Posted by on 8 November 2011 in General, Record Collections

Today, we’ve added more than 880,000 records to what is already the largest online World War I archive. 

During the War, arguably the worst thing a man could be accused of was cowardice. Women were encouraged to patrol the streets, berating any young males who weren’t in military uniform and presenting them with symbolic white feathers.

This campaign had the desired effect of shaming less enthusiastic men into signing up. At the same time, though, it led to terrible embarrassment, particularly for those who had been sent home from the Front with appalling wounds or physical and mental illness.

It quickly became obvious that these former servicemen needed some way to prove they had done their duty. In September 1916, the Government responded by issuing the Silver War Badge.

The Badge was given to anyone who had been honourably discharged from the Forces with ill health. Recipients wore it on civilian clothes, as a clear sign that they were anything but cowards.

The Silver War Badge Records, 1914–1920, reveal the soldiers, sailors and pilots who qualified for the Badge. It’s a comprehensive database of men who were injured or ill during the Great War.

Find your family’s war heroes here, and you’ll discover their dates of enlistment and discharge, and why they were discharged, as well as their rank, unit and regimental number. The number is especially important, as it matches the number on a man’s service and pension records and medal index card, so you can easily work out if you’ve found the right person.

Search our new records now.


Bob Douglas 

My wife’s grandfather Frederick Lambert gets the badge twice
First he was in the Royal Field Artillery
He was discharged as unfit for war duty in 1916
Then he re-enlisted in the Royal Army ordnance Corps
He was discharged in1917

He was apparently gassed and died in 1919

8 November 2011 at 12:31 pm
Steve Collins 

Correction: SWB records are NOT “a comprehensive database of men who were injured or ill during the Great War” since some, though becoming unfit for BEF duty, were still deemed fit enough for service back here in Blighty. Several of my family were discharged with SWBs but one notable exception (not least for having a ‘burnt record’ despite the odds) was given home duties after recovering from PUO (trench fever) acquired in Flanders. Nor was he demobbed until 1919 despite further spells in hospital with eczema, scarlet fever & impetigo. And there must be thousands more with lesser illnesses not warranting repatriation.

8 November 2011 at 1:32 pm
Steve Collins 

PS: And it gets worse! A simple test reveals your database to be even less comprehensive than I first assumed – apparently proving my long-held faint suspicion that not every case found its way into the war badge roll. Previously unable to find one particular badge roll entry via the relevant medal index card, ominously lacking any x-ref to it, I still couldn’t find one via your new digital index – even by limiting my search, by turns, to either the 4-digit number (written top L) or 6 character ID (letter + 5 digits overprinted top R) on the war badge award form.

And may I please suggest adding a regimental number field to your military records search form (as the famously surest key to uniquely unlocking them). Part of my test was to run an exact keyword search on my sapper’s regimental number (not his TA number but the one on his war badge award form) and wasn’t impressed to get 4,405 matches apparently INexactly based on as little as the least significant pair of the 6 contiguous digits entered.

8 November 2011 at 7:18 pm
Maggie Laity 

My grandmothers first husband Walter Edward Fidler, is not on that list he died at home through wounds (gas) received on Hill 60 on 24th January 1916 Was in first reserve Bty Royal Field Artillery
Rank Bombardier

9 November 2011 at 11:46 am
Steve Collins 

I don’t know if cross-chat is allowed but @ Maggie:
Are you sure Walter was discharged before his death? The CWGC record of his burial in Penzance Cemetery (military), rather than Penzance Municipal Borough Cemetery (civilian war dead), does rather suggest not. And my not being able to find his death in FreeBMD further suggests that it wasn’t subject to Civil Registration – say for still being in service. The usual army treatment of repatriated patients, for whom they still held a duty of care after all, was to first get them well and then decide what to do with them – e.g. discharge or send back to duty. And if allowed outside the hospital (say for recuperative walks), it was certainly later practice to issue them with blue armbands to identify them to Joe Public as inmates.

9 November 2011 at 1:19 pm
Bob Douglas 

Pls note the badge database has regimental numbers with errors
Someone made an error when entering so exact number was one digit out on mine

9 November 2011 at 6:11 pm
Steve Collins 

PPS: Bob has just reminded me of later finding a regimental number field on *some* of your military search forms (a bit too serendipitous for me) and it proving just as hopeless as my earlier keyword experiment (>5,000 false positives) so your search engine seems to have a very basic bug/gotcha there! Plus it’s sad to read you’ve yet to improve the accuracy of your transcripts (a long-standing joke in certain quarters). OCR requires better QA as WW1 typewriter fonts were simply not optimised for it.

Also, while I think of it (sorry, can’t check from home), I trust you’ve included rear images of those roll pages which were annotated (all 12 recipient’s home addresses hand-written there in one case I could cite) as that extra info can so easily prove invaluable to family historians.

11 November 2011 at 1:05 pm