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WW2 research

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WW2 research

Postby Ashbee » Sun Jun 04, 2017 7:14 pm

Discovering the 1939 registration docs has made me want to know about what my relatives did during the war. Just a few were in the forces but many more where at home in London and as I discovered this week, at least was involved in 'war work'. Is it possible to discover much information now or are the records (whatever they are) still locked away? I'm sorry to admit that I've always focused on my Victorian or earlier ancestors and have neglected my 20c relatives and of course most are now gone.
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Re: WW2 research

Postby AdrianB38 » Sun Jun 04, 2017 10:34 pm

The number of answers to that, is as many as the number of organisations involved. Please don't think that's a flippant reply to get out of replying... It's a hugely important task and sadly many of us have left it too late to ask those who were there. (Asking people who were there - or who talked to those who were - should always be the first step).

Military stuff, including the Home Guard (apart from the stuff for the Durham Home Guard that was done as a pilot for Kew) remains with the Ministry of Defence. Although even there, there are chinks in the armour of confidentiality. The Army had something variously called Enlistment / Attestation Registers / Books (officially Army Book 358). For some odd reason these were released by the MoD (possibly because the personal data in them is not huge), not wanted by Kew and so dispatched to regimental museums. The books for the Royal Artillery have been filmed by FindMyPast but I know of no others on-line. The important point is that these may be available there in the respective museums. TNA's on-line catalogue may show where the books are - if you know what regiment to look for.

If you get a basic set of military data, you may be able to link your relative to specific events in the War and then add background - or even foreground - stories from places like Wikipedia, etc.

Newspapers will also be a good source of general information.

I think that the TNA web-site mentions other auxiliary forces like ARP Wardens, Fire Service etc, though I think in most cases, the news about surviving records is not good.

Once you start wanting to look at specific companies, then it's pot luck whether anything useful survives in museums, record offices, or even company archives etc, about staff employed. But again, I think that the TNA Catalogue, as it holds details of some (not all) of the holdings in different archives round the country, has to be the place to start to look for stuff. Even if it won't be the full story. And then the relevant record offices have their own catalogues, of course.

Don't get your hopes up for detailed personnel records - gut feeling says that few survive - even the railways don't appear to have saved much from that era. But I think that reading up on general background info, and about what the companies themselves did, can help show the sort of thing that your relatives might have done.
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Re: WW2 research

Postby MayHam » Sun Jun 04, 2017 10:57 pm

If you are just looking for general information, your local university history professor should be able to provide a list of recommended reading.

You may also want to do a Google search for re-enacting companies that represent your ancestors' unit(s). Some of them also have distaff companies that portray civilian life before, during, and after the war. They often have records of those who they portray. The Legion and/or The Royal Chelsea Hospital may have some records, as well.
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Re: WW2 research

Postby Ashbee » Mon Jun 05, 2017 6:45 am

Thanks both. I am guilty of thinking that period in time wasn't interesting and hurrying down the years to earlier times. In my defence only my parents were alive during WW1 and they were both children so what they knew/know was vague and mostly second hand. I've got some background reading on order and will trawl the TNA catalogues etc.

Thank you again.
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Joined: Mon May 15, 2017 11:55 am

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