Obtaining Relative’s Service Record via War Memorial

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by Psypher, Nov 14, 2006.

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  1. My grandfather’s two brothers were both killed in WWII and I very much want to obtain copies of their Service Records.

    Normally this wouldn’t be too much of a problem but the thing is I do not even know their first names, let alone what service they were in, regiment, service number or date of birth. Our family is now thin on the ground and none us know anything about the two brothers.

    What we do know is that they are both listed on our local War Memorial. Is there a way to trace them through the entry on the War Memorial?

    Thanks in advance for any advice.
  2. Sympathetic_Reaction

    Sympathetic_Reaction LE Book Reviewer

    The memorial may give you an indication of the regiment, as it maybe they were in a Pals Unit, where everyone local was in the same unit, or it may list thier regiment.

    Otherwise try google with thier names, amazing what you find. Also try the local paper, thier records may have some reference to them, or the records office, for death certificate (though not sure whether this would be local or national)

    Otherwise if they have a rare-ish surname you might get lucky with the war records on just a name search. CWGC may also have a record of them if they were buried overseas, they have a website which i think you can search for names. http://www.cwgc.org/

  3. Thanks S_R for the fast reply!

    The link to www.cwgc.org especially is useful. I've done a search despite a common-ish surname and it has come back with 12 possible results for one of the brothers. But looking at those many can probably be eliminated based on place of burial and nationality.

    In fact I think I can narrow it done to one possible who is buried in El Alamein, he's Royal Artillery and so was my grandfather which is another potential link. If I can find his date of birth then I will know for sure.

    For the other brother none of the results seem logical for him.
  4. CWGC V good, although if you have a common surname and no initials it could be like looking for a piece of hay in stack full of needles.

    You need to percivier.

    In my experiance the Army records office in Glasgow will need the surname and at least the first initial.

    Also, I think I'm correct in saying that death certs for troops KIA are local.

    You could try getting hold of "Tracing Your Second World War Ancestors" by Simon Fowler.
  5. If you think you have a link and also some other family info I could run it through Ancestry.co.uk for you and try and get some confirmation of a link that way.

    PM me if you are interested.
  6. Thanks mattmo for you help too.

    I've now discovered that they both died in WWI not WWII! This has complicated it a little more as there are many more hits from the CWGC website for their names. I'll see what I can find amongst those...
  7. If you've got a name you could try the National Archive Medal card index. They list all the awards to british troops in alphabetical order.

    WW1 record finding has its good and bad points. Good, in that all the surviving records are kept at kew. And bad that there are only a third of the records that do survive. (got bombed during the last lot).

    WW1 service record file refs at Kew;

    Series WO363 (Burnt Documents)

    Series WO364 (Unbrunt Documents)

    WW1 War Diaries (WO95 & WO154)

    If you need any help BMD or 1901 Census PM me. I've been tracing different relatives for a bit now.
  8. Perhaps try clarifying your grandfathers’ family first to get first names and age? If they served in WWI they are likely (at least one or more) to be in the 1901 Census which is now on line at National Archives 1901 Census.

    If someone was alive when the census was taken, including babies, they should be recorded by name, age at census, region, occupation. This much is free, thereafter they want to take a few quid off you. However, the free bit may be enough for you to find a likely household of forenames and ages? You don’t have to fill all the boxes to search, and be aware that recorded names can have been misspelt as most relied on interpreting handwriting, e.g. Weaver may be recorded Weover or Wearer.

    This could help narrow the CWGC search, and, as they were WWI, try the surviving Medal Record Cards at National Archives WWI Medals. Top left enter the surname and 1900-1949 date.

  9. The tip to try the local paper is one I second, certainly where you can't get anywhere with CWGC, etc.

    The local library should be able to offer advice where to find copies if they don't actually hold them - there will certainly be copies in the British Library if all else fails. Website here -


    It can be a bit daunting trying to read 4 years worth of papers but in many cases casulties appeared in the same place in each edition, so after a while you just read page 8 and move on. Many papers produced a roll of honour or similar in late 18 or early 19, so it may be worth starting at the end and working back.

    A point to bear in mind is that inclusion on a local war memorial doesn't mean they will commemorated by CWGC. CWGC have very strict criteria for who is included, war memorials have no standard criteria and often include men who fall outside the CWGC standards.

    And there's a PM on its way to you which may help.

  10. A BIG thank you to every one that has replied with some sterling suggestions and advice.

    Special credit to MfB who has managed to locate details of the two brothers for sure.

    Both boys were privates in the Royal Fusiliers and both fell within a couple weeks of each other on the Somme in 1916, aged 19 and 20 years old respectively.

    As you can imagine finding this information has brought a lump to my throat.

    Now I can further research their service records and piece details together in our family history.

    It looks like I may have found a third brother killed at El Alamein in WWII, this needs some further research to be 100% sure.

