Posted by Ancestry Australia and New Zealand on November 11, 2010 in Content, Famous Faces

On Remembrance Day, we commemorate the signing of the armistice between the Allies and Germany and the end of the First World War.  As we pay our respects to those who sacrificed for their country, we are reminded of the importance of not forgetting those who gave so much and preserving their stories for future generations. has a significant collection of UK records pertaining to those who fought and died in World War One. These records are a valuable tool for anyone researching their military ancestors, and can provide rich details about those who served their countries.

The British Army World War One Service Records 1914-1920 detail the full military careers of more than two million soldiers who served during World War One.

Service records contain a variety of information concerning all aspects of the army careers of those who completed their duty or were either killed in action or executed, including the soldier’s name, date and place of birth, address, next-of-kin, former occupation, marital status, medical records, service history, regiment number, locations of service and discharge papers.

Each service record contains an average of 16 pages of personal information; however they can contain as many as 60 pages.

The British Army World War One Service Records 1914-1920 complement the British Army World War One Pension Records 1914-1920 which contain 9.7 million pages of personal information relating to almost one million discharged soldiers who, having sacrificed their own wellbeing for the war effort, suffered disabling sickness or injuries for which a pension was subsequently granted.

Together, the service and pension records form the definitive source of information in existence on more than three million ordinary soldiers who fought in the British Army during World War One.

Among the surviving service records are those of a number of both famous and ordinary, brave soldiers, including:

* Basil Rathbone – the British actor best known for his portrayal of Sherlock Homes in 14 movies between 1939 and 1946 enlisted in the London Scottish Regiment in 1916. The discharge papers within his service record describe his eyes and hair as ‘dark’ and his complexion as ‘fresh’

* Noel Pierce Coward – the flamboyant English playwright, director and actor was drafted for military duty in 1918. His service record details a head injury that saw him obtain an honourable discharge with a ‘30 per cent degree of disablement’ – enough to receive a pension

* George Peachment – George’s service record reveals he was awarded the Victoria Cross – an accolade he received for his bravery in saving the life of an officer near Hulluch, France, where he was later killed in action. His record also features a letter from his mother requesting his personal effects after his death and a journalist requesting a photograph of him

* Henry Mays – Henry’s service record contains a letter from his sister revealing that he enrolled under a false name to avoid being traced by his mother. This solved a family mystery that had spanned 90 years (further details and interview available)

The service records are in addition to our extensive British military collection, which includes the World War One Medal Rolls Index Cards 1914-1922, detailing medal entitlements for more than 5.5 million soldiers, and the British Army Prisoners of War, 1939-1945, detailing more than 100,000 World War Two British POWs.

Lest we forget.

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