We will remember them… (part two)

Talk 5 We will remember them...


In last weeks blog I started my search for Alfred my Grand Uncle who lost his life in World War One. I identified the official record of his death and the handwritten will he left his family. My search continues this week with a search for his service records.

World War One Service and operational records

Searching for Alfred’s service and operational records next, I had all the information I required to conduct an accurate search:


  • Full name
  • The regiment or unit served with
  • The service number


Medal cards are the starting point and can be searched on ancestry.co.uk or nationalarchives.gov.uk. Using ancestry I downloaded a copy of the medal index card for Alfred which revealed he had been awarded the 1914 Star, plus the Victory and British War medal. The card also recorded his rank, regimental number, the date he went overseas (qualifying date: 23.8.14; the fifth fact that contradicts the letter) and the theatre of war served in. The card also confirmed when he was killed in action. Interestingly the back of the card (only scanned by ancestry) indicated the claiming of his medals by his family:

Bit Legion makes applic re medals on behalf of late soldiers brother at 5.10.22


Why were the medals claimed in 1922? Perhaps the fact that he was recorded ‘missing, presumed dead’ on his death certificate was a clue. I’ll return to this point later.

My next step was to research his service record. This is a lottery as the survival rate for the ‘burnt record set’ is less than two in five. There is an ‘un-burnt record set’ made up of pension records. However I was out of luck here, with no records surviving for Alfred.


Casualty records

As Alfred was a casualty I felt I should locate his grave, lost to the family for many years. Every British and Commonwealth service man or woman who died during WWI will be marked in some way by Commonwealth Ware Graves Commission1. I hoped Alfred’s body had been found, and was pleased to locate a grave2. I had also logged another two websites in my list of favourites in case they would be of use one day; that day had now arrived. I searched ww1cemeteries.com and inmemories.com/Cemeteries/bevillers.htm and found some further evidence of Alfred and his family:

His portrait, mounted with his uniform badges.

The text of the tribute is:

In ever loving memory of my dearest brother,

Bandsman Alfred Hatton, 2nd Battn. Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers,

killed in action, Aug. 26, 1914 at Solesmes, Cambrai, France,

Aged 23 Years.

Dearest brother, how I miss you.

Could you speak, what would you say

To your sad but loving sister,

Left to mourn you day by day ?


Rolls of Honour

In 1921 the War Office published 81 volumes ‘Soldiers Died in the Great War’. I searched for Alfred Hatton3 and found a listing detailing:

  • name, rank, number
  • Birthplace
  • Where enlisted
  • Home town
  • Regiment and Battalion
  • Type of casualty
  • Date of death
  • Theatre of war

Noting that Alfred had joined an Irish Regiment I searched Ireland’s Memorial Records of the Great War (listed on ancestry.co.uk and Findmypast.co.uk). This confirmed the details I had noted to date.


Next week:

War diaries, why Alfred’s medals weren’t claimed until 1922.

Robert Parker is a Genealogist and Trainer, based in Cambridgeshire. He delivers courses, coaching, talks, and research services for those interested in tracing their ancestors. See www.myfamilygenealogy.co.uk for further details. Contact Robert to discuss your requirements without obligation. What stories could your ancestors tell?

1Source: cwgc.org

2Source: http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/324236/HATTON,%20A

3Source: findmypast.co.uk; accessed July 2013