Medal Records at Ancestry.co.uk

An article in today’s Telegraph reveals that:

The records of 5.5 million troops awarded medals between 1914 and 1922 – the most comprehensive Great War collection in existence – are being released by the website, Ancestry.co.uk.

My wife is a member of Ancestry.co.uk (She has discovered a great deal about forbears eking out a grim existence  in rural Cornwall, and spreading the gospel of Temperance around Portsmouth Docks.)  so I must look up some novelists and poets to see what medals they earned.

The Telegraph gives details of the courage that won Harold Macmillan his M.C., and reveals the little-known fact that Noel Coward was awarded a medal for his war service:

The actor who played a stiff upper-lipped captain in the 1942 propaganda film In Which We Serve fought a rather less illustrious war in real life. Called up to the Artists’ Rifles in March 1918 at the age of 18, he lasted only 158 days.

Doctors described him as “suffering from headaches and general nervous disability” as a result of a childhood bicycle accident.

After his discharge he was awarded the Silver War Badge, despite getting no nearer the front line than a military hospital in Colchester.

The article’s comments on Anthony Eden are interesting, too:

After being rejected for Sandhurst on the grounds of poor eyesight, he subsequently bought a commission in the King’s Royal Rifles when the Army reduced its entry standards at the outbreak of war.

A while back I got a bit sniffy with a poet called Helen Dunmore, who was enormously preachy about Rudyard Kipling wangling his son a commission:

Don’t count John among your dreams.
Don’t wangle a commission for him,
don’t wangle a death for him.
He is barely eighteen.

Eden obviously did his own wangling, and came through the experience without being killed. Wilfrid Ewart was another soldier who managed well  despite being short-sighted. I’d be interested to hear of other examples.

 

 

One Comment

  1. Posted February 20, 2008 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    These are already available at the National Archives and have been for a long time. The index can be searched for free but it costs £3.50 a time to download a medal card, so an Ancestry subscription is better if you want to see a lot of originals. When the NA filmed the cards they did it in black and white (and not very high quality) and they only photographed the fronts of the cards, but around 5% are thought to have writing on the back as well. The NA was going to get rid of the originals, but they were rescued by the Western Front Association, who were committed to making full colour scans of both sides available. It seems the only way they could do that is by making a deal with Ancestry. The indexing at the NA has a lot of transcription errors, but on the strength of what Ancestry have done with service records their might have even more errors!

    Be aware that officers who survived the war had to apply for campaign medals and as not all of them did so some names will be missing from the index. But medals were automatically issued for dead officers and all Other Ranks. Strangely enough Sassoon does seem to have claimed his campaign medals.


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