Military Cemeteries - Finding out cause of death

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by Suddick, Jun 26, 2009.

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  1. I was looking at the military plot in my local cemetery this morning and given I am in the UK and away from the southeast (and apart from aircrew and RN I would not expect to see battle casualties) I was wondering if there was any way of finding out cause of death for those interred there.

    The CWGC gives some good info about the individual and their NOK etc but doesn't mention much more.

    Short of looking in the archives of the local newspaper I haven't got a clue where I would start looking.

    Any ideas?
     
  2. Try your local historical Society for clues. For instance, in Durrington, Wiltshire, there is a Plot of Australian WW1 dead, the reason being that there was an Australian Military Hospital there.
     
  3. The information is, for the most part, out there - but can require some digging, depending on your level of interest. For Army casualties of the First World War there were a series of volumes produced in the 1920's entitled "Soldiers Died in the Great War". There are in the region of 80 volumes, listing men by Regiment (sometimes by battalion) or Corps. This has been digitized on CD-Rom but it's very expensive (£285). However, your library or local family history centre may carry them. It has more detail than the CWGC website and while it doesn't give exact cause of death, it usually tells you if the man was KIA, DOW, DOD, or simply "Died" (important distinction between "died" and "killed" - if he's buried in the UK then you can guess that it was either a training accident or disease). There is also "DeRuvigny's Roll of Honour", which also only covers the First World War. It has fairly detailed biographies of 25 000 casualties, 7000 of them with photos. Once again, many libraries and family/county history centres will have a copy.

    For WW2 there is the "Army Roll of Honour 1939-45", which should have more detail than the CWGC - I believe there are similar books for the RN and RAF.

    Finally, if you really need to know - you can order a copy of the death certificate from the Home Office, but that will cost you either £7 or £10 (depending if you provide the GRO index reference or not).

    Best bet to start would be, as western suggests, the local history centre, the library, and Google (sometimes entering a man's name comes up with a local online memorial and more details, you'd be surprised).
     
  4. Good post Gheluvelt and I would add that Battle Casualties casevaced to UK could have died of wounds after lengthy medical treatment.
     
  5. Don't forget the influenza epidemic of 1939/40. There's a CWGC headstone in our local churchyard for a lad who never made it to Dover.
     
  6. Very good point - this happened more often than people might think. Also, if you find grave markers with a date of death in late 1918 or 1919, there is a good chance they died of disease: Spanish flu tore through many military camps as soldiers came back and were waiting to be demobbed.
     
  7. seaweed

    seaweed LE Book Reviewer

    If you are the NoK you can send for copies of the person's medical papers (however for WW1 they may no longer exist because of the fire damage). See Vets' website for details.