Monday, 22 December 2014

The Cavalryman's lot - August 1914



This from the ever entertaining late Marquess of Anglesey in volume 7 of his imperious, A history of the British Cavalry 1816-1919.

"The marching order for the trooper was still as it had been in earlier stages of the Boer War - heavy. His average total weight on horseback was about eighteen stone. He wore a stiff-peaked khaki cap, a khaki serge jacket, breeches, known as 'pantaloons', made of khaki cord with leather strapping at the knees, puttees, black ankle boots and spurs. Over his left shoulder he carried a bandolier of ammunition with thirty rounds and a felt-covered water bottle. Over his his right shoulder was slung a haversack 'which bulged with every sort of unauthorized contents and seldom contained knife, fork and spoon, which should have been there but which were usually jauntily tucked into the top fold of his puttee'. Each horse carried round its neck another bandolier with a further sixty rounds of ammunition. The .303 Short Magazine Lee Enfield rifle, the same as carried by the infantry, rested in its leather rifle-bucket on the off-side. By 1905 all cavalry regiments had been issued with it. It had a theoretical range of one and a half miles. The magazine held ten rounds. The German and French equivalents held only five. To the saddle were strapped a flat, round metal mess-tin and a feed-bag with seven pounds of oats. On the near-side were a leather sword-frog (a development of the sabretache) and pouch holding his sword, spare horseshoes, another seven-pound feed bag and a folding canvas bucket. On the saddle's front arch was a pair of leather wallets for small kit with a rolled mackintosh cape over them and on the rear arch a rolled greatcoat. Under the saddle were one blanket for the man and another for the horse.

"The mounted element of the BEF which crossed the Channel during the hot, almost windless days of mid-August 1914, consisted of 9,269 of all ranks, with some 9,815 horses; eighteen cavalry regiments in all. The Cavalry Division was made up of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Cavalry Brigades, each with three regular regiments (including, in 4th Brigade, the Household Cavalry Composite Regiment). The 5th Cavalry Brigade was to act as an independent formation. Some idea of the division's size is given by the fact that on the march it covered eleven and a half miles."

The image on this post, courtesy of Wikipedia, shows a squadron from the 1st Life Guards in August 1914 preparing to leave for France.

Update
After posting this link on Twitter, I received some interesting responses from individuals whose opinions I respect, stating that whilst the marching order for troopers later in the war may have included the accoutrements stated above, this certainly wasn't typical of cavalry embarking for France in 1914. Contemporary photographs that I have seen of cavalry in 1914 (including the photograph on this post) certainly support this.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

War Diaries - Early bird offer closes soon!

https://secure.naval-military-press.com/partner/product.php?productid=29513&cat=0&page=1

I've just been sent a reminder by Naval & Military Press that the early bird offer on their War Diaries CD ROM ends on the 22nd December.

Have you been good this year? Well if you have, treat yourself to this CD ROM and save yourself a hundred quid. Better still, get the missus or fella to stump up instead. After 22nd December this essential resource is going to cost £450. Buy it now for £350.

Remember too that Naval & Military Press offers EASY PAYMENT options. Spread the cost of this over four or twelve months and pay NO INTEREST.

Findmypast opens up First World War service records


Hot on the heels of Ancestry's vastly improved look, feel and functionality to its military records which I announced yesterday, comes a very useful enhancement to the search functionality of Findmypast's First World War service record search.

I refer specifically to the collection called "British Army Service Records 1914-1920" where the simple addition of a Keyword search box has just made life a whole lot easier for everybody.

To give a simple example, if you were interested in researching men of the 15th Battalion, London Regiment, finding them before today was a painful process. You could search on "London Regiment" but then you'd need to wade though all the results, ignoring all of those men who served in battalions other than the 15th.

Now though, you simply type in 15th Battalion in the keyword search box and you are presented with 6299 results. What's more, whilst in order to get the best results when searching for a regiment you need to be liberal with the use of wildcards - see my post on Findmypast's blog about this - you can forget about wildcards altogether on the keyword search.  Typing in 15th Battalion will return results for 1/15th, 2/15th, 3/15th etc.

