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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Red Cross Archive - report by Peter Barton


AlanCurragh

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This has already been mentioned on the Fromelles thread by "Fedelmar", but I thought it was interesting enough to be given its own thread -

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7940540.stm

Alan

==

Apologies - just noticed two other threads on this topic

Edited by MagicRat
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You beat me too it Magicrat :rolleyes: !- definitely deserves wider attention; It will be interesting to discover the full extent of these records

NigelS

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Yes, but let's not lose sight of the long term plan to conserve before digitisation. This is going to take a few years before we see any results.

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Guest KevinEndon

I wonder if there is enough info held within the paperwork to start placing names to unknown graves. Exciting times ahead, now where do I apply for a job.

Kevin

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Possibly one of the most important discoveries ever, but I'm still amazed as to why it hadn't been found earlier. It's always been known that the Red Cross Archive was there, but unless you were a blood relative who could prove your relationship to someone captured they wouldn't entertain you. I sent letters to them asking about such things twenty years ago with no joy and thats after discovering the existence of the 'Enquiry Lists' in our own RC Archive here in the UK. Fortunately for me I copied all of the Northumberland Fusilier sections they here had at the time. It's also still unknown as to what still exists in the Canadian, Australian, American and New Zealand RC Archives as again access is limited.

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Yet when several requests for just such materials were sent by this writer years back the answer was always the same: 'These records do not exist, we cannot assist you'. Seems they were mistaken or had no idea or interest in these records.

I am glad these have come to light, I just wish someone would have mentioned them before as most of us cannot travel to their location easily.

Ralph

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It's always been known that the Red Cross Archive was there, but unless you were a blood relative who could prove your relationship to someone captured they wouldn't entertain you. I sent letters to them asking about such things twenty years ago with no joy....

Yes, that what I was thinking as I read the quote in the article, "I still can't understand why no-one has ever realised the significance of this archive - but the Red Cross tell me I'm the first researcher who has asked to see it."

Stuart

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post-7376-1236939850.jpg

This is the reply I received in 1989.

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Graham - your letter implies that you enquired about lists and information on POWs. That's not what these records relate to; they relate to men killed in action on the battlefield, and buried on the battlefield by the Germans. It appears the Germans took some trouble to record the detail for each and every man they could identify, right down to the precise location where they buried men. While the existence of POW records, and records of men who died as POWs was as you state well known, the existence of records of men who were killed in action/missing were not well known. The surviving IRC records made available on the AWM website hinted at what might have once existed in British archives, but it was belioeved that they had not survived anywhere. Thankfully we now know that they do!

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I thought I heard on the radio this morning that we could expect to see the records online by about 2014. Did anyone else hear/read that? Fantastic development anyway for research in general and for those of us with missing relatives.

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Paul,

Those records do not just inlcude KIA/MIA's they include all POW's too. In the past I've directed relatives of men who were known POW's and on those Index Cards are the names of the individuals and the Camps they were in and all have been successful. The BRC during WWI was supplied with lists of men who were MIA from individual units for them to follow up with the IRC, and it was for them to declare whether or not they were MIA/POW as only they had access to enemy camps and hospitals.

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This is taken from the BBC blog;-

He was given access to the basement of the Red Cross headquarters in Geneva.

There, he was allowed to examine records that have lain virtually untouched since 1918.

He estimates that there could be 20 million sets of details, carefully entered on card indexes, or written into ledgers.

'Tutankhamen's tomb'

They deal with the capture, death, or burial of servicemen from over 30 nations drawn into the conflict; personal effects, home addresses and grave sites cover page after page.

All were passed to the Red Cross by the combatants; volunteers logging the information by hand before sending it on to the soldiers' home countries.

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I thought I heard on the radio this morning that we could expect to see the records online by about 2014. Did anyone else hear/read that? Fantastic development anyway for research in general and for those of us with missing relatives.

That is the date the BBC website is quoting but suspect it's a bit of a guesstimate at the moment.

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That's correct Stewart, the files deal with dead, wounded and captured. In fact in the short video on the BBC site, Peter gives a specific example of the detail in the German records regarding a POW.

As I said in the other thread, the potential implications of this find are staggering.

And yes Kevin, I had the same thought - where does one apply for a job?

Cheers,

Tim L.

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I also received the email from N&MP, and it states

"The news is full of the fabulous archive that has been "discovered" in Geneva. Of course many of us have known about its existence, but it was not available for researchers to examine. "

Whatever the past, let's hope it can now be conserved, researched, documented and made available to the public in the shortest possible time, even if that is a few years.

Kevin - here's a link to the jobs :D

Jobs

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Exciting times! Lateral thinking folks. Who else; and where else; might there be another repository of 'untouched' documents? Other material may well be gathering dust in some vault as well.

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Things are indeed found in odd places!

A plaque on the side of Barclays bank remembering David Ap Gruffudd last welsh prince murderd in Shrewsbury 1283. it's right next to a monument remembering the battle of Shrewsbury in 1403. Yet when it came to WW1 Shrewsbury did very little!

Neil

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Now if rumours are true of the backup of 100,000 DVDs the British made of the Service Records in 1919 are true.... :o

Oh, well. We can but dream.

Steve.

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Yes, but let's not lose sight of the long term plan to conserve before digitisation. This is going to take a few years before we see any results.

And it is unrealistic to expect anything else. If there are around 20 million records to be processed, thats four times the number of MICs, which had less information in only one language. Have scanner, will travel!

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I am happy that this information will be released but I'm not sure where,in the case of death,it will assist.

For example.

I have a Relative who was killed on 22 March 1918,and assuming he was buried, it was through German clemency.

Having visited the CWGC Cemeteries, in the vicinity of my Relative's death,the best I can hope for, is that he lies in a mass grave within a CWGC Cemetery.

But, assuming the position of his burial,accepting it is recorded,by the Germans,and passed to the Red Cross,is not within a CWGC Cemetery what should I do?

Demand that the CWGC,(for the sake of discussion ignore the Charter rules) open the original burial site and move any human remains to a CWGC Cemetery?

If,however,the original burial site is devoid of human remains,demand that the CWGC,tell me, to which Cemetery the remains were moved ,post-War?

George

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George, I doubt that you will be alone in your quandry. If that is the case I expect that it will cause a major rethink of CWGC policy.

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It seems to me that while wonderful news, this is potentially a far, far more complex situation than the reportage suggests. To be meaningful this is going to take a lot of cross-referencing with CWGC records, including post-War reburial details, in order to work out if an ID in the Red Cross records can be tied to an individual unknown CWGC burial. If the Germans say, "We buried Brown, Jones and Smith at Position X," and the CWGC has, "three sets of remains were found at Position X, one of which was Brown, and another Smith, but the other one can't be identified," then all well and good, but what if there is no record of Position X at all, let alone whether anything was found there? Logic says that some robust enough identifications almost certainly will be made as a result of this, but it's not going to be easy.

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