- That the Glossary is based on understanding gained from a sample of the surviving C.W.G.C. WW1 related Enquiry files, other C.W.G.C. files, the C.W.G.C. Casualty Archive and other sources.
- Due to the overlapping/connected nature of the sources discussed key points about particular records (e.g. Card Index, Battalion Ledgers, Imperial War Graves Commission Index to Cemetery And Memorial Registers of Those Who Fell In The Great War, Soldiers Died In The Great War and others) come up in many different Glossary entries.
Click on the links to go to the Glossary item:
e.g. 3/23959. 3/ series files were in common with X/Y Series files associated with changes to cemeteries and graves, including exhumations. The 3/ series was associated with the Registrar (see Registrar) before the merger of the D.G.R.&E (Directorate of Graves Registration and Enquiries, an Army Agency) with the I.W.G.C. (Imperial War Graves Commission) in March 1921. It was then used by the new combined Records Department of which the Registrar was then a part. Also see the X/Y Series files. Some surviving correspondence from 3/ files can be found in other still extant C.W.G.C. file series. 3/ references can also be found on Graves Registration Report forms (see Graves Registration Reports) and Concentration documents (see Efx number/file series). In the following reference from Hooge Crater Cemetery in Belgium a change is made by the Director of Records and reference made to the authority coming from information recorded in a 3/ series file, see the following Graves Registration Report under http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/459113/PURDUE,%20C. It is usual to find 3/ series files (often with the same file number used for authority for a number of changes, although this is not always the case) being used as authority for changes made to many graves or plots in the same cemetery, for example see the Graves Registration Report under http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/459519/TURNER,%20CHARLES%20EMANUEL
Two surviving examples of 3/ series letters written from Major Henry Chettle of the D.G.R. & E. (later I.W.G.C. Director of Records) can be found in the surviving British Army service record of Trooper 3207 Frank Jackson of the 2nd Life Guards (accessible via the pay website Findmypast or at the National Archives). The letters come from D.G.R. & E. file 3/9425 and are dated 21 March 1918 and 3 April 1918 respectively. Chettle includes a suggested text for the Record Office to inform the next-of-kin that Jackson was buried at Calais Southern Cemetery. The 3/945 file number does not appear with Jackson’s entry on the surviving C.W.G.C. Casualty Archive documentation: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/471126/jackson,-frank/
A file series that was associated around 1919-1921 with exhumations and effects. E.g. see concentration document here http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/463125/HAYWOOD,%20H%20E . An entry in an I.W.G.C. file concerning the compilation and checking of lists for the Menin Gate and Tyne Cot Memorials to the Missing mentions the reference 6/348/5088 and states that an identity disc was found when an exhumation took place, with both the Concentration form (Form A) and the 6/348 quoted as evidence for the man’s regimental details (see C.W.G.C. Archive Box 1011 WG 219/2/1/1 Memorials To Missing Menin Gate & Tyne Cot Lists: Menin Gate Memorial. Memorials to the Missing Branch to Registrar (undated followed by letter memorandum for Director of Records I.W.G.C. to Deputy Controller (Assistant Director of Records) I.W.G.C. France dated 22 June 1925)). See here for an explanation of the two parts of the Concentration/Exhumation forms and the likely origin of the 6/348 reference. The casualty mentioned in the entry was Lance Corporal 469 Francis Michael Lawler 38th Battalion Australian Imperial Force was commemorated on the Menin Gate: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1599071/lawler,-francis-michael/
e.g. A file series sometimes associated with WW1 graves and cemeteries, e.g. see the concentration document here http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/321654/DIXON,%20H%20W where the changes made by the Director of Records are based on the authority of a 6/2300 file. Another example is mentioned in a note addressed to the Registrar with the file reference 6/2300/188 used to confirm the concentration of graves from one cemetery Clery-Sur-Somme Cemetery to another, Honnechy British Cemetery in France (C.W.G.C. Archive C.G.W.C. Enquiry File CCM 25/12739 Lt. Col. R.H.N. Settle: noted dated 17/9/1922). Sergeant Miskella’s documents in the C.W.G.C. Casualty Archive show how his name was added to a list based on information provided by the Germans on the authority of a 6/2300 file: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/572356/miskella,-/
8/17/21/22/23 Number Series Enquiry Branch Case File series:
e.g. 2nd Lieutenant A.H.R. Rumilly, Worcestershire Regiment Enquiry File 8/3030. E.g. see an example of a number series file reference from a Graves Registration Report (Finals) here http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/34820/WARD,%20WILLIAM%20HENRY
An early D.G.R. & E/I.W.G.C. Enquiry file series that was probably in use according to surviving evidence by October 1916, replacing the AP/M Enquiry file series. The series is likely to be associated with the move of the headquarters of the D.G.R. & E. to London and the need for new file series to cover steadily increasing casualties on the Western Front from the start of the Battle of the Somme in July 1916. These file series appear to have dealt exclusively with enquiry correspondence regarding service personnel killed in France and Belgium. Around October 1917 they began to be replaced by the Prefix Enquiry file series which was used for C.W.G.C. enquiries related to theatres of war both on the Western Front and all other theatres of war (see AA, CCM, CDEW, HLG, SL, WW, YP Enquiry Department pre-WW2 Prefix File Case File series). Some surviving correspondence from these early file series survives in files re-registered in the Enquiry Prefix file series. E.g. see an example of a number series file reference from a Graves Registration Report (Finals) here http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/34820/WARD,%20WILLIAM%20HENRY.
Using an average calculated from the entries in the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders Index volume of 5% of the entries having listed Number Series Enquiry files in the Enquiry Files column gives an estimate of around 33,000 files Number Series files still in use in 1929/1930 (based on 5% of the total number of Commonwealth Casualties from WW1), although the actual number will have been somewhat lower as these file series were not used for casualties outside the Western Front and the United Kingdom (including numbers 19/20, see below).
19/20 Number Series Enquiry Branch Files:
File series related to U.K. service burials. Both series were instituted by 1919 and only began to be replaced by the Prefix series (see AA, CCM, CDEW, HLG, SL, WW, YP Enquiry Department pre-WW2 Prefix File Case File series) in the early 1920s (later than the corresponding 8/17/21/22/23 Enquiry files). Some surviving correspondence from these early file series survives in files re-registered in the Enquiry Prefix file series. In the 1919/1920 Imperial War Graves Commission Report it was noted that ‘The Commission have began to take over from the Commands and from the Dominion miltary authorities cemeteries in this country with their records. About 30 cemeteries have been visited and reported on..(C.W.G.C. (1920) Annual Report of the Imperial War GravesCommission. 1919-1920. H.M.S.O.: London: p. 11)’. The Army Commands into which the United Kingdom was divided in 1920 were Aldershot, Eastern, Irish, London District, Northern, Scottish, Southern and Western and they had been responsible for maintaining Army burials in the United Kingdom during the War (Editor’s note: free online copies between 1914-1919 of the Army List including more detail on the geographical basis of the Army Commands can be found here). In 1921 I.W.G.C. took over the role of supervising all U.K. WW1 related graves from the Army Commands and D.G.R. & E. (C.W.G.C. Archive Add 1/3/4 Box 2033 Taking over of D.G.R. & E. by I.W.G.C.: Conference held in A.G.’s room 23.12.1920).
A copy of a form to allow relatives to register graves in the U.K., with a print run of 10,000 copies (printed July 1920), survives in a C.W.G.C. Enquiry file (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file SL 21547 33660 Sgt. J.Quayle Cheshire Regiment: form stamped by D.G.R. & E. 18 August 1920. The file was originally registered under the Enquiry file number 20/29696), its contents include questions such as whether the relative wanted a temporary wooden cross whilst it was decided whether the grave would be permanently marked by the Commission, was there already a wooden military cross over the grave or whether there was already a permanent memorial over the grave? In Quayle’s case we can see the process unfolding from wooden military memorial to grave stone by looking at his papers in the C.W.G.C. Casualty Archive: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/3067000/quayle,-john/
Letter series Enquiry Branch Case Files: The first series of Enquiry/photographic files issued from 1915 to 1916 appear to have been issued using a mix of letter series references such as AP 147 or M 150 (some files being associated purely with requests for photographs of a war grave). Some surviving correspondence from these early file series survives in files re-registered in the Enquiry Prefix file series (see Prefix series Enquiry files), e.g. file M197 became file 22/16717 and finally file CDEW 34 16818.
AA, CCM, CDEW, HLG, SL, WW, YP Enquiry Department pre-WW2 Prefix File Case File series:
e.g. Captain J.E.W. Bath Royal Berkshire Regiment, Enquiry file (E-file) CDEW 34/16818. An Enquiry file would usually, but not always cover a single burial or missing person (sometimes multiple burials in one grave are covered by the same file). The section prefixes (AA etc. see Enquiry Branch. The list of regiments/corps/services covered by each prefix can be found here) are based upon the fact that service records were grouped under various Army/Navy/RAF and Commonwealth forces Record Offices, in the British Army’s case groups of Regiments/Corps. Around the end of 1917 it appears that the Enquiries Branch was organised into sections that would reflect the groupings under the Army Record offices with whom it was in constant communication, also unlike previous enquiry file series the new series would also include correspondence concerning casualties outside France and Belgium. Examples include the AA prefix which stands for (Royal) Artillery and Australian Army Record Offices; CDEW for Cork, Dublin, Exeter and Warwick Record Offices. For a list of the military and civilian units/organisations covered by each prefix please click here for ‘The Key to the Enquiry Prefixes’. The Prefix file series are the along with the Number files series and the S.S.P. burial report files the only surviving E-Files from the three pre-WW2 enquiry file series listed in the Imperial War Graves Commission Index to Cemetery And Memorial Registers of Those Who Fell In The Great War.
Using an average calculated from the entries in the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders volume of the Index, with 53% of the entries having listed Prefix Series Enquiry files in the Enquiry Files column, gives an estimate of around 590,000 files Prefix Series files still in use in 1929/1930 (based on 53% of the total number of Commonwealth Casualties from WW1).
Armies/Army Areas/Army Districts/I.W.G.C. Areas:
By 1917 the Western Front had been divided into areas under the control of the five Armies of the British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F.) and the rear area known as the Line of Control. This division is reflected in the organisation of the Grave Registration Units (see a draft table of Grave Registration Units here) and also the areas mentioned at the top of the Graves Registration Reports (plus in the Concentration reports), for example see this example of a Comprehensive Report (G.R.R.) from May 1918 under 290685 William Murray (G.R.R. Finals) http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/86909/MURRAY,%20WILLIAM. By April 1919 with the progressive demobilisation of the B.E.F. the Armies were replaced with Army Areas in France and Belgium and with further demobilisation following the ratification of the Germans of the Treaty of Versailles in July 1919 were from October 1919 replaced by Districts. By 1920 references to Areas and then Districts were gradually replaced with references to D.G.R. & E. districts. This change matched the progressive withdrawal of all other units apart from salvage units (withdrawn by 1921) and those supporting the work on the cemeteries with references to districts run from D.G.R. & E. Headquarters at St. Pol (famous for being the site where the body of the so-called ‘Unknown Soldier’ in Westminster Abbey was chosen in November 1920), for example see the G.R.R. Working Copy under 228882 William Leo Gallery at Tyne Cot http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/462834/GALLERY,%20WILLIAM%20LEO .
Following the final withdrawal of the British Army from the work of exhumation on the Western Front in September 1921 references to Army districts are replaced by I.W.G.C. districts, which were at first roughly based on their Army equivalents, see for example the G.R.R. under G/1538 Peter James King http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/458469/KING,%20PETER%20JAMES
A more detailed article including information on the different areas can be found by clicking on this link:
Army Record Offices:
Established in 1905 to manage the personnel functions of so-called other ranks (non-officers, the majority of the Army) either as groups of infantry regiments or for the separate Corps of the Army (e.g. Royal Artillery etc.) they are key to understanding how the D.G.R. & E. and then I.W.G.C. worked with the British Army to check/verify details of the dead and communicate with next-of-kin. Until 1917 the Territorial Army had its own Record Offices, when they were merged with the equivalent regular Army Record Office. Commissioned officers were instead managed by the War Office in London with the exception of Territorial Officers whose records were held by the Army Record Offices. Information about tbe G.R.C./D.G.R. & E/I.W.G.C. relationship with Army and Commonwealth record offices is included in many of the Glossary entries. A list of the Prefix Enquiry file entries adopted from Autumn 1917 to align the work of the D.G.R. & E. and then I.W.G.C. more closely with the Record Offices can be found by clicking here.
The Battalion Ledgers are mostly bound copies of the War Office casualty list kept by the C.W.G.C. and its predecessors, covering war-related service (and some supporting civilian organisations, British Red Cross etc.) casualties from 1914 onwards. The Ledgers cover all Commonwealth forces and individual units. Some Ledgers were compiled from summary lists produced in 1918 and others are compilations of relevant deaths made from general casualty lists (cut into strips presumably by D.G.R. & E. clerks and pasted into the ledgers). Asides from information from the casualty lists the bound Battalion Ledgers for the British Army all have pull out pages attached to record the following information about the casualty: War Diaries etc. (meaning information relevant to the death/burial of a casualty that could be found in these documents), Burial Authority, Burial Report (so who supplied the information about the burial and the report the information is contained in), Grave Authority, Grave Report (as per burial but in terms of Graves, so Comprehensive Reports etc and who certified the information) and Enquiry Files (see below). In most Ledgers this information was not completed and the columns have been left empty (for example Grave Report reference numbers can occasionally be seen), as the information from Soldiers Died In The Great War and Officers Died In The Great War had by 1922 replaced the Ledgers for the most part as the basic source for the Memorials to the Missing Branch. However the Ledgers continued to be used as a supplementary source of information.
According to I.W.G.C. records they only lacked casualty lists for the R.A.M.C. (Royal Army Medical Corps) (C.W.G.C. Archive W.G. 219/4 Box 1015 Memorials to the Missing: Nominal Rolls & Battalion Ledgers: Lists of: Memorials to the Missing – France and Belgium: J.W. Fisher to Director of Records (5 July 1922)). The Ledgers can be a unique source of surviving information, for example noting the casualty clearing station that reported the death of a soldier (usually only in the compilation lists, not the 1918 summary lists). The ‘C’ lists references often noted by a casualty’s name can often be found in associated casualty documentation in surviving service files. The I.W.G.C. originally looked to the Battalion Ledgers as the basis of the missing lists required for the Memorials to the Missing, but replaced them with S.D.G.W. (see S.D.G.W.) when it became clear they contained many omissions and errors in personal details made at the time that the casualty was reported. Occasionally references can be found in Graves Registration Report forms to information from the Battalion Ledgers, ‘B/Ledgers’ in the following case of Mckernan being used to correct casualty details: http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/97873/McKERNAN,%20JOHN%20HENRY
A rare example can be found here of the Battalion Ledgers, ‘Btn Ledger’ being mentioned with the J.K. List (see J.K. List) and S.S.P. 4995 (see S.S.P. 4995) in the Concentration document for 24965 William Alfred Melluish: http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/491861/MELLUISH,%20WILLIAM%20ALFRED
An example of the use of information in the Battalion Ledgers in the Enquiry Card Index system can be found in file C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file YP 2/631 of 3351 Lance Corporal Upham where reference is made to the information from the card being noted in the Battalion Ledger.
I have already established that the Ledgers were originally in Army Order of Precedence, that it is stated in the CWGC records I have seen that there are Ledgers for all British Army units apart from the R.A.M.C., that they were replaced by S.D.G.W. (Soldiers Died in the Great War)/O.D.G.W. (Officers Died in the Great War) as the primary source for the Memorials to the Missing by 1922 and that they represent fragments from the official casualty lists.