This addition is going to be extremely useful for drilling down into service records. The sub units have been recorded in many cases but you simply couldn't get at them before today. Now you can.

I know what I'm going to be doing over the Christmas break.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Site improvements at Ancestry

http://home.ancestry.co.uk/?cj=1&o_xid=0003506554&o_lid=0003506554&o_sch=Affiliate+External

I've just noticed that Ancestry have been busy improving the layout of some record collections.

I've only looked at military records so far, but those that I have seen are laid out far more clearly than they were previously and, in the case of SDGW, it is clearly stated that what you are looking at is a transcription only (see screenshot above). There is also room to leave your own comments which I don't think was an option in the previous version.

I have just added a post about George Flack, seen in the example above, who was killed in action 100 years ago today. It must have been a rotten Christmas for his family.

http://home.ancestry.co.uk/?cj=1&o_xid=0003506554&o_lid=0003506554&o_sch=Affiliate+External
 
The screenshot above is the entry page into my great uncle's service record on WO 363. Here, you can quite clearly see that there are images in the collection and in this case I did leave a simple comment which is now visible in the top right hand corner.
 
http://home.ancestry.co.uk/?cj=1&o_xid=0003506554&o_lid=0003506554&o_sch=Affiliate+External
 
All of this is very neat functionality, and there is also the option to connect with people who may be researching the same man. In this particular case, we're back to Ancestry's usual "serve 'em up everything" approach and I see that there are supposedly 48,862 results, the first result being a man who was born in 1832.  So this can't possibly be my great uncle and one would have thought that more fine-tuning to serve up relevant results (or at least, more relevant results) shouldn't be so hard to achieve.  Perhaps it's in the pipeline. 
 
Find your own military ancestors on Ancestry by clicking the link.
 


Sunday, 14 December 2014

WW2 Veterans - Second World War

 
I'm often asked if I can research men who served in the Second World War. The answer is No.

Unfortunately, service records from World War Two are not yet in the public domain. If you are researching a WW2 man, you will need to contact the Ministry of Defence. The procedure is straightforward and is clearly outlined on this MoD website.

I'd love to be able to add The Second World War to my research topics but as I say, service records form this period are still with the MoD and so my advice for World War Two research is always to start there first. But if you need help with pre WW2 research, please visit my research page HERE.

To find your pre WW2 army ancestor, try searching on Ancestry, which has recently updated the way it presents its military records.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Was your ancestor captured in 1914?


I've just added my latest roll of 1914 other rank prisoners of war on my army service numbers blog, this time for the Irish Guards


I have noticed that in most cases where it is indicated on a medal index card that a man was a prisoner of war, that capture took place in 1914.  This holds true for the majority of regiments although of course there are exceptions and it doesn't necessarily follow either that all 1914 PoWs have this information stated on their cards. John Roache, above, is a case in point, although note that this card does not include details of his 1914 Star either.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

HistoricImages - Buy one, get one free

 
Grab yourself a bargain or two over at HistoricImages which is currently offering a buy one, get one free offer on press photos that it is selling on eBay. This offer is good until Wednesday 3rd December but UK customers will need to visit eBay.com in order to taken advantage of this offer. CLICK HERE to see all eligible offers.
 
I like these old press photos because a) the composition is well executed (as you'd expect) and b) there's usually some text on the reverse that gives some context. The photo above, for instance is not of a Remembrance Day ceremony but rather the Anzac Day commemoration on 25th April 1938, a tradition that has been lost in this country. You won't be able to buy this one though, it's already left Memphis and is on its way to me in the UK. 

Saturday, 29 November 2014

1st Battalion, Irish Guards 1916

 
 
I can't remember now how I 'acquired' this image. I obviously downloaded it from somewhere and so any infringement of copyright is unintentional. I do think it is worth sharing because it shows Sergeant Owen Wellspring's squad, presumably photographed at the Irish Guards' barracks in 1916. I have another similar photograph of another "squad" in 1918 and I wonder how many other squad photos there are out there.
 
