- Soldiers’ Effects Registers show the money paid by the British Government to the next of kin of men killed in action in WWI and the Boer War
- Mothers were the most commonly listed next of kin
- Records feature military men including Military Cross recipient Second Lieutenant Walter Tull and Prime Minister’s son Lieutenant Raymond Asquith
Newly digitised historic military records launched online today reveal the money paid by the British Government to the families of men killed in the First World War and the Boer War.
Digitised by Ancestry, the world’s largest online family history resource, in partnership with the National Army Museum the UK, Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects, 1901-1929 was created by the War Office to record the money owed to 872,395 soldiers who died while serving in the First World War as well as the latter stages of the Boer War. In addition, peacetime casualties are also represented in the collection.
Each record typically lists the soldier’s name, rank, regiment, date, place of death and next of kin. For 1901-14 records, trade before enlistment is also listed.
Mothers are the most commonly listed next of kin, suggesting just how young so many of the soldiers that perished in the Great War were. Wives are also commonly listed, highlighting the devastation experienced by millions of young widows whose husbands never returned home from war.
In the section where next of kin is recorded, a number of registers also list the term ‘himself’. This typically refers to men who were discharged from combat as a result of psychological disorders. If they were deemed well enough, the soldier could receive payment direct. If not, he could choose to forward the money on to relatives, or the care institution where he was being treated would hold the payment until he was considered capable to oversee his finances.
Millions of First World War records were lost as a result of bombings during the Second World War, meaning that these registers provide a rare opportunity to find out more about a wartime relative. Specifically, the inclusion of next of kin is vital for those looking to find out more about the family of a deceased soldier.
In addition, the collection details the names of both well-known and respected military men alongside the incredible stories of lesser-known servicemen. These include:
- Second Lieutenant Walter Daniel John Tull
An English professional footballer who played for Tottenham Hotspur and Northampton Town, Tull was the first black man to be commissioned as an infantry officer in the British Army. Killed in action in 1918, a statue was erected in his honour at the Sixfields stadium in Northampton in 1999 and there have been repeated calls to posthumously award him a Military Cross for his gallantry. His next of kin is listed as his brother Edward who received £15
- Private John Condon
Believed to be the youngest known battle casualty of the First World War, 14-year-old Condon joined the Special Reserves in October 1913, claiming he was 18. He was killed in action on the 24 May 1915 and his Soldier’s Effects Record lists his father John as his next of kin. He received just under £5 following the death of his son
- Private Frederick George Wells
Wells was recorded as being killed in action in France in December 1916. In fact, he was still alive and continued to serve until June 1918 – where he was declared physically unfit for service. His entry in the Soldier’s Effects collection acknowledges this error, with an amendment reading ‘man alive!’ appearing on his record
- Lieutenant Raymond Asquith
The eldest son of Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, Asquith was determined to fight on the front line despite several attempts by his father to have him transferred to a general staff role. He was killed on the 15 September at the Somme – having had a visit from his father just eight days before he died. His wife received just over £66 following his death in service
Further analysis of the collection reveals that in historic money, each soldier’s beneficiary received an average of £10.35* compensation, consisting of his final balance of pay plus a gratuity paid by the War Office – responsible for the administration of the British Army at this time. War Pensions were received as separate to this amount.
When taking inflation into account, the average payment of £10.35 is equivalent to just over £929 in today’s money. Whilst the government was committed to providing financial support to the families of those killed in action, the sheer volume of deaths meant that the sums offered by the War Office seem relatively minor today.
Miriam Silverman, Senior UK Content Manager from Ancestry comments: ‘This collection serves as a stark reminder of the millions of soldiers killed in the First World War and the Boer War. By recording each soldier’s next of kin, this newly digitised collection will be valuable for both social and family historians looking to uncover more about the lives of the men who never returned from war and the families they left behind.’
David Bownes, Head of Collections, National Army Museum said: ‘Sharing the stories of soldiers who served with the British Army is at the heart of our work here at the National Army Museum. We embraced the partnership with Ancestry as a way of making the Soldiers’ Effects ledgers more widely accessible. Some of the insights they reveal are fascinating.’
To search the UK, Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects, 1901-1929 collection visit www.ancestry.co.uk