Since coming back I have also ascertained the following which applies to the British lists in the BattalionLedgers/S.D.G.W.:
Parts of the Battalion Ledgers come from the Casualty Lists
1) The lists that became the BattalionLedgers (the British Army Volumes) were first sent over to the D.G.R.E. by Army Record Offices in 1917. British Army lists that I have seen in the past were sent to the Record Offices by part of the War Office known as C2 Casualties, that maintained a card index of all different types of casualties. The C2 Casualties card Index occupied 42,000 feet of space by the Armistice and was maintained by 700 clerks (C2 Casualties had a staff of 1,500 in total by the Armistice) (National Archives (TNA) WO 32/9315 WAR OFFICE: Establishment (Code 1(C)): Formation of Casualty Branch: Memorandum from B.Grindle War Office (19 October 1923)) . In October 1921 the C2 Casualties Card Index was transferred to to the War Office records store at Isleworth (see C.W.G.C. Archive WG 219/4 Memorials to the Missing: Nominal Rolls & Battalion Ledgers Box 1015, B.B Cubitt War Office to Fabian Ware (9 June 1921)) where the War Office stored many of the records transferred back to Britain from the various expeditionary forces (B.E.F. etc). The I.W.G.C. made an unsuccessful request that the C2 Casualty Card index was transferred to them as it was comprehensive and organised alphabetically (Ibid: Director of Records IWGC to J.R. Wade C3 Records War Office (20 October 1921)) (see Card Indexes for the reorganisation of the Enquiries Card Index along the same lines under the I.W.G.C.) making it harder for searchers to be effected by incorrect service numbers (most military records were organised in regimental/service number order). According to the War Office the I.W.G.C. also retained three ex-soldier clerks in 1921 to answer queries using the C2 Casualty Card Index (Ibid: J.R. Wade War Office to Director of Record I.W.G.C. (25 October 1921)), with the employment of clerks to assist in work involving the War Office also used for Final Verification work at the Army Record Offices and I.W.G.C. clerks from Memorials to the Missing Branch based at the Historical Section, Committee of Imperial Defence (Cabinet Office) to put together the Divisional War Diary extracts necessary for their work.
C2 Casualties was responsible for collating and sending out the daily casualty lists (the C number references you see running throughout the list) to Record Offices for verification before it was published in newspapers (in an abbreviated form) and from August 1917 in the War Office Weekly Casualty Lists, The daily casualty lists sent to the Record Offices frequently ascribe a cause, an ‘Authority’ for the report. The lists sent over would cover the different units served by the particular Army Record Office and hence the need to cut the lists up so that the information could be organised by unit. For example in the Battalion Ledger for the Rifle Brigade we see a fairly common layout in one of these ledgers of a clear cut and paste page from a daily list sent by C2 to a Record Office and now in one of the Ledgers. They include both cut out entries and handwritten copies of casualty list entries often including casualty list numbers e.g. C 1789 and authorities such as the O.C. (officer commanding) a battalion or the officer commanding a casualty clearing station. The order of information on such pages is typically: regimental numbers, rank, name, initials aside form the authority discussed and casualty list numbers that sometimes appear.
Officer Casualties were circulated to D.G.R.E. via MS3 Casualties at the War Office (MS3T was the equivalent division dealing with the Territorials) and we do not have the copy of the so-called King’s List (a list of those sent standardised condolence messages from the King) in its version dealing with Officers, which was one of the principal lists supplied to D.G.R.E. to note officer casualties/next-of-kin. It is interesting that the handwritten Cavalry Ledgers, most of which note that their contents were drawn up by I.W.G.C. (they are clearly postwar handwritten copies of the relevant volumes of Officers Died In The Great War/Soldiers Died In The Great War) also have notes on the volumes that their contents had been checked with the relevant ‘War Office List’ and corrections made by the relevant Cavalry Record Office. Unlike the rest of the British Army Ledgers I have seen the officers are listed within these cavalry volumes, which is interesting as Officers were always managed from the War Office (which acted as the Record Office for officers), not Army Record Offices (with the exception of Territorial Officers who were managed at first from Territorial Record Offices and then Army Record Offices). Officer casualties are also included in the Canadian and Australian Casualty lists both in main and separate lists. Otherwise there are separate ledgers for the officers of the infantry regiments.
2) Another type of casualty list sent over by Record Offices and included in the Battalion Ledgers was an X List, associated with P.O.W.s (plus more generally in Army terms with no longer effective personnel but here associated with P.O.W.s) again originating from information put together in C2 and sent to the relevant Army Record Office, although in this case the whole examples I have seen of original casualty lists when it comes to POWs are by Camp/Party not divided by Record Office (so Record Offices would have had to spot their men). An example of an X list entry X36606 can be found amongst the 1918 entries in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers Battalion Ledger looking at the casualties for the 10th Battalion in March 1918.
3) I have also seen one reference to a ‘B’ list, which may come from the updated 3rd Echelon (the personnel function of the B.E.F.) based for much of the War at Rouen or ‘Base’ lists which acted as updates to the C. lists first sent out. The reference can be found in the R.G.A. November 1918-December 1918 Ledger, at the top of a page of deaths from 1 November 1918 against the name Pte. E.C. Morris of the 424 Siege Battery R.G.A. I have not seen examples of the other types of Casualty list produced by C2, either the P or Progress Report lists produced on previously notified entries in earlier lists or the HA and HB Hospital Lists.
4) However and most significantly there are a number of fragments from lists which were clearly put together by the Record Offices for other purposes (such as the return to be made after the War to the General Register Office setting out Deaths in the War) or simply to supply D.G.R.E. with lists of the dead. Army Record Offices were required to keep lists of the dead for the Registrars General in England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland for the legal record at the end of the War (the War Office issued their own legal documents establishing death to next of kin during the War but civil registration was needed for after the War’s end). Click here for examples of Army Council instructions 1915-1920 setting out how registers would be kept and then submitted at an agreed date after the War (Editor’s note: since writing the original email a note has come to light in a C.W.G.C. file confirming that many of the entries in the Battalion Registers do indeed come from the lists required for the Registrar General, see C.W.G.C. Archive WG 219/4 Memorials to the Missing: Nominal Rolls & Battalion Ledgers: Lists of. Captain Vetch D.G.R. & E. to I.W.G.C. (29 July 1920)). The same note has a handwritten addition mentioning the Canadians forwarding a complete list of Canadian deaths to D.G.R. & E.)
Army Returns of Deaths for the Registrar General and the Battalion Ledgers
A copy of A.F. W 3231 (the form required by the Registrars General at War’s end) shows the following headings: Regtl. No., Rank, Name in Full (Surname First), Age, Country of Birth, Date of Death, Place of Death and Cause of Death. Click here to see an image of an A.F. W 3231 form. Excitingly another example from the Battalion Ledger including the 10th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers covering casualties from November to December 1915 uses the format and headings of an Army Form W 3231 to supply D.G.R.E. with the names and theatres it needs and it is clear that the Record Office simply took a copy of the list it was compiling for the G.R.O. for war’s end and sent part of it to the D.G.R.E. The page also shows how information was standardised in the forms eventually submitted to the Registrar General as in Place of Death for example a hospital is named rather than just the country given and in cause of death the reason for the death was said to be unknown but the death had been accepted by the War Office. Throughout the Battalion Ledgers we see nuggets of information that have either been removed in the standardisation of descriptions in surviving records or information that no longer survives elsewhere in official records.
5) The most exciting list fragment is one that is headed ‘Nominal roll in accordance with War Office Letters No 45/E.F./3101 (AG.1R) dated 11-18 and 3-8-18 (45 is the number used in the War Office Registry Scheme for Casualty related matters on instructions and is more often associated with C2 Casualties, A.G.1.R instructions often used the number 35 when dealing with Record Office matters)’, from the Battalion Ledger including the 1st Battalion The Rifle Brigade, a page containing casualties from January to February 1917 . Here there is less information than the last example discussed and I have not been able to trace the letter referred to in its heading to a surviving Army Council Instruction (the formal means for recording many but not all memoranda/instructions that went out from the War Office). The list may be an example of one produced simply to meet the needs of D.G.R.E. for a nominal roll of the dead. It appears to be a stripped-down version of the information required by the Registrar General to be recorded and then sent to the General Registry Office after the official end of the War (it lacks Country of Birth and Place of Death compared to the G.R.O. lists). Along with the other fragments mixed together to form the BattalionLedgers (with often different types of list mixed together) it helps show how the information in the Ledgers was produced by Record Offices keeping a record for several different divisions in the War Office. This meant that the Record Offices would always have the information on casualties to hand to produce lists, often cannabalising lists produced for different purposes.
There was also the range of official records including information on casualties that the Record Offices were meant to keep on the soldiers under their care together with the various Casualty Forms such as Army Form B 103 (click here for some examples of Army forms used to record casualty information) which were returned from the Army Record sections based at Third Echelon (the personnel part of an expeditionary force) in the various theatres of war where these forces operated.
Battalion Ledgers and the Work Checking/Adding to the Information in Soldiers Died In The Great War (S.D.G.W.) and Officers Died In The Great War (O.D.G.W.)
Marking up with Grave (G) or (M) S.D.G.W. and some Battalion Ledgers
Other than the Ledgers there is also interesting information concerning the way that S.D.G.W. volumes were marked up by I.W.G.C. clerks before being punch carded, with G if there was also a certified record of the burial, a Special or Kipling Memorial or the burial or the casualty had died in the U.K. M if the casualty burial site was unknown, lost without being marked by a special or Kipling Memorial, the burial site was only provisionally confirmed or an isolated burial (C.W.G.C. Archive W.G. 219/4 Box 1015 Memorials to the Missing: Nominal Rolls & Battalion Ledgers: Lists of: Marking S.D.G.W. Books (no date given)). The same marking up system was also used by clerks looking at some of the Battalion Ledger entries, for example the Australian Lebanon, Egypt, Syria roll has Gs and Ms also written in by I.W.G.C. clerks, indicating whether there is a registered and certified grave or not. The entries in S.D.G.W. were compared against the BattalionLedgers and also the Enquiry Card index/files.
It also appears that the information in some of the Battalion Ledgers (presumably those dealing with the Dominions) were punch carded according to a memorandum written by Douglas Cockerell, the man responsible for producing the Registers and the technical aspects of the punch carding process see (C.W.G.C. Archive W.G. 219/4/2 Box 1015 Memorials to the Missing Obtaining Correct Lists: Machine Carding Grave Cases. Printing Adviser to Colonel Oswald I.W.G.C. Mr Davidson (15 May 1924)) alongside the lists for the British Army made from S.D.G.W./O.D.G.W. From the punch cards lists of the Missing were printed via a tabulator (printer), which were then sent to Army Record Offices for checking of the details and the additions of names so that Final Verification could be completed with the next-of-kin (inscriptions and names plus any mistakes picked up by the n.o.k.). The C.W.G.C. register was the ultimate verified and checked version of the information which had been through casualty lists and BattalionLedgers (plus information from the D.G.R.E’s own wartime records). The I.W.G.C. also had to gather information not included in the relevant volumes of S.D.G.W. and some not O.D.G.W. for a number of the Corps, specifically the units of deceased member of Corps such as the various parts of the Royal Artillery (R.F.A, R.G.A, R.H.A ), R.A.S.C. and even two units of the Guards (Ibid: Memorials to the Missing – France and Belgium: J.W. Fisher to Director of Records (5 July 1922)). This information was vital if the casualties name was going to be placed on the right Memorial commemorating the right place and time.
In 1924 Cemetery Registers Branch (C.R. Branch, part of the Directorate of Records) tried to make a case for their own set of S.D.G.W. volumes as they estimated that they made 800 visits a week to the sets held by Memorials to the Missing Branch or the set in the Director of Records room. The information was needed according to C.R. Branch to help place casualties when Cemetery Register forms were returned either with unreadable details or missing details making it hard to identify the individual related to the form (C.W.G.C. Archive WG 267 Pt2 Box 1027 Soldiers Died In The Great War: Gibbs C.R. Branch to Director of Records (19 October 1925)). This request was rejected partly on the grounds of cost but also partly as the volumes would need to be marked up/corrected as had other sets (see above) otherwise the information could be misleading (Ibid: Douglas Cockerell Joint Director of Records (4 November 1925)).
C2 & MS3 Casualties:
C2 Casualties was a division of the War Office responsible for casualty lists and the main casualty card index (see Battalion Ledgers). From 30th April 1920 C2 Casualties only dealt with matters relating to casualties amongst other ranks from on or before that date. For the G.R.C./D.G.R. & E./I.W.G.C. C2 Casualties was responsible for providing confirmation of death and also checking casualty details via the Location Sheet system.
On the 30th September 1921 C2 Casualties ceased to function as an active division of the War Office, its functions relating to casualties between August 1914 to 30 April 1920 (other ranks) and August 1914 to 11 November 1920 (officers) having been merged with those of the Disposal of Records Section (later R. Records) responsible for looking after the so-called ‘Aftermath’ archive of papers and records generated by the British Army during WW1. Shortly after the merger an official of the newly merged branch informed the I.W.G.C. Director of Records that the C2 casualty figures for the War were ‘approximate’ at best (C.W.G.C. Archive WG 1294/3/2 Box 1084 Exhumation, France and Belgium. Army Exhumation Staff. Note dated 5/10/1921 and letter dated 6/10/1921 from the Disposal of Records Section to Director of Records I.W.G.C.).
C2 (Casualties) ‘Duties’ from the 1919 War Office Directory
‘…Casualties— (a) All ranks.—General questions regarding system of reporting casualties. Receipt, registration, distribution and publication of war casualties, including lists of prisoners of war, and investigation of all questions arising thereon, including all references overseas for further information. Investigations of unofficial reports of casualties. Circulation of lists of missing; correspondence with enemy countries regarding identity, health, or death of prisoners of war. Maintenance of regimental lists of prisoners of war for purposes of Central Prisoners of War Committee and others. Organisation of arrangements with Enquiry Department of British Red Cross and Order of St. John. Decisions as to acceptance of death on the basis of unofficial reports or lapse of time. Statistics. Negotiation with insurance companies, banks, &c., regarding War Office certificates of death.
(b) N.C.O.s and men.— Record of, and correspondence regarding casualties to warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and men. Enquiry office for soldiers’ casualties. Issue of permits to visit soldiers dangerously ill in France. (Record of, and correspondence regarding, officers’ casualties, except as provided above, are dealt with by M.S.3—Casualties.)
Actuarial, &c. (C. 2 (b)). – The following duties are suspended, as far as possible, during the war:—
Actuarial calculation of effect of proposals concerning the Army and Departments.
Account of the Indian contribution to non-effective payments.
Preparation of general returns and statistics, including the General Annual Report,
and all statistics of the Territorial Force (but see under C.5)…’
M.S.3 (Casualties) was a part of the Military Secretary’s Department at the War Office, part of the War Office structure for dealing with the management of officers which was separated from the management of other ranks (the personnel management of other ranks which was run through the Army Record Offices). M.S.3. (Casualties) Territorial Force covered casualties amongst officers in the Territorial Force. M.S.3. (Casualties) (both Territorial and non-Territorial) from 1916 onwards provided G.R.C./D.G.R. & E. with copies of the King’s Lists (see King’s List) and also confirmed officer casualty’s details (C2 Casualties was also responsible for confirmation of death and inclusion of officers in the casualty lists). M.S.3. (Casualties) was also responsible for the publication of the record of officers killed in the Great War, Officers Died in the Great War (O.D.G.W.) in 1919. M.S.3 (Casualties) and M.S.3 (Casualties) Territorial Force were both disbanded and their work absorbed into the other parts of M.S.3. by the end of 1920.
