Friday 29 August 2014

Medal Rolls CD ROM - Last chance at discounted price
The Naval and Military Press launch of a CD ROM of the medal rolls for all British Army servicemen and service women who served during the First World War was announced a few weeks back.
The early-bird discount price of £250 (a saving of £100) + VAT ends this weekend. From Monday, you'll be paying £350 + VAT.
What you get in this massive undertaking is a full index of First World War campaign medal recipients, with every field indexed. No more trips to Kew. This massive project brings the men and women of the First World War direct into your living room.
Click on the link to order and make the most of the discounted price whilst you can.

Hommes 40, Chevaux 8

The ubiquitous trucks which transported many British troops closer to the front line. This image taken from issue two of The Great War, I was There.

Thursday 28 August 2014

The Angels of Mons

There were veterans that I met in the 1980s who still believed in the legend of the Angels of Mons, and who would get quite emotional, despite the fact that the whole story was simply that, a story, and not even a story about angels for that matter. 

I was looking through some old issues of The Great War, I Was There earlier today. I bought my set from a little second-hand bookshop just around the corner from the Imperial War Museum in 1981 and I still think it's a very useful resource. I particularly like the comments in the Old Comrades Corner section which I indexed many years ago and may publish one day.

Issue two of TGWIWT contains an article by the author behind the story and I reproduce that here. But first, here are the key passages from Arthur Machen's original article which detail the moment that the bowmen appeared to the BEF as they poured bullets into the massed ranks of advancing German infantrymen. The complete collection by Machen can be downloaded free of charge from The Internet Archive.

And here's the article about the origins of the story (which I may need to scan at a higher resolution). For now, click on the image then right click, save, and view through your normal application.

Thursday 21 August 2014

Ancestry - Free Access weekend

Ancestry has a FREE access weekend for British records which starts from today. If you've not already taken advantage of this, you've missed out on over seven hours of research so far. What are you waiting for? Click the link above.

Tuesday 19 August 2014

Other Ranks Prisoners of War 1914

I have started publishing rolls of NCOs and men who were captured and became prisoners of war on or before 25th December 1914. A partial archive listing these men survives at the Imperial War Museum and I am publishing transcriptions of these names. I am publishing regimental number, rank and name, although in many cases I have much additional information such as date of capture, home address, next of kin and next of kin address.

Read more about the 1914 PoW resource on my 1914 PoWs page on the Army Service Numbers blog. Also click on the links below to see the regimental rolls published so far:

Durham Light Infantry
Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment)
Royal Fusiliers
Suffolk Regiment

The image above, purchased this morning, shows allied PoWs at Diepholz camp in Hanover.

Friday 8 August 2014

Fill your boots - Naval & Military Press summer sale

Naval & Milityary Press sale

Plenty of good stuff here and a twenty per cent discount on all titles except the Medal Rolls CD ROM which is already heavily discounted.  My own personal recommendation from this extensive catalogue - apart from the medal rolls - would be the four volume  "His Majesty's Territorial Army" which was originally published in 1909 and gives good background on the Volunteer Force as well as listing, by County Association, the units that each of these associations administered. I always have these volumes within easy arms' reach. Now would be the time to invest.

Click on the image to go straight to the Naval & Military Press website.

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.

Monday 4 August 2014

Prisoners of the First World War - International Red Cross

The International Committee of the Red Cross has published a free online archive of prisoners of war of the First World War. The release is long-awaited and contains the details of thousands of men  captured between 1914 and 1918. Click on the image above to go straight to the ICRC website and start searching.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission documents online

It's great to see that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has now published original documents from its extensive archive. Above is a single printed sheet listing my Great Uncle, John Frederick Nixon, and others who appear on "Stone No. 67C" of the Vis-en-Artois memorial. Jack has no known grave and so the information about him is scant, however for those soldiers who were buried, there is often a good deal more information.
Below are four documents relating to the burial and commemoration of Private Joseph Viles who, according to discussion on The Great War Forum, was knocked off his bicycle and killed a hundred years ago today (although the CWGC register notes that he died of sickness). There are two graves registration documents and two headstone schedules. Interestingly Joseph's sister is given as his next of kin and her address is also recorded; information missing from the additional information section published online. These additions will be extremely useful for researchers.



Sunday 3 August 2014

The First World War online -

As one of the people responsible for licensing data collections at Findmypast, I must declare an interest in what follows. Earlier today I posted on Ancestry's First World War offering and now I'm going to turn my attention to Findmypast.

I was an Ancestry subscriber many years before I was a Findmypast subscriber. Ancestry had everything I needed, namely the pension records and service records for British Army other ranks. I was researching soldiers from Chailey in Sussex and the irony was that I completed my research when I was living in India, having embarked on the project several years earlier when there was virtually nothing online and trips to the National Archives in Kew were essential. How times have changed.

Over the years, Findmypast has caught up with Ancestry and at the time of writing has also now published the First World War service and pension records. I believe the Findmypast version to be superior. The records are more thoroughly indexed than those on Ancestry meaning that the researcher stands more chance of finding his or her Great War ancestor. Unfortunately, I didn't find any more of my family members but I did find quite a few Chailey men who Ancestry had completely failed to capture. WO 363 and WO 364 are difficult series to index but Findmypast did spend longer going through these records, looking at over 35 million images in the collection not once, but twice. The indexing is not perfect, no indexing is, but I believe it is far superior to the Ancestry version. The records are more thoroughly indexed and there are hundreds of thousands of additional names - snippets mostly - which have never previously been captured.

Findmypast does not have medal index cards but it does have a transcription of the silver war badge roll and it also has great collections for the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. Royal Navy officers' service records and Royal Navy ratings' records for the Royal Navy, as well as Royal Air Force officers can all be searched on Findmypast and all have been licensed from The National Archives. In addition, Findmypast has also recently digitised, transcribed and published Airmen's records from the First World War, allowing it to claim the most complete collection of British service records online.

Add to this impressive tally the enrolment books for The Royal Tank Corps and Royal Artillery and various documents from The Honourable Artillery Company and you have some very useful supplementary information, for although the RTC and RA records ostensibly deal with the inter war periods there are a lot of men listed here who have outline sketches of their former service during the First World War recorded.

Findmypast has also recently published a number of partial rolls for various pals battalions and the Welsh Guards and - take it from me - there is a lot more to come.

In common with Ancestry, Findmypast has also published much of the available Naval & Military Press catalogue and it has some extremely useful and unique record collections from before the First World War (which I'll cover elsewhere).

Clicking on any of the Findmypast links on this post will take you straight to their website where you can find out more for yourself.

Tip. When searching on Findmypast, use the A-Z search and also read my First World War service record search tips HERE and HERE.

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.