    Cheers everyone,

  11. Here's a picture of said War Memorial. It's inscribed "Their name liveth for evermore".

  12. you could try Veterans Agency Norcross Blackpool
    tel:0800 169 2277 link below
    they deal with war pensions so know how to get hold of service records
    medical records etc
  13. Thought I'd add an exciting update. Thanks to the great advice I received here, I have found out much about my two relatives killed in WWI. And now I have located and purchased the two brothers' death plaques.

    The next of kin of every soldier killed in World War One received a 5 inch diameter bronze plaque with the soldier's name embossed on it. In the case of my family these were lost, with their campaign medals, many moons ago perhaps when my great grandmother died in the 1950's.

    But through the power of the internet these have been traced and reunited with the family! Now if only I can track down their medals!!

    Here are the death plaques (aka death pennies);

    Frederick William Richards, killed 27 July 1916, aged 20, 22nd Bn, Royal Fusiliers, buried at Delville Wood Cemetery, Longueval.

    His younger brother Martin Henry Richards, killed 15 August 1916, aged 19, 12th Bn, Royal Fusiliers. No known grave but remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.

    These memorial plaques were recovered thanks to the http://www.members.aol.com/deathpenny1/ website.

  14. You might be interested to know that on the day that Frederisk died, 22 RF were part of a Brigade that attacked Delville Wood on 27th July 1916 from the South. It was a very hot day 81 deg F) 22 RF weren't in the leadinG waves of the attack, but would have been either following up or providing carrying parties for the leading battalions. The attack was launched at 07:10 hrs after a very effective British Barrage and captured an area 500yds wide x 200 yds deep into Delville Wood. Its the area centred on what is now the South African Museum. The Germans then counterattacked supported by their own very heavy barrage. This attack was beaten off - and Sgt Gill of the KRRC won a VC for his gallantry.

    This was a very heavy day of fighting in one of the worst places to be on the Western Front. Its a wood on a tactically important ridge line. One side would take the wood. Then the other would shell it heavily and mount an attack to recapture it. A pattern that was repeated over about a month from 14 July to the end of August 1916. On one occasion it was calculated that 7 shells a second were striking the wood. At the Time Frederick died the wood had been fought over for nearly two weeks.

    You might also be interested to know that the 22nd Service Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers "The Kensingtons" were quite a special unit. They were a Kitchener Battalion raised from a mixture of professional men and "colonials". Ex pat South Africans etc who volunteered to serve. There is a book about them £7.95) . http://www.directart.co.uk/mall/more.php?ProdID=7878 You might find a photo! A recent set of proceedings of the British Council for Military History included a paper about the command style in the unit. Its all very modern and minimum bull.

    Martin Richards died two days before his unit took part in its first major battle. 15th Aug seems to have been a lull in the fighting. The 14th and 15th were rainy days - not good for aircraft to spot artillery targets. His unit would have been preparing to attack Eastwards from a point roughly 1000 yards south of where Frederick's unit was on the day he died. Its the area between Waterlot Farm and Trones Wood. Even units out of contact were vulnerable to artillery fire.

    There are several reasons why Martin has no known grave. Its possible that they never found his body. Or that he was buried but his grave was destroyed in subsequent fighting.

    You can see the area where Martin's unit was forming up from near Delville wood cemetery.

    Martins Unit the 12th Service Battalion was formed by the Army rather than by a borough. It was billeted near Shoreham and sent to France in September 1915 and formed part of the 24th Division. Its first action was to take part in the battle of Loos - where it was launched with inadequate training after a long approach march into an over optimistic attempt to break the German lines. IF you check Martin's medal card you might find whether he was in France then and might have been a Loos survivor. The 12 RF weren't involved in the suicidal attack. Instead they helped to break up a counter attack at Fosse 8 (see story of Loos here: http://www.1914-1918.net/BATTLES/bat13_loos/bat.htm

    There are a couple of other things you might like to do.

    One is to check your parish records. Sometimes the parish wrote up more information about the people on the memorial.

    Secondly you might like to visit the battlefields./ The RBL runs battlefield Tours to the Somme for £114 for two days - from Remembrance Travel. We will also help if we can with research like this.
  15. Thanks very much Pteranadon that is superb information! I must admit my WWI knowledge is very lacking so the detail you have given me is wonderful. I hadn't realised the boys had died so close to one another in distance as well as time.

    According the medal rolls Martin was entitled to the Victory and British War medals only and under the heading "Theatres of war in which served" it gives the dates 23 March 1916 to 15 August 1916. So it appears he was in France for less than five months before being killed.

    Is there a record anywhere which would list how the brothers died? Or is "Killed in action" the most you can know? It seems probable Martin was killed by shell fire and Frederick perhaps in battle.

    As it happens I've already purchased a couple of Christopher Stone's books on the suggestion of Mussels_from_Brussels but made the mistake of having them shipped from the UK to the USA by media mail. Two months later and still don't have them. Hopefully any day now they will turn up.

    I can't wait for a visit back home to visit Kew and the IMW to try to find out more about them. I'm hoping their service records weren't destroyed in the Blitz.