First World War records go online

First World War records go online
February 23, 2007
Ben Camm-Jones

Documents detailing the experiences of millions of people who served in the First World War have been made available online., a website that contains personal and historical records including census results, has teamed up with the National Archives to make service and pension records from the British Army between 1914-1920 available for browsing.

The collections will be put online in phases, beginning with pension records, which have been made available from today. By the end of 2008, hopes to have records for 2.5 million former soldiers online.

Service records for the soldiers offer information including physical descriptions, regimental numbers and former occupations. Those who died have the date and manner of death recorded.

Pension records include medical reports and documents pertaining to discharges and pensions granted for disability.

Popular historian and television personality Tony Robinson has been involved in the project and spoke at the launch event, held in the Cabinet War Rooms in Westminster.

Robinson emphasised the aim of the project was not only to make historical facts available to people researching their family tress, but to help them understand the experiences of their forebears, many of whom returned from war too traumatised to speak about their experiences. This would allow people to "reclaim the history of the First World War," he said.

Robinson also praised the and the National Archive for working to make these records available to the public.

"We can't really guess what the online applications of this could be in 20 years time," said Robinson.

Putting the records online has taken teams of researchers five months, and work is expected to continue until the end of 2008, when the full records of 2.5 million soldiers will be available.

To search through the records, you can either subscribe to at a cost of £80 per year or £10 for just one month, or view records on a pay-per-view basis.

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