Wednesday, August 08, 2007

WWI British Army Pension Records online at Ancestry

WWI British Army Pension Records online at Ancestry

Online launch coincides with 90th anniversary of Passchaendale

NOTE FROM DearMYRTLE: The following was just received from the Ancestry.co.uk Media Room. All inquiries should be addressed to: sziviani@ancestry.co.uk.

The pension records of almost one million soldiers who fought in World War One are now available online as Ancestry.co.uk completes its British Army World War One Pension Records collection to coincide with the 90th anniversary of the historic Passchaendale campaign.

The collection, which spans 1914 to 1920, lists the names of many soldiers discharged due to injuries or illness sustained during or following service in World War One. The originals are held by The National Archives.

Visitors to Ancestry.co.uk will now be able to search the collection to discover key information including physical description, regimental number, service history, locations served, date and place of birth, former occupation, next of kin, promotions, and also the medical information relating to the disability for which a pension was granted.

For each soldier listed there are on average 10 pages which comprise their unique set of records, making this an exceptionally ‘image rich’ historical collection.

The completion of this online collection coincides with the 90th anniversary of Passchaendale, one of the most violent battles of World War One. Beginning on 31 July 1917, the battle, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres, was fought for control of the village of Passchaendale (now called Passendale) in West Flanders, Belgium. The village was not captured until the following September, with more than 310,000 lives claimed.

Many of the the servicemen who were injured during the campaign and survived are listed in the collection. (further information and images are available on request).

Sergeant William Booth MM from Sussex joined the 11th Battalion Sussex Regiment aged just 19. Although he didn’t see active service overseas until 1916, he was wounded several times over the course of the war – the first just a month after arriving in France. William’s battalion took part in operations on the first day of Passchaendale, where he was one of the regiment’s 150 ranks casualties, sustaining multiple shrapnel wounds to the legs, arms and face. He was evacuated back to England never to return to France.

Corporal Alfred Lee MM from Kempsey in Worcestershire joined the army in April 1916 and went to France in September of that year as part of the Royal Tank Corps, then in its early stages of development. He was awarded the military medal for his service at Passchaendale, and later that year was wounded in the Battle of Cambrai. Despite recovering from these wounds he returned to his unit, only to be wounded again on 22 December 1917 and evacuated to England, where he saw out the remainder of the war.

Former fishmonger’s assistant Sergeant Thomas Berry DCM joined the Rifle’s Brigade aged 19, before the outbreak of war. He went to France in summer 1914 and stayed with the company for the duration of his service, including operations at Passchaendale. Here he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for taking charge of his platoon when his Sergeant was killed, engaging enemy snipers and driving off an attempted bombing attack. But nine months later, in May 1918, Berry was gassed and returned to England. He was declared medically unfit for further service in 1925.

Ancestry.co.uk Managing Director Simon Harper comments; “The completed British Army World War One Pension Records provide vital information on this brave group of men and are an important resource for anyone interested in researching virtually any soldier who sustained illness or injuries whilst serving in the First World War.

“The records paint a rich account of the more-often-than-not horrific experiences that many British soldiers suffered and are a stark reminder of how important it is for us not to forget those who fought for our country.”

The complete British Army World War One pension records can be viewed at www.ancestry.co.uk/military.

The National Archives’ head of business development, Dan Jones, said: “These First World War pension records are particularly popular but up to now you had to come to The National Archives to see them. It is great that this next stage of the digitisation – which will allow worldwide access to this important collection – has now been completed. The National Archives is committed to making more of the records it holds available to everyone, wherever they live, and working with commercial partners, such as Ancestry.co.uk, helps us to do this.”

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