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Forces War Records Blog



WW1 Troop Movements - using Order of Battle of Divisions (ORBATS); a new interactive feature on the Forces War Records website. 

So, you have scoured various records and documents for details of your army ancestor who served in the Great War of 1914-18, and hopefully you have found out his name, regiment, battalion, theatre of war and details of the medals he was awarded, or even wounds received due to enemy action. Next you’re probably keen to find out more about the movements of his battalion, where he embarked, which battles he would have fought in, and in which locations and on what battlefronts he may have served. Well, Forces War Records has been working on a project for the past two years that can map the movements of a unit or individual for you.

If you know the ‘battalion’ your ancestor served in, you can now use our new feature that has utilised original wartime ORBATS to map troop movements. The ORBATS data, transcribed by Forces War Records, has allowed us to produce our own ‘moving’ audio-visual interactive map, with which you can track the progress of units throughout the course of the war, from the opening battle at Mons to the closing stages of the Spring Offensive and the Armistice. Adding these locations, movements and happenings to the mix should allow you to weave together a compelling account of your ancestor’s war.

Our specialist data team has been working for some time to transcribe the official ORBATS, published by His Majesty’s Stationery Office, as well as numerous official histories of the Great War, to help create this in-depth record of military operations and engagements by the British Army. All of this information is now available to Forces War Records members in the form of this new interactive map, and we hope that it will provide an insight into the movements and actions of your
WW1 ancestor.

What are ORBATS?

These are documents produced by the military that outline the hierarchical structure, command organisation and disposition of units for particular engagements undertaken by the Commonwealth and British Armed Forces. At the highest level they present a breakdown of the units involved in wider conflicts, the First World War in this case, including the names of divisional and brigade commanding officers and details of the organisation of the divisions, right down to battalion level, along with their attached units, for example from the Royal Artillery. 

With the help of our interactive map you can pinpoint exactly where a unit was on a given date and trace the battles, actions and events it took part in.

Get started here




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