First World War records of service

This is portal page aims to bring together websites which provides information about people from Anglo-Caribbean countries who served in the First World War in the British army, navy, air forces and merchant navy.

There is a charge to access most of the original archival records which are available from The National Archives, Ancestry and Findmypast but other information should be free. Some databases will allow you to search by place of birth but note that this information is not always recorded and where it is sometimes the document does not record the country and instead you may need to search by village, town, parish or island and for Jamaicans county.

All services

  • Commonwealth War Grave Commission (free). Commemorates Commonwealth personnel who have died in wars during and since the First World War. Search by name, regiment, date of death, place commemorated and keyword for additional information such as place of birth and parents.
  • Lives of the First World War (free). A crowd-based site where you can add biographical information and photographs for people who served in the British forces. Search by name, unit, and service number. The current list of personnel is based on The National Archives War Office medal index cards (WO 372) but I assume that all services will be welcome.
  • Caribbean Roll of Honour (free). Database of Caribbean personnel who died in the First and Second World Wars compiled mostly from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database with additional information including some photographs especially for people from Trinidad and Tobago. Search or browse by name or regiment. Free text search.

Army

  • Soldiers’ service records – burnt records (The National Archives collection WO 363). Most service records were destroyed in the Second World War. No papers have been found for soldiers who served in the West India Regiment (some pre-war ones survive), British West Indies Regiment or the Bermuda contingents. Records for Caribbean personnel who served in other regiments can be found. Note that Available on Ancestry  and Findmypast. Search by name, regiment and keyword for place of birth or residence. Note that the Findmypast index includes BWIR personnel found on casualty lists and may just be a name, battalion, and date and nature of casualty rather than records of service.
  • Soldiers’ pension papers – unburnt records (The National Archives collection WO 364). Papers for people who applied for length of service pensions and medical pensions and does include people who served in the Caribbean regiments. Available on Ancestry and Findmypast. Search by name, regiment and place of birth/residence (incomplete)
  • Army Medal Office medal index cards (The National Archives collection WO 372). Index to men and women who served in the army and related services who received campaign medals, Military Medal, Territorial Efficiency Medal, Silver War Badge. Search by name, service number, and regiment. This is an index to the rolls in WO 329. The original medal index cards with backs to the campaign medals and Silver War Badge are on Ancestry.
  • Silver War Badge roll (The National Archives reference WO 329). Army personnel who were discharged due to wounds or unfit for further service. Includes men who served in Caribbean local defence forces. The SWB rolls for Colonial regiments are in WO 329/3255 – list Cr Col 46 for the Bermuda Contingent Royal Garrison Artillery is missing. On Ancestry search by name, regiment, service number and badge number.
  • Soldiers’ Died in the Great War. Most genealogical sites hold this database. It provides roughly the same information as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database but may include ages, and dates and places of enlistment. It only contains information for people who served in the Imperial units such as the Royal Garrison Artillery (which includes the Bermuda Militia Artillery) and Lincolnshire Regiment (which includes the Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps) but not any colonial regiments.
  • Officers’ registered files (The National Archives collections WO 339 and WO 374). Incomplete and weeded files but can contain useful information concerning officers’ careers. These are not online but you can search the catalogue by name and for WO 339 by regiment. Walter Tull’s record is WO 339/90293.

Navy

  • Ratings records of service (The National Archives collection ADM 188). Search by name, service number, date and place of birth.
  • Royal Navy medal rolls (The National Archives collection, ADM 171) for the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, and reserve, volunteer and auxiliary services, there is also a roll for ‘natives’ which seems to relate to non-European civilian personnel and includes the West Indians who died aboard HMS Good Hope in November 1914. On Ancestry search by name and service number or download from The National Archives (ADM 171).

Air Force

  • Royal Flying Corps – see Army
  • Royal Navy Air Service – see Navy
  • Royal Air Force other ranks record of service (The National Archives collection AIR 79). On Findmypast search by name and date and place of birth (note that place of birth is not always recorded).
  • Royal Air Force officers’ records of service (The National Archives collection AIR 76). Search by name and sometimes by date of birth.

Merchant Navy

  • Seamen registers of service (The National Archives collections BT 348-350). The later registers start in 1918 but many people will have served earlier. The records often contain a photograph of the seaman. On Findmypast search by name and by date and place of birth (note that the search includes earlier records 1835-1856).
  • Merchant Navy campaign medals (The National Archives collection BT 351). Search by name and by date and place of birth.

Caribbean contingents

Barbados

Belize (British Honduras)

Bermuda

Grenada

  • Raising Lazarus (blog commemorating Francois Lazarus, 842 British West Indies Regiment, with photographs and video)

Jamaica

  • Who’s Who Jamaica, 1916. List of officers serving in Local Defence Force, Jamaica Militia Artillery, Jamaica Reserve Regiment, Kingston Infantry Reserve, British West Indies Regiment, Jamaica Corps of Scouts, and Roll of Honour
  • Who’s Who Jamaica, 1919 (officers). Roll of honour of Jamaican officers who died
  • Who’s Who Jamaica, 1919 (other ranks). Roll of honour of Jamaican non-commissioned officers and men who died
  • War Memorials in Jamaica commemorating men from the Jamaican contingents in First and Second World Wars

Trinidad and Tobago

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3 responses to “First World War records of service

  1. The basic functions of Lives of the First World War are free, but to see records that attract a free elsewhere there is also a subscription option (this also allows users to create “communities” to group service personnel together). RND records are to be added imminently followed by other naval personnel and then RAF. CWGC info is also due to be added, and data derived from Operation War Diary. The site is run for IWM by DC Thompson Family History, so the availability of other sources (eg censuses) within the site generally follows FindMyPast

  2. This is a great resource! Thanks. I have shared it on our Forgotten Heroes Facebook page – do come and visit https://www.facebook.com/pages/World-War-I-Forgotten-Heroes/568211249990761

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