World War I was a bloody conflict taking over Europe from 1914 to 1919 that cost many lives. More than seven million British soldiers fought in the Great War so it’s very probable that your family history contains military links with this battle, which is approaching its 100 year anniversary...
The Great War resulted in an estimated 10 million military deaths and another 20 million wounded — so it's likely that your ancestor lost their life fighting for their country. Many Commonwealth nations also played a significant part in the conflict and Canada, Australia, India and New Zealand fought at many of the major battles of World War One.
In the news today is the story about one soldier called Gunner Robert Corfield, who has just been officially recognised by the army, nearly 100 years after his death, reported the BBC. The soldier died on a training exercise near Bedford while serving with the Royal Field Artillery in 1915.
There’s been an 18-month battle fought by the West Wales Memorial Project (WWWMP) campaign researchers to get Robert Corfield’s name on the ‘UK Book of Remembrance’. Corfield has also been included in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) database.
Before he joined the Cardiganshire Battery of the Royal Field Artillery in 1914, Robert Corfield, a self-employed hairdresser from Aberystwyth
His battery, as part of the 1/2nd Welsh Brigade, was posted to Bedford to undergo training before deployment to the Western Front.
It was while practising artillery drills in a field off Ampthill Road, Bedford on 26 August 1915, that Gunner Corfield fell from the firing battery wagon on which he was riding. As he fell from the wagon the wheel of the horse-drawn gun carriage ran over his head.
Gunner Corfield's skull had been crushed and he died shortly afterwards, despite Captain John Cook of the Royal Army Medical Corps efforts to save him.
Military historian and WWWMP leader Steve John told the BBC: "Robert's death certificate, inquest and service papers all show beyond doubt that he was crushed after falling from a gun carriage during a training exercise.
"Without the benefit of the computerised records we have these days I can appreciate how some casualties from the First World War were omitted from official records compiled after the Armistice."
Forces War Records hold over 2 million records on World War One alone. If a soldier died in battle his death and date of death would have been recorded along with his military unit and location of burial or commemoration — which could help you trace their footsteps to the very battlefields they were once in action.
Many people don’t realise though, that even with a small bit of information you can start researching your family’s military history. You can usually find out a general overview of a person's 1914-1918 military service relatively easily.
Sometimes a family story is passed down about an ancestor who may have fought in the First World War. It is only human nature to want to find out more about this personal link to bravery and more about your heritage.
And once you start your family tree can quite quickly blossom as you find unexpected information that leads you to other findings, including awards, declarations and also onto other family members.
Find out more about your ancestors...
As well as records concerning World War One, Forces War Records also hold databases on World War Two, The Crimean War, Boer War, African Wars, Indian Mutiny, and the Napoleonic Wars (including Waterloo and Trafalgar). You can also search medal rolls, individual battle data and Prisoner of War Records, Royal Marines Databases, Fighter & Bomber Command Losses, and Fleet Air Arm Data among lots more.
Forces War Records are always adding to their ‘historic documents’ library, which contains a wealth of original documents, periodicals, manuals and newspapers that could have been read by your ancestor — explore our website — what might you discover?