10 November 2011

Silver War Badge roll on Ancestry

This post really belongs over on my Army Ancestry blog, but as I've already posted there today about the Imperial War Museum's marvelous new Faces of the First World War project on flickr, I'll write about the SWB rolls here.

Pictured above is an extract from the Silver War Badge Roll for the East Surrey Regiment, and an old favourite of mine, Charles Sabourin.  Charles lost his right leg at Mons on the 23rd August 1914 and, taken prisoner by the Germans, was repatriated to England in early 1915, then spending several months convalescing at Chailey in Sussex.  You can read more about Charles Sabourin - and see a photo of him - on my Chailey 1914-1918 blog.

The Silver War Badge roll is probably the most comprehensive of all the WW1 medal rolls and now you can search them on Ancestry - but only if you have a premium membership.

Typical information you'll get from these rolls will be the man's name, number, regiment, battalion, date of enlistment, date of discharge, cause of discharge and sometimes, the man's age or his date of birth.  The badge number is always given and the rolls tend to be organised in badge number order. The East Surrey roll above does not give the battalion or the man's age. However, the London Regiment extract below, gives both.

With a bit of care, it is also possible to use the information on the SWB rolls to determine enlistment dates for a soldier you are researching.  Care should be taken however, because although the man's date of enlistment may be given, the regiment he was discharged from may not necessarily be the regiment he originally joined.

However, looking at the East Surrey Roll we see the following numbers and enlistment dates:

8505 on 1st February 1905
7487 on 15th September 1902
9733 on 6th November 1908
10864 on 29th April 1914
10536 on 1st October 1912
6738 [Charles Sabourin] on 31st October 1900
8860 on 7th August 1906...

As it happens, all of these numbers are spot on for The East Surrey Regiment for the dates given, the majority of these men presumably having gone out with the BEF in August 1914 and, like Charles Sabourin, being wounded - or falling sick - shortly afterwards.

So all in all another great resource from Ancestry but it's a pity that more and more of the military stuff on their site seems to be falling into the premium rate category.  I'm lucky that I can afford to subscribe at that level and I personally still think that it's a bargain, but then again I'm a heavy Ancestry user and now that these SWB rolls have appeared, I shall be an even heavier one.

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Anonymous said...

Paul - as a veteran user of the SWB Roll's I would like to make your readers aware that they do contain common errors.

The most common are of course incorrect regimental number or an incorrectly spelled surname, neither of which will comply with the Medal Indx Card or Medal Roll Sheet.

The other error relates to enlistment dates. They do not take into consideration the man may have deserted and as such his enlistment date will not fall in line with surrounding colleagues. This is because his date of enlistment starts from the day of his return to his regiment. This mainly effects our friends who are constructing databases and wonder why things don't fall into place.


Paul Nixon said...

Noted, thanks Graham.