20 February 2014

Finding your army ancestor



This blog was started with the aim of helping researchers to identify likely enlistment dates for army ancestors who joined the British Army between 1881 and 1918.  However, it is worth pointing out that there are many online resources where original documents, or transcripts from original documents can be accessed for a few pounds. Finding your army ancestor online seems to become easier by the day.  Here are links to some of the best online resources:


PRE FIRST WORLD WAR


1861 Worldwide Army Index
Can't find him on the 1861 census? Was he in the army? This index contains the names of over 245,000 British soldiers at home and abroad.

1871 Worldwide Army Index
An index of over 200,000 British Army officers and men stationed at home and abroad with additional notes on over 30,000 of these men.

Anglo-Boer War Roll 1899-1902
Over 300,000 men and a casualty list of over 60,000. The most comprehensive Boer War register on the web.

Army Deserters 1828-1840
An index of over 34,000 men. Details include name, age, regiment, date of desertion and trade.

British Army Service Records 1760-1913
There are over 2m records here, across six very distinct series:

Militia attestation records 1806-1915 (WO96)
Royal Hospital, Chelsea: British Army pension records 1760-1913 (WO97)
Royal Hospital, Chelsea: pensioners' discharge documents 1760-1887 (WO121)
Royal Hospital, Chelsea: pensioners' discharge documents, foreign regiments 1816-1817 (WO122)War Office: Imperial Yeomanry, soldiers' documents, South African War 1899-1902 (WO128)
Royal Hospital, Chelsea: documents of soldiers awarded deferred pensions 1838-1896 (WO131)

Click on the link above to access the complete collection and then filter by series.

British India Office Army & Navy Pensions 1749-1947
Released on Findmypast as part of its India Office Collection

Indian Mutiny Medal Roll 1857-1859
The names of over 56,000 medal recipients.


WORLD WAR 1 - WW1

De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour 1914-1924
Biographies, many with photos, of over 26,000 WW1 casualties.

Honourable Artillery Company
Some pre-war records here but the majority are records for the First World War. Potted service histories, membership details, nominal rolls, draft lists and so on.

Pals Battalions
findmypast has published lists for the following Pals' Battalions: Birmingham Pals, Bradford Pals, Edinburgh Pals, Glasgow Pals, Liverpool Pals, Manchester Pals, Oldham Pals, Salford Pals, Swansea Pals

Royal Naval Division Service Records 1914-1920
These records are classified in the ADM series rather than WO as far as The National Archives is concerned. However, the men fought on land alongside the army during the First World War and so they are included here.

Silver War Badge rolls 1914-1920
Over 800,000 records giving date of enlistment, date of discharge, and often, the man's age.

Soldiers Died in The Great War 1914-1919
Incomplete but useful record of WW1 British Army deaths.

WW1 Medal Index Cards 1914-1920
The medal index cards of approximately 4.8m men.

WW1 Medal Rolls 1914-1920
Many medal rolls give battalion details and dates served overseas; information not usually found on the medal index cards. This is an essential resource.

WW1 Service Records 1914-1920
The so-called "Burnt Documents" from WO 363.



Pension records from WO 364.

British Army Service Records 1914-1920
This is Findmypast's combined collection of records in WO 363 and WO 364 which was released in 2014. Includes thousands of records not previously indexed. Also has the advantages of being able to search both series at the same time.

INTER-WAR

Royal Artillery Attestations 1883-1942
The majority of these records date to the inter-war years but there are earlier records including those of men who served during the Great War,
 
Don't let the dates fool you.  There are lots of records here for men who saw service during the First World War and for those, of course, who would go on to see service in the Second World War.

All of the above records are available on two commercial sites: Ancestry and Findmypast. Both sites offer FREE 14 day trials (click on the links to find out more) and both sites routinely offer promotions which can make military research extremely affordable.

And finally... I also offer a comprehensive, fast and cost-effective military history research service. Click on the link for more information.



9 comments:

RedCap D said...

I am researching the 155 Boys of Gordon Boys Home (now a co-ed school attended by my granddaughters) who died in the Great War and have found your site a great help.
The Home was for children of impoverished families to be taught a "Trade" one of the trades being "Musician". (It also became a ready recruiting base for the Army.)
I have hit a snag with one boy - F L Turner born in Chobham, Surrey.
There was only one born in Chobham that fits the known facts being Francis Lionel Turner 10269 1/Inniskilling Fusiliers who died in Gallipoli. However his medal index card has him being awarded the 1914 Star therefor was on active service before Gallipoli.
I believe he is the same Francis Taylor who was a "Drummer" at Aldershot with the 4/Royal Fusiliers (1911) while his brother also a "Drummer" was serving in India with the 2/RF (who also fought at Gallipoli).
Using the dates/numbers it would seem he enlisted about May 1912.
If he had enlisted in the RF in 1903 his number could be 10269
Is it possible to carry a number from one Regiment to another?