Owen Wellspring served overseas and was killed in action on the 2nd August 1917. He was 27 years old, the husband of Catherine Wellspring (who later re-married and became Catherine Cappock) of 23 Queen Street, Dublin. Owen has no known grave and is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission notes that at the time of his death he was serving with No 2. Company, 1st Battalion, Irish Guards and so it's possible that he was also with that company when this photo was taken and that therefore the men here are also in No 2. Company.
 
 

Sunday, 23 November 2014

WW1 campaign medal rolls

http://search.ancestry.co.uk/search/db.aspx?dbid=5119&cj=1&o_xid=0003330186&o_lid=0003330186

Here's a great example of British War and Victory Medal roll entry from Ancestry's newly published First World War Campaign Medals collection. I've not actually checked to see if this man's service record survives. If it does, all well and good. If it doesn't - and many do not - then this information contained in the medal roll is crucial.

This particular list of men is on a Royal Engineers' roll issued from the record office in Chatham and not only do we get the men's current regimental details, we also get details of past service. So here we see that William Talbott also served with the Hereford Regiment (with the number 4957) and with the Gloucestershire Regiment (with the number 31991).

The regimental numbers are crucial, and it's one of the reasons I've made a study of these for the past ten years. 4957 for the Herefordshire Regt was issued in April 1916 and 31991 for the Gloucs Regt dates to January 1917. Knowing this means that anyone with an interest in this man's service could quickly identify the appropriate war diary.

I have hundreds of thousands of regimental numbers on my database and I also carry out research into soldiers who served in the British Army (with 1920 as the cut-off date). Drop me a line to paulcanixon@yahoo.co.uk if you need professional help and also see my RESEARCH tab on this blog.

Friday, 14 November 2014

WW1 medal rolls released on Ancestry

http://search.ancestry.co.uk/search/db.aspx?dbid=5119&cj=1&o_xid=0003330186&o_lid=0003330186

Ancestry has just published digital images of the following First World War campaign medal rolls:

  • The British War Medal
  • The Inter-Allied Victory Medal
  • The 1914 Star
  • The 1914/15 Star
  • The Territorial Force War Medal
  • The Allied Subjects Medal


  • This collection significantly enhances Ancestry's military offering and will be a must-see for anyone with an interest in this important collection.

    Sunday, 9 November 2014

    The Sportsman's Gazette


    The Sportsman's Gazette

    William Bremner has created a very useful resource for those with an interest in the 23rd, 24th and 30th Battalions of the Royal Fusiliers. The blog tracks the formation of the battalions 100 years ago and is full of useful information including contemporary photos and newspaper clippings. The blog also features a database of men known to have served with the battalions. Very useful indeed, well done William.

    Newspaper clipping above taken from William's blog post of 31st October 2014.

    Friday, 7 November 2014

    Findmypast's Free Weekend - fill your boots

     
    Enjoy free World access to Findmypast this weekend
     
    Millions of birth, marriage and death records
    • Census, land and substitute records from the US, UK, Ireland and Australia
    • Millions of newspaper pages from all over the world
    • Travel and migration records
    • Military records from all over the world, including World War 1 records
    As well as millions of other records that will give everyone the opportunity to explore their family history this Remembrance Weekend. Learn more about Findmypast's Free Weekend 

    Findmypast Live Broadcast

    This Saturday 8th November, Findmypast will also be hosting its first ever Live Broadcast – a series of short, live presentations from resident family history experts (including the author of this blog) and special guests that will ensure everyone gets the most out of their free Findmypast World access. To find out more about our Live Broadcast, head to Findmypast's Broadcast page, read the programme and speaker biographies on the Findmypast blog or follow Findmypast on Twitter throughout the day using the hashtag #FMPLive.
     
