Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Ancestry to release Silver War Badge holder details

Ancestry (www.ancestry.co.uk) is to publish 880,000 First World War medals details for the first time this week, and will apparently be making its First World War service and pension records available for free from Thursday to Sunday of this week to commemorate Remembrance Day.

The medals information will include details of Silver War Badge holders, the badge which was issued top those who had been discharged due to injury or illness to avoid them being given a white feather for 'cowardice'.

The mirror has the story at www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2011/11/08/history-of-first-world-war-heroes-revealed-online-115875-23545373/

UPDATE: The collection us now live at http://search.ancestry.co.uk/search/db.aspx?dbid=2456 - from the page:

Historical Background

The British Empire lost more than 700,000 service personnel killed in World War 1. An even greater number were discharged because of wounds or illness. In September 1916, King George V authorized the Silver War Badge (SWB) to honor all military personnel who had served at home or overseas since 4 August 1914 and who had been discharged because of wounds or illness. The SWB was a small, circular badge made of sterling silver, bearing the king’s initials, a crown, and the inscriptions ‘For King and Empire’ and ‘Services Rendered’.

The SWB was not simply an honor; it also served a practical purpose. At the time, men of military age who were not obviously in the service were sometimes accosted or insulted by civilians presenting them with white feathers — a symbol of cowardice — for shirking their patriotic duty. The badge served as an outward symbol that the wearer’s duty to country had been honorably fulfilled.

Who Is in the Records?

Almost half of the 2 million military personnel discharged from the armed forces during the war for illness or injury (including those who left before the award was instituted in 1916) applied to wear the SWB. The award was not confined to Britons: servicemen (or women) from anywhere in the Empire were entitled to it. Any British ancestor who served in the Great War, survived, but was discharged from the forces before 31 December 1919 may well be on the rolls of the SWB contained in this database.

If a service record has been lost, a record of the Silver War Badge may be the only remaining evidence of service. These records include rank, regimental number, unit, dates of enlistment and discharge, and reason for discharge. The digitization of the SWB records is joint partnership between Ancestry and the Naval and Military Press.


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