If you’re researching your family’s history then you’ve probably uncovered at least one ancestor with military links — especially when you consider there were over 50 million military casualties from World War One and Two.
You might have also hit a few brick walls along your journey — but are you using all that’s available to you? Do you even know what’s available to you?
Military rolls of honour, dispatches, war diaries and classified reports can all help you find new routes into your past and published Rolls of Honour commemorate those who fought and died in conflict and could prove invaluable to your military genealogy searches. Forces War Records also have a lot of exclusive records including bank, school, college and university rolls — often overlooked by other genealogy companies and that you simply wouldn't find anywhere else.
Commemorating the brave
Even though rolls of honour existed long before 1914, the desire to record and commemorate the courageous men who selflessly fought for their country started to increase when the First World War began, bringing high casualties with it.
Publications like The Sphere, The Graphic and The Illustrated London News started carrying obituaries with photos to commemorate the war dead.
However, the people who bought these magazines were usually wealthy and the men featured in them were usually senior officers.
At first information on the fallen was divided between various publications until a former officer, Colonel LA Clutterbuck, began to work on ‘The Bond of Sacrifice’. This document aimed to list all the officers who died along with a short biography and photo.
However, this wasn’t an official publication and lack of funds along with an increasing casualty list caused the ambitious task to be abandoned in 1915.
A similar project called the 'Roll of Honour' was picked up, however, by Marquis de Ruvigny and you may have heard of 'De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour'?
You can find ordinary soldiers in this roll of honour but some entries are brief because the amount paid dictated the length of the entry. This was different in that it included everyone from Private to Field Marshall, but it too relied on payments and also became an impossible task to complete.
In its final form The Roll of Honour records the biographies of more than 25,000 men from the British army, navy and air force, with nearly 7000 of the entries being accompanied by a photograph.
This is only a tiny fraction of the soldiers who died in the Great War, but is still a tribute to those who compiled it, and those who feature in it. De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour is a unique First World War record — read some of the volumes we hold via the Forces War Records Library.
Also in our collection we have the IWGC/CWGC Registers Collection and Soldiers Who Died in the Great War 1914-1919, which includes two lists of those who died during the Great War. One volume, packed with minute typescript, gave the basic details of nearly 42,000 officer casualties. It required an additional eighty volumes to list all the 'other ranks' and each of the original volumes represented one or more regiments, corps or other units of the British Army.
Most were subdivided into battalions or similar groupings. There were often thirty or more of these per volume, each in alphabetical order.
These records were painstakingly transcribed from the original 80 volumes by Forces War Records who strive to make your searches both efficient and fruitful.
Get over the hurdles in your research, consider the unconsidered — have a look through our Collections List which includes exclusive records including the Cambridge University War List 1914 – 18 and List of Etonians who served in the World War 1914-1919 and 1939-1945.