Wednesday 28 March 2012

Poor VC database added by Ancestry

Not had a chance to properly go over this yet, but Ancestry has jusst added a VC database to its military collection.  That's a good thing of course, although VCs are a well researched topic and there probably won't be anything new here for anybody.

Unfortunately the collection, such as it is, is only browsable by surname letter, and the quality of the images leaves much to be desired.  My recommendation: Google your VC hero first and scoop up all the free stuff that'a already on line.  You'll probably end up with as much, if not more, than there is on the Ancestry VC collection.

Thursday 22 March 2012

Crimean War VC winners on findmypast

The following men, all awarded the Victoria Cross for service during the Crimean War, have surviving service records in WO 97, now accessible on line thanks to To view a record, follow this WO 97 Chelsea Pensioners link and enter the details below (Note, you'll need Pay-Per-View credits or a subscription to view the records).

Crimean War VC holders

Alfred Ablett, Grenadier Guards
Thomas Beach, 55th Regiment of Foot
Joseph Bradshaw, Rifle Brigade
Daniel Cambridge, Royal Regiment of Artillery
William Coffey, 34th Regiment of Foot
George Gardiner, 57th Regiment of Foot
Thomas Grady, 44th Regiment of Foot
Matthew Hughes, 7th Regiment of Foot
Peter Leitch, Royal Engineers
John Lyons, 19th Regiment of Foot
John McDermond, 47th Regiment of Foot
Roderick McGregor, Rifle Brigade
James McKechnie, Scots Fusiliers Guards
James Owens, 49th Regiment of Foot
Anthony Palmer, Grenadier Guards
Saumuel Parkes, 4th Light Dragoons
John Perie, Royal Engineers
Joseph Prosser, 1st Regiment of Foot
William Reynolds, Scots Fusiliers Guards
John Ross, Royal Engineers
John Joseph Sims, 34th Regiment of Foot
Francis Wheatley, Rifle Brigade

In addition, the following Crimean War VC holders are referenced in the 1861 Worldwide Army Index:

John Farrell, 17th Lancers
William James Lendrim, Royal Engineers
George Strong, Coldstream Guards

If I had to pick out one record from those listed above it would be Roderick McGregor of the Rifle Brigade.  His service record notes that he was recorded 12 times in the Defaulter's book and court-martialled seven times.  No Long Service and Good Conduct medal for him then, but he did get the VC.

Tuesday 13 March 2012

Military Medals awarded to the Royal Artillery

Two Royal Artillery releases in one day has got to be good news.

As well as releasing its data on WW2 honours and awards for the corps, Find My Past has also published a database of Military Medal awards to the Royal Artillery between 1916 and 1993.  There's also some useful general information contained on the site, for instance, the difference in the promotion ladders between WW1 and WW2:

Soldiers' ranks

During WWI, the artillery rank structure included corporal which was removed from the regiment in the 1920s and Serjeant became Sergeant. The WWI War promotion ladder consisted of:
  • Gnr – gunner
  • Bdr – bombardier (one stripe)
  • Cpl – corporal (two stripes)
  • Sjt – serjeant (three stripes with a gun above)
The WWII promotion ladder was:
  • Gnr – gunner
  • L/Bdr – lance bombardier (one stripe)
  • Bdr – bombardier (two stripes)
  • Sgt – sergeant (three stripes with a gun above)
Between gunner and bombardier there was a lance bombardier (L/Bdr) and between bombardier and corporal there was a lance corporal (L/Cpl). During WWII there was also the rank of lance sergeant 'L/Sgt'. The names of some of the ranks also denoted their role, for example:

Dvr – driver

A driver was a soldier trained in the management and use of horses. The six horses drawing the gun, or wagon, were driven by three drivers, all on the nearside horses, and much training was required before drivers would be rated as competent. The drivers, of course, also looked after the horses and the management, condition and state of health of these animals was regarded as one of the most important functions in the battery.

All branches of the artillery used horses, not just the RHA. By WWII, mechanisation had replaced the horse but the gun limbers, lorries and self-propelled guns all required drivers and the rank remained. The number of horses meant specialist roles of saddler, farrier, and shoeing smith were used and added to the name of the rank. Horse-drawn equipment needed wheelers and fitters and the officer needed clerks who could write in artillery code and signallers who could send it.
  • S/Sjt – staff serjeant
  • SM – serjeant major
  • QMS – quartermaster serjeant
  • BQMS – battery quartermaster serjeant
  • BSM – battery serjeant major (warrant officer class II)
  • RSM – regimental sergeant major (warrant officer class I)
 All MM awards to the RA are now searchable on findmypast.

WW2 Royal Artillery honours and awards online

If your Royal Artillery ancestor was in receipt of an award for service during the Second World War, you'll probably find him or her on a brand new dataset just released on Find My PastRoyal Artillery Honours and Awards 1939-1946 contains details of awards to over 21,000 men and may include the following information:
  • soldier's title, first name (sometimes only initials, last name, rank and number)
  • soldier's post nominals at the time of the award
  • date it appears in the London Gazette
  • unit the man was serving in at the time of the award, when known
  • award itself
  • branch of the regiment
  • theatre of operations in which the soldier was serving at the time
  • schedule number
  • file number
  • who the award was recommended by
  • theatre of operations
  • remarks on the award
  • further service notes, when known
  • status
  • date of event
  • cause of death (as applicable)
  • place of residence
  • date of discharge
  • reason for discharge
These records have been assiduously compiled by the librarian at the Royal Artillery museum in Woolwich and are searchable on findmypast from today.

Sunday 4 March 2012

Identifying the Guards

I picked up a copy of Anthony Edgeworth's The Guards yesterday and, looking at the photos, was reminded of an easy way to identify a particular regiment of Foot Guards. Simply look at the arrangement of the buttons on their tunics.

In terms of regimental precedence, the Grenadier Guards come first, followed by the Coldstream Guards, the Scots Guards,  the Irish Guards and finally, the Welsh Guards.

1. The Grenadier Guards - 1st - buttons arranged singly:

2. The Coldstream Guards - 2nd - buttons arranged in pairs:

3. The Scots Guards - 3rd - buttons arranged in groups of three:

4. The Irish Guards - 4th - buttons arranged in groups of four:

5. The Welsh Guards - 5th - buttons arranged in groups of five:

Easy when you know how.

The black and white photograph is courtesy of and then, in order of regimental precedence, The Daily Mail, Artangel, London SE1 and BBC News.