The first tranche of Chelsea Pensioners’ British Army service records 1760-1913 have just been made available online.
Find My Past, in conjunction with The National Archives (TNA), is putting the records in collection class WO97 online and says: “The records offer a wealth of detail such as next of kin, profession, physical appearance, some medical information and service history. Each record has at least four images and many have more than six.
“The whole collection is vast. It comprises over nine million full colour images of the service records of soldiers in the British Army in receipt of a pension administered by The Royal Hospital Chelsea, and who were discharged between the dates 1760 and 1913. We have launched the first tranche and we’ll be adding more data on a regular basis over the coming 18 months.
“Many of the soldiers listed may have served in some of Britain’s most significant wars, including the Battle of Waterloo (1815), the Crimean War (1853-1856) and the Boer War (1899-1902). Many citizens were in the army during this period and it is highly possible that your ancestors are included in these records.
“Many Irish and colonial soldiers served in the British Army in the period so you could find information on relatives you can’t find elsewhere. The collection comprises records of ordinary soldiers, rather than officers, and so provides a detailed record of the thousands of ordinary soldiers serving at this time. You can find out about what your ancestors actually looked like, as there are detailed descriptions of their physique including any distinguishing features like tattoos or scars.”
On its website, Find My Past explains that the records are being scanned in the following order, so the next pieces to be released will cover the periods:
- 1883-1900 (252,000 records) released now;
- 1901-1913 (303,000 records) by May 2010;
- 1873-1882 (64,000 records) by June 2010;
- 1855-1872 (65,000 records) by July 2010;
- 1760-1854 (184,000 records) by April 2011. (These are the records that are already indexed in TNA’s online catalogue, as are the certificates of service in collection class WO121.)
In addition, the militia attestation papers in collection class WO96 covering the period 1806-1915 (500,000 records) are scheduled to become available online by November 2011.