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Tracing your relatives World War 1 Records

Updated on December 23, 2011

A WW1 Gun Battery

Get started and researching now !

It is now 90 years since the end of world war one. During November 2008 are offering free access to the World War 1 records, so you can research your relatives history; War Records - Medals - Pensions.

Does it work ?

Well it does and it doesn't. I have been trying to find out about Grandfather Thomas Edwin Hill, but failed. The majority of First World War records of service will be found in, however, the Soldiers' Documents, First World War 'Burnt Documents' (catalogue reference WO 363). These are the 'burnt documents' that survived the bombing in 1940, and consist of about 20 to 25% of the original total. These are not yet available in their entirety online although have digitized and made available records for surnames between A-N.

Have update of his address
Have update of his address | Source
Now know where his was living
Now know where his was living | Source

What did I do Next....... John Bowers

I spent a couple of days looking through the records on, and found nothing. I knew there was history available, so I looked at another branch of my family tree and decided to look at all members who may have been eligible for was service. So who was 18 years of age between 1914 and 1918 ?

I found John Bowers, born 1896 and then the work began........

John Bowers Enlists 1915

John Bowers enlists 1915
John Bowers enlists 1915

John Bowers Casualty Record

Using the information in the record

In the United Kingdom, we have census records, but the last one published is for 1901, the next one wil be in 2011 for the year 1911. With the iformation on the service record it now tells me in 1915 he was living at 140 Brook Street, Brown Lees, with his parents, James and I know Emily. So this record relates to my relative............Going further in the record reveal some interesting information, especially when he was wounded !

Last entry on casualty record

Near to the botom of the page is the big one.........26.10.1917 Admitted to Hospital with 'GSW Scalp' - Gun shot wound. On 11.11.1917 he is transferred to a bigger hospital. He fully recovers and returns back to France 9.12.1917. On 21.12.1918 he finally goes back home to England aboard the SS Lydia.

In my opinion he was lucky to get injured and survive, as he was in the battle of Passendale, where there were over 300,000 deaths.....

Information from other person researching WW1

WAR DIARY EXTRACT that's mentions my granddad Gunner Hill

No. 21354

Gn. T. Hulme

1st Siege Battery


Daily Diary

War declared August 4th,

August 5th I left Sandbach station by the 12:30 p.m. train and arrived at Great Yarmouth at 1 a.m. August 6th, and at once went through the usual formalities of passing the doctor afterwards going to 2 M.S. store to get my kit, after fitting my clothes I was sent to a barrack room for my nights lodging, this was about 3 a.m. and I lay down for a sleep on the floor with one blanket, rather a change after a comfortable bed, but I could not expect any luxury at such a time as this, anyway I have a sleep, but at 5 a.m. the next morning I get a rude awakening from the orderly sergeant. I get up and look around myself and find plenty of men of all countries but all inclined to be chums, and all in the best of spirits although my head feels rather heavy, so breakfast is served to us this consists of one biscuit a piece of cheese and 1 pint of tea, 6 a.m. we all parade for C.G.s inspection and fitting clothes, afterwards we have an hour's instructions on rifle work, the rest of the day is spent looking around us and wondering what is going to become of all of us, during this time I meet many of my old chums of the days in the colours and many are the greetings that passed between us, 3 p.m. the barrack orderly comes round and warns 8 of us for duty with a hospital so we have to be ready to embark on the 6 p.m. train for Colchester, it is during this train ride that I began to find my pals. The first one I find out is a Gnr. Hill, he comes from the potteries, and the next one comes from Crewe, so I am landed now that I have some of my own countrymen for mates, we arrive at Colchester about midnight, and of course nobody will own us but eventually we get bundled into a room all in darkness and have to make the best of it, but we are glad to get inside for a rest as we are all tired out and we don't mind roughing it a bit although our thoughts are far away with the dear ones we have left behind. The next morning finds us in the same plight so we have to find out who we belong to, eventually we find ourselves at No. 9 Stationary Hospital and here we get a better reception and are given a good breakfast, afterwards we wander about barracks where we like, as the Hpl is awaiting orders. During all this time we are all confined to barracks which is rather disappointing.

