A landmark project to digitise all UK First World War pension records has been completed.
The records are particularly precious because most First World War service records were destroyed during the Blitz.
They include records of all servicemen who were injured in the war and subsequently received a pension, as well as pensions paid to the wives and children of those who were killed.
They were originally scheduled to be destroyed by the Ministry of Defence in November 2012, but were saved by the Western Front Association (WFA). In November 2017, the WFA announced a deal with Ancestry to digitise the records on Ancestry’s military-focused website Fold3.
The records collection has now been completed with the release of 2,917,148 records of pension cards for ordinary soldiers who were injured.
David Tattersfield, vice-chair and development officer at the WFA, said: “It now makes these records available for generations to come, and it’s something that we as an organisation are very proud to have undertaken.”
In total, there are 7,522,448 records in the collection. They consist of pension cards and pension ledgers, which were used to record the movements of the original files. They include records of the Army, Royal Navy, Merchant Navy and Royal Flying Corps.
They include details such as the nature of the serviceman’s injury and the percentage of disablement he was deemed to have, as well as the names and addresses of his next of kin.
David Tattersfield said: “This most recent set is extremely valuable because it in many cases enables you to work out who your relative is in the Army, if you don’t know who he was. For instance, if your great great uncle was John Smith and you know he was in the artillery, you’re really not going to be able to find a lot more about him because it’s such a common name, but these cards enable you to hunt around with the John Smiths and actually find the John Smith you’re looking for.”
Indexes of the pension records are available for subscribers to Ancestry, while the records are free to view for members of the WFA.
Rosemary Collins is the staff writer of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine