UK & World News
New Database Of Soldiers Killed In World War One
Some 300,000 military records, detailing information on more than one million soldiers who died in World War One, have been made available to the public online.
The database, compiled by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), will make it easier for people to search for relatives killed during the conflict.
It will also help pinpoint where they have been buried around the world. The archive has been compiled by the Commission as part of its WWI centenary commemorations.
The database provides a paper trail of a soldier's death, including details of their regiment, rank, where and how they died, where they are buried and the headstone inscription.
"For the families of those we commemorate, these records give a snapshot into the process by which their relatives would have been identified and buried, or commemorated on a memorial, and give a direct link back to a time in the immediate aftermath of the war," says the CWGC.
The Commission was founded in 1917. It now cares for the memory of more than 1.1 million people who died in the First World War, including more than 650 women.
They are either buried or have their names inscribed on memorials in 23,000 locations across 153 countries.
"The documents are a window into the Commission's past, and the incredible work carried out after the war, to ensure those who died will not be forgotten."
Caroline Coxon traced her great uncle Charles Ussher Kilner, an architect and Second Lieutenant who fought during WWI in France and Salonika.
He was one of four brothers to fight in the conflict. He died from a war-related illness in Greece, where he is now buried.
"It's my ambition, one day, to visit his grave in Greece," said Caroline.
"So many people associate the First World War with the trenches without realising that many died in other places, in other circumstances. I think they deserve just as much recognition for their sacrifice."
At the end of WWI, in November 1918, fewer than half of the Western Front's dead had been given a proper burial in a designated military cemetery. Makeshift cemeteries were common on battlefields, by roadsides or on canal banks. They were basic mass graves.
Many bodies remained unburied in what was no-man's land. In early 1919, a concerted effort was made to sweep the battlefields for bodies.
Given the unpleasant nature of the work, extra pay was offered to those willing to do it, often volunteers. Close examination of bodies was needed, in grim and often dangerous conditions in between unexploded ordnance.
"For the first week or two I could scarcely endure the experience we met with, but I gradually became hardened," wrote Private John McCauley, an exhumation worker.
When a body was found, the area was searched for personal effects. The bodies were then wrapped in canvas and buried
By the spring of 1920, tens of thousands of bodies had been recovered.
On average, the remains of 20 to 30 bodies are found in the fields of Belgium and northern France every year, often by farmers ploughing.
The CWGC tries to identify the bones using DNA, before burying them in a suitable cemetery along with a personal headstone. Soldiers who cannot be identified are given a headstone bearing the simple words "A Soldier Of The Great War".
The CWGC also cares for the graves of many German soldiers.