August 11th we are told that we are under orders for active service in the field and all must be inoculated as a protection against fever, so we undergo this operation, which causes many of us much pain although I myself am not affected so much as some of the others.

Aug 13th about 6 p.m. we receive orders to be in readiness to move off at any minute although we are all told that this will be about 2 a.m., the rest of the night is spent in the canteen, making merry and singing all kinds of songs, when the canteen closed we went to our rooms and prepared for our move.

Aug 14th about 2 a.m. we are ordered to put our equipment on and fall in outside, the strictest silence being observed, so in silence we marched off to the railway station where a train is in readiness for us, no one knows where we are going so secretly is everything done. When everything is loaded up the train steams out and by daylight we find ourselves many miles away from Colchester wondering where we are bound for, but we have not long to wait for about 10 a.m. the train steams into Southampton docks, and first thing we saw was a big liner converted into a Government transport and on her bows were the words S. S. Caledonian so we knew this to be our boat, well we had to buckle in and get our hospital on board, this done and all the troops on board which numbered between 2000 and 3000 we sailed out of Southampton under sealed orders nobody knew our destination. About eight hours sailing brought us to Havre a port on the French coast and here we disembarked to await further orders, although I may mention we were fortunate in landing as we narrowly escaped disaster at the hands of a German mine which we missed by 100 yards, at any rate we shake hands with ourselves for landing safe and wonder what else is in store for us, anyway we sleep on the docks all night and the next morning Aug 16th we proceed to Montivilliers a distance of 10 miles out in the country, well we enjoy this journey very much as we glide through the country in tram cars and the French peasants cheer, and almost worship us for coming to their aid. On arriving at Montivilliers we find it a fine place, and we are quartered in a big college which we soon turn into a Hpl, afterwards we pitch another Hpl of marquees and have everything ready by Aug 27th when we have orders to be ready to receive 300 wounded but instead of the wounded, about 4 a.m. Aug 28th we received orders to pack up and clear out as soon as possible as the Germans had broken through our lines and were close behind us, this is what is known as the famous "Retreat of Mons", so we packed everything up and about 2 a.m. the next morning found us marching back to Havre which was not very nice after a hard day's work but we had to put up with it and arrived at Havre about 4.30 after many thrilling encounters from the French Sentries in which my mate Hill, narrowly escaped being bayoneted, Anyway we arrived at the Docks in safety where we stayed until September 2nd when we embarked on the S.S. Victorian for an unknown stn the first night on board we slept on top deck for it was a beautiful night and we enjoyed it, at 5 p.m. the next day we sailed out under sealed orders and three days later found ourselves at St.Nazaire in the south of France, after disembarking our hospital we proceeded to a rest camp to await further orders. The first night we slept in an open field. It was a splendid night and we all enjoyed it but the second night was just the reverse for after working all day and having nothing to eat for all rations had been left behind on the great Retreat we got down for a sleep and everyone was tired out, but alas our sleep was very short for about 11 p.m. a terrific thunderstorm broke over us and we were all soaked to the skin, and had to walk about the rest of the night to keep ourselves warm and praying for morning to come while our clothes dried on us, At length morning came and we looked a sorry lot, so we set to and pitched a Camp for ourselves. 8 a.m. the same morning two Highlanders were shot for committing a rape on a French woman.

Sept 9th a German Spy caught in Camp dressed in a British Officer's uniform, he is sent to England along with 185 German prisoners captured at the front.

Sept. 14th we pitch our hospital on a piece of waste ground which means working day and night until it is finished which lasted about two days and a night. Sept 16th we receive 300 wounded and I saw some awful sights, some had a leg off, some were arms short, and others were blind or shattered about the body, anyway they resembled a sorry picture, nevertheless they kept their spirits up. My duties with this Hpl were many for I had to go out with a native driver to fetch rations in and once or twice they took me to Nantes a distance of 50 miles up country, on these occasions I had a splendid trip up the river Loire. On September 28 and I got a clean change of washing the first time for seven weeks.

