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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Notification of Death


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I've been told that the next of kin of other ranks killed would usually receive a personal letter from the soldier's commanding officer (I've read several examples of these, all well written and detailed, moving in some cases). What I'd like to know is, would the official (rather cold and laconic) notification be a letter or a telegram from the government? I've read the wording of such notification, but couldn't tell which it was. I've read that officers' next of kin definitely received telegrams, but is this the case?

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Officer's families received telegrams, examples are often among their service files, such as this file for the composer George Butterworth which I photographed a while ago http://www.flickr.com/photos/11226331@N05/sets/72157626145614787/

I believe it was a letter for Other Ranks, I think there are examples elsewhere on the forum. They could take quite a while to arrive.

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David is quite right, but in addition the War Office could inform a hospitalised & badly wounded/ill ordinary soldier's family by telegram that he was in a critical (usually phrased "dangerous") condition. In the cases I've seen in a number of service record files, it's usually accompanied by a subsequent telegram regretting his death.


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Wow. The NOK of my (German) great-grandfather (a humble gefreiter, = private first class) received (and still have) a handwritten letter of his CO.


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The worst thing I have ever come across was a communication received by the family of a German soldier on the Russian Front in WW2.

It was a simple piece of paper torn from a notebook, and says, "Soldier........ went on patrol last night and failed to return. (signed) Lieutenant...............

They never received any other form of notification.

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I have in my collection 4 official letters from the War Office, All 4 letters to one soldiers wife all dated from early Nov 1917 till Dec 27th 1917 as follows;

1st letter reporting the soldier as wounded - 12/11/17

2nd letter reporting him missing - 7/12/17

3rd letter saying he was wounded and missing - 18/12/17

and finally on the 27/12/17, the 4th letter reporting him killed in action on the 12/10/17 :poppy:

The Fog of war, what his wife went through must have been horrific


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