Monday, 16 March 2015

The essential Silver War Badge guide

A so-called "leading authority on military and family history" has dismissed the First World War silver war badge rolls in a newly published guide as "not very informative."  Of course, his assertion is complete and utter tripe. Here are nine reasons why the silver war badge rolls are an essential resource.

1. For a start, because so many service and pension records from the First World War do not survive, the rolls can provide vital information that is not recorded elsewhere. This fact alone makes the SWB rolls a vital resource.
2. The silver war badge rolls give the date a man enlisted.
3. The silver war badge rolls give the date a man was discharged.
4. The silver war badge rolls give the cause of discharge. Sometimes this might be simply expressed as the relevant regulation from King's Regulations but it usually states whether the cause is due to wounds or sickness. Occasionally, even more detail is given, such as the nature of the wounds or sickness (see below).

5. The silver war badge rolls state whether or not a man has served overseas.
6. Because the badge number is stated in every case, it is possible to check whether the badge you have in your collection really does belong with the medals you acquired at the same time. Similarly, a solitary silver war badge can, because of its unique number, open up a number of research paths for you.
7. Many silver war badge rolls also give the man's age (see below)
8. The silver war badge rolls will usually give the man's battalion or unit; information that often does not appear on medal index cards
9. Full names may be expressed on silver war badge rolls yet only appear as initials and last name on medal index cards.
So beware "leading authority" opinion and ignore the silver war badge roll at your peril. It's always been a fantastic resource and is arguably the most informative of all the First World War medal/badge rolls.
The photo on this post, which was, once upon a time, in my collection, shows a veteran wearing his silver war badge. Image extracts are from different SWB rolls and are Crown Copyright, The National Archives.


  1. Couldn't agree more! It's been extremely helpful to me, especially, as you say, where no service record exists. I've also compared consecutive numbers for enlistment dates of other men, with a man for whom I have a similar number but no other records, to give an idea of when he might have enlisted. Not ideal, but better than nothing in some cases.

    Kind regards,
    The Men of Worth Project

  2. Yes indeed. The enlistment date can be extremely useful but needs to be used with a degree caution of course as the date of enlistment may not be enlistment with the same regiment that the man is being discharged from.

    Thanks for commenting, Andy.

  3. It is important to note that you had to apply for the Silver War Badge and not all ex-service personnel did.