Paul Nixon said...

RedCap D, I'm glad the site has been of use to you.

The answer is straightforward: no, a man could not carry his number from one regiment to another. 10269 for the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers dates to May 1912 and so therefore your research still fits. He could have been in the RF in 1911 and then transferred to the Inniskillings. But his number would certainly have changed.

Good luck with your project.

Paul

James said...

First of all, this is a great site Paul. Thank you!. I know after Gallipoli, my grandfather was transferred, but I can't find anything with the new number he was given. His original Reg. No. was 1423 1/1 Kent R.E. The number he was given when he transferred to the western front was 540637. Any ideas? Rumor has it he was sent to a signal company or GHQ...
Thanks in advance.

Paul Nixon said...

James, thank you.

540637 is the number Sydney J Waghorne was given after the wholesale re-numbering of the TF in 1917. It fits very nicely into the number block 540001 to 544000 which was allocated to the Kent (Fortress) Company, Royal Engineers. I presume you have checked service and pension records on Ancestry? I did have a look but couldn't find anything.

Adrian Bailey said...

Paul
I have a query about the use of Prefix Letters for KRRC battalions in trying to identify my grandfather’s service with the regiment.
My grandfather (Sgt Robert L. Bailey) served throughout World War 1 in the same regiment, KRRC, and survived. According to his Medal Roll Card he was given THREE regimental numbers during his service – A/768, B/518 and C/761. My understanding of this indicates that he would have served in three different battalions of the regiment. His personal records like many others were destroyed during the London bombing of 1940.
My belief is that he enlisted around October 1914 into 8th Bn KRRC. We have a formal record dated Feb 1915 of his informing the Regimental Record office of his marriage in Jan 1915 and at that time, he was a Sgt in A Company. His medal roll card shows he went to France with 8th Bn KRRC in May 1915.
In Nov 1915 he was a patient in the Summerdown Camp Recuperation Hospital in Southwick, Sussex as we have a photograph in the form of a postcard dated 24 Nov 1915 showing him as a member of the F Company Football team (a mixed unit team). He would have been struck off the strength of the 8th Bn KRRC after being hospitalised. At some stage once fit he would be ready to return to active duty and presumably placed into the pool of battle casualty replacements to be allocated and sent to the KRRC battalion of highest need. I do not know which battalion he went to but I assume it was one where he received a new regimental number around early 1916.
Nothing is known about his subsequent service until early October 1918 when he was known to be with the 18th Bn KRRC at the Battle of Courtrai and with that battalion, he was subsequently awarded a Military Medal announced in the London Gazette Supplement 31408/9/10 dated 17 June 1919. He is shown as 18th Bn KRRC but with his original regimental number of A/768 – apparently quiet normal in that the first service number issued was used for all medals irrespective of subsequent service. However it is assumed that he was given the third number of C/761 in the normal way on his arrival with the 18th Bn KRRC.
This leaves the question of where was he posted which required the use of his second number?
• The use of A/768 would have been correct for his enlistment into 8th Bn although it could suggest that he actually enlisted before war broke out.
• The C/761 is correct for those joining any of the 16th to 21st KRRC Service battalions.
• From what I have read and researched the prefix letter B/ was not a normal KRRC letter but used by several other regiments including a sister regiment, the Rifle Brigade.
Knowing the closeness of the two regiments perhaps a common pool of manpower was used since both emanate from Winchester. Perhaps he spent time with a RB battalion and was given a RB number but subsequently was either posted back to his own regiment (and the 18th Bn) after further injury or perhaps on the cadreisation or disbandment of those RB battalions that had received heavy losses leaving them no longer effective (like the 8th Bn KRRC after the Mar/Apr 1918 mauling from the German Spring Offensive.
Could you throw any light or perhaps have some thoughts to enable me to get past ‘my brick wall’. of family research?
Regards Adrian Bailey

Adrian Bailey said...

