The family history website Find My Past has published the records of over half a million men who served in the British militia, the precursor to the UK’s Territorial Army. The Militia Service Records, covering 1806 to 1915, have been made available online for the first time to coincide with British Armed Forces Day.
Find My Past says: “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. Arthur Wilson’s distinguishing marks included an acrobat and dots tattooed on his left forearm. Similarly, Albert Smith, born in India, was recorded as having teeth that were ‘defective but enough for mastication’.
“Like today’s Territorial Army, the militia was made up of men who held everyday jobs, but took part in military exercises and on occasions fought for their country. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, these typically included shoemakers, woodchoppers, butchers, bakers, coal miners and millers.
“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. Charles served with the 3rd Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment and was recorded as being five feet four inches tall with steel grey eyes.
“The Militia Service Records are the only set of their kind available online and have been published in association with The National Archives and in partnership with FamilySearch. The records show that the soldiers who made up the militia during that period hailed not only from the UK itself, but also from around the world. Some recruits had been born in Italy, Ceylon, South Africa and even as far away as Australia and New Zealand.”