Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy


D-Day heroes go online

The names of up to 12,000 soldiers who were granted awards for gallantry in North West Europe between 5 and 6 June 1944 and 7 May 1945 will soon be searchable on the Catalogue. The names of nearly 600 soldiers and officers are now available on The National Archives catalogue, making it much easier for researchers to locate the recommendation they are looking for. The National Archives hope to complete the project by May 2005 in time for the anniversary of the end of the war.

The records contain personal details and descriptions of many incredibly valiant acts, such as 19 year old Private Thompson who, on his first duty, repeatedly fired at a sniper in order to let his comrades get through a gap. He stayed behind, and then managed to guide another soldier to safety, after the rest of his group had left.

In recommendation for a gallantry award his superior said:

“The courage, resource and initiative shown by this young soldier was a remarkable example”

The records are available to view free at The National Archives in Kew, West London and can also be ordered by post.

Bruno Derrick, historian at The National Archives, says:

“Soldier’s gallantry recommendations are regularly consulted by people to try to find out more about their own war service, or the war service of a member of their family. They highlight the pinnacle of a soldier’s contribution. The files are also rich in stories of human endurance such as an officer who, after being wounded in three places, carried on with his men and managed to take a village and approximately 50 prisoners.

This project will make it very quick and easy for people to obtain the details of a gallantry award; when it was awarded, and its exact document reference. Researchers can do this just by searching for the name in the record series WO 373. At the moment it can be quite time consuming and you need to know exactly what medal was awarded and when it was awarded.

It will be a huge boost for veterans, their families and military historians. As our catalogue becomes more detailed and more documents become available online so it will easier be for the online generation to get in touch with it’s past.”
How to look for gallantry awards:
Bruno Derrick, the Project Manager, explains:

“If you are interested in finding out about someone’s gallantry medals from the Second World War, remember that so far information about 600 of the approximately 12,000 gallantry records for North West Europe have been loaded onto the catalogue, so you may need to try again over the next year.

The best thing to do is to go to the Catalogue. Enter the full name of the soldier and in the box for the department code put WO 373. This stands for War Office. If they won a gallantry medal and it has been put onto the catalogue you’ll get the name of the award and a 3-part reference, for the full record. If you want to see the full record you can either come the archives in Kew to see it free on microfilm, or you can order a copy through our website or over the phone. The normal cost of this is £10.00.”


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