M.S.3 (Casualties) ‘Duties’ from the 1918 War Office Directory
‘…Questions relating to casualties to officers of the Regular Army and Special Reserve: –
Registration of addresses of next-of-kin.
Notification of all casualties to next-of-kin.
Indexing of all casualties, including prisoners of war.
Answering of enquiries with regard to casualties.
Preparation of Press Communiques relative to casualties.
Issue of permits to relatives to visit France.
Registration of death reports for official circulation.
Preparation and forwarding of “King’s” list of officers dead or presumed dead.
Notification of addresses of next-of-kin to the Director of Graves Registration and Enquiries in cases of death overseas.
Preparation of lists of missing officers.
Review of the same with a view to presumption of death.
Return of correspondence of officers killed or missing…’
In April 1921 the demobilisation of the Canadians (presumably Canadian service personnel) based at the Baker Street Offices of the I.W.G.C. was discussed, with a civilian Canadian clerk replacement to be based in the Registrar’s Branch (see Registrar’s Branch), to specifically work on the Canadian Ledger Sheets.
‘The numbers shown as ‘Ottawa Ref. Nos.’ in some of the Canadian nominal rolls in the Battalion Ledgers are a link to another WW1 related document, the Canadian Circumstances of Death Registers. The latter are pretty familiar to WW1 researchers interested in the Canadian Army. For more about the Registers see here: https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/mass-digitized-archives/circumstances-death-registers/Pages/circumstances-death-registers.aspx
Captain Thomas List:
Captain Basil Walter Thomas (1879-1948) was born according to the 1939 Register on 27 January 1879, meaning that in available Census records it looks like he was born in 1878. He joined the G.R.C. (see G.R.C.) in November 1915 (C.W.G.C. Archive C.W.G.C. 1/1/1/34 DGRE 8 Military Rank and Promotions of Staff, 1918: List 1914 to end 1917). Thomas is associated in many surviving pre-1939 Enquiry Files, surviving Card Index Cards (see Card Indexes) and surviving British and Commonwealth service/related records with the Captain Thomas List or entries with Captain Thomas’s name, both references to lists of graves found by his searches on the Somme Battlefield. For example see the Australian service record for 2161 Arthur Kingsley Darby, page 47: https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=3486901 ; or the Location Sheet for the British soldier 15273 Percy Long (see Location Sheets). An index card mentioning Captain Thomas List no 55 can be found in the C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file YP 3/1411 8004 Pte. G.H. Pratt East Lancs: White Index Card dated 30 April 1918). Pratt’s C.W.G.C. Casualty Archive documents can be found here: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/532321/pratt,-george-horne/. Mentions of Captain Thomas’s Reports linked to research in the Montauban-de-Picardie Area can be found in another C.W.G.C. Enquiry file (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file YP 1/290 Pte 4635 A. Gray: handwritten noted dated 26 October 1920).
Another entry from a surviving C.W.G.C. Enquiry file from 1931 comparing records to locate a burial relates that Captain Thomas had reported on burials at High Wood (where Roberts’ died) and reported the graves of a number of Roberts’ fellow officers from the Battalion (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file HLG 63/31224 Captain Roberts 15th London Regiment: re Capt A. Roberts 15th London Regiment, 15-9-16. R3 (Registrar’s Branch) to Registrar (21 May 1931). Roberts’ papers in the C.W.G.C. Casualty Archive can be found here: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/261012/roberts,-arthur/
Thomas’s service record no longer survives and we have to rely on other biographical records to discover who he was, with for example his WW1 medal card stating that he arrived on the Western Front in October 1915. It is clear that his work in tracing graves on the Somme was likely to have been highly regarded as he was awarded a Military Cross for gallantry, notified in the official newspaper the London Gazette on 28 December 1917: https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/30450/supplement/47. That Captain Thomas wanted to ensure both the burial (a job between the Summer of 1916 to April 1919 for the Army Divisions and Corps, not the D.G.R. & E., see S.S.P.) and registration of the many thousands of isolated and scattered graves on the Somme can be seen in reports of his comments from July 1917 which describe his anxiety to get the job of burial as well as registration done, which earnt him a reminder that he was to stick to registration of burials (CWGC/1/1/34 DGRE 7 Formation of Burial Companies or Corps: D.G.R. & E. G.H.Q. 2nd Echelon France to Fabian Ware? (2 July 1917)).
Thomas was supposed merely to register the details/location and ensure the marking of graves, but with the exposure of so many remains on the Somme battlefield after the Battle according to Fabian Ware, writing to his then second in Command on the Western Front Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Messer in February 1917 (Ibid: Fabian Ware to Arthur Messer (2 February 1917)) it was clear that many burials had not been properly made or their locations registered.
It must have been tempting for a conscientious and brave D.G.R. & E. officer like Thomas to go beyond the guidelines, as well as taking risks (perhaps under shell fire) to secure and register the burials on the Somme. Sir Herbert Nield whose son had died in the Battle of the Somme wrote to the Imperial War Graves Commission in 1920 that he had been told that Captain Thomas had specifically set out to find unburied bodies and unregistered graves, a sign that Thomas’s work at the Somme was probably well known within Army and possibly War Office circles (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file HLG 57/28097 Lieut. W.H.E. Nield 11 Bn. Royal Fusiliers. Sir Herbert Nield to I.W.G.C. (18 August 1920)).
The need for the D.G.R. & E. to make up for the inadequacies of the Army in this respect (understandable considering the many difficulties experienced for the first time by the B.E.F. on the Somme) led to the establishment of officers responsible for burials within each Corps and Division (see here) but despite the practical difficulties caused by limited advances and bodies left in No-Man’s Land being exacerbated by the ground being churned up artillery fire (Ibid: Meeting at Adjutant & Quartermaster General’s Office 4th Army H.Q. (2 August 1916)), the fact that unburied bodies were still lying on the Somme Battlefield was mentioned in a memorandum by Fabian Ware to Captain Cornock Taylor, an officer at D.G.R. & E. Headquarters in France (CWGC/1/1/34 DGRE 1 Narrative Letters and Reports. Fabian Ware D.G.R. & E. London H.Q. to Captain Cornock Taylor H.Q. D.G.R. & E. 2nd Echelon G.H.Q. France (29 June 1917)).
Captain Thomas according to an entry in the 1939 Register, see (pay website): http://search.findmypast.co.uk/record?id=tna%2fr39%2f1214%2f1214b%2f009&parentid=tna%2fr39%2f1214%2f1214b%2f009%2f20 served with the B.E.F. until 1920, presumably continuing with the Graves Registration Units until his demobilisation. The last currently known entry mentioning Captain Thomas in a C.W.G.C. record (rather than just mentioning about one of his lists or reports) comes from a telegram on an Enquiry file whose father the M.P. Sir Herbert Nield was visiting along with two other MPs the Somme Battlefields, it is mentioned in a June 1919 telegram that Captain Thomas knew of the graves of Nield and a fellow officer from the same battalion Lieutenant Parr Dudley (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file HLG 57/28097 Lieut. W.H.E. Nield 11 Bn. Royal Fusiliers. Telegram Fabian Ware to General McNalty France (2 June 1919)). The graves were near the so-called Black Alley Trench near to Mametz. Nield’s entries in the C.W.G.C. Casualty Archive can be found here: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/548108/nield,-wilfred-herbert-everard/#&gid=null&pid=2
According to his medal card he must have continued post-war his association with his old D.G.R. & E. commanding officer Arthur Messer, as it was from Messer’s architectural practice (Messrs’ Tubbs & Messer Architects) in 1921 that Thomas asked for his medals to be sent (see WW1 Medal Cards, Basil Walter Thomas, Regiment: General List, the following link is to Ancestry.co.uk, the reference to Messer is on the rear side of the card only available on the Ancestry site):
The value of the Thomas reports in the Somme area was in common with the rest of the records produced by G.R.C./D.G.R. & E. sometimes where definite identification required investigation and comparison with other sources, for example in a case still being investigated in 1923 (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file YP 5/2124 2/Lieutenant S.R.E. Carter, 1/4th K.O.Y.L.I. who died on 8th September 1916. Note to Registrar (12 June 1923)) Captain Thomas’s List is identifed as having reported Carter’s grave under W.S. Cross No 59, with this information also included in an S.S.P. burial report list together with reports from Enquiries, although none of the reports made clear whether there were actual bodies with the graves marked by this and other crosses. We know from the next piece of correspondence on this file that W.S. stands for ‘White Serial Cross No. L.D. 59( Ibid: Unidentified writing for Director of Records to Mr Osborne, I.W.G.C. France? (15 June 1923))’.
Carter’s cross was located in Triangle Cemetery , which by the end of the war was badly overgrown and damaged by shell fire with many of the marked graves destroyed. To add to this difficulty the French Etat Civil (see Etat Civil] identified the remains of many British soldiers as German and the remains were dispersed to German cemeteries before some remains were retrieved as being British and reburied), probably including Carter’s remains. Whether it would have ever have been possible to securely identify Carter’s remains before the exhumations is answered in a note on file summarising the view of Captain Thomas on the Cemetery which is the graves had not been accurately registered by the Graves Registration Unit, meaning that it could not be certain that the crosses were over the bodies of the men named on the crosses (Ibid: Summary (28 February 1924)).
Captain Carter’s name is now commemorated at Thiepval:
White Serial Crosses – Further Evidence
Winston Churchill when Secretary of War, in an answer given in Parliament on the 13 July 1920 confirmed that the role of White Serial Crosses was as an emergency system adopted to deal with the large number of burials that needed to be registered on the Somme. Churchill was responding to statements from John W.W. Hopkins MP when questioning him, where Hopkins’ stated that in relation to the Connaught Cemetery Thiepval the MP had discovered that the key to the registration number and letters on the White Crosses was not known to current D.G.R. & E. staff in France. Hopkins also said that he had had to get the ‘signs [Editor’s note: the key]’ to the White Serial Cross codes from the London H.Q. of D.G.R. & E. This was of importance to John Hopkins as his son Lieutenant A.M Hopkins of the 7th Battalion South Lancashire Regiment was buried in Connaught Cemtery under a White Serial Cross with the reference ‘D.G. 25’ (click here for his documents in the C.W.G.C. Casualty Archive). The exchange in the Commons suggests that even in 1920 there was a problem in understanding the code numbers on the White Serial Crosses, the key not having been passed on from earlier G.R.U. staff. to current exhumation/G.R.U. staff in France. With part of the cemetery badly damaged by shell fire and presumably many crosses damaged or destroyed such a key would have been useful to the unit responsible for the exhumations together with the current G.R.U. officers. The extract from the debate can be found in the Hansard 1803-2005 Archive here.
Cards are often mentioned in G.R.R. forms when changes have been made or details added to individual entries, see for example the G.R.R. form for Regina Trench which includes an amended entry for 146635 Gregory Watters, which says at the bottom of the sheet ‘Card made “Watters” A.E. [initials of the official making the entry] 28.4.23’: http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/235540/WATTERS,%20GREGORY
Before the establishment of what became the D.G.R.E./I.W.G.C. Card Index the ‘database’ originally behind much of the recording and investigation of reported burials was first established in 1915 by the G.R.C. (see Graves Registration Commission). The Geographical version of the indices used by the G.R.C. and early D.G.R. & E. (see D.G.R. & E.) is discussed under Graves Registration Reports, with this index in part the origin of Communal/Comprehensive Reports. The other early indice was according to a report sent by Fabian Ware to the Adjutant General of the B.E.F. in August 1915 organised on a regimental basis (C.W.G.C. Archive C.W.G.C.1/1/26 Narrative Letters & Reports: Fabian Ware Report for the Adjutant General (21 August 1915): p. 1).
In May 1915 then local rank Lieutenant Charles Pilkington Wilson wrote a report recommending card index systems as part of his proposals for systems to handle enquiry and photography requests (C.W.G.C. Archive GRC 5 Box 2029, Section for dealing with Photographs and Enquiries: May 1915).
Between 1915 to 1916 the H.Q. card based index emerged and greatly expanded after D.G.R.E. Headquarters moved to London in August 1916.
The following is a discussion of the Enquiry Card Index (the Main Index of the Directorate of Graves Registration & Enquiries and then the Imperial War Graves Commission together with other Card Indexes developed from it).
By 1917 the two systems at least as far as noting that a soldier’s grave had been photographed appeared to have merged, with the provision of photographs and the negative number noted on the main Card Index and often in the individual’s Enquiry file. The Card Index that emerged was structured somewhat differently to the earlier Register, but organised in clear stages to reflect the process whereby burials were reported, registered and the information verified. Addresses of next of kin etc. became one of the functions of Enquiry Files. In November 1920 there were 800,000 cards in the Card Index system ( C.W.G.C. Archive Add 1/3/69 Box 2033 Correspondence with General MacDonogh, Removal of D.G.R. & E: Memorandum (30 November 1920) and the Card Index was divided by regiment, an arrangement which fitted the division of D.G.R. & E. Enquiries Branch by Army Record Office (see Prefix series files) (Ibid: Move Points, part of a memorandum by the Registrar Charles Miskin (29 November 1920)). The Card Index was used as a system to record information on reported burials and graves on the following basis (the following is based on information from C.W.G.C. Enquiry files, C.W.G.C. Archive D.G.R. & E. Standing Orders, C.W.G.C. Archive Add 1/3/4 Box 2033: Report on the London Office of D.G.R. & E. pp. 1-8 (15 December 1920) and C.W.G.C. Archive Add 1/3/69 Box 2033 Correspondence with General MacDonogh, Removal of D.G.R. & E: Memorandum Lt.Col. Ellissen I.W.G.C. to Fabian Ware (13 December 1920)) :
- Blue Provisional Nominal Cards were made when information was received about a burial from official sources (Chaplains/Burial Officer’s reports, information from Graves Registration Units/Enquiries).
- Enquiry Cards were made by the Enquiry Branch when an enquiry was received (kept in addition to an existing Provisional or Certified card). All details recorded on a card were passed on to an individual’s Enquiry file (if one had been opened).
- White Certified Nominal Cards were produced when a Comprehensive G.R.R. report (see Comprehensive Reports) including the name on a Provisional Nominal Card was submitted, confirming that the grave had been registered (confirmed), these replaced the Provisional Nominal Cards. All details recorded on a card were passed on to an individual’s Enquiry file (if one had been opened).
- Location sheets were produced from the Nominal Cards and first sent to C2 Casualties for confirmation of personal information/death. Confirmation that the Location Sheet had first been checked with C2 Casualties (plus presumably MS3/MS3(T) for officers) was usually shown by either what is often likely to be a Location Sheet number either written above or written inside the stamp ‘D.G.R.E. Corrected’ e.g. ‘17882’, in the bottom left hand corner of a card. Sometimes the card has the words Location Sheet written next to a number or a full post 1917 Enquiries re-organisation Location Sheet Army Record Office related number is given e.g. CCM/LS8/22393. Once the Location Sheet had been corrected by C2 a corrected copy was sent out to Record Offices to allow them to notify next-of-kin that the burial site had been recorded. New Location Sheets were also issued if an exhumation of a grave, whether already registered or newly found, took place.
- Final Cards were made when all corrections/research related to the Grave had been completed and the Grave location/details were certified as correct. A small number of the surviving ‘Final’ cards from 1920 and 1921 are printed forms with space for the clerks to fill in the details. They also have the form number F.V.D.2 printed at the bottom left of the card (see C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file YP 3/1358 Captain M.H. Goodall 1/5 York and Lancaster Regiment. F.V.D.2. Card at back of file (undated)). These ‘new’ printed versions of the ‘Final’ cards are presumably connected to the Final Verfication process then underway/the new revised card index ordered in 1920 by the Imperial War Graves Commission (see below). 50,000 copies of the F.V.D.2 cards were printed in December 1920 (Ibid) and a later example of the card shows the same number were printed in June 1921 (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file CCM 5/2243 Major R.S. Dallas R.A.F. F.V.D.2. Card at back of file (undated)).
