Friday, 9 November 2012

MAJOR NEWS: World War 1 Pension cards saved

Thanks to Simon Fowler & Ken Nisbet for flagging up the following major news announcement from the Western Front Association (, which shows that for family and military historians interested in the First World War, Christmas has most definitely just come early.

The Western Front Association has announced that it has saved some six million Great War soldiers' pension record cards from destruction, which were previously in the hands of the Ministry of Defence.

The cards detail the dependants of each British soldier, sailor, airman and nurse who were killed, as well as those injured or incapacitated, all of whom were entitled to a pension. The following qualified:
  • Other Ranks Died (almost a million individual records)
  • Widows and Dependants of Other Ranks Died (over a million records)
  • Other Ranks Survived: Requested/Rejected/Receiving Pension (over 2.5 million records)
  • Officers Survived and Officers' Widows (approximately 150,000 records)
  • Merchant Naval Cards (about 5,000 records)

From the Western Front Association's news release:

Originally, the cards were maintained regionally and it was only much later that they were collected into a single group. The Pension Records cards were held regionally because many claimants - especially those who were wounded or suffered ill-health aggravated by their service in the conflict - had to attend regional assessment boards to ensure their entitlement remained valid. These assessments created a further invaluable archive, known as the Army, Navy and Air Force Registers, all of which are held in ledger books. These ledgers also record the outcome of assessments.

The records contain a mixture of genealogical and military information, and constitute a major new resource that was hitherto unknown to exists before. The WFA plans to digitise the records and make them available online. The full announcement is at and contains several detailed examples of the cards.

Many of us are conditioned to look only for records that have been digitised and placed online for world war research, but a great deal more exists offline. I confirmed last week, for example, that a service record for a member of my family in the Royal Marines Light Infantry during the Great War exists at the National Archives. On the pensions front, it's a good opportunity to flag up a discovery also by a reader of this blog some time back, made at the National Records of Scotland. Tunji Lees wrote a guest post on his discovery, which detailed his find of localised military pension appeals tribunals records held in Edinburgh - read his account at


Scotland 1750-1850 - 5 weeks online Pharos course, £45.99, taught by Chris Paton from 2 NOV 2012 - see
New book: It's Perthshire 1866 - there's been a murder... (from June 12th 2012)

1 comment:

  1. I belong to a Historical Society in Western Pennsylvania, USA and the head told me that they know of many records and those who hold them will not give them to the Society.

    The Historical Society has people who go dumper diving to see if they have been thrown away and then legally they can collect those records.

    It is a shame they have to go to those means, but a lot of records have been saved.