WW1 medals records go online

WW1 medals records go online

Internet access to 14 million memories

More people than ever before will be able to find out what members of their family in the armed forces did during World War One.

Today, the complete medal records of British soldiers, and also those for many colonial soldiers who fought in WW1 go online for the first time today at Ancestry.co.uk.

The genealogical site now hosts the most comprehensive online WW1 British and colonial military collection still intact. Without it, tracing ancestors has been nigh on impossible for many people because most official WW1 service records were destroyed in the bombings of WW2.

In all, the online WW1 Medal Index Cards1914-1922 collection contains the records for more than 14 million commendations, including the medal cards of countless famous names.

During WW1 all medal entitlements were compiled by the Army Medal Office in lists called Medal Rolls. From here, index cards were produced for every soldier, containing details of medals awarded, the reason for decoration and corps, unit and regiment.

More than 50,000 cards also listed details of covert operations undertaken or letters from next of kin on their reverse.

The original index cards are now held by the Western Front Association (WFA), an organisation dedicated to furthering interest in the period 1914-1918. Through a partnership with the WFA, Ancestry.co.uk has colour-digitised both sides of the cards and put the details online.

“We are delighted that this significant set of historical records has been completely digitised and will be made widely available to anyone with an interest in this defining time in British and colonial military history," said a spokesman for the WFA.

The collection will be put online in phases. Today 2.1 million records are available, with the remaining 3.4 million to be launched shortly. High resolution images of all medals are available upon request courtesy of Medal Yearbook, Token Publishing.

The collection will provide millions of people with the opportunity to uncover their heroic ancestors, many of whom sacrificed their lives in battles ranging from the Western Front to Gallipoli.

In all there were 15 WW1 commendations, from campaign medals such as the 1914 Star, the Victory Medal and the Silver War Badge to awards for extreme gallantry such as the Military Medal and Victoria Cross. Full details of every medal are included on the website.

The collection also contains famous names from politicians to aristocrats, actors, poets, sportspeople, artists and scientists, including actor and playwright Noel Coward to WW1 veteran Harry Patch.

Mr Patch is the second oldest living man in the UK and oldest surviving Tommy to have served in the Western Front. He served in the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry and was involved in the Battle of Passchendeale. He is decorated with the Victory and British War Medals.

Ancestry.co.uk managing director Simon Harper said: “This fascinating collection preserves forever the heroic actions of an entire generation of young men and is the single most comprehensive resource for anyone with an interest in researching British or colonial soldiers who fought in the Great War.

“This collection will be relevant to just about anyone with ancestors living in the UK during World War One and is both a rich source of military information and a means of ensuring that the exploits of these brave soldiers are remembered for generations to come.”