New First World War digital archive launches

The Ogilby Muster holds over two million documents from First World War regiments

Unidentified First World War soldiers with a dog, from the Black Watch Castle and Museum

Over two million historic documents from First World War regiments are free to search on a new website.

Advertisement

The Ogilby Muster was launched by the Army Museums Ogilby Trust, which represents the regimental and corps museums of the British Army, on 3 November.

It holds over two million records, photographs, letters, diaries and more from 75 participating collections, with more scheduled to join in 2022.

The Hon. Mrs Katherine Swinfen Eady, Trustee of the Army Museums Ogilby Trust, said: “With the opening of the TOM Platform, we are given a wonderful key to unlock history. As historians this is an invaluable gift, as family members researching their beloved lost relatives, it is equally as important. TOM allows us to piece together the truth left behind by the subjects, to build up that wonderful pattern of a jigsaw and find the missing fragments of information. It is especially important as it will help us all further our knowledge and understanding of not just the military side of the First World War, but the social aspect of an event in history that affected and shaped this country and the world.”

Lieutenant General Sir Philip Trousdell, former Chairman of the Army Museums Ogilby Trust, said: “In the Ogilby Muster, the Army Museum Ogilby Trust has created an enormously powerful research tool for students, family researchers, historians and those with even a casual interest in the First World War. This project honours the memories and experiences of those who served in the Army in ‘The War to End all Wars’, their families and their communities.”

The Ogilby Muster allows researchers to search the website’s collections for free. Images of each document are available to purchase, with a typical fee of £4 for non-commercial use.

Documents on the website date from 1900 to 1929, but primarily focus on the ordinary men and women who served in the British Army during the First World War.

The website’s creation was a four-year process funded by a £5 million LIBOR grant from the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

In an article on the Trust’s website, Dot Boughton, the Documents, Records and Metadata Officer for the Fusilier Museum, Bury, describes one collection of documents now available – a series of letters written by Captain Thomas Gordon Gribble of the Lancashire Fusiliers to his wife Madeline.

A poignant letter written four days after the start of the Battle of the Somme in July 1916 gives a sense of the scale of the conflict, as Captain Gribble writes: “Things have been busy here of late and of course the papers are full. I am the only officer left in my company now and I have lost all of my chums in the recent fighting.”

Advertisement

Rosemary Collins is the staff writer of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine