Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Hugh Seeks Public Archive of British World War One Service Records

Hugh Seeks Public Archive of British World War One Service Records

Dear Uncle Camelot,

Recently my father sent me a great collection of annotated photographs of some people in the family tree, and he asked me how I would feel about going online to use the Internet to track down details of the wartime exploits of a couple of my ancestors.

I was all for it, but have hit a brick wall, and am writing to ask if you have any idea of what organisation might have such records available.

Let me tell you who I am looking for an what I have found so far.

Ancestor #1 is my paternal grandfather, Gilbert John Cook, born 1893.

I found a page of links to national archives. The page was on a site run by the Imperial War Museum, London, and this led me to a repository of details on cemeteries.

Following the link, I was able to access and search the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

I used the search box on this page:

http://www.cwgc.org/

That search was a failure, so I looked for Ancestor #2, Walter Butler. Killed in the First World War, I believe.

I got the following details for him:

[His rank is private, his service number is 8208, his date of death is 28/12/1914 (28th day of the 12th month rather than 12th day of the 28th month, meaning that he died just after Christmas - bummer!), dead at age 37, Royal Irish Regiment, United Kingdom. The grave/memorial reference is Panel 1 and the cemetery/memorial name is PLOEGSTEERT MEMORIAL.]

Google told me:

[The Ploegsteert Memorial stands in Berks Cemetery Extension, which is located 12.5 kilometres south of Ieper town centre,]

I took "Ieper" to be "Ypers," which I understand the soldiers of the First World War were in the habit of referring to as "Wipers."

What I know of Gilbert John Cook is that he was born in 1891, was wounded in the First World War but, fortunately, recovered in time to parcicipate in the battle of the Somme.

During the First World War he was in the Grenadier Guards and I believe he was in the artillery.

I found a site for the Grenadier Guards but it didn't give me what I was looking for.

I thought I'd send you this e-mail just in case you could think, off the top of your head, of a very obvious data repository which might not occur to me. Meantime, I will go on looking ...

* * *

Okay, the message has been sent, and has gone to my Uncle Excalibur, who lives in the British Isles and who has connections by way of blood and marriage to both the British military and the American military.

He's a cancer survivor, a part-time journalist and a late adoptor of the Internet, someone who got his first computer and his first e-mail address just this year.

Meantime, I will push on ahead with a search for service records world war one ... over 35,000,000 hits for that search, including this:

[British Army World War 1
www.ancestry.co.uk Start searching the British Army World War One Pension Records now]

http://landing.ancestry.co.uk/ukmilitary/collections.aspx?o_xid=30125&o_lid=30125&offerid=0%3a7935%3a0

The page above has an interesting set of links to other data repositories, including the 1901 census.

Site provides free facilities for building your family tree online, if you want to. There is a SEARCH button...

Okay, here we go ...

Gilbert John Cook, born 1893.

Gilbert John Cook, born 1893.

To look at records, you have to sign up. There's a free trial period if you want, but it's one of these things where you have to enter your credit card details ... so I decided to skip it.

This looks promising:

[Resources for study of the First World War: Tracing Service Personnel
Information regarding records for Service personnel who died in the First World War is available on ... The National Archives: World War One Medal Cards. ...
www.greatwar.co.uk/westfront/resources/trace.htm - 15k - Cached - Similar pages]

Goes to the National Archives, here:

http://www.greatwar.co.uk/westfront/resources/trace.htm

This site has books you can buy which will teach you how to search military records ... if you are seriously that interested.

With all respect to the honored ancestors, at this stage I think I'm going to head for bed.

Reply from my Uncle says, in part:

[There is a TV programme running on BBC at the moment where "celebreties" trace their ancestors and its amazing what archives are available if you only know where to look ... so I shall enquire and let you know.
Fond love Team Camelot
(Excalibur and Guineveve)

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