If the person you are researching died during the WWI, the chances are that their service records were lost during the bombing and subsequent fire at the War Office in 1940. About 60% of the other records survived though, and these were mainly pension claims filed by soldiers who were discharged with injuries. They often have other records attached and can provide fascinating reading.
The more information you have, the greater your chances of finding out about your chosen subject. The huge numbers of men killed in WWI means that if you have extra information, such as their service number which is unique, this can help you pinpoint your person.
Our research is concerned with the fallen of Warwick so the best place to start when researching local people is:
The County of Warwickshire Roll of Honour, 1914-2005, Volume 1 South Warwickshire, by Kenneth Fowler
Copies of this tremendous source, known as The Black Book, can be found in Warwick Library (available on loan) and the County Record Office in Priory Park, Warwick. Several other organisations have a copy of this book including The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, The Warwickshire Yeomanry Museum, and The Royal British Legion Warwick Branch.
The great thing about this book is that, in nearly all cases, it provides the Service Number, Regiment, age, parents/wife’s names and addresses so you have all the base information to search in many of the sources mentioned below. For instance, if you know the date of death, you can calculate the year of birth and can then find multiple original sources via Ancestry.co.uk.
Warwickshire County Record Office (CRO)
The CRO in Warwick holds many collections which have proved extremely useful. These include Fowler’s book, described above, and access to Ancestry.co.uk, The British Newspaper Archive and Find My Past – see below.
Access to the Warwick Advertiser is, for our research, one of the most important resources. This can be viewed either by microfiche or bound copies from which photos can be taken. A permit is required. Unfortunately 1916 bound copies are not currently available due to damage. For this period, find the article you require using the microfiche and then log on to the British Newspaper Archive – https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk – and download it onto a memory stick
The Warwickshire Yeomanry Museum
The volunteers at the museum in the Jury Street Court House are extremely knowledgeable regarding the campaigns that the Warwickshire Yeomanry were involved in during World War I.
The Yeomanry Museum website contains an extremely useful list of many organisations and websites which are primarily concerned with military history – use this link to go straight to their list: http://www.warwickshire-yeomanry-museum.co.uk/contacts.html
On the same page you will find a link to a ‘Museum Archive Form’ which you can complete if you require the volunteers’ help in researching a soldier who served in the Warwickshire Yeomanry before 1920.
The Fusilier Museum Warwick (Royal Warwickshire Regiment)
The Royal Warwickshire Regiment, with origins dating back to 1674, became the Royal Warwickshire Fusiliers, part of the Fusilier Brigade, in 1963.
Their artefacts are displayed at the Fusilier Museum Warwick in St. John’s House. The team there are extremely friendly and knowledgeable and for a small fee can help research soldiers who served with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. It is better to call ahead and make an appointment so that documents can be found ahead of your visit – 01926 491653.
When a member from Unlocking Warwick visited, she was able to view her relative’s name in Fowler’s Roll of Honour book as well a copy of the battalion’s war diary for a few days either side of his death. In addition there was a photocopied chapter from a book by the soldier’s commanding officer – so all in all it was a very successful visit. Click here for details of the museum’s research services:- http://www.warwickfusiliers.co.uk/pages/pg-24-research/
The Royal British Legion – Warwick Branch
This is the website of the Warwick Branch of the Royal British Legion where you can find details of their monthly meetings and other events.
The national site https://www.britishlegion.org.uk has lots of information regarding past conflicts with a special section for the WWI Centenary. They are currently running a campaign, called ‘Everyone Remembered’: https://www.everyoneremembered.org where you can enter the details of a person involved in WWI so that they will be permanently remembered on the site.
You can also say ‘Thank you’ to a service person via the site.
OTHER USEFUL SOURCES
This well-known genealogy site brings together many collections, both local and national, such as:
- Military Records including:
- UK Soldiers Died in the Great War
- British Army WWI Pension Records 1914-1920
- British Army WWI Service Records, 1914-1920
- British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920
- Births, Baptisms, Marriages and Deaths
- Census Records from 1841 to 1911
You can either take out a personal subscription or visit the CRO and access Ancestry there.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission https://www.cwgc.org/
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission looks after Britain’s war graves, at home and abroad. The CWGC are currently running a First World War Legacy project where members of the public can upload a profile of a soldier who fought in WWI.
It helps when searching for a person’s grave or memorial if you have the Service Number as this is unique and should get you straight there. The site gives a description of the grave or memorial and includes a location number. You can also download a Commemorative Certificate for each of the fallen
Imperial War Museum www.iwm.org.uk
The Imperial War Museum’s archives are vast and too numerous to mention here. The paper research facility is being moved from London to Duxford, and opened on 9th April 2018, but it will still be possible to view documents digitally in London.
You can go online to book an appointment but you need to give five working days’ notice of any documents you would like to view: https://www.iwm.org.uk/research/research-facilities
National Archives www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/first-world-war
This site is always worth a look as it holds many military records; it has a helpful guide for finding army and other forces records.
Forces War Records www.forces-war-records.co.uk
This is a subscription site, and if your research is limited to just a few people, it’s possible to sign up for one month only.
The London Gazette www.thegazette.co.uk
The Gazette is good for looking at people by name, particularly those who received commissions, or medals for gallantry, in the war. A note of caution, we found it difficult to find the records we wanted, despite knowing the name of our person and their entry date.
Here is a list of some more websites you many find useful – this is by no means an exhaustive list.
Find my Past www.findmypast.co.uk
This is a subscription site, but you can sign up for a 14 day free trial. Warwickshire Libraries have a subscription to this site so you can use the site for free at any library (one hour at a time) or at the CRO (no time limit). This site also has access to ‘UK Soldiers Died in the Great War’.
WW1 Photos http://www.ww1photos.com/PhotoArchive.html
This website has many, copyrighted, photos which can be downloaded, or printed and sent to you in the post. Fees apply for both services – visit the website for details.
The Great War Forum http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/
A site where you can ask questions about the Great War and receive answers and information from other users.
Long Long Trail http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/
A site all about the soldiers, units, regiments and battles of the British Army of the First World War, and how to research and understand them.
Family Search https://www.familysearch.org/
This is a site owned and run by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. You have to sign up to this but it’s free and has many of the records (census, births, deaths etc.) that can be found on Ancestry. It sometimes directs you to other sites when you click to view the record – definitely worth a try.
Free Births Marriages and Deaths https://www.freebmd.org.uk/
This one does what it says on the tin – enables you to search for free for births, marriages and deaths – again worth a try.