Paul
I have a query about the use of Prefix Letters for KRRC battalions in trying to identify my grandfather’s service with the regiment.
My grandfather (Sgt Robert L. Bailey) served throughout World War 1 in the same regiment, KRRC, and survived. According to his Medal Roll Card he was given THREE regimental numbers during his service – A/768, B/518 and C/761. My understanding of this indicates that he would have served in three different battalions of the regiment. His personal records like many others were destroyed during the London bombing of 1940.
My belief is that he enlisted around October 1914 into 8th Bn KRRC. We have a formal record dated Feb 1915 of his informing the Regimental Record office of his marriage in Jan 1915 and at that time, he was a Sgt in A Company. His medal roll card shows he went to France with 8th Bn KRRC in May 1915.
In Nov 1915 he was a patient in the Summerdown Camp Recuperation Hospital in Southwick, Sussex as we have a photograph in the form of a postcard dated 24 Nov 1915 showing him as a member of the F Company Football team (a mixed unit team). He would have been struck off the strength of the 8th Bn KRRC after being hospitalised. At some stage once fit he would be ready to return to active duty and presumably placed into the pool of battle casualty replacements to be allocated and sent to the KRRC battalion of highest need. I do not know which battalion he went to but I assume it was one where he received a new regimental number around early 1916.
Nothing is known about his subsequent service until early October 1918 when he was known to be with the 18th Bn KRRC at the Battle of Courtrai and with that battalion, he was subsequently awarded a Military Medal announced in the London Gazette Supplement 31408/9/10 dated 17 June 1919. He is shown as 18th Bn KRRC but with his original regimental number of A/768 – apparently quiet normal in that the first service number issued was used for all medals irrespective of subsequent service. However it is assumed that he was given the third number of C/761 in the normal way on his arrival with the 18th Bn KRRC.
This leaves the question of where was he posted which required the use of his second number?
• The use of A/768 would have been correct for his enlistment into 8th Bn although it could suggest that he actually enlisted before war broke out.
• The C/761 is correct for those joining any of the 16th to 21st KRRC Service battalions.
• From what I have read and researched the prefix letter B/ was not a normal KRRC letter but used by several other regiments including a sister regiment, the Rifle Brigade.
Knowing the closeness of the two regiments perhaps a common pool of manpower was used since both emanate from Winchester. Perhaps he spent time with a RB battalion and was given a RB number but subsequently was either posted back to his own regiment (and the 18th Bn) after further injury or perhaps on the cadreisation or disbandment of those RB battalions that had received heavy losses leaving them no longer effective (like the 8th Bn KRRC after the Mar/Apr 1918 mauling from the German Spring Offensive.
Could you throw any light or perhaps have some thoughts to enable me to get past ‘my brick wall’. of family research?
Regards Adrian Bailey

Paul Nixon said...

Hello Adrian

The B and C numbers have obviously been added to the card some time later. The number that appear on his medals is the A number. I'm not sure, to be honest, why the other two numbers are there as from what you say, he carried the A number throughout his military career (evidenced by its reference in the LG of 1919). The B/ prefix was the Rifle Brigade equivalent of the KRRC A/ prefix and you are correct when you note that the C prefix was used by a number of different KRRC battalions and not just the Church Lads Brigade. I would be inclined to stick with the A/ number particularly as it was clearly still in use as late as 1919. It would be interesting to see if there are other KRRC men with similar annotations on their cards.

Paul

Jill Wilson said...

Hi Paul. I have a query about my Grandfather (yes, I'm a great granny and I do mean Grandfather) who was apparently in boy service, served in India and ww1. I think I have the correct Henry Hancock although there are thousands. I am sure he was in the 1st Kings Royal Rifle corps in India soldier No:5177. I found this in medal records on Ancestry. The only other Henry Hancock in that corps died in India so I'm hoping the other is mine. Still verifying but he appears to have been awarded a medal for the "Relief of Chitral 1895" amongst others. At that time he was in The Army Reserve. Then he appears to have been discharged from the army aged about 30 yrs. We know he was in France in WW1 because my mother was supposedly named after a child of the family he was billeted with. This leads me to believe he was there in 1914. I can not find his records for WW1 for definite. I have found a man of that name who was in KRR (no batt.no) in WW1but with a di
fferent soldier no.who was transferred to "Labour corps". As he would have been in his mid 40's by 1914 I wonder if he would have been a fighting man? What exactly did the Labour Corps do? Hope you can be of assistance. Jill

Paul Nixon said...

Jill, thanks for your post. If you would like this man researched, please drop me a line - see RESEARCH tab. The Long, Long Trail website is the authority for most matters WW1. have a look here for the Labour Corps: http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/the-labour-corps-of-1917-1918/