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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Researching my soldier ancestors


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As promised here is my account of researching my ancestors activities in the Great War. It may be of interest to novice researchers (like me) to see what and how I used several resources. You may want a comfortable chair and a cup of tea for this one though.

Please excuse any spelling mistakes as it was hastily typed at work due to being in the middle of an IT disaster at home.

Firstly, some background. This research concerned the family of my father's mother who at the age of 97 can still remember the Great War but being quite young at the time did not know much about what her family had got up to.

Her father ran away from home and had joined the county regiment, the Wiltshire Regiment He served from the mid 1890s and left in 1908 after returning from India. He saw no further service in the forces. His five younger brothers served in the Great War.

All I had to go was their names (coinicidently the family surname was Wiltshire) and the fact that one was killed. My first act was to get onto the CWGC website to attempt to find the brother who died. There were two Herbert Wiltshires listed and they both had been with the Wiltshire Regiment and were from villages two miles apart. With this information I looked on the 1901 census records online to find that both Herberts had brothers of practically the same names: Thomas, William and George! Fortunately my Grandmother was able to tell me the name of her grandparents so the correct Herbert

was identified. A bit more local research discovered that his name was on a local war


For the next stage I contacted the Regimental museum and luckily they have extensive records and sent me a list of all the Wiltshires that served with them during the Great War. I highlighted the ones with initials that fitted and delved deeper. There were two that fitted exactly but they were listed as being POWS for most of the war. Despite her young age at the time I was sure my Gran would have remembered that or even hearing about it as she grew older. Both of these soldiers were pre war regulars and before that were Territorials. The Regimental museum had copies of Territorial

attestation papers for the 1900s and sent me sets for the two. The addresses and parents names fitted so that was another two identified.

Up to this point I had assumed that all had served with the county regiment. About this time my Gran moved to a resdiential home and whilst clearing out the house my father discoverd a Victory Medal and a World War 2 Defence Medal to another of the brothers. The inscription showed he had been a Driver in the Royal Field Artillery. My father also found a set of embroidered postcards that had been sent home form the front. I was then able to send off for his medal index card. The final brother who was born in 1899 was the last to join and the family had always reckoned he never got overseas. Luckily his

name was unique and I was able to get hold of his medal index card which showed he had joined in 1917 firstly to a local Yeomanry unit and then to the regiment of a neighbouring county, this was confirmed in a newspaper article about his 60th Wedding anniversary that my father found during house clearing.

In summary I had the following. Thomas Wiltshire joined the Wiltshire Regiment in 1898 but did not go with his Battalion to the Boer War been shown to be in Devises in the 1901 census. He went to France with the BEF in August 1914 and was captured a month later spending the rest of the war a POW until he was returned home in 1919. Herbert joined the Territorials in 1904 but left a year later but signed on as a regular in 1907 until his death on The Somme on 8th July 1916, he is buried in Bernafay Wood Cemetary. William was another Territorial who signed on as a regular in 1907 and was also captured just a month into the war and spent the duration as POW returning in 1919. George who worked

with horses before the war joined the Artillery in 1915 and served until being gassed in 1917. His medal card shows the award of a wound badge. He was sent home and expected to die but went on to serve with the ARP in World War 2 before dying in 1958. Fred joined in 1917 and came through the war OK.

Between them there were 3 x 1914 Star (with clasp) trios one with a death medal. 1 x 1914/15 Star trio and wound badge (later a Defence medal with this group) and a War and Victory medal set. All that we have left is the Victory medal and Defence Medal from George. However on ebay I did manage to purchase a 1914 Star to No 7642 from the Wiltshire Regiment - William was No 7638.

The whole process took about 2 years and involved the CWGC, Regimental museum, public records office, online census and a big slice of luck.

I hope this gives any novice researchers (which I still am) some idea of where to look and ideas

to try. Feel free to leave comments or PM me with any questions.

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Well done with your work, and thanks for sharing your expereince and knowledge, it will help us all. I too have done similiar research, please see signature below, and it is extremely rewarding work.

Kind regards Aaron

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I received the war Diary of the 3rd Worcestershire today as I am doing some work on their papers. Noticed a special Divisional Order mentioning a Wiltshire of 1st Wiltshire as having his name put forward for an award following operations 5th-16th July 1916. I suppose this is the 'other' Wiltshire you mention.

10542 “ “ H.F. Wiltshire


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