- At all stages the Card Index system was used to bring together information from all sources to help compare and confirm the location and details of reported burials.
- Entries in Graves Registration Reports were to be made in blocks of four ‘…assist the War Office [Editor’s note: the D.G.R. & E.] in copying the names on to the card index slips, which are made up in sheets of four… (Commonwealth War Graves Commission CWGC/1/1/1/38/3 Add 3/1/3 Directorate of Graves Registration and Enquiries – Standing Orders. Revised to 1st May 1918, p. 4). This was to help the process of producing ‘Final’ cards from Comprehensive Reports and surviving cards (rather than just copies of cards on scraps of paper) confirm that four cards occupied about the length of an A4 sheet of paper.
From 1919 the I.W.G.C. (see I.W.G.C.) who had taken over responsibility for the Card Index from D.G.R. & E. (see D.G.R. & E.) continued to correct and expand the Index. According to Longworth’s official history of the C.W.G.C., the I.W.G.C. when it took over the Card Index (probably in 1919) found a Enquiry Card Index system arranged into different boxes under regiments/corps and regimental depots (Philip Longworth (1967) The Unending Vigil: The History of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Pen & Sword: Barnsley: p. 76). Longworth exaggerates when he uses the word ‘found’ as the Enquiry Branch which ‘owned’ the Enquiry Card Index system simply transferred from the D.G.R.E. to the Commission along with its systems. Enquiries Branch since the Autumn of 1917 been arranged into sections that reflected the grouping of multiple regiments under geographically based Army Record Offices and corps with their own individual record offices (see Enquiries Branch). Longworth also does not mention that Communal and Comprehensive Reports (See G.R.R. and Communal Reports) were used to compile information geographically before the old wartime Card Index was replaced by a new I.W.G.C. Card Index. War surplus card index drawers were acquired in 1920 to provide 3,000 drawers for a new card index to underpin the work of producing cemetery registers (CWGC 24th Finance Committe Meeting 13 July 1920: Cabinets for Card Indexes) D.Cockerell to Colonel Durham (17 May 1920)). Longworth states that they were now to be three indexes rather than one which was organised alphabetically by surname, country and regiment, occupying around 450 square feet (Longworth: pp. 76-77). With the decision to register War Graves in the United Kingdom as well as in the overseas theatres of War and also the process of correcting and verifying details the I.W.G.C. had for example in 1920-1921 made ‘Four hundred and twenty thousand new cards…correcting previous information and embodying fresh information’ (C.W.G.C. (1921) Annual Report of the Imperial War Graves Commission, 1920-1921. H.M.S.O.: London: p. 11). In 1924 Mr Swinstead of Enquiries Branch confirmed that alphabetical was the key arrangement for the Card Index meaning that errors picked up in regimental numbers were less important than of it had been organised by regimental number like so many military related records ((C.W.G.C. Archive W.G. 219/4 Box 1015 Memorials to the Missing: Mr Swinstead Enquiries to the Director of Records (23 August 1924)).
The Card Index was also used to help identify the missing, for Memorials to the Missing (see Memorials to the Missing including discussion of ‘Missing’ cards) and together with the information from Final Verification (see Final Verification) to produce the Cemetery and Memorial Registers. Ultimately the Imperial War Graves Commission Index to Cemtery And Memorial Registers of Those Who Fell In The War Indexes, produced using punch card technology (see here) come in part from the verified information in the IWGC Card Index, itself in large part derived from the original war time Card Index. The IWGC Card Index is likely to have been destroyed later in the 1930s as the information it contained (and the I.W.G.C. wanted to retain) had been recorded in the then existing complete run of Enquiry files, the Cemetery and Memorial to the Missing Registers and the printed Indexes. Search slips made for Enquiries by the mid 1930s no longer mention the Card Index. The small number of surviving pre-WW2 Great War related Enquiry files preserve copies of the different cards described (almost all found to date are copies of cards from the original Card Index, not the post-war IWGC Card Index), although they include a very small number of cards compared to the size of the original Indexes. Enquiry files often include cards or fragments of cards for cases unrelated to the case described in the particular file that had been re-used to write notes to pass within the I.W.G.C. The surviving cards usually record information about who informed (often by role or unit rather than by name) the D.G.R. & E. (and its predecessors) about the burial (e.g. Chaplain, Corps Burial Officer etc.). This information is now lost for most of the WW1 casualties commemorated by the C.W.G.C.
There is evidence that Card Index cards were made for German burials (see S.S.P) and it is likely that index cards were made for all of the nationalities whose graves were reported by G.R.C./D.G.R. & E. before the information was passed on to the relevant national authorities (through the International Red Cross Committee in Geneva in the case of enemy nations before the end of WW1).
Responsible for the editing and publishing of the Cemetery Registers, clerks from Cemetery Registers also helped in the process of double checking the Memorials to the Missing lists for casualties who had a known grave.
Files used by the D.G.R.E and then I.W.G.C. staff in France and Belgium. C.R. stands for Central Registry and has its origins in a file series used by the British forces in France and Belgium during the Great War. A change to a cemetery record made under a CR reference is a sign that this change was made by staff based in France and Belgium, rather than under the authority of research conducted through the London headquarters, for example see the Grave Registration Report for the following: http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/491509/GALLAGHER,%20JOHN%20WALTER . Also see the following CR referenced letter about concentration and exhumation of graves in 1936 under the supervision of the Head Office for the Central European District of the I.W.G.C. (see the second of the Concentration documents for this casualty): http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2945537/BARNLE,%20D
Dame Adelaide Livingstone’s Mission and Missing Prisoners of War:
For a page including sources for Dame Adelaide Livingstone’s Mission and the search for Missing Prisoners of War, some of who died either on the Western Front or whilst prisoners in Germany please click here.
D.G.R. & E.:
The Directorate of Graves Registration and Enquiries, the new name for the G.R.C. from February 1916 (Philip Longworth (1967) The Unending Vigil: The History of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Pen & Sword: Barnsley: p. 17). The new Directorate’s Headquarters was based in London by August 1916 (C.W.G.C. Archive C.W.G.C. 1/1/1/34 DGRE 8 Removal of Directorate to London from GHQ, France: Fabian Ware to the Adjutant General (27 August 1916)). Fabian Ware had moved to the London Office in May 1916 (Ibid: B.C. Childs D.P.S. (War Office?) to the Military Secretary (War Office) (19 May 1916)). The D.G.R. & E. had added responsibility for supervising units registering war graves in other theatres of war in which Commonwealth forces were involved, such as the Mediterranean and the Middle East. In March 1921 I.W.G.C. absorbed the headquarters and records of the Army based graves organisation the D.G.R. & E. in Europe (see C.W.G.C. Archive CWGC/1/1/1/38 Box 2033, Add 3/1/3 Taking over of D.G.R.E. by I.W.G.C. Transfer of duties between D.G.R. & E., France and I.W.G.C. France, joint memorandum (14 March 1921): p. 2), except for D.G.R. & E (Central Europe) which continued to work on establishing cemeteries in Germany and Central Europe for the Commonwealth P.O.W.s who had died in German custody or shortly after release from the camps (e.g. the Berlin Office of D.G.R. & E. was still in operation in 1922, an undated newspaper article (see C.W.G.C. Archive W.G. 436/1 Box 1037 Graves of British Prisoners of War in Germany) states that it closed down, having handed its remaining work to the I.W.G.C., in April 1922). The end of British Army work to find and exhume bodies in France and Belgium in September 1921 is discussed below in the entry for the Imperial War Graves Commission (click here to go to the entry).
Drawing Office & Survey:
In October 1917 the British Red Cross agreed to provide £200 for equipment and £50 per year to support the cost of a drawing office to support the production of plans and surveys of the war cemeteries (C.W.G.C. Archive Add 41116 Red Cross Record Office file: various correspondence October to November 1917). The Drawing Office began with an agreed establishment of one architect, six draughtsmen and two orderlies (Ibid: Sanctioned Establishment (26 November 1917)). It was first established at Boulogne between late December 1917 to January 1918 (Ibid: various correspondence December 1917 to January 1919) and was moved in December 1918 to be close to the Imperial War Graves Commission Headquarters at Hesdin (Ibid: various correspondence 1918) then moved according to Longworth to Longuenesse near St.Omer in May 1919 (Philip Longworth (1967) The Unending Vigil: The History of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Pen & Sword: Barnsley: p. 59). The first head of the Drawing Office was Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Messer, who was a trained architect who had been with the Mobile Unit when it was first established in 1914.
The 1918 Directorate of Graves Registration And Enquiries Standing Orders mention the work of the Royal Engineer surveyors in relation to the final plan produced when a plot or cemetery was full and a final plan was submitted with a Comprehensive Report:
‘As soon as a plot is filled up the G.R. Unit Officer [Editor’s note: Graves Registration Unit Officer], in whose are cemetery is situated, will notify the D.A.D. [Editor’s note: Deputy Assistant Directors from D.G.R. & E. in charge of groups of Graves Registration Units in an Army Sector by 1917], who will see that a record plan (together with a small key plan] is made in strict accordance with the comprehensive report to be prepared at the same time, and signed by himself and his Survey Officer. The D.A.D. will then forward to D.G.R. & E., War Office [Editor’s note: H.Q. in London], a signed copy of the record plot plan, together with the comprehensive reports relating thereto and a copy of the small key plan of the whole cemetery showing the positions of all the plots and indicating clearly which are completed, and he will see that the original key plan is kept up to date.
When a cemetery is completed and closed a record plan of the whole cemetery will be made in strict accordance with the comprehensive report prepared at the same time. This plan will cancel all record plots previously made. D.A.D. will then forward to D.G.R. & E. France, a cloth tracing (rolled, not folded) of the record plan, accompanied by a complete and corrected series, in duplicate of the plot comprehensive reports relating to all the burials which have taken place in the cemetery. ‘
From Commonwealth War Graves Commission CWGC/1/1/1/38/3 38 Add 3/1/3 Directorate of Graves Registration and Enquiries – Standing Orders. Revised to 1st May, pp. 11-12
A surviving copy of a pre-I.W.G.C. cemetery record plan can be seen for Polygon Wood Cemetery at the C.W.G.C. Archive [no reference]. The names of the Royal Engineer surveyor responsible (an officer) for the survey and the two n.c.o.s responsible for drawing up the plan can be found on the bottom left hand corner of the plan sheet. An X/Y 2320 Cemetery File reference is also given as the authority for striking the word ‘British’ out of the cemetery name [for the likely function of X/Y files see below].
A File series associated with more recent changes to CWGC graves e.g. http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/267626/DUFF,%20JOHN%20CAMPBELL
(The initial G has been changed to a C electronically in red on the electronic copy of the G.R.R.F.)
In this context identity disks and other personal items often used for identification following exhumation. An example of the kind of effects often found can be seen in a Concentration report including Lance Serjeant Albert Barnes 202295 buried at Tyne Cot (see Concentration document): http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/461830/BARNES,%20ALBERT In the report the effects listed include five identity discs used to identify the burials, one envelope (presumably with a name or address) and a paybook (often known by its Army book number AB64) which would have featured the names and regimental details of the deceased. Sometimes effects were too decayed or dirty to be returned to next of kin, leading to the note ‘insanitary’ next to them.
Other items such as spoons could be used for identification as many items of equipment would have the individuals regimental number etched on written on them, provided there was some form of regimental identification as well (such as a numeral, metal badges worn on the shoulder epaulettes), see a page from Tyne Cot which records a variety of exhumed items, Lance Serjeant 240533 J Thom (Concentration document): http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/464886/THOM,%20J . Perhaps the most interesting item recorded here is a ‘Section Roll’, probably recording the names of the men in the Corporal’s section (about 12 men, including the corporal). Not just numbers but sometimes names were also found on items such as 7235 Thomas Elliot[t] where it is stated in the burial report ‘Elliot. E Name taken off gas mask…Identified by address found and communicated [Editor’s note: the entry presumably means next of kin and the burial form looks as if it was retyped to include this information after investigation at D.G.R. & E. in London] ’ see (Concentration documents): http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/457940/ELLIOTT,%20THOMAS
A very clear example of how much might be established through exhumation and investigation of the surviving evidence/effects can be seen from looking at one of the pages from the burial report for Hooge Crater, which features not just how the burials were identified through memorial crosses but how the discovery of the identity of one burial helped identify where to look for three other casualties noted to the left of that burial to be exhumed and identified. See Private 19410 William Southam (Concentration documents): http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/459341/SOUTHAM,%20WILLIAM The statement on the burial return reads:
‘Memorial crosses for the first three names viz [Editor’s note: see] Southam, Thompson and Stephens were found in a corner of the old Cemetery placed there by an officer of the G.R. and E. [Editor’s note: D.G.R. & E.] X Army [Editor’s note: X Army is probably a mistake as the B.E.F. was broken down into 5 Armies (see Armies/Army Areas/Army Districts/I.W.G.C. Areas)] who only knew that these bodies were buried somewhere to the left of Gunner Villiers. The position of Gunner Villiers was also unknown though a memorial cross had been erected to him and three others viz. Watson, Watts and Barclay just S.E. of the original cemetery. In making the Extension the Remains of these latter three were discovered and further search enabled not only Villiers, but Southam, Thompson and Stephens as well as Crance of whom there was no record to be traced.’
Another entry in the Hooge Crater burial return makes clear the often crucial role of documentary evidence in identifying burials when it is explicitly stated that Brigadier General James Foster Riddell of 50th Northumberland Division was ‘…Identified by Research Documents’ see the following Concentration document (his name was originally incorrectly spelt Reddell): http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/464425/RIDDELL,%20JAMES%20FOSTER
Efx number/file series:
A file series used to identify individual effect forms and associated effects files. References to this series are rarely seen after 1939. Some surviving correspondence from these enquiry files can be found in surviving Great War related Enquiry files (see Prefix series Enquiry Files). The following link is to the only original and completed Effects form currently known to survive and comes from the file of an Australian serviceman, Private W.H. Caldwell (go to page 23): https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=3188728
The above example shows how these forms got their EF/x number, it was stamped onto the form. There may also be a link between the 6/348 files (see 6/348) linked to exhumations and the 6348 printing references printed on the bottom of the forms. References to Efx files are frequently found in Concentration and Graves Registration Report forms, for example see the following Concentration form: http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/34313/COLLCOTT,%20ERNEST%20HARRY
For a longer article looking at the single surviving completed Efx Effects form (part “B”) and a transcription made by Australian clerks of another part of the same Effects form (including a unique part “C’), plus how the Effects form was part of a set printed with the part “A” Concentration of Graves (Exhumation and Reburials) Burial Return (which often survives in the C.W.G.C. Casualty Archive for concentrated burials) click here.