Sept 29th there was a small naval engagement outside the Harbour in which the Germans were defeated and driven off.

Oct 22nd we received orders to pack up and clear out, this was about 6:30 a.m. and we had to be on the train by 1.30 p.m. which meant there was some work to be done, however we managed it and at 1:30 p.m. we started on a journey of 800 miles through country and back again to Havre and here I stayed until Nov 5th when all men belonging to R.G.A. were recalled to join their own units. I joined my unit at a place called Lanvic, afterwards moving to Graville, where I enjoyed my greatest hardships for we were camped in small bell tents on a field that had grown mangolds, and with the continual rain and the troops walking about on it the mud it was up to our knees, but we got no sympathy for we were starving, practically getting nothing to eat and out working with the engineers in all kinds of weather when our clothes and were wet through we had to stick it and scarcely got a wash more than once a week for it was dark when we left camp and dark when we returned and the water tap was about 200 yds away so we were not in much of a mood for splashing through the mud after being among it all day, so we had to make the best of it and everyone was fed up anyway I stuck it until Jan 14th when I was ordered to hold myself in readiness for the front and I was not sorry to think that I was getting out of a living grave, so Jan 15th saw me on the train flying towards the firing line and on Jan 16th I joined the First Siege Battery and it was here that I first tasted a bit of real warfare as I and my comrades who had come with me were approaching the Battery we were greeted by a big German shell which burst close by us. However we had to get used to this sort of work so we didn't pay much heed to that one, the remainder of that day was a rest for me which I needed after travelling for the last 36 hours.


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    • Rufus rambles profile image

      Rufus rambles 

      7 years ago from Australia

      This is a great hub. I have recently discovered my great grandfather's war letters home and have transcribed them and scanned them as you have, onto my hub. I also searched the records here in Australia and found 42 pages of original scans of his war records, including medical information (I'm surprised they release that as I would have thought it to be confidential and personal!) as well as his marriage certificate and other details. It is fascinating to find out information from relatives that I have never met but fondly thought of and wished I knew. The internet is a great resource for making our relatives' contributions to our way of life immortalised. I hope my family enjoys learning about what our forebear did for all of us. Great hub and voting up!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      hi this will be very useful nut i dont know what my ancestors name was i only know his surname. is there anyway i can be surtain weather they are my family.

    • alphonsians93 profile image


      9 years ago from Cebu Philippines

      cool... well i think it is very difficult to find your relative now a days..

    • alphonsians93 profile image


      9 years ago from Cebu Philippines

      cool... well i think it is very difficult to find your relative now a days..

    • profile image

      gordon bertram jenkins 

      9 years ago


    • profile image


      9 years ago

      go on very easy to use to find realatives that died in ww1

    • profile image

      duncan reid 

      10 years ago

      Would like information lance corpral Duncan Reid died Nov 1918 from Logie coldstone Scotland

    • advancedbiker profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago

      Hello Ellie

      You have got all the information you need. Can I suggest you go onot to and look up the details on the Military Records page. You will find you will have to pay to get all the details but...........If you go to your local library in the UK the service is free.

      I can be contacted on my website at



    • profile image


      10 years ago

      this is really interesting, I'm trying to trace my great great great grandfather who died in the war as a personal project. I know where he is buried, his service number, regiment, rank and date of death but I don't know how old he was and i don't know how to go about my research, any tips?

    • profile image

      Nigel Bowers 

      10 years ago

      If I can help, let me know. I need full name and any date of birth.

    • AEvans profile image


      10 years ago from SomeWhere Out There

      Now this is neat as I am also trying to trace ancestors on my natural fathers side, as they were from Wales and the last name was Owen any additional suggestions ?


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