As we reach the centenary of the 1918 Armistice we have seen a renewed interest in records about WWI and those who experienced it. Here at the History Centre there are many sources for anyone wanting to research this period of our history.
If you have a general interest in local events then we hold a selection of books such as ‘Hull In the Great War’ by David Bilton [L.9.7083] and ‘The Zepplin Raids on Hull’ by Arthur Credland [L.9.7083]. There are books on local regiments such as ‘The Hull Pals’ [L.356] by David Bilton. We also have copies of an edited collection of regimental diaries published by the National Archives. The volume contains reproduced images of dairies kept by commanding officers on a day-to-day basis throughout the war. All these titles are available for loan from us.
Over the last four years there has been a national drive to digitised records from the war period, and these can assist you if you are looking for individuals. Hull History Centre offers free access to Ancestry and FindMyPast, both of which sites contain information about service personnel. Army attestation records are one group of records that can be accessed in this way. These records were created by the War Office during recruitment of personnel and contain such useful information as age, place of birth, next of kin and some details of service. Unfortunately, it is estimated that two thirds of the collection was destroyed by enemy action in World War II, but it is always worth looking. Other records available on both sites include Medal Roll Cards which list medals awarded and give details of regiment and service number. A proportion of British Armed Services Soldiers medical records and the Silver War Badge Roll (listing servicemen who were invalided out) are available on Find My Past. Royal Airmen’s Records, Victoria Cross medal listings, and listings of campaign medals awarded to World War I Merchant Seamen, are all available on Ancestry. These are a selection of available records and it is worth looking at the card catalogue on Ancestry or the A-Z index on Find My Past to see what else may help in your search.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is another helpful site, and this is free to access. If a person died during the war then they should be listed on site. The listing will give name, rank, service number, when they died and where they are commemorated. Sometimes family details will be given such as parents’ names and address. Find My Past has a list of British Army Railwaymen who died in the Great War, whilst Ancestry features the British Army Register of Soldier’s Effects. This lists what the army owed to the soldier at the time of their death and next of kin. It can be useful as a way of double-checking that you have the correct person.
The Hull Daily Mail and other local papers can be a rich source of information, and articles can be accompanied by photographs. The HDM can be accessed online via the British Library Newspaper Archive Online. Whilst this is a subscription service, you can access it for free whilst at the History Centre. You can also access images of the papers by using our microfilm collection in the library area of the History Centre. Some years ago, a researcher, Mr Malcolm Mann, indexed all the soldiers mentioned in the HDM. The indexes are available in the library and provide the soldier’s name, edition of the paper, and page number on which the soldier in question features. Mann also collected information about street shrines and rolls of honour, and compiled a volume on the subject. This volume, available in the search room, includes some information on individual servicemen as well as the lists which featured on the memorials. The History Centre has further information on local memorials which was collated by Jack Allerston, and which can be accessed by asking at the History Centre’s enquiry desk in the library area.
This overview gives just a sample of the material available to researchers looking at WWI, and hasn’t even touched on the rich archival material that is held at the History Centre. So if you are interested, why not come down and get researching. If you get stuck then try our Family History Helpdesk which is held 10am-12pm on the first and third Thursdays of the month. There’s only one session left this year, to be held on the 15th November, but there will be new dates starting in January 2019.
As an added incentive to visit, we currently have an exhibition about WWII which will be on until the 16th November. You never know what you might discover...
Elaine Moll, Archivist/Librarian (Hull City Archives and Local Studies Library)