Tag Archives: Army

First World War Soldiers’ Documents

Findmypast has recently launched indexed images for people who served in the British army during the First World War. Read their blog for more information.

These service and pension records are held by The National Archives (UK) in two collections:

  1. Soldiers’ Documents, First World War ‘Burnt Documents’ (reference: WO 363). This collection comprises the main set of service papers for soldiers who served in the British army and were discharged between 1914 and 1921; there are some earlier papers. Unfortunately, 60% of these records were destroyed in the Second World War and the surving records are known as the ‘burnt documents’. There are papers for about 300 soldiers of the West India Regiment (most relate to discharges before 1914) but it seems that the rest of the records for soldiers of the West India Regiment and for the British West Indies Regiment were destroyed.
  2. Soldiers’ Documents from Pension Claims, First World War (reference: WO 364). This collection is commonly known as the ‘unburnt documents’ and comprises service papers and other records for soldiers who discharged mostly between 1913 and 1921 through length of service or because of medical discharges. These include details for soldiers discharged from the West India Regiment, the British West Indies Regiment and of West Indians who served in the more familiar British regiments. You will find papers for many Jamaicans in the British West Indies Regiment who were discharged in 1916 suffering the effects of the cold (frostbite). They were travelling to Alexandria, Egypt aboard the SS Verdala and were equipped with tropical clothing. However, they needed to travel in convoy and were diverted to Halifax, Nova Scotia during the winter!

The two collections have been available online on Ancestry in partnership with The National Archives for a few years but I did find some new information and records. Continue reading

Caribbean contribution in the First World War

This is an introduction to a number of short blogs on sources for researching Caribbean service personnel in the First World War.Bahamas enlistment poster from wikicommons

At the outbreak of the First World War there were Caribbean and people of Caribbean descent already serving in the British army in British regiments and the West India Regiment, the Royal Navy and the merchant navy.

In the Caribbean the war was seen by many as a ‘white-man’s war’ or a European war and not their problem. But many wanted to serve to protect the Motherland and to fight as equals. Caribbeans living in Britain enlisted locally; people living in the Caribbean at first needed to travel to Britain to enlist. In Barbados and Trinidad the public arranged for citizens’ contingents to travel to the UK – these were ‘white’ middle-class men – planters, merchants, public servants and clerks, though correspondence with the Colonial Office suggests many were not pure-European. Many black men also made their way to Britain but the War Office resisted recruiting black Caribbeans and even suggesting repatriating some back to the Caribbean. Continue reading