In 1928 a memorandum was sent by Works Branch to deal with the reallocation of a soldier whose body had been found from the prospective memorial to the missing at Thiepval to Serre Road No 2 Cemetery. The memorandum refers to the Registrar writing a letter on an Ef/x file (see C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file YP 1/190 11960 Private J.W. Wilders 1st Bn. Royal Lancashire Regiment: F.V. Branch Director of Works to Enquiries Branch (28/3/1928)). The same reference can be seen in the casualties entries in the C.W.G.C. Casualty Archive: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/610142/wilders,-joseph-william/
A 1932 identification of a grave after exhumation followed at Serre Road Cemetery (with a special memorial headstone moved from Peronne Road Cemetery) is also sanctioned by an Ef/x referenced letter signed by a member of the Registrar’s Branch (see C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file YP 1/290 Pte 4635 A. Gray: Ef/x/26954 Registrar’s Branch to Director of Works (2 September 1932)). The same number can also be seen in the casualty’s entries in the C.W.G.C. Casualty Archive: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/608774/gray,-archibald-william/
From its foundation in March 1915 the G.R.C. answered enquiries from both the public and the military about the burial and graves of Commonwealth service personnel in France and Belgium. It also supplied at no cost to relatives (paid for by a grant by the British Red Cross Society (B.R.C.S.), originally a grant of £50 per week to the G.R.C. and its successors that was also to help fund the care of war cemeteries see C.W.G.C. Archive Add 4/1/5 Box 2028 Graves Registration Commission: Secretary to B.R.C.S. Commissioner to Fabian Ware (23 November 1915)) photographs of war graves. By February 1916 the G.R.C. had become the D.G.R. & E. and from August 1916 the main office was based in London (C.W.G.C. Archive C.W.G.C. 1/1/1/34 DGRE 8 Removal of Directorate to London from GHQ, France: Fabian Ware to the Adjutant General (27 August 1916)). In the autumn of 1917 the Enquiry Branch appears to have been reorganised into sections to reflect the structure of the Army Record Offices (see AA, CCM, CDEW, HLG, SL, WW, YP Enquiry Department pre-WW2 Prefix File Case File series). A fragment of a blank list intended to be used to show the day by day correspondence dealt with by the different sections (AA. etc) can be found in a surviving C.W.G.C. Enquiry file (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file PH 24/11963 303088 PH 24/11963 303088 J. Adam 1/8th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders: undated fragment, back used for note dated 20 October 1921). The growth in the volume of enquiries by the end of 1918 was enormous. By April 1916 D.G.R. & E. reported that around 5,000 enquiries from families had been answered and 2,500 photographs of graves sent to next-of-kin ( (C.W.G.C. Archive C.W.G.C.1/1/26 Narrative Letters & Reports: Fabian Ware to Adjutant General (4 May)). The D.G.R. & E. end of 1918 report stated that 223, 126 letters have been sent out to answer enquiries about the location of graves (C.W.G.C. Archive WG 1609 Record of Directorate 1918: The Work of the Directorate of Graves Registration And Enquiries 1918 (copy report attached to minute dated 16 December 1918). With regard to photographs of graves 57,438 applications for photographs had been received and 33,437 photographs sent out (Ibid). By December 1919 the Enquiries Branch had transferred from D.G.R. & E. to the I.W.G.C. becoming part of the Principal Assistant Secretary’s Department ((C.W.G.C. Archive Add 1/3/69 Box 2033 Correspondence with General MacDonogh, Removal of D.G.R. & E: Memorandum written by Arthur Browne Principal Assistant Secretary: p. 1 (30 November 1920). By November 1920 around 500,000 Enquiry files had been opened and in November 1920 it was reported that Enquiries Branch dealt with 300 letters per day about individual graves, sent out 400 letters a day and had about 20 enquiries per day from people calling in at the I.W.G.C. offices (Ibid: p. 2).
‘…1) The numbers Army record office prefixes (AA, CDEW etc) were introduced in October/November 1917. It is likely that the organisation of enquiries at D.G.R. & E and subsequently I.W.G.C. to match the Record Offices also dates from around this time.
2) Each prefix has its own run of serial numbers (the number after the /), so for example YP begins at 1 and potentially runs to the number of casualties for the units covered by the Record Offices/units covered by the prefix. So for example using the CWGC database PH has a total number of casualties of 73,556. CCM, CDEW would have a far larger run of numbers. Each prefixseries run of serial numbers is entirely separate from all of the others.
So for example: YP 1/290 is the 290th PH number in the first block of 500 numbers, whereas YP 2/631 is the 631 PH number in the second PH block of 500 numbers. Number blocks seem to have been allocated early on in most series in blocks of 500, with sometimes larger blocks of 1000 and smaller blocks of probably 250 coming on. This is clear from dividing the second number by 500 and then seeing how far in advance or behind the first number is, so for example PH 41/20406 shows a pretty regular issue of blocks of 500 in the PH section, as 41/20000 would be 40/ and numbers between 20,001 to 20,500 are 41/. Looking at the early issue of files in prefixseries through surviving E-Files such as YP in October to November 1917 the blocks become clear. Many more examples (although without dates of issue) to supplement the evidence for number blocks are available at looking at Comprehensive and Burial Reports which often feature Enquiry file references as authorisation for amendments. The LS (Location Sheet) references are of course completely separate as e.g. CDEW/LS/7/9021 as mentioned in earlier emails and my draft explaining how the pre-WW2 systems worked (a work in progress).
By contrast other series show bigger or smaller regular blocks sometimes issued in between the standard issue of 500, for example WW 50/22809 is 4 block numbers ahead from where it should be if blocks of 500 were always issued. Thus at some stage blocks perhaps of 250 have been issued inbetween the 500s.
3) Why does this matter? If we use the first date on the file that the particular prefix file was issued, for example YP 3/1028 and match it up with the first bit of correspondence where the file number looks like it was typed in or purposely written on a memorandum, letter or index card we can see roughly when the file number came into circulation. In this case 11/11/1917. Usually there is also earlier correspondence on the file which has later had the file number written in in coloured pencil but the most secure date for understanding the run of file numbers is this first piece of correspondence issued using the number. It is also quite common to see earlier correspondence using the earlier 8/, 17/, 19/, 20/, 21/, 22/, 23/ enquiries file series (these are briefly discussed below).
If we put these individual file dates together for a run of files we begin to get a rough timeline for the series against which to date the issue of other E-files, for example the photographs taken of graves by DGRE photographers which many people have.
It is not all plain sailing as it appears that these batches were issued to sub-sections within the PH and other sections and sometimes the numbers waited a time to be used, but with the charting of enough numbers a pattern begins to emerge of roughly when a block began to come into use.
Using dates from runs of surviving numbers and the simple tool of dividing by 500 it also becomes possible to begin calculating estimated dates for the E-Files mentioned in the I.W.G.C. Indices.
4) … told me that understanding of the E-File prefixes had pretty much gone in the IWGC by the 1950s and this is also reflected in the practice in some cases by the mid 1930s of simply taking an older file. The following example is from 1938 where Enquiries simply took an old series 22 file in 1938, 22/334 which had come back to life and put a YP in front of the of the 22, making YP 22/334! A 1917-1922 YP22 file would be between YP 22/10501-YP22/11000.
5) I am still working on the older 8/, 17/, 19/, 20/, 21/, 22/, 23/ enquiry file series. So far I can tell you that they probably originated in 1916 and replaced older letter file series covering correspondence and photographs. It is also the case that 8/, 17/, 21/, 22/, 23/ files were only used for France and Flanders whereas the rarely used 19/ and 20/ were used into the early 1920s for UK burials. It was also not automatic that every file in the old enquiry series straight away or at all was re-issued as a prefix (PH etc) file, although many were. Some correspondence continued on these older numbers until 1919/1920…’
Taken over by the I.W.G.C. (see I.W.G.C.) from the D.G.R. & E. (see D.G.R. & E.) their original function was as ‘a War Graves Registration Bureau [Editor’s note: in France and Belgium], where the relative would check the information he has, which is often incorrectly copied, with an official copy of the register’ (National Archives (T.N.A.) T161/23 Visits of Relatives to War Graves: Powers of War Graves Comm. to provide transport, passes etc. I.W.G.C. Land and Legal Advisor to Fabian War (1 July 1920)). According to an answer given by Winston Churchill, then Secretary of War, in Parliament on the 7 July 1920 the War Graves Registration Bureau had only recently been established by D.G.R. & E. in France, presumably at an earlier point in the year (click here to see the full entry in Hansard).
In a undated document from the early 1920s there were said to be four Enquiry Bureaux in France and Belgium, with the French Bureaux in Bethune, Arras and Albert. The Belgium Bureaux was Ypres. Their function was stated to be to answer questions or letters from visitors (with some enquiries needing information from I.W.G.C. H.Q. in London) and as with the D.G.R. & E. Bureaux to help visitors find the graves they were looking for (See C.W.G.C. Archive SDC 65 Establishments And Duties. 1920 – 1922: Imperial War Graves Commission London, draft directory: p. 12). In June 1921 the Assistant Director of Records for France and Belgium, Ernest Gell sent in a list of then outstanding enquiries to the Enquiry Bureau at Ypres, 35 in total which reflect the range of enquiries they were being asked which required help from London. There were enquiries from as far away as Australia and Canada (single cases) in the list, however the majority were from the United Kingdom and it is interesting to note that the enquiries were made to the Enquiry Bureau (presumably by post) rather than directly to the Enquiries Branch in London. There are also five enquiries from France and Belgium, including an I.W.G.C. Officer based at Remy Camp Poperinghe and what looks like a mixture of mostly British except in one case visitors or residents of France/Belgium. An interesting entry is for a missing officer who had no toes! (see C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file YP 3/1189 Lieut W.W.A. Warrell 2nd Lancs. Fus.: Enquiries from the Bureaux at Ypres: E.A.S. Gell to Fabian Ware (17 June 1921)).
The Etat-Civil was the French organisation responsible for public works, with responsiblilites including the exhumation of war graves for the French and sometimes British war graves in the sectors where the areas had mostly been occupied by the French Army. After the withdrawal of the British Army from further exhumation work in France in September 1921 the Etat-Civil was sometimes employed by the I.W.G.C. in exhumation work (for example see Weekly Reports).
Final Verification Branch (part of Works Department I.W.G.C):
In the early 1920s 80 clerks were employed by the Final Verification Branch. Its work began once the Registrar’s Branch (see Registrar) had made any changes to the G.R.R. form submitted once work on concentrating and identifying graves was complete. The role of the Final Verification Branch was then to agree inscriptions with next-of-kin, verify the other information to be recorded on the headstone and also collect the information regard for the Cemetery Registers. The information for use by contractors that we see in the headstone schedules was also put together by Final Verification Branch (See C.W.G.C. Archive SDC 65 Establishments And Duties. 1920 – 1922: Imperial War Graves Commission London, draft directory: p. 5). Final Verification could not begin until the Comprehensive Report (See Graves Registration Report) had been checked by the Registrar/Records Department against existing records. For example the headstones at Guillemont Road Military Cemetery, where Lieutenant Raymond Asquith, son of the ex-Prime Minister Herbert Asquith was buried had not yet begun to be carved as the checked Comprehensive Report had still not at the beginning of 1924 been passed to Final Verification Branch (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry File HLG 59/29170 Lieutenant Raymond Asquith 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards. Copy of a note from Stopsford Enquiries to Fabian Ware (16 January 1924)).
Putting together lists for Final Verifications Branch
It was agreed in 1924 that Memorial to the Missing punch cards would be sent to Final Verifications Branch divided by memorial and then into regiments, the same as the order used on the memorials themselves, although it doesn’t mention whether the names had also been arranged in alphabetical order within rank as per the finished memorials (C.W.G.C. Archive W.G. 219/4 Box 1015 Memorials to the Missing: Cards Sent To Final Verification. Director of Records to Mr Davidson Memorials to the Missing Branch (23 February 1924)). The envelopes used where also to have a serial number written on them to go with the name of the Regiment, possibly the same serial number as used by the machine cards/tabulator and in the finished ‘Imperial War Graves Commission Index To Cemetery And Memorial Registers Of Those Who Fell In The Great War’. Two copies of a punch card generated list (with amendments and next of kin addresses added in at the Record Offices, see below) were also intended to be sent to Final Verifications (C.W.G.C. Archive W.G. 219/42 Box 1015 Memorials to the Missing: Sorting Cards Into Engraving Order. Director of Records to M.M. Branch Mr Davidson (2 May 1924)). Addresses that had been obtained from the Record Offices were also meant to be typed onto the punch cards (in typed form rather than the holes used by the tabulator) (Ibid: Memorials to the Missing Branch, Procedure based on 12th June 1922, February 1923, and subsequent agreements. p. 14 (20 April 1925). The two lists with amendments made by F.V. Branch would go back to the Memorials to the Missing Branch once F.V. had finished with the lists and Memorial to the Missing punch cards (Ibid: List For Memorials of the Missing. Director of Records to Director of Works (8 August 1924)). From the amended lists the relevant punch cards would then be updated (ready for future prints) and the cards put back into area order ready to be used to produce final lists needed for the particular memorial (Ibid: Revised Procedure & (1923) Proposed Scheme (1922) (attached to memoranda from Director of Records to Director of Works dated 8 August 1924)). Once Works had used the updated information from Memorials to the Missing to produce their panel layouts it was agreed in 1924 that the layouts could as a final check be compared against the verified Memorial Register forms that had been sent out to next-of-kin during the verification process by Final Verification Branch ((Ibid: Director of Records to Director of Works (15 August 1924). Wisely from 1923 it was recognised that casualties added to the regimental lists too late for incorporation into the relevant panels would have to be added to addenda panels (Ibid: Memorials to the Missing Branch, Procedure based on 12th June 1922, February 1923, and subsequent agreements. p. 24 (20 April 1925)).
Mr Davidson of the M.M. Branch stated that the printed lists sent by his branch to Final Verifications were also sent by F.V. Branch to Enquiries for a check of the lists against cards not related to the Missing in the Card Index, with another chance to pick out those who had a registered grave but had been missed by other checks (Ibid: Mr Davidson M.M. Branch to Director of Records (19 August 1924)). However no changes were made to the ‘Missing’ Cards in the Index meaning that for this portion of the Commission’s work in the 1920s the Index was slowly going out of date (Ibid), with a reply from Mr Swinstead of Enquiries Branch that aside from Missing Cards less work was being put into updating the information on Enquiry Index Cards of all types as the process of verification and production of registers meant that they were slowly being superseded (Ibid: Mr Swinstead Enquiries Branch to Director of Records (23 August 1924)).
A memorandum from the Director of Records dated 15 May 1924 (Ibid: Alteration in “Engraving” Order for the Salient Memorials) illustrates a problem that was faced whilst final verification took place, at least in terms of the Ypres Salient, that is the uncertainty over when to fix the dividing dates between the Menin Gate and Tyne Cot Memorials. The decision taken before Final Verification for these memorials was to not divide the cards up as planned between the original dates covered by the two memorials and instead verify the missing of the Ypres Salient together. Panel numbers were only put onto the Memorial Register forms which were used as a final check of the lists by Works as the final check was taking place (Ibid: Memorials to the Missing Branch, Procedure based on 12th June 1922, February 1923, and subsequent agreements. p. 22 (20 April 1925)). It is interesting to note that despite the later location codes used in the Imperial War Graves Commission Index To Cemetery and Memorial Registers the cards for each memorial were extracted and allocated to the area of the relevant memorial to the missing by hand before the cards were put through the tabulating machine to print lists (Ibid).
Working with the Record Offices
Final verification was not just a process involving the next of kin as can be seen from one of the standard letters sent out to the relevant Record Offices. Along with a request to send the Final Verification forms on to the next of kin, there was also a request that the Record Offices check the date of death, regimental details and also supply details of any military decorations received (For a copy of one of the standard letters see C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry File A.A. 9/4438 2916 Pte. N.D. Wilkinson. 33rd Battalion A.I.F. please note that the standard letter had been used as scrap and a note written on the blank side (13 July 1922)).
