September 2011.

Ancestry has the WO 363 and WO 364 series on its site. Although both record series are supposedly exclusively First World War series for soldiers' service papers and soldiers' pension papers respectively, there are many thousands of service records and pension records which pre-date WW1. The earliest I have found dates back to 1850.

Find My Past has:

Army Lists for 1787, 1798 and 1878 (Officers)
Peninsula Medal Roll 1793-1814
The Waterloo Medal Roll 1815
Harts' Army Lists for 1840 and 1888 (Officers)
Indian Army and Civil Service List 1873
Anglo Boer War Roll 1899-1902

Ancestry has:

UK military campaign & award rolls 1793-1949 (BUT excluding WW1 and WW2)
UK naval medal and award rolls (BUT excluding WW1 and WW2)
UK casualties of the Boer War 1899-1902 (inferior to the Find My Past roll)

Dix Noonan Webb has published the following FREE medal rolls:

Military General Service Medal 1793-1814
Naval General Service Medal 1793-1840
Army of India Medal 1799-1826
Indian Mutiny Medal 1857-1859

Finally, Kevin Asplin has nominal rolls, casualty rolls and medal rolls too numerous to mention on his hugely useful site.

Thursday 20 January 2011

"F**k stables, I'm finished soldiering."

The Gloucestershire Regiment soldier staring out of various Find My Past campaigns is none other than my great uncle Bert Elam. He was my paternal great-grandmother's brother and a regular soldier who, as a 19-year-old, first joined the British Army on the 12th June 1894. Surviving records in WO 97 (available to view via the Find My Past website) show that he joined the Wiltshire Regiment in London. Just three months later though, on the 12th September, he was discharged on the payment of a bounty of £10. Whether he paid the bounty, or whether it was paid by his parents, is not stated, and it remains something of a family mystery. His soldiering though, was far from over. has 45 digitised pages from his service record in WO 364 which show that far from being deterred by army life, Bert joined up for a second time on the 2nd November 1894. This time he opted for the cavalry, joining the 20th Hussars on the 2nd November 1894 and being issued with a new number: 3819. For whatever reason he deserted the following April, but was apprehended and remanded in custody in May and subsequently spent 21 days in a military prison. Later that year, he was imprisoned on two further occasions for insubordination and, joy of joys, his records contain details of his crimes.

"... at Colchester on 18th July 1895, after having been ordered to stables, said to Squadron Sergt Major J Waldron, "Fuck stables, I'm finished soldiering" or words to that effect."

That earned him 14 days' imprisonment with hard labour. The following month, he repeated his assertion ("or words to that effect") and was rewarded with a similar punishment.

By 1897, and presumably now accustomed to military life, Bert was awarded his first good conduct badge, a second one following in November 1900. The following year, with service in the Boer War under his belt, he elected to extend his service with the colours to twelve years. He was discharged from the army on the 1st November 1906 having served overseas in India, Egypt and South Africa.

On the 1st September 1914, with Britain at war with Germany, Bert joined up for a third time, this time enlisting with the 5th (Special Reserve) Battalion, The Rifle Brigade (number Z/211). He was posted to the 1st Battalion of the Rifle Brigade, arriving overseas on the 7th October 1914 and thus qualifying for the 1914 Star and clasp. He received a slight gunshot wound on the 29th April 1915 but appears to have remained in France, only returning home on the 11th July that year due to eye problems as a result of gassing. He would spend 47 days in hospital in England with conjunctivitis.

Bert remained with the regiment until the 22nd July 1917 when he was transferred to the 17th Gloucestershire Regiment (number 34768) before finally transferring to the 300th Reserve Company, Royal Defence Corps (number 96495) on the 2nd November 1918. He was discharged from the army for the final time on the 25th February 1919.

The photo of him that appears in the Find My Past campaigns dates to 1917 or 1918 and shows Bert wearing his Gloucestershire Regiment cap badge and his 1914 Star ribbon.

Tuesday 11 January 2011

Pre WW1 records in WO 363 and WO 364

It's worth remembering that whilst Find My Past has the Chelsea Pensioners' records - that is, records of British Army Other Ranks discharged to pension between 1760 and 1913 - there are still plenty of pre WW1 records in the WO 363 and WO 364 series over at Ancestry. Even if your ancestor did not serve during WW1 therefore, but may have served prior to WW1, it's certainly worth running a name check on Ancestry - and also being a little sceptical about Ancestry's often far-from-accurate transcriptions.

The earliest record I've found in WO 364 is for Thomas Boland of Tipperary who joined Her Majesty's 94th Regiment of Foot at 8am on the 17th August 1850 at Clonmel, and who swore allegiance to the crown three hours later. Thomas later transferred to the 43rd Regiment of Foot and was discharged on the 28th March 1866 aged 33 years and seven months, having served a total of 15 years and 110m days.

However, and this is a big however, if you'd keyed in Thomas's estimated birth year, or indeed his enlistment date into the Ancestry search engine, you'd be sorely disappointed. Ancestry lists his estimated birth year as 1867 and his enlistment date as 1885.