    If you’re already a Findmypast Local customer, you’ll be given free access throughout the weekend to all of Findmypast's international records. Three FREE days will be added to Findmypast World 12 month subscriptions, meaning everyone has a weekend on the house.  
                                          
     

    Saturday, 1 November 2014

    Army Lists


    This is probably a case of preaching to the converted, but Army Lists can be incredibly useful in tracing an army officer's career, and they're also easily available these days. There are a number of vendors selling bundles of volumes on eBay (from around £7) and you can also download digital images from The Internet Archive. I downloaded the Army List for 1909 just the other day. I had a copy of this on my desk at work and it took about five inches of desk space (and was also quite unwieldy to use). Now, it's a 155mb file on my desktop and easily searchable within a few seconds.

    Tuesday, 28 October 2014

    XI Hussars memorial, Canterbury Cathedral


    Here's another memorial to cavalry in Canterbury Cathedral, this one erected by officers of the XI (Prince Albert's Own) Hussars, in remembrance of three of their brother officers killed in action.

    Monday, 27 October 2014

    Lieutenant Colonel John Stuart, 9th Foot


    Here's a touching tribute to a loved officer, Lieutenant-Colonel John Stuart of the 9th Foot who was on the heights of Rolera in Portugal on the 17th August 1808. The memorial is situated in Canterbury Cathedral.

    Thursday, 23 October 2014

    50th Foot - Canterbury Cathedral memorial


    This stunning memorial is situated inside Canterbury Cathedral. I popped in there yesterday and was staggered by the number of military memorials there, many of these (unsurprisingly) to cavalry units. This one is special because you effectively have a complete roll of honour for men of the 50th Foot who lost their lives in the Sutlej campaign of 1845 and 1846.  Note the Roman numeral L and the regimental name half obscured by Victory's banner. She looks worn out; testament to a tough campaign and hostile territory.

    Friday, 17 October 2014

    Despatches - Findmypast


    My employer has asked me if I'll contribute a fortnightly post to a new blog, "Despatches" on Findmypast. As I already support a wife, three children and ten blogs, adding another to the family is hardly a hardship and something, moreover, that I'm very happy to write.

    The image above, used as a header on the Despatches blog, shows my great uncle, John Frederick Nixon, and I'll talk about him in more detail on the next Despatches post, two weeks from now.

    Wednesday, 15 October 2014

    North Irish Horse


    I stumbled across this great website devoted to the North Irish Horse when I was looking for an image of the Le Touret memorial to use on my post commemorating the death of Charles Frederick Henry Brown of the 4th Middlesex Regiment.  From my brief look at the pages on the site it seems to be extremely well-researched and, I would suggest, is an essential bookmark for anybody with an interest in this regiment.

    The image above appears on the site, courtesy of the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (catalogue number D1482/6) and shows members of the Sergeants' Mess at Murlough in 1912. My congratulations to site owner Phillip Tardif for compiling such a useful resource.

    Sunday, 12 October 2014

    Royal Artillery 1939-1945

    http://www.ra39-45.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/index.html

    Here's an extremely useful-looking site for those with an interest in the Royal Artillery in the Second World War. I've not been through it in depth but I have dipped in and out for information on specific units. An enormous amount of work has obviously gone into this site and I suspect that more information is still being added. Definitely a site to bookmark; this is to the RA 1939-1945 what regiments.org was to the British Army.

    Saturday, 11 October 2014

    Victorian Wars Forum


    Forums can be incredibly helpful when it comes to researching aspects of the British Army, and one of the best, in my opinion, is the Victorian Wars Forum which covers British military campaigns between 1837 and 1902.

    Earlier this week I posted a query regarding a photo of a mystery unit, a football team (above), photographed somewhere overseas. The suggestions I received were immediate, reasoned and helpful. I'd posted the query on behalf of someone I'd met at a conference in Devon last Saturday and I know that the lady concerned is enormously grateful for the responses. You can read those responses by viewing the topic HERE.

    I'd suggest that if you have an interest in the British Army during Queen Victoria's reign that the Victorian Wars Forum is the place to be.

