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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Clutching At Straws


johnharper

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I think I know the answer to this, but I've got to ask anyway.

We've been to Kew and as we suspected, my Grandfathers service records were destroyed in 1940. I've found his MIC so I'll be going back to look up the medal rolls, especially the SWB one.

However, he was a pre-war regular. Does that mean that there will be a record of his pre-war service somewhere, or were these lost at the same time.

Any advice appreciated.

John

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Hi John

The most important thing is whether there was a break in service. If he completed 12 years, or 7 years plus 5 years in the reserve, before enlisting for WW1 there is a good chance that his papers will be in WO97, covering in this case men discharged between 1900 and 1913. These were stored separately to those lost in WW2. Note that if he was discharged in 1914, but before WW1, his papers if they exist will be in WO363/364, ie the 'burnt' records and the pension files.

WO97 records are loose in boxes, in alphabetical order, and they take about 30 minutes to arrive after ordering on a terminal. So you can juggle your time in the reading room, with time on a microfilm reader.

At the same time that you order your first boxes, you have to reserve a seat in the reading room. You should take along a digital camera, if you have one, so you can take you own photographs of the files.

You must first look in the blue indexes in the microfilm room, to get the number of the box you need. You should also order the box of miss-sorts covering your man’s surname. The boxes are left in a glass-fronted locker that corresponds to your seat number. You can take only one box at a time back to your seat. This is to reduce the chance of papers being returned to the wrong box.

You should go through the whole box, in case it has become mixed up. Finally if you use either the self-service photocopying service or the paid one, you should mark the record you want to copy with one of the slips of paper that are by each seat, and take the whole box with you. You will not be allowed to walk around when loose records under your arm. It only takes about 20 minutes to go through a box, so you should look in WO97 even if there is only a small chance of success.

The papers are getting a bit frayed so you need to be careful how you turn the pages. Finally if you do not know your man’s regiment and number, you should go armed with the approximate year of his birth, his place of birth and any next of kin or wife, so you can confirm you have the right man.

Best of luck. If you do find his records you should get a wealth of information.

Pete

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Thanks Pete,

I hadn't realised just how complex this business can be. As it is, he enlisted in 1910 and was still serving at the outbreak of war.

But thanks anyway for your help.

John

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.... papers will be in WO97, covering in this case men discharged between 1900 and 1913.

Ooh, didn't know that - ta muchly. I'll try again for one of my men.

:)

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The important thing is that there has to be a break in service. A pre-war regular who went into WW1 without a break will be in WO 363 /364 if they haven't been destroyed.

Pete

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Hi i don't know if my Great Granddad had a break in service. I know he served in the Boer War and died in 1914 because of heart disease. Would there be any record or would I have to try my luck?

Cheers,

Dave.

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Hi Dave

The split in service records is by date of discharge. In WO97 the last series is 1900 to 1913. These are loose on paper, though they will be microfilmed some time in the future. So if he left the army before the end of 1913 his papers, if they survive, will be here.

Then we have the burnt/unburnt - WO 363 and 364 on microfilm - covering 1914 to 1920. If he died while still in the army in 1914, any papers will be here. Ancestry are scanning WO364 - usually called the 'Pensions' or 'Unburnt' series. They have just released surnames beginning with A or B.

Do you have his death certificate? If you cannot get to Kew, post his name here, and a Pal will not doubt look for you. Searching in WO97 only takes 15-20 minutes. The microfilm rolls slightly longer.

If he has a common name, any other information - regiment, number, place of birth, year of birth, next of kin etc will help to narrow down the candidates.

Pete

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