Check Our Army Records

Article excerpt

Byline: MARTIN RIGBY

THE First World War was a traumatic time for virtually every British family. You only need to look at a war memorial in even the smallest villagetoseewhat an horrific impact in terms of lost men the conflict had on our local communities.

Thousands died on the killing fields across the English Channel, leaving wives and children in mourning and a generation impoverished.

The war knew no class boundaries with officers falling by their troops as they led their men in what today we would regard as foolhardy actions to gain just a few metres of ground.

Details of the actions against the German forces have been well documented for many years but today we have many new online resources to discover the records of our ancestors who fought and died for King and Country.

Interest in what at the time was described as 'the war to end all wars' is growing and as more resources come on line it is proving a fruitful area of research for family historians.

World War I (or the Great War as it was known pre-1939) was the first conflict from which good photographs and movie images are available.

Although not then beamed into the homes of the nation, at least the descendants of those who fought can get a fuller understanding of the horrors of the war and the conditions in which their ancestors fought and, in many cases, died.

There were a total of 247,432 regular troops at the outbreak of WWI. These included soldiers posted around the empire and the British Expeditionary Army. This was created in 1908 in case of a German attack, and consisted of six infantry divisions and one cavalry division.

There are hundreds of sources relating to the composition of the army and the associated records of individual soldiers. However, many of the actual records of ordinary WWI soldiers were destroyed in the London Blitz of WWII. But, luckily for the family historian, pensions records survive.

A good starting point in researching your WWI ancestors is the National archives website, www. …