How to Find Out More
There are many sources online about the First World War and those who fought and died.
The Imperial War Museums is leading the leading the First World War Centenary Partnership, a network of local, regional, national and international cultural and educational organisations. The partnership aims to help communities learn more about their shared WW1 history, and has produced a free guide, called Suggestions for organising a ‘Bring a First World War object’ event which offers advice to organisations such community groups, museums, schools and councils on how to successfully organise a ‘Bring an Object’ event where members of the public can bring their own World War 1 mementoes and learn more about their treasured items as well as their own community’s World War 1 history. The guide is available to members of the Centenary Partnership Programme. Sign up at 1914.org and download the guide in the members’ area.
One of the biggest resources is the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, http://www.cwgc.org/
The commission looks after the last resting places of those who fell fighting for Britain and Commonwealth nations in both world wars in more than 150 countries across the world.
You can type in the name of someone you’re interested in researching, and the website will tell you their rank, what service or regiment they were in, when they died, and where they were buried.
This information can lead you to make more discoveries. For instance, date of death and place of burial can help you to find out what battle, in any, they died in.
For instance, let’s look at Second Lieutenant Alfred John Carter, from Budleigh Salterton. Putting in his name, rank, and that he served in the UK forces, the website tells us that he served with the 7th Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment and died, aged 29 on May 13, 1917. He is buried at the Bucquoy Road Cemetery in Ficheux, in plot IG6. The commission website also has pictures of the cemetery, and lets us download a plan so we can see where Mr Carter is buried.
The website also gives us additional information about Mr Carter, for instance that he was the son of John Carter, of Exeter Road, Exmouth, and that he was married to Alma Carter of Leas Road, Budleigh Salterton. This information helps us to check that the Alfred Carter we’re researching is the right one. From the website you can also download a PDF file commemorating Mr Carter, which you can print out and keep.
To see a photograph of his grave, type his name into the website of The War Graves Photographic Project, http://www.twgpp.org/. Putting in Alfred John Carter gives us three people, but only one served in the Devonshire Regiment. Clicking the link brings up a photo of his grave. For a small fee you can have the picture emailed to you, or a printout sent in the post.
Ficheux, where Mr Carter is buried, is near a city in north east France called Arras. The CWGC website tells us that the Battle of Arras was fought between Allied and German forces between April 9 (Easter Monday) and May 16, 1917. In terms of casualty rates, it was among the most deadly British actions of the war. So it is possible that Mr Carter died of injuries sustained in this battle.
The Department for Communities and Local Government and the Imperial War Museum have also launched an online resource to help people find out about some of the most commonly held family heirlooms from the First World War and guidance on how to research these objects further. To find out more visit the Imperial War Museum website.
To find out more about the Devonshire Regiment and its history and battle honours, a great resource is the Devon Heritage website, www.devonheritage.org. You can also find out more at the website of the regiment’s official museum, the Keep Military Museum, which is in Dorchester. It also serves the Dorset regiments. See here for more.
The Devon Heritage website tells us that the 7th Battalion of the Devonshires was a Cycling Battalion, formed in 1908, and by the beginning of WW1 had companies across south Devon, including one at Woodbury. In March 1915, as the war wore on, a second battalion was formed, so there were now the 1/7th and the 2/7th battalions.
The website also tells us that many members of the Cycling Battalions were drafted into other companies of the Devonshires as fighting demanded.
More locally based information on Devon's role in the Great War can be found on the Devon Remembers project website here. Other useful sources of local information include Winkleigh Heroes and Roll of Honour.
There are lots of other great free websites to help with further research.
Among them are:
The British Library: http://www.bl.uk/world-war-one
The National Archives: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/records/war-diaries-ww1.htm
The National Army Museum: http://www.nam.ac.uk/
The BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww1
The Fairlynch Museum: http://www.devonmuseums.net/Fairlynch-Museum/Devon-Museums/
The Royal Marines Museum: http://www.royalmarinesmuseum.co.uk/