    Sunday, 5 October 2014

    Tyneside Scottish - Graham Stewart & John Sheen

    http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Tyneside-Scottish-Hardback/p/6699
     
    It's great to see Graham Stewart's and John Sheen's Tyneside Scottish re-printed by Pen & Sword in this new edition. This is a weighty tome, written by experts. It's also packed with information, including nominal rolls, and at £30 for a little over 402 pages is probably fairly priced. You will of course be able to get it cheaper than this, and Pen & Sword, for one, is currently offering a £10 discount HERE.
     
    The book tells the story of the formation and, in some cases, the decimation of the 20th, 21st, 22nd and 23rd Battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers, better known simply as The Tyneside Scottish. The story is told, as is usual (and sensible) in this series in chronological order so that we get some background on the area the men came from, the recruiting, training and finally service overseas. There's a very interesting appendix on some of the physical defects encountered in the men on, or shortly after, attestation, and as with all the books in this series, the pages are well illustrated.
     
    As I said at the start, it's great to see this book re-printed, and in an easier to handle format. If I have one complaint it is that the rolls are so small that you almost need a magnifying glass to read them. Rather than re-keying the information - and I can understand that this would be a daunting a task - the rolls have simply been copied across from the former format. The original pages were a good deal larger and the rolls worked. Here, in this new addition, they are incredibly difficult to read, which is a shame.
     
    Nevertheless, rolls aside, this is a great book and an essential addition to those books, many of these published in recent years, which have brought Britain's volunteer army of 1914 back to life.

    Saturday, 4 October 2014

    Cornwall's War History

    Here's a very promising site which is well designed and easy to navigate: Cornwall's War History. A lot of work has gone into this and it's going to be a very useful research tool. Well done to those behind it.

    Thursday, 25 September 2014

    No Labour, No Battle

     
     
    No Labour, No Battle is going to be a very useful reference source for the Labour Corps and, having been out of print for so long, I was very pleased to see that it has been re-printed by Spellmount as a paperback. My copy arrived today and whilst I am delighted with the content, I am singularly unimpressed by the quality of the book which appears to come from the print-on-demand stable with a cover so thin that it is already curling at the corners. For grizzled old military enthusiasts such as me, the point size of the type could also have been larger. The published price is £19.99 (although you can get a few pounds off buying through Amazon), but I would have willingly paid a few pounds more to have a more solid cover and larger type. It's a shame because the content is great and frankly, I'd have expected more from Spellmount.

    Saturday, 20 September 2014

    First World War British Army identity discs


    I was in Cambridge in the week and popped into G. David's bookshop, emerging a short while later with a coffee table book on the CWGC and Richard van Emden's The Quick & The Dead. In the latter, on page 136, Richard talks about identity discs. I hadn't realised that it was an Army Council Instruction of 1916 that introduced the two discs which most of us will be familiar with: the red circular disc (to be removed in the vent of death) and the octagonal green disc (to be left on the man's body). I thought it might be an idea to provide some brief information on identity discs for the British Army in the run up to and during, the First World War.

    January 1907
    Army Order 9 states that an aluminium identity disc fitted with a 42 inch cord is to be worn around the neck and underneath the clothing. The disc should contain the soldier's number, rank, name, regiment and religious denomination. A change in regiment or rank would result in a new disc being issued.

    May 1907
    Army Order 102 introduces slight changes to the above including the dropping of rank. (So if you have an aluminium disc with a soldier's rank on it, you can date it quite precisely).

    April 1908
    Army Order 83 authorised the issue of discs to Special Reservists and also authorised the dropping of religious denomination on discs issued to men serving with the Territorial Force.

    21st August 1914
    A new, red/brown disc 35mm in diameter and made of vulcanised asbestos fibre replaces the more expensive aluminium disc. The stamping regulations were the same as those of AO 102 of May 1907. Aluminium discs also continue to be used until stocks run out.

    September 1916
    Army Order 287 introduces the two disc I referred to at the top of this article. The reason for the introduction was to counteract the problem of identifying men after they had been killed. Although many men (including Vera Brittain's officer fiancĂ© Roland Leighton) purchased their own identity bracelets, these were unofficial.  The green disc (referred to as No 1 disc) was to be threaded on a long cord around the neck with the red/brown disc (No 2 disc) threaded on a shorter cord from disc number 1.

