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© Barns Green - A Local History of The Great War 2014
Finding Those Who Served
Those men of the British Isles who served in WW1 and died for their country around 850,000 of them are generally well recorded. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission database holds a wealth of information. Local memorials and Rolls of Honour add to this as do publications such as “Soldiers Died in the Great War”, local newspapers and Parish Magazines. Service and Pension records for those who fought on land, sea and air in WW1 have now almost all passed the 100 year confidentiality limit and those that survive are available on-line, at regimental archives and in the National Archives at Kew. Although mostly complete for Navy and Air Force personnel, soldier’s records are less so due to the loss of over 60% of the enlisted men’s records in the London Blitz of WW2, and the “consolidation” of officers records in the post-war years. For the army however three other sets of records exist which are more complete, firstly the Medal Roll books which list regiment by regiment all those entitled to one or more general service medals; secondly the card index to these compiled in the 1920’s (“Medal Index Cards” or MICs) and thirdly the London Gazette which published on a weekly basis Gallantry Awards and Officer promotions. Again all of these are available on line or at TNA, Kew. The published Army Lists for the war years can also prove useful in finding officers and once again these are available both at Kew and in a number of on-line locations. Much of the information gleaned from these sources can then be tied in with that to be found in the various Regimental War Diaries, a good percentage of which also survive and are available at various Records Offices for public viewing. As well as those sources noted in the 2 nd and 3 rd paragraphs above, further key records in this exercise are the Absent Voters Lists (AVLs) complied in 1918 and 1919 (and in some cases right through until 1922) which record the names and details of men aged 21 and over eligible to vote under the terms of the new “Representation of the People Act” of 1918 who were still serving away from home. The West Sussex record remains complete and intact in the County Records Office in Chichester. A second set of similar records the 1918 Electoral Register backs up the AVL and also helps to put many men in the context of their families as siblings and surviving parents are often recorded at the same addresses as the Act mentioned above extended the franchise not only to all men over 21 but also to all married women over the age of 30.
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