Posts Tagged ‘ attestation paper ’
We’ve just published over half a million Militia Service Records, covering 1806 to 1915, in association with The National Archives and in partnership with FamilySearch. This is the first time these records have been made available online, making it possible to learn about the everyday heroes who volunteered as part time soldiers in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The militia was the precursor to the UK’s Territorial Army and, like its modern equivalent, was made up of men who held everyday jobs, but took part in military exercises and on occasions fought for their country. The records colourfully portray what the British militia looked like, detailing the height, weight, chest size, complexion, eye colour, hair colour and distinctive marks of each recruit.
Debra Chatfield, findmypast.co.uk’s Marketing Manager, explains:
“These records provide rich insight into our past and show how the everyday man, such as your local shopkeeper, found himself fighting for his country. In the absence of photographs, these records can help you imagine what your ancestors looked like, containing details which are largely unavailable elsewhere.”
We’ve found a Butcher …
We’ve been having a look through the records and have already found a number of different occupations including shoemakers, woodchoppers, greengrocers, fishmongers, coal miners, butchers and bakers!
Charles Godfrey, for example, was a butcher for a Mr Debron in Oxford. Born in the Parish of Botley, Berkshire, Godfrey volunteered for the militia on 25th July 1887 aged 18. He served with the 3rd Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment and was recorded as being five feet four inches tall with brown hair and steel grey eyes. Godfrey’s attestation paper also reveals that he had a large mole on his left shoulder.
We’ve also found a baker in the militia records. Charles Howard joined the 5th Battalion Rifle Brigade on 23rd August 1897 at the age of 18 years and three months. Howard had been born in Welshpool, Monmouthshire but had moved to London, working as a baker for a Mr Calland. His service record reveals that Howard had hazel eyes, brown hair and weighed a shockingly light 110 lbs (around seven and a half stone).
William Spencer, Principal Military Records Specialist at The National Archives, commented:
“It took a certain kind of individual to leave a day job as a blacksmith, labourer or barman and enlist as a part time soldier. Although the majority never left British shores, many saw active service with the regular army in places such as South Africa during the Second Boer War. Like today’s Territorial Army, the pre-WWI militia offered a way for former soldiers to continue serving their country and civilians a chance to leave humdrum jobs, earn extra money and enjoy the comradeship such services had to offer.”
…can you find a Candlestick Maker?
Search the Militia Service Records now to see if any of your ancestors signed up! Our own Marketing Executive, Amy Sell has already spotted her great-great-uncle in the records. Unfortunately, it seems he was deemed unfit for the militia on the grounds that he had ‘enlarged glands’ in his neck!
Adding to our British Army Service Records 1760-1915 collection, we have just published over 500,000 soldiers’ records in our Militia Service Records 1806-1915.
These records offer a rich source of information to the family historian, especially because attestation papers form a major part of this collection. The records were annotated until the soldier was discharged so provide full details of time in service. And, since the militia recruits were part-time, there are details of the jobs the men undertook for the rest of the time.
The Militia was a voluntary county-based part-time force for home defence. It ceased to be summoned after the Civil War but was revived in 1757, when the Militia Act established militia regiments in all counties of England and Wales. The Militia Service Records provide a record of service as they were annotated until the date of discharge. They also have information about birth date and place.
You will often find physical descriptions including distinguishing marks including tattoos. In the absence of photographs, these records are an essential tool in imagining what your ancestors were like – although some of the later records do include photographs. You’ll also be able to see the individual’s signature.
These records are brought to you online in association with The National Archives (TNA). The TNA record series number is ‘WO96’: WO simply indicates that the records were created by the War Office, the precursor of today’s Ministry of Defence.
Search our new Militia Service Records 1806-1915 now!
We’ve done some digging around in the Chelsea Pensioner British Army Service Records and have found some fascinating characters. As well as providing rich historical detail about our military ancestors, the records reveal some controversial information about some of the soldiers. Read on to find out about three Chelsea Pensioner ‘bad boys’.
John Kray – great great uncle of the Kray twins
John Kray, whose mother was Elizabeth Kray, the great great grandmother of the notorious East End Kray twins, was born in Bethnal Green, London. He was a riveter by trade and on 13 August 1870 at the age of 17 years and 11 months, he joined the 65th Regiment of Foot.
Here is John’s attestation paper:
John deserted on 9 February 1879, rejoined 20 August 1879 and was placed in confinement. The District Court Martial tried him and convicted him of desertion. John was sentenced to imprisonment, hard labour and stoppages (of pay) for a month.
We can also build up a picture of what John looked like from the Chelsea Pensioner records. His physical description on attestation was: 5’6″ (he had gained half an inch by the time of discharge), 35-36 inch chest, ‘fair’ complexion, hazel eyes, dark brown hair. John also had a scar on his left buttock:
John Kirk – Victoria Cross winner and drunken scallywag
Another colourful character we found in the Chelsea Pensioner records is John Kirk. On 27 January 1846, John joined the British Army at the age of 18 years.
In June 1857, at 29 years old, John rescued a captain and a family of civilians from rebels during the Indian Mutiny. John was awarded the Victoria Cross for this heroic deed.
John didn’t gain any good conduct badges during his Army service, however, and was imprisoned numerous times for his improper behaviour. John was a notorious drunk who was tried and punished 12 times. The reasons for his punishments included ‘being drunk and making an improper reply’, being ‘drunk on the line of march’, being ‘drunk on evening parade’ and also for ‘habitual drunkenness’. John was also punished for going AWOL and for breaking out of barrack cells.
By 8 April 1864, at 34 years old, John was discharged from the army with chronic syphilitic rheumatism having been classified as ‘being totally unfit for further service’. Here you can see his medical report:
Matthias Quinton – the insubordinate
Matthias Quinton was born in Limehouse, London and joined the Royal Artillery on 28 October 1889 aged 18 years and seven months. He saw service at home and in Gibraltar and was discharged after three years because of medical unfitness.
This particular Chelsea Pensioner has no less than 154 pages in his record. Among these are details of a trial by Court Martial which resulted in 42 days’ imprisonment because Matthias used ‘insubordinate language to a superior officer’. His record states that ‘when brought before Major W H Smart RA, his commanding officer, and when asked what he had to say in his defence, he replied “Sweet FA” in a highly disrespectful manner’.
Here are Matthias’ court martial sheets:
These are just three examples of the valuable detail to be found in the vast Chelsea Pensioners records collection. The total number of records currently stands at 1,041,092.
Search our Chelsea Pensioners records to find out what stories they tell about your ancestors.
Check out The National Archives’ podcast about the Chelsea Pensioners records collection featuring military records specialist William Spencer.