    The Western Front Association has chapter and verse (and scans of the Army Orders) on its site. Image courtesy of Orkney Image Library.

    Thursday, 11 September 2014

    Bravery in the Field - British Army Military Medal recipients 1914-1920

     
    Military Medal - Bravery in the Field
     
    Here's another essential publication for those with a World War One or medal interest: Great War British Army recipients of the Military Medal 1914-1920. This is a big book and now would be the time to buy it at this special introductory price. Click on the link or the images to go straight to the Naval & Military Press website.

    Great War Military Medals 1914-1920

    Friday, 5 September 2014

    Discovering Anzacs

    Discovering Anzacs

    I have just been looking at the Beta version of Discovering Anzacs, a very nicely designed little site which commemorates the lives of Australians and New Zealanders who took part in the Boer War and First World War.

    I searched for the Heasman brothers, all of whom get mentions on my Chailey 1914-1918 blog and I was very impressed to see that when you select a name, a surviving service record also appears. This is great technology and of course the service records in Australia are free to view (unlike those in most other countries).

    So hats off to the National Archives of Australia and Archives New Zealand for producing such a user-friendly and attractive site; a fitting memorial to all those who served. I shall be back.

    Image of Captain John Gurner Burnell borrowed from the Discovering Anzacs website.

    Friday, 29 August 2014

    Medal Rolls CD ROM - Last chance at discounted price

    http://www.naval-military-press.com/product.php?productid=29292&partner=PaulNixon
     
     
    The Naval and Military Press launch of a CD ROM of the medal rolls for all British Army servicemen and service women who served during the First World War was announced a few weeks back.
     
    The early-bird discount price of £250 (a saving of £100) + VAT ends this weekend. From Monday, you'll be paying £350 + VAT.
     
    What you get in this massive undertaking is a full index of First World War campaign medal recipients, with every field indexed. No more trips to Kew. This massive project brings the men and women of the First World War direct into your living room.
     
    Click on the link to order and make the most of the discounted price whilst you can.
     
    

    Hommes 40, Chevaux 8


    The ubiquitous trucks which transported many British troops closer to the front line. This image taken from issue two of The Great War, I was There.

    Thursday, 28 August 2014

    The Angels of Mons


    There were veterans that I met in the 1980s who still believed in the legend of the Angels of Mons, and who would get quite emotional, despite the fact that the whole story was simply that, a story, and not even a story about angels for that matter. 

    I was looking through some old issues of The Great War, I Was There earlier today. I bought my set from a little second-hand bookshop just around the corner from the Imperial War Museum in 1981 and I still think it's a very useful resource. I particularly like the comments in the Old Comrades Corner section which I indexed many years ago and may publish one day.

    Issue two of TGWIWT contains an article by the author behind the story and I reproduce that here. But first, here are the key passages from Arthur Machen's original article which detail the moment that the bowmen appeared to the BEF as they poured bullets into the massed ranks of advancing German infantrymen. The complete collection by Machen can be downloaded free of charge from The Internet Archive.

     
     
     
    And here's the article about the origins of the story (which I may need to scan at a higher resolution). For now, click on the image then right click, save, and view through your normal application.
     
     
     

    Thursday, 21 August 2014

    Ancestry - Free Access weekend

     
    Ancestry has a FREE access weekend for British records which starts from today. If you've not already taken advantage of this, you've missed out on over seven hours of research so far. What are you waiting for? Click the link above.

    Tuesday, 19 August 2014

    Other Ranks Prisoners of War 1914


    I have started publishing rolls of NCOs and men who were captured and became prisoners of war on or before 25th December 1914. A partial archive listing these men survives at the Imperial War Museum and I am publishing transcriptions of these names. I am publishing regimental number, rank and name, although in many cases I have much additional information such as date of capture, home address, next of kin and next of kin address.

    Read more about the 1914 PoW resource on my 1914 PoWs page on the Army Service Numbers blog. Also click on the links below to see the regimental rolls published so far:

    Durham Light Infantry
    Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment)
    Royal Fusiliers
    Suffolk Regiment

    The image above, purchased this morning, shows allied PoWs at Diepholz camp in Hanover.

    Friday, 8 August 2014

    Fill your boots - Naval & Military Press summer sale

    Naval & Milityary Press sale

    Plenty of good stuff here and a twenty per cent discount on all titles except the Medal Rolls CD ROM which is already heavily discounted.  My own personal recommendation from this extensive catalogue - apart from the medal rolls - would be the four volume  "His Majesty's Territorial Army" which was originally published in 1909 and gives good background on the Volunteer Force as well as listing, by County Association, the units that each of these associations administered. I always have these volumes within easy arms' reach. Now would be the time to invest.

    Click on the image to go straight to the Naval & Military Press website.

    Wednesday, 6 August 2014

    The First World War online - Naval & Military Press

    Naval and Military Archive

    The Naval and Military Press has long blazed the trail for naval and military books and offers arguably the most comprehensive selection of military books anywhere. I've been a customer - and a fan - for many years and whilst I would always prefer to buy an original regimental history or an original half-forgotten military memoir, the fact of the matter is that these books have become increasingly scarce and hard to come by. They were scarce when I first started seriously buying military books in the early 1980s. Now, many are virtually impossible to find, even if you do have bottomless pockets.

    In addition to their impressive book catalogue, the company has also just launched a new website - Naval & Military Archive - which offers two extremely useful collections.

    The first is a searchable database of the medal rolls for the 1914 Star, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Inter-Allied Victory Medal and Territorial Force Medal. The company has transcribed the information from the original medal rolls and the database - like N&MP's other databases such as Soldiers Died in The Great War - is effective and simple to use.  In many cases, the information you find on the rolls may be no more than you'd find on the medal index card - and in some cases in fact, less. On the other hand, some of the rolls state former service, giving battalion or unit details which may not have been included on the medal index card. In any event, no serious Great War researcher would NOT want to at least run a search on these medal rolls.

    The other resource which is going to be a godsend for many, is the war diaries. As the website states,

    "These War Diaries are the official accounts kept by most units of the British Army on active service during the Great War. Fully indexed, dates and locations of the unit are given along with intelligence reports, maps, precise plans for battles etc. These diaries are the most detailed, accurate and authentic accounts of what actually occurred on a daily basis during the war to the soldiers in the trenches."

    So what could be better than to identify your ancestor's battalion from the medal rolls and then go straight to the war diaries to find out what he and his comrades were up to. And if your ancestor was an officer, you stand a greater chance of finding him mentioned by name, especially if he was a casualty.

    I highly recommend this new resource which will become even better as more and more diaries are added. A site to bookmark.

    Monday, 4 August 2014

    Prisoners of the First World War - International Red Cross

    http://grandeguerre.icrc.org/


    The International Committee of the Red Cross has published a free online archive of prisoners of war of the First World War. The release is long-awaited and contains the details of thousands of men  captured between 1914 and 1918. Click on the image above to go straight to the ICRC website and start searching.

    Commonwealth War Graves Commission documents online

     
    It's great to see that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has now published original documents from its extensive archive. Above is a single printed sheet listing my Great Uncle, John Frederick Nixon, and others who appear on "Stone No. 67C" of the Vis-en-Artois memorial. Jack has no known grave and so the information about him is scant, however for those soldiers who were buried, there is often a good deal more information.
     
    Below are four documents relating to the burial and commemoration of Private Joseph Viles who, according to discussion on The Great War Forum, was knocked off his bicycle and killed a hundred years ago today (although the CWGC register notes that he died of sickness). There are two graves registration documents and two headstone schedules. Interestingly Joseph's sister is given as his next of kin and her address is also recorded; information missing from the additional information section published online. These additions will be extremely useful for researchers.