This page is based on UK records. We will add specific research pages for other counties and nationalities represented at Gallipoli in due course. If you have any expertise in this area please share it with us!
Researching military history is done for a range of reasons. Examples include having discovered a family connection, having an interest in a particular area or theatre of conflict, a specific research assignment or just for general interest.
The huge rise of interest in family history and genealogical research in recent years has made military research easier as new resources are becoming increasingly available to the general public.
If a solider has served within the military and died during the conflict, it is generally an easier process to obtain records. This is because The Commonwealth War Grave Commission keeps and continually develops excellent records.
So, the first place to visit is the CWGC database
The search engine has multiple options, and you should enter as much information as you have (initials or forename, surname, force served in, regiment if known etc).
You may be surprised at the number of results you get, especially if the surname is common. Some records are quite sparse, whilst others contain a surprising amount of information. Most of the records include a service number, and once you are sure that you have the right person, this can be extremely valuable.
First, try not to make assumptions. If you’re following up a name of someone who you know lived in London, and you find the right name and location, look for additional ways of verification. With hundreds of thousands of names listed, duplications are common. Equally, some recruits signed up somewhere other than where they were born or lived, so although geography is a reasonably good starting point, it may not be entirely accurate. Age is another issue, as those who were too young to be recruited quite often ‘adjusted’ their birth date, and some even used fictitious names.
Remember, the information above only applies to those who died in conflict. If the person you are researching was a survivor, or once you have a good lead from the CWGC database, you can take the next steps. Some of these may incur costs, which we refer to below.
There are a number of online genealogy sites which now include military records, and their general facilities can be extremely useful for checking ages and residence etc. Currently the free basic Ancestry account includes the 1911 census.
A large number of World War One soldiers, both survivors and those killed in action (KIA), were entitled to and received medals. The British War Medal (BMW) and other campaign medals were common, whereas gallantry medals such as the Distinguished Conduct Medal and even the Victoria Cross were correspondingly rare.
Again, membership of an online family history site will be useful, and if you are undertaking a lot of research then it will probably save you some money in the long run. However, The National Archive also offers a direct service for accessing the records. The Medal Roll Index designated WO 372, contains more than five million records. Other collections are the partial WO 463, which consists of surviving World War One soldiers service records, and WO 364, for World War One soldiers pension records. Searching is free, but accessing the detailed records, which are held as scanned PDF files incurs a small fee. Some of these records contain pages and pages of records, whilst others can be disappointingly brief.
There are thousands of war memorials in Great Britain. Many of these are impressive structures in town and village centres, whilst others are wall plaques or roll of honour lists in churches and local cemeteries. The lists of the fallen they contain are not always complete, but once you have a definite locality, it is worth checking to see if the name you are researching appears there.
The Imperial War Museum maintains a database of war memorials in the UK.
Other websites are being developed which list the names on memorials, whilst many larger towns provide their own local lists.
Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches which existed before the Great War often have plaques or memorials listing local men who were killed in action. Larger churches may have regimental memorials and sometimes the regimental colours. For example, the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Albans has a chapel in the north aisle dedicated to the Hertfordshire Regiment, which landed at Suvla Bay.
Increasingly, websites are being developed which focus on regimental histories and in some cases, specific battalions and companies, especially where these are of a very local nature. The World War One ‘pals’ battalions are a good example, see for example the Accrington Pals. Our regiments page lists many of these.
Local history societies can be an excellent resource, and it is generally the case that members will be enthusiastic to assist.
Whilst it may seem obvious, the first task is to be sure that the service person you are researching actually served at Gallipoli. Family records and the above sections should help you to do this. The other approach is to connect the division, brigade or regiment with the individual. For example, if he served with the Irish 10th Division, (which was one of those raised by Kitchener as part of his ‘new army’ and whose first deployment was to Gallipoli) then you can be reasonably sure that the individual was there, although of course you will still need more specific evidence to verify this.
To get closer, it is necessary to research the particular actions that a regiment and smaller units such as companies and platoons were engaged in. This will depend to a large extent on what is available from regimental records. These vary, but they are often quite detailed, although individuals other than officers are seldom mentioned.
An excellent resource for the UK is Ray Westlake’s book ‘British regiments at Gallipoli’, ISBN 1844680126, which draws on regimental diaries to give an overview of the engagement for individual regiments. Beyond this, one of the many records and museum sites for regiments may be a useful source. Please see our links page.
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