The U.K. National Archives launched a new Web site last week in the days leading up to Remembrance Sunday. The site lets families read their ancestors' First World War medal records. The new site is swamped, receiving more than one million hits in its first few days of operation.
DocumentsOnline has several databases. The new one contains the records of 5.5 million servicemen. Until this week the only way to examine those records was to travel to the National Archives in Kew, west London, to find the records. Now the National Archives internet database offers the first comprehensive roll-call of all soldiers and airmen who fought overseas. Royal Navy records may be added later.
Among medal cards on the database are those of the future Duke of Windsor, Winston Churchill, Wilfred Owen, the war poet, and Ralph Vaughan Williams, the composer.
Medal cards reveal only basic details of service record and medals. About 60% of the full individual service records, which were stored separately, were destroyed by Second World War bombing.
The charge for downloading an image of an individual's card is £3.50, but few have done this. The site is at http://www.DocumentsOnline.nationalarchives.gov.uk