In contrast to the early address/checking of details work for the cemeteries which had been undertaken by ordinary Army Record Office clerks, the work of producing next-of-kin addresses, some checking of lists and amending details at the Record Offices for the Memorials to the Missing was the work of clerks based at the Record Offices paid for by the I.W.G.C. (Ibid: Revised Procedure & (1923) Proposed Scheme (1922) (attached to memoranda from Director of Records to Director of Works dated 8 August 1924)). In a letter from Sir Fabian Ware to the War Office in January 1924 Ware states that the employment of 19 clerks for I.W.G.C. related work at the Record Offices had been agreed with the Treasury in 1923 (see C.W.G.C. Archive F.X: and FA Correspondence Part 1 Add 1/3/8 Part 1 Box 2042: Fabian Ware to the War Office (12 January 1924)). Technically Record Offices were only meant to provide addresses for the next-of-kin in Memorial to the Missing cases, as the names/regimental details were meant to come from Soldiers Died In The Great War/Officers Died In The Great War. The War Office believed that cuts in Record Office staff meant that full verification by looking again at the details of the missing in the service files was an intolerable burden. As Ware made clear in the same letter (Ibid) the details of those with known graves were always to be fully verified by the Record Offices, plus details for those Corps/Regiments where no unit had been given in S.D.G.W. or O.D.G.W., had to be supplied by Record Offices to allow missing individuals to be placed on the correct memorials to the missing.
Although some verfication work seems to have been done in the Record Offices for the Memorials to the Missing as outlined in Ware’s letter, presumably often through the I.W.G.C. funded clerks, it is clear that I.W.G.C. having to mostly rely on S.D.G.W. for its list of names was problematic as comprehensively explained by Dennis of the Memorials to the Missing Branch in a 1926 memorandum to the Director of Records and Douglas Cockerell (by then Joint Director of Records). Dennis stated that the Record Offices had often allocated the casualty to the wrong battalion in S.D.G.W., meaning potential for the missing casualty to be allocated to the wrong memorial by I.W.G.C. Similarly problems of wrongly placing the area of death of a casualty were caused by Record Offices having used the last date in the range of dates of death as the confirmed date for the casualty’s death or simply having got the date of death wrong by years (Editor’s note: For example sometimes S.D.G.W. recorded the date that the War Office officially accepted the casualty as dead rather than the date they were reported missing] (see C.W.G.C. WG 219/2/1/15 Archive Menin Gate Memorial – Additional names (6 February 1926)).
A surviving form sent from Final Verification Branch to Enquiries suggests that Final Verification for officers (whose records were managed by the War Office, not Army Record Offices) by 1923 followed a slightly different procedure, with Enquiries sometimes having the necessary details ready (from 1916 they had been supplied with the King’s List of missing/dead officers, see King’s List) of regimental particulars, dates of death and names/addresses of next of kin, without need to refer to the War Office. The forms would as with the other ranks be sent on to next of kin for verification (see C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file HLG 57/28097 Lieutenant W.H.E. Nield 11th Fusiliers: Dantzig Alley British Cemetery. Final Verification Branch to Enquiries (10 October 1923)). Officers’ details might also be checked against the published Army List or lists supplied by the War Office, with for example Final Verifications Branch on the 1 March 1922 informing Enquiries Branch that although a casualty had thus far been recorded as a captain (including on the Comprehensive Report), his actual rank according to the War Office List was Lieutenant (see C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file YP 2201 Lt. E.W. Stiles Northumberland Fusiliers ). The rank of captain and a misspelling of Stiles as Styles can be seen on the Comprehensive Report https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/54811/stiles,-edgar-watson/ demonstrating the potential importance of the Final Verification procedure in correcting mistakes.
Final Verification Forms
The process as far as checking Final Verification as regards next of kin is described in a I.W.G.C. letter dated 2 March 1921 also in Nield’s Enquiry file (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file HLG 57/28097 Lieutenant W.H.E. Nield 11th Fusiliers (2 March 1921)) The letter explains to the next-of-kin that final verification of the headstone details/the option of an inscription would require the completion of two forms by the them; One Final Verification form confirming the headstone details (including a personal inscription if they wanted one) and another Final Verification form details for the Cemetery Register. By the 1930s the two Final Verification forms had been consolidated into one form.
A copy of one of the few surviving Final Verification forms for a WW1 grave can be found here, from the London Cemetery and Extension, Longueval in France (see Family Verification Documents for an Australian 4395 Ernest Coulton: http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2945657/COULTON,%20ERNEST. However this form and other’s like it (this one is headed FVF 45 and was printed in 1948) are in fact post WW2 forms for exhumations of WW1 soldiers carried out after WW2. There are copies of pre-1939 F.V. forms which sometimes include fragments of possible numbering systems for these forms, for example 69059 Wallace Rowe at Montcornet Cemetery on the Aisne has a serial number beginning with 5, 5894/8 written at the top of the Family Verification Form (Cemetery Registers, form part of a batch written 2/26), see: http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/328789/ROWE,%20WALLACE. A Final Verification form in the Imperial War Museum collection, under the private papers of E.C.Thomas, page 2, http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/1030000762, buried at Canadian Cemetery No. 2, also has a serial number beginning with 5, although this time with two extra digits, 5/3873/10. The form on the IWM website is the inscription form for the headstone (the form was printed on 11/24), whereas his Family Verification Form (Cemetery Registers, printed 7/26) for his entry has no mention of the 5/ number on it, see: http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2955058/THOMPSON,%20BERT.
There is also correspondence on surviving Enquiry files which uses numbers beginning F.V.5, for example FV/ 5/5237/0 for Captain Arthur Roberts of the 15th Londons buried at Cerisy-Gailly French National Cemetery which is begins with FV5 (see C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file H.L.G. 63/31224: Request for Enquiries to forward Final Verification Forms (7 September 1926) and follows the same number format (although with a different four figure number) to the FV number for E.C. Thomas. Others such as Lieutenant F.W. Sprott of the Indian Army have 9 series numbers, in his case FV 9/9706 (See C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file C.C.M. 5/2304: Murphy F.V. Branch to Enquiries (7 October 1924)) who is buried at the Amara War Cemetery in Iraq, whilst FV.9/A26/22/6 is a reference for a request from the Director of Works to the Director of Records to investigate names removed from the Menin Gate list to be put down for a Special Memorial in Sanctuary Wood Cemetery Belgium ((see C.W.G.C. Archive Box 1011 WG 219/2/1/1 Memorials To Missing Menin Gate & Tyne Cot Lists: Menin Gate Memorial – Sanctuary Wood, Zillebeke. Director of Works to Director of Records (26 January 1926)). This case makes it impossible for the use of the number 9 in the F.V. reference series to be geographically based.
Interestingly the request for verification of the Indian Army details on the Menin Gate, possibly the actual Indian soldiers as opposed to their British officers was sent in 1925 to Simla, the summer capital of the Raji where the Indian Agency of the Imperial War Graves Commission was based. The letter has an F.V.8 reference, FV.8.M25/5 as it is an administrative rather than form reference (see C.W.G.C. Archive Box 1011 WG 219/2/1/1 Memorials To Missing Menin Gate & Tyne Cot Lists. Director of Works to The Secretary, Indian Agency of the I.W.G.C. (5 November 1925)). Two years later a similar request was put to the Simla Agency, with a comment about the spelling of the names following an agreed system making it clear that this particular request must have been linked to the names of the actual Indian soldiers rather than their European Officers (Ibid: Principal Assistant Secretary to The Secretary, Indian Agency of the I.W.G.C. (14 March 1927)). Finally a 1928 letter from the Army Headquarters in India conforms that for those soldiers who it had not proven possible to verify their religion they had just made assumptions based on whether they had a normally Hindu or Islamic names, although they acknowledge this would not always be accurate (See Ibid The Adjutant General’s Office Indian Army to the Secretary I.W.G.C. (18 April 1928)).
Numbers such as F.V. 6034/0 can also be found, in this case for Lieutenant Robert Maule of the Royal Scots, lacking any single figure number before the four figure number for this burial believed to be at Pink Farm Cemetery, Cape Helles (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file P.H. 28/13699: F.V. Branch request to Enquiries to send out Final Verification Forms (24 October 1923)). A copy of another Cemetery Register Form in a C.W.G.C. Enquiry file for 23332 Arthur Wynne of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry uses the number F.V. 4/5711/8 (C.W.G.C. Archive C.D.E.W. 3321: Cemetery Register Forms and covering letter (28 April 1923)). It is clear that F.V. 5 and other numbers such as F.V. 4 represented some sort of division between different groups or cemeteries, but with so many forms destroyed there is little evidence to go on. An F.V. 15 reference is used in a surviving enquiry file case, 11928 William Robinson of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry (F.V./15/5341 see (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file C.D.E.W. 34/16970: R.W. Murphy F.V. Branch to Enquiries (17 October 1924)) , to cover a request from Final Verifications to Enquiries to send out F.V. forms for a so-called Kipling Special Memorial (see Kipling Special Memorials), originally representing 20 men, 7 of these men were later found in 1936 and buried in London Cemetery Extension, Longueval (Ibid. Director of Works to Enquiries (18 November 1937)). Another fragment of a form with an F.V. 15 reference, F.V. 15/15/267 (B) survives in a C.W.G.C. Enquiry file and it looks likely that F.V. 15 was the code used by Final Verification Branch on its records/correspondence regarding the verification of Kipling Memorials (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file: CCM 5/2304 Lieut F.W. Sprott Indian Army: London Cemetery, Neuville Vitasse Kipling Memorial (undated fragment, follows a letter received on 14 November 1924)).
We know that for Final Verifications forms related to the Memorials for the Missing, the serial numbers were originally employed to give an easily identifiable identity to each form and its carbon copy, with the carbon copy only replaced once the form had been returned by the next-of-kin. This information comes from an agreement between the Director of Works and the Director of Records/Printing Advisor about the organisation of Final Verification related to Memorial Registers. Once returned the carbons were replaced and the form inserted into a file dealing divided by regiment and a particular memorial (C.W.G.C. Archive W.G. 219/42 Box 1015 Memorials to the Missing: Filling up of Memorial Register (Final Verification Forms) Agreement between Works & Record Departments. Director of Records and Printing Adviser to Director of Works (8 January 1924)). It appears from a later memorandum following arguments between Works and Records over the Verification of Memorials to the Missing (see C.W.G.C. Archive W.G. 219/4/2 Memorials to Missing: Obtaining Correct Lists Box 1015. Preparing lists of Missing:Procedure for producing final panel Lists for for Memorials to the “Missing”. Director of Records to Controller & Financial Adviser (5 August 1924)) that final checking of the lists for Memorials to the Missing (before the were handed over to Works to make panel layouts) became exclusively the work of MM Branch together with Cemetery Registers Branch (responsible for checking detail for the cemetery registers, in this case a final check looking for casualties in the list who already had registered graves) once the forms had been handed over by Final Verifications Branch.
Later forms issued for Final Verification in the 1930s tend not to have 5/9 or any series numbers written on them, for example (See Family Verification Forms, a combined headstone/cemetery register form, printed 1/37): http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2945592/BROWN,%20CHRISTOPHER%20JAMES.
Headstone Details and Inscriptions
In a surviving fragment from a C.W.G.C. Enquiry file a list of letters answered by the I.W.G.C. (in this case by the F 3. branch of the Financial side responsible for payment for inscriptions, See C.W.G.C. Archive SDC 65 Establishments And Duties. 1920 – 1922: Imperial War Graves Commission London, draft directory: p. 2) enclosing payments for the engraving of inscriptions can be found. On the Final Verification headstone form it was stated that:
‘The length of the inscription is limited by the space available on the headstone, and should in consequence not exceed 66 letters, the space between two words counting as one letter.
For instance if you choose 12 words, the total number of actual letters should not exceed 55, there being 11 spaces between the words..
A claim for the amount due from you in respect of the engraving of the selected inscription, will be sent to you in due course. The present price is 3½d. per letter, but this may be subject to future fluctuations of cost..’
Out of the 6 correspondents named in the fragment (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file HLG 57/28097 Lieutenant W.H.E. Nield 11th Fusiliers: Summary of Letters Received 9th February 1921. Re-used to write a note from Director of Records to the Principal Assistant Secretary dated 19 November 1925) we can trace two of the named correspondents to the surviving paperwork in the C.W.G.C. Casualty Archive.
D. Reynolds from Doncaster was recorded as having paid 14 shillings and 7d for an inscription at Wimereux Communal Cemetery and the same figured is recorded in the Headstone Schedule: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/84737/reynolds,-harry/
Whilst the payments of 2 shillings by Mrs R. Goodman of Dalston Lane for an inscription at Beauval Communal Cemetery (see https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/34981/goodman,-frank-oswald/ for the surviving C.W.G.C. Casualty Archive papers for Goodman) has clearly been rounded up from the 1 shilling and 9d written on the headstone schedule.
An interesting standard letter from Final Verifications Branch to Enquiries Branch surviving in an Enquiry file reveals one of the difficulties faced by the Final Verifications in dealing with next-of-kin, what to do when next of kin asked for a casualties full list of Christian names to be included on the headstone. The letter says that no more than two Christian names can be included and that any other Christian names can only be included as initials (see C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file YP 5/2202 Captain F.T.P. Day Yorkshire Regiment: Final Verification Branch to Enquiries Branch (16 May 1922)). The name on the headstone schedule Francis Thomas P Day conforms with this requirement https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/18674/day,-francis-thomas-pressland/ although the full name of Francis Thomas Pressland Day is included in the register.
Another Final Verification form was the F.V. 57 which was designed to verify the details of a soldier who had served under an assumed name, but where the next-of-kin wanted the soldiers grave to record the casualty under their real name. The surviving example had a print run of 5000 copies in September 1922 (see C.W.G.C. Archive WG 267 Pt2 Box 1027 Soldiers Died In The Great War Box: follows note dated 4 November 1925 by Douglas Cockerell the Joint Director of Records). An example of a soldier in the C.W.G.C. Register 8711 Private Denis Boylen who served as Boyd can be found here: https://www.cwgc.org/search-for-war-dead/casualty/275230/
A form found in many surviving Enquiry files states that the inscription had been accepted and the details to be carved on the headstone had all been verified. The form then goes on to note the cemetery references contained in the Head Stone Schedule (Comprehensive Report “B”), sometimes known as Schedule “B” (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file CCM 25/12507 Major The Hon. C.B.O. Mitford, D.S.O. 10th (Prince of Wales’s Own Royal). Form dated 8 October 1920). Mitford’s headstone schedule can be found in the C.W.G.C. Casualty Archive here: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/138541/freeman-mitford,-the-hon.-clement-b.-ogilvy/
Another surviving standard letter from Final Verifications Branch shows that they were able to contact C2 Casualties (See C2 Casualties) to verify a casualties date of death until C2’s disbandment and downgrading into part of the War Office Records Branch (R Records). 10,000 of this standard letter were printed in July 1919 (see C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file CCM 25/12513 Brig. General F.Wormald 12 Royal Lancers: follows memorandum Controller & Financial Advisor to Director of Works dated 21 November 1922).
G.R.C. Graves Registration Commission:
Formed by Fabian Ware and the British Red Cross Society from the original Mobile Unit in March 1915 (C.W.G.C. Archive GRC 2 Box 2029 Appointment of Graves Registration Commission: Fabian Ware memorandum (3 March 1915)) to concentrate on the process of finding and registering service graves in France and Belgium. The G.R.C. became the sole authority for registering graves for the Commonwealth forces in France and Belgium. In October 1915 the G.R.C. became part of the British Army (C.W.G.C. Archive Add 4/1/3 Box 2028, Mr Fabian Ware’s Unit transferred to the Army as the Grave Registration Commission: Fabian Ware to Sir Arthur Lawley BRCS Commissioner (24 October 1915)).
G.R. & E Files:
A file series mentioned in surviving Enquiry files, it was originally associated with the D.G.R. & E. (see D.G.R. & E.)
Graves Registration Reports (G.R.R.s)/Communal Reports/Comprehensive Reports:
These reports had their beginnings in a geographically arranged register of graves described in a Graves Registration Commission report to the Adjutant General from the 21st August 1915 (C.W.G.C. Archive GRC 1 no 26 Box 2029 Narrative Letters and Reports), which stated that the register could be used in several different ways. It would allow the identification of the place and number of burials, the quick replacement of crosses lost to artillery fire and the replacement of crosses where land was lost to the enemy. Sadly the latter hope proved difficult to fulfil when the German Spring Offensive of 1918 saw many marked graves badly damaged or destroyed.
A very early idea of how this information was organised at the birth of the Commission in 1915 can be seen in a sketch of how the early register would operate. It gives prominence to location, owner of land on which burial had taken place (presumably if available/behind the front lines), whether there was a sketch or plan of the burial site and did not provide a place for map references (C.W.G.C. Archive C.W.G.C./1/1/1/29 GRC 4, Box 2029 Organisational Tables). Map references later became a crucial part of the Communal Reports. The register as outlined in the sketch began the system of registering graves and organising them geographically by Commune (see Map References/Sketches for the adoption of map references for recording burials by the G.R.C. later in 1915).
Understanding the development from 1917 onwards of the Graves Registration Reports is important in understanding the WW1 records of the C.W.G.C. A section devoted to this topic can be found by clicking here.
Graves Registration Working Parties – Working parties attached to D.G.R. & E. from the Labour Corps from 1917 to June 1919. For more on their role and examples mentioning G.R.W.P. in the C.W.G.C. Casualty Archive and an Enquiry file click here.
Before Final Verification the G.R.C./D.G.R. & E. and later the Imperial War Graves Commission were sometimes informed that a casualty had been awarded an honour such as a D.S.O. (Distinguished Service Order). For example correspondence in the file of Lieutenant Colonel F.A.W. Armitage notes his D.S.O. from the first letter in his Enquiry file (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file YP 5/2238 Lt. Col. F.A.W. Armitage 1st West Yorkshire Regiment attached 1/ Hampshire Regiment: letter from Stopford D.G.R. & E. to Mrs Armitage informing her that the grave has been registered, stamped May 1918). Unusually his D.S.O. was also included next to his surname on his Enquiry Index Card. Graves Registration Units might also record an honour mentioned on an existing pre-G.R.U. cross placed on the grave, this is the case with Armitage and can be seen in the Graves Registration Report Form from 1920, see C.W.G.C. Casualty Archive https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/530401/armitage,-francis-arthur-william/#&gid=null&pid=2 In Armitage’s case there is also a photograph in the Enquiry file of the original cross placed on the grave with the reference to his D.S.O. on the right of the cross, following his surname. Information on honours may similarly have often come to the Commission through contacts with relatives or the casualty’s unit via the Enquiry Branch (see Enquiry Branch).
References to honours also appear in the case of the officers in the officers’ volumes of the Battalion Ledgers (see Battalion Ledgers), which unlike the Battalion Ledgers for the other ranks which are based on casualty lists and other pre-Soldiers Died In The Great War (S.D.G.W.) lists from the Army Record Offices, were taken directly from Officers Died In The Great War (O.D.G.W.). It is also possible that copies of the King’s List (see King’s List) may have included information about the honours awarded to a casualty. We know from notes on the Cavalry Officers’ Regimental Ledgers (also part of the Battalion Ledgers) that the War Office provided lists after the War to help verify officers’ details. There is also surviving correspondence (see above Final Verification: Officers) showing the I.W.G.C. using these lists for verification.
In the case of other ranks Army Record Offices would as part of the Final Verification process (see Final Verification) help verify the details of soldiers in known graves along with the next-of-kin. However in the case of soldiers who were commemorated on the Memorials to the Missing other than the Army Record Offices providing contact addresses for next-of-kin, verification was usually just agreed between the next-of-kin and the I.W.G.C. (for an explanation of why the I.W.G.C. was forced to agree to a lower standard of verification for the missing and exceptions see Final Verification). The details for the missing came in large part from Soldiers Died In The Great War (S.D.G.W) which unlike Officers Died In The Great War very rarely lists honours for other ranks. The Verification process helped correct and add missing details to the basic lists created from S.D.G.W. (see S.D.G.W. for the problems with S.D.G.W. and continued amendments from the War Office into the 1930s). Honours would be listed in the London Gazette, but even with a proper index (the printed index at the National Archives is from later) the work of cross-checking and identifying names would be a very big task. Alternatively Army and other Record Offices could have supplied the I.W.G.C. with rolls of the deceased who had received honours, or perhaps A.G. 10 Medals Branch and M.S.3 (which dealt amongst its many responsibilities with the award of honours) at the War Office were involved in this process (for example the ‘Honours and Awards Index’ of M.S.3 was one of the record sets lost in the Arnside Fire. See National Archives (TNA) WO 32/21769 Records Destroyed at Arnside Street: Records Destroyed At Arnside Street (list). p. 2). To date no evidence for either of these branches providing help to the I.W.G.C. in the form of lists of honours has been found (although there are as identified here Medals Branch letters in surviving C.W.G.C. Enquiry files).
We do however have some evidence that the Labour Corps Record Office supplied the I.W.G.C. with information on the honours attained (termed “Decorations”) alongside information on the original regiment/corps that they served in. Fragments of a form asking the Labour Corps Record office for details of soldiers who had served in other regiments survive. I.W.G.C. wanted the information so that they could the next-of-kin of Labour Corps casualties whether they wanted the casualty to be commemorated under the badge and details of the previous Regiment/Corps (for the fragments of the form see C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry Files SL 27/13357 Major R.G. Raper South Staff Regiment: back used for note to Major Stopford Enquiries Branch I.W.G.C. (23 February 1923) and YP 5/2065 2nd Lt. V.L. Patch 2/4th West Riding Regt: back used for note (26 February 1923)).
In the Imperial War Graves Commission Index to Cemetery And Memorial Registers of Those Who Fell In The Great War the Honours column can be clearly seen (there is also an Honours column in the related Imperial War Graves Commission Index To Cemetery And Memorial Registers Of Those Who Fell In The Great War, Forces Of The United Kingdom And The Colonies). Below is part of a page from a privately held copy of the Royal Navy portion of the Index featuring two entries in the ‘Honours’ column. Often there are also handwritten entries in this column where the punch card based technology could not deal with printing multiple honours or particular character combinations (click here for more information about the origin and production of the Indexes):
Imperial War Graves Commission Index to Cemetery And Memorial Registers of Those Who Fell In The Great War:
Click here for a detailed blog post on the Index and how punch card technology was used to produce this index which was of vital importance to the Commission over many decades.
The G.R.C. and D.G.R. & E. during WW1 were faced by the problem of finding, registering and later concentrating so called Isolated Graves. That is individual or small number clusters of burials or newly discovered graves of the missing lost in Battle. The logistical and organisational problems of registering and maintaining such graves is obvious and the policy from 1915 was to try to identify and concentrate in a manageable number of cemeteries the burials of the dead. Typically such burials were a problem of death during military operations (with the bodies not recovered for burial in the Divisional or Corps cemeteries near the front) or of small groups of troops who died on the way to the front line, necessitating their burial in local communal cemeteries, where there were few or no other Commonwealth graves. The Times 1928 War Graves of the Empire states that:
‘… many thousand..[had]…been buried where they fell – in the confusion of No Man’s Land; beneath the debris of villages and towns; in unsuspected fields, gardens and woods… (The Times (1929) War Graves of The Empire: Reprinted from the Special Number of the Times November 10, 1928. Times: London p. 4)’
From 1915 onwards the Army and C.W.G.C. worked to reduce the number of new Isolated Graves through firstly encouraging the provision of maintained burial grounds and setting up the system of Divisional Burial Officers and Corps Burial Officers by 1917 (see CWGC/1/1/34 DGRE 1 Narrative Letters and Reports. Fabian Ware D.G.R. & E. London H.Q. to Captain Cornock Taylor H.Q. D.G.R. & E. 2nd Echelon G.H.Q. France (29 June 1917)) to co-ordinate the work by the Army in concentrating the dead into a manageable number of cemeteries. However the conditions of warfare in WW1 continued to create Isolated Graves until the end of the War. The challenge posed by Isolated Graves to the work of the D.G.R.E and subsequently the I.W.G.C. after the end of the War is made clear by Fabian Ware’s statement to a meeting of the Imperial War Graves Commission on 19 November 1918:
‘…He said that there were in France and Belgium about 160,000 graves outside cemeteries. This number included single isolated graves and those in scattered groups of not more than 10. There were some 50,000 of these graves on the Somme battlefields, and a large number round about Ypres and Passchendaele. The peasants would soon be returning to their land and wanting to cultivate or afforest it, consequently the necessity of dealing with these scattered graves so as to prevent their being lost or damaged was urgent…’
From C.W.G.C. Archive CWGC/2/2/1/6 The Sixth Meeting of the Imperial War Graves Commission, 19 November 1918: pp. 2-3
A list from September 1921 of some of the remaining Isolated Graves which the British Army had not exhumed before its departure from France and Belgium (identified by the Australian Army during their exhumation work) vividly illustrates the condition of many of these graves three years after the end of the War. These include a portion of a Graves Registration Cross with a named officer casualty, another cross with a name disk of a soldier from the Northumberland Fusiliers, one body left at the rear of a ruined house covered by a sheet and another covered over by canvas by a roadside and at least twelve British bodies near Cheddar Villa (Seaforth) Cemetery (C.W.G.C. Archive W.G. 1294/Pt1 Box 1082 Exhumation by I.W.G.C. General File: Alfred[?] Allen[? ] Inspector Australian Grave Services France & Belgium Letter to Deputy Director of Works I.W.G.C. St Omer (15 September 1921)).
I.W.G.C. (The Imperial War Graves Commission):
Originally established by Royal Charter in May 1917 as a civilian organisation to manage Great War related war graves once handed over by the Armed Forces, it was also responsible for the design, landscaping and permanent commemoration of all casualties, including building memorials to the missing.
In March 1921 I.W.G.C. absorbed the headquarters and records of the Army based graves organisation the D.G.R. & E. (see C.W.G.C. Archive Add 1/3/4 Box 2033 Taking over of D.G.R. & E. by I.W.G.C.: Conference held in A.G.’s room 23.12.1920), except for D.G.R. & E (Central Europe) which continued to work on establishing cemeteries in Germany and Central Europe for the Commonwealth P.O.W.s who had died in Germany custody or shortly after release from the camps (e.g. the Berlin Office of D.G.R. & E. was still in operation in 1922). Army exhumation units (three platoons) continued to work in France and Belgium but by June 1921 they were down to a working strength of only 254 men (C.W.G.C. Archive WG 1294/3/2 Box 1084 Exhumation. France & Belgium. Army Exhumation Staff. Col Dick-Cunyngham to Assistant Adjutant General D.G.R. & E. London (21 June 1921)). It appears from this memorandum and other correspondence on the same file that a military officer remained attached to work with I.W.G.C. as the liaision between them and the remaining military D.G.R. & E. units abroad. D.G.R. & E was finally withdrawn from France in September 1921 (Ibid. Col Dick-Cunyngham to D.G.R. & E. London (15 June 1921), the letter sets out in detail how the final withdrawal operation would take place and the exhumation related stores to be handed over to the I.W.G.C.).
An undated newspaper article (see C.W.G.C. Archive W.G. 436/1 Box 1037 Graves of British Prisoners of War in Germany) says that D.G.R. & E (Central Europe) closed down in April 1922, presumably having handed its remaining work and records to the I.W.G.C.
In March 1960 the Imperial War Graves Commission became the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Information provided by the Germans post WW1 on burials of British/Commonwealth soldiers (often P.O.W.s) or graves lost to the Germans in the German spring offensive of 1918. Often associated with S.S.P 4995 report/file references (see S.S.P. 4995). The J.K. and other German lists were compiled by the Allies from German card indexes. For an example see the Concentration and G.R.R. forms here: http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/491988/POWELL,%20G
In an answer to a Parliamentary Question on ‘British Prisoners of War, List of Names’, a British Government Minister stated that:
‘…So far as is known, the Germans have no such lists. All their records regarding prisoners of war, are made on index-cards. It is understood that the number of these cards, owing to the lack of system whereby one name sometimes appears on several cards, runs to several hundred thousand. These cards are being examined, but this must necessarily be a slow proceeding….’
That the compilation of information of these cards into list was due to work by British War Office staff as part of the post-Armistice British Military Mission to Berlin is also made clear in the same debate:
‘…The staff available in Berlin for search of German records consists of an assistant adjutant-general and two other Staff officers [Editor’s note: presumably officers with a working knowledge of German], with a clerical staff…’
(National Archives (TNA) file FO 383/499: Extract from Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, Thursday, 29th May 1919: 355)
The Director of Records in 1928 stated that the Germans reported 38,691 burials via the Burial Lists with the figures including dead found by the Germans on the battlefield, those of Commonwealth soldiers graves in areas captured by the Germans, in addition to the P.O.W.s who died in German custody or shortly after the end of the War ( C.W.G.C. Archive WG 436/1 Box 1037 Archive Graves of British Prisoners of War – Germany: : Prisoners of War. Director of Records to Principal Assistant Secretary I.W.G.C. (22 June 1928)). The number and details taken from the card are the same as can be seen on the documents in the C.W.G.C. Casualty Archive: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/270005/pascoe,-/
The Commission also had access to the Geneva lists of P.O.W.s (including those said by the Germans to have died whilst prisoners) passed to the International Committee of the Red Cross by the German Government during the War and sent on to the British Government. A note in an Enquiry file mentions that the I.W.G.C. knew through a P.M. (Geneva List) about the death of a British private (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file C.C.M. 25/12739, Lt-Col. R.H.N. Settle 19th Hussars and 21 Btn. M.G.C.: C.L. Miskin Registrar to Deputy Controller (Assistant Director of Records), I.W.G.C., France (14 November 1922)). Hembury’s entries in the C.W.G.C. Casualty Archive (including references to an S.S.P. 4995 list) can be found here: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/572279/hembury,-james-william/
The Director of Records in 1928 stated that the Germans reported 38,691 burials via the Burial Lists with the figures including dead found by the Germans on the battlefield, those of Commonwealth soldiers graves in areas captured by the Germans, in addition to the P.O.W.s who died in German custody or shortly after the end of the War ( Ibid: Prisoners of War. Director of Records to Principal Assistant Secretary I.W.G.C. (22 June 1928)).
Imperial War Museum Blank Copies of an R.F.1. Return of Graves traced from German War Office Records Donated by I.W.G.C. in 1932
Blank copies of a number of forms, including a transcription of a R.F.1 form were given to the Imperial War Museum by Henry Chettle the Director of Records at the I.W.G.C. in 1932. The following soldier’s burial by the Germans was reported on R.F.1. List 57 Schedule 7 (C.W.G.C. Archive WG 436/1 Box 1037 Archive Graves of British Prisoners of War – Germany: Missing Prisoners of War; Germany. Director of Records I.W.G.C. to A.D.G.R. & E. Central Europe (14 February 1922)) and his documents (not including the R.F.1. which have not survived) can be found here: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/550885/griffiths,-/
The reference to the collection of forms of which they form part can be found here:
The King’s List:
The War Office branch M.S.3 (Casualties) supplied D.G.R. & E Headquarters in London with at list of deceased officers and the addresses of their next-of-kin who had received a standardised message of condolence from the King. The equivalent message for other ranks was sent through Army Record Offices and not compiled in a list available to D.G.R. & E. References to the King’s List feature in some of the surviving WW1 Enquiry files, often referring to a Mrs Lomax at D.G.R. & E. London H.Q. searching the list (for example see note dated 18/6/1917 in C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file SL 22/10960 Captain F.H.M Lewes Sherwood Forresters).
‘Kipling’ Special Memorials:
Featuring a passage chosen from the Bible by the writer and poet Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) to represent graves that can no longer be identified within a particular cemetery because they were lost to shellfire. The inscription such as that seen below for Bernafay Wood was recorded on a special stone (each individual represented is also given a headstone in addition to the stone). The Kipling Memorial for Bernafay Wood, which mentions 20 lost soldiers on the special stone (subsequently reduced in number, as seven bodies were subsequently located and buried at the London Cemetery Extension, Longueval), with the following inscription, is representative of this type of memorial:
‘TO THE MEMORY OF
KILLED IN ACTION IN 1916
AND BURIED AT THE TIME
IN BERNAFAY WOOD
NORTH CEMETERY, IN MONTAUBAN
WHOSE GRAVES WERE DESTROYED IN LATER BATTLES
IN LATER BATTLES
“THEIR GLORY SHALL NOT
BE BLOTTED OUT.”
From C.W.G.C. Casualty Archive Private 7700 S. Piper R.A.M.C. 1923 G.R.R.F.: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/246052/piper,-/
LS (Location sheet references):
e.g. CDEW/LS7/3099 etc. The location sheet series are (in number order): PH/LS1, YP/LS2, HLG/LS3, WW/LS4, AA/LS5, SL/LS6, CDEW/LS7, CCM/LS8. They were not files but rather sheets issued by the G.R.C./D.G.R. & E./I.W.G.C. Location Sheets were sent out firstly to the War Office casualty department ‘C2 Casualties’ who verified the details if they were not an officer (the majority of the Army). C2 also produced the official casualty lists and worked with the Army record offices on informing next of kin about the death, imprisonment or sickness of servicemen and women. For regular officers D.G.R. & E. dealt with M.S.3. for regular officers and M.S.3.(T) for Territorial officers. For Commonwealth soldiers liaison was originally with the responsible Record Office in London, for example the record office for the Australian Expeditionary Force (A.E.F.) was based in Horseferry Road. Before discussing the next stage of dealing with location sheets it is useful to briefly discuss the ‘slip’ system that preceded them.
Please note this transcription is based on an image from the National Archives
Before the move of the Headquarters of D.G.R. & E. (see D.G.R. & E.) to London in 1916 the work of checking the details via slips sent to them from G.R.C. (see G.R.C.) and from February 1916 D.G.R. & E. was made through 3rd Echelon, the British Expeditionary Forces personnel office located for most of the war at Rouen. In May 1915 it was noted that the first 1,000 slips (the ancestors/predecessors to Location Sheets) had been sent to 3rd Echelon, sorted into regiment, this would allow the various parts of 3rd Echelon to check and amend the details for soldiers from the regiments they were responsible and notify the relevant Army record office back in the United Kingdom (C.W.G.C. Archive C.W.G.C.1/1/26 Narrative Letters & Reports: Fabian Ware to Cecil (19 May 1915). In an August 1915 report to the Adjutant General it is mentioned that new burial details were sent for checking to 3rd Echelon on a weekly basis (Ibid: Fabian Ware Report for the Adjutant General (21 August 1915): p. 2). In Fabian Ware’s report from March 1916 he noted a massive rise in correspondence with 3rd Echelon, with enquiries rising from 800 in his previous report (the date of the last report is not given, but probably from the end of 1915, beginning 1916) to 2,250 in the period covered by his report. Most of this correspondence was probably to do with individual cases which required more than the simple confirmation on slips, but that slips continued to be sent in large volume is confirmed by Ware’s statement that many thousands of corrections were to do with either names or regimental numbers (Ibid: Fabian Ware Report for the Adjutant General (2 March 1916): p. 3). It is likely that the need to get information to correctly identify graves and notify next of kin, which helped increase 3rd Echelon’s workload, it may be an unstated contributory reason for D.G.R. & E’s H.Q.s move to London and the fact that in 1916 the ‘slips’ were replaced by Location Sheets, allowing the information to be obtained from U.K. based record offices rather than 3rd Echelon.
Location Sheets were after D.G.R. & E. H.Q.s move to London sent on to the Army record offices based in the U.K. (hence the need for the record office prefixes) to report the location of a burial. The record offices would send on the details to the next of kin. The record offices would also be able to report back any further amendments to the casualty’s details back to D.G.R. & E. or the I.W.G.C. Checks made against the verified Location Sheets which led to changes in the G.R.R.F. Comprehensive Reports are noted by the LS reference being written in line with the entry that has been changed or updated. Location sheets often included casualties from more than one location and from different battalions within the same regiment. A good example of location sheets issued in succession to each other for casualties from the same Australian Army unit can be seen here, it is very common to see multiple or sequential references to location sheets, either the same number in succession or numbers following each other e.g. AA/LS/11522, AA/LS/11523 etc. See the Graves Registration Report GRRS (Working Copy) form here for 2761 William Conway http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/588678/CONWAY,%20WILLIAM and the copy of the location sheet entered next to his details, AA/LS/11522, here on the service file (go to page 16): https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=3281441
2623 Jacobsen and 2357 Gleeson whose details appear on the same location sheet, AA/LS/11522, entries can be found here on a GRRS (Working Copy) of the Cemetery Report, commemorated on a special memorial in the same cemetery: http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/589055/JACOBSEN,%20VICTOR%20JACOB
Location Sheets were also sent out to Army record offices to check personal details before effects recovered from exhumations were passed on to the same offices for distribution to next of kin by the Effects Branch of the B.E.F, or the relevant expeditionary force. Effects Branch was originally part of the 3rd Echelon in France. 3rd Echelon was a theatre of war based personnel administration organisation for each of the British expeditionary forces, for example 3rd Echelon for the B.E.F. in France and Belgium was based for much of the War in Rouen. From 1921 I.W.G.C. absorbed the Effects section of the D.G.R. & E. dealing with effects of exhumed casualties from the beginning of WW1 to the official end of the War in all theatres for I.W.G.C. and subsequently C.W.G.C. (31st August 1921). A copy of a surviving Location Sheet (the format did not vary from the first location sheets issued in 1916) issued by I.W.G.C. following an exhumation in 1924 (for the Graves Registration Report (Finals) see http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/39608/SHANHUN,%20ALFRED) can be found here (go to page 22): https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=8077928
Examples of copies of location sheets from surviving British Army service files (paid access website) can be found here (Trooper 2857 Richard Smith 2nd Life Guards): http://search.findmypast.co.uk/record?id=gbm%2fwo400%2f151%2f2857%2f0011&parentid=gbm%2fwo400%2f151%2f005963
Richard Smith died on 20th September 1914 and the location sheet contained in the service file is another example of a location sheet issued after exhumation/or research at H.Q. in London (exhumation reports for this casualty do not survive, however there is an R.U. reference on the Graves Registration Report, see R.U. series) had allowed the positive identification of his grave. It also was issued a year after I.W.G.C. had fully taken over responsibility for Great War related war graves from the Army (see D.G.R. & E.). Smith’s C.W.G.C. entry can be seen here: http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/258424/SMITH,%20R
Claude Lloyd Smith (M/2/120851 C.L. Smith A.S.C.) died on 9th December 1915, and the slip/location sheet preserved in his service file is one of the earliest surviving location sheets, issued in 1916. His C.W.G.C. entry can be found here:
And his location sheet here:
Lloyd’s Smith’s location sheet is clearly a missing link between the location sheet and the earliest slips used by the G.R.C. in 1915.
The last example (link below) has entries for more than one soldier (which is typical of a majority of location sheets) and can be found as a fragment of the service file of 15273 Percy Long of the 11 Warwickshire Regiment who died on the 15-7-16 (there are also references to Capt. Thomas list, SSP and communal reports, for the relevance of these references see Glossary entries):
Long’s C.W.G.C entry can be seen here: http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/589171/LONG,%20PERCY
A fragment of a Location sheet probably from early 1919 for the Italian Theatre has been found in a surviving Enquiry File (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry File AA 9/4438, 2916 Private N.D. Wilkinson, 33rd Battalion A.I.F.: fragment on back of handwritten note dated 6 March 1919).
From 1922 in response to the final demise of the big War Office branch responsible for collating information on casualties C2 Casualties it was agreed in response to War Office demands that Location Sheets accompanying effects would in future not be verified by the War Office or Army Record Offices (although it is clear that some Record Offices continued to submit corrections) but would just accompany effects to the Record Offices so that the Record Office could pass on the information to next-of-kin (C.W.G.C. Archive WG 219/4 Box 1015 Memorials to the Missing: Nominal Rolls & Battalion Ledgers: Lists of: Location Sheets. Stopford Enquiries Branch to Director of Records (27 April 1922)). The use of Location Sheets to accompany effects to British Army Record Offices was ended by February 1923, but continued for the Navy and the Dominions (Ibid: Location Sheets. Stopford Enquiries Branch to Director of Records (19 February 1923)).
Initially the Graves Registration Commission planned to register reports of grave locations only by place name, landowner (presumably if the burial was behind the front line) description and sketch/plan, not by Map Reference, as can be seen from the first system of G.R.C. Registers set out in 1915 (see C.W.G.C. Archive C.W.G.C./1/1/1/29 GRC 4, Box 2029 Organisational Tables). By August 1915 a special geographical register of isolated graves (see Isolated Graves) was kept by the Graves Registration Commission (G.R.C.) on the basis of 1:40,000 maps (see C.W.G.C. Archive C.W.G.C./1/1/1/26 GRC1 Narrative Letters & Reports. Report of the Work of the G.R.C. Fabian Ware to the Adjutant General G.H.Q (21 August 1915): p. 4).
More detailed 1:20,000 maps of Belgium and France were gradually extended throughout the Western Front and the back area where the Commonwealth forces were based. On C.W.G.C. documents it is the 1:20,000 map reference, for the burial or cemetery which tends to dominate (although other scales can be used)(for example see here for a reference in the Graves Registration Report for St. Souplet British Cemetery Sheet 57B. Q. 33 c.50. 15. , the last two figures were changed between reports (reference 48629 G.A. Bowen): http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/320559/BOWEN,%20G%20A ). A good guide on how to understand these references and relate them to the British Expeditionary Force grid reference system see: http://maps.nls.uk/ww1/trenches/info2.html
1:20,000 map references superseded the use of 1:40,000 references by the G.R.C. and its successors, with the preferred hierarchy of map references to be included in reports made clear in the D.G.R. & E. Standing Orders of 1918:
‘All reports…should contain a reference to the 1/20,000 map, or other larger scale map if available. If no 1/20,000 or larger scale map exists, the 1/40,000 or 1/100,000 may be quoted….’
From Commonwealth War Graves Commission CWGC/1/1/1/38/3 Add 3/1/3 Directorate of Graves Registration and Enquiries – Standing Orders. Revised to 1st May 1918, p. 4
The logic of adopting map references as a key part of identifying the location of a grave, is given in the explanation of why G.R.C.’s Bethune section (probably in 1915, it is likely that the writer was then Captain C.H.L. (Clement Haughton Langston) Cazalet) adopted map references as a standard piece of information for burial reports (C.W.G..C./1/1/1/29 GRC4 War Establishments Etc. C.R.C. Bethune Section: between March 1915-February 1916 – likely second half 1915 or early 1916: p. 2). A map reference would be more convenient than a description to the officer reporting the burial and it would also mean that G.R.C. (and its successors) would have geographical records of the names and numbers of those reported buried at a particular grid reference (even if the grave had subsequently been lost). Records such as the Weekly Reports and the so-called Body Density Maps showing the number of reported WW1 burials per square depend on map references.
The production of a range of reports which included map references was a development of the greatest importance in allowing the production of a range of burial reports based on this information and helping the subsequent work of the G.R.C./D.G.R. & E. and I.W.G.C. in identifying isolated graves and attempting to identify remains which came to light before WW2. Descriptions (if they had been reported) of the place of burial (as long as some of the recorded landmarks remained) could be important in narrowing down the location of a grave within a map square. The map square gave a clear area to investigate even if the landmarks were gone but the map references were subject to human error. In a surviving C.W.G.C. Enquiry file there is a reference to a map co-ordinate based card index in use in 1924. The reference mentions not finding a concentration cemetery for a particular reference ’59d F19. b 9.2.’ and then where the nearest concentration cemetery is with unidentified British soldiers (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file SL 22/10960 Captain F.H.M Lewes Sherwood Forresters: Capt. F.H.M. Lewes 1/5 Notts & Derby: Note to Registrar I.W.G.C. (23 September 1924)). Lewes’s body was never found and he is commemorated at Thiepval: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/800361/lewes,-frederick-henry-meredith/
Correspondence on the C.W.G.C. Enquiry files often makes it very clear to next-of-kin that the destruction of the front by artillery fire throughout the War and wrought by the advances of 1918 meant that many crosses, landmarks and the ground itself was refashioned into an environment which made looking for lost graves extremely difficult (for example see C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file PH 24/11963 303088 J. Adam 1/8th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders: Enquiries to Mr J. Adam (29 June 1922)) even where a map reference had been recorded.
The D.G.R. & E. and the I.W.G.C. had access to a range of trench and other maps following the end of the War for their investigative work. A note in an Enquiry file sets out that whilst they had maps of part of the front for 1917 and August 1918 they did not have a map required for March 1918 for the Maissemy area of France that would have shown the trench line they were looking for (Ibid: note to Mr Davidson I.W.G.C. dated 3 February 1922).
Memorials to the Missing Branch:
Memorials to the Missing Branch (M.M. Branch) was responsible for producing lists of missing casualties that could be divided by battalion/regiments and corps and placed in chronological order. Lists were also produced for each of the memorials (e.g. Thiepval, Menin Gate etc.) based upon the nations to be included, geographical areas and chronological periods to be covered by the relevant memorial (See C.W.G.C. Archive SDC 65 Establishments And Duties. 1920 – 1922: Imperial War Graves Commission London, draft directory: p. 4). The work involved the use of War Diaries and other information to ascertain where particular units where, at particular times so that the missing were noted on the right memorial. When it was still to be decided when the dividing line would be between the Menin Gate and Tyne Cot Memorials to the Missing, the Printing Advisor Dougals Cockerell asked that the Memorial to the Missing Cards be left divided by battalions in date of death order, battalions (linked to Divisions) being the basic unit for the infantry used to trace where the unit of the casualty was at any particular time using information from the War Diaries. Left in this order it would be relatively straightforward to divide the names up according to when the dividing line between the two memorials was agreed (see C.W.G.C. Archive W.G. 219/4 Box 1015 Memorials to the Missing: Memorial Forms for the Salient. Printing Adviser to Captain Murphy Final Verification Branch (20 May 1924)).
They also prepared printed lists of the missing to check the details of the missing with Record Offices (see C.W.G.C. Archive W.G. 219/4/2 Memorials to Missing: Obtaining Correct Lists Box 1015. Preparing lists of Missing: Alteration of Procedure: Printing Advisor and Director of Records to M.M Branch (10 August 1923)). The lists were in common with the Imperial War Graves Commission Index to Cemetery and Memorial Registers of Those Who Fell In The Great War (I.W.G.C. Index) produced using punched cards and printed out with a tabulator. Detailed discussion of fragments of regimental and corps lists printed out using this system can be found here in a blog post on the I.W.G.C. Index.
The information in the lists primarily came from Soldiers Died in the Great War (see S.D.G.W.) compared against information collected since 1914 by the G.R.C./D.G.R. & E./I.W.G.C. and in some cases the Battalion Ledgers. The information in the Missing List went through a Final Verification process with relatives as well as Record Offices. References to Memorials to the Missing Branch files (which do not survive) in letters in the surviving C.W.G.C. files use the prefix M.M.R, for example M.M.R. 9591 in a Memorial to the Missing Branch letter sent to the Director of Records referring to a matter of inserting a missing name on the panels being prepared for the Menin Gate in 1925 (C.W.G.C. Archive W.G. 219/4/42 Box 1015 Memorials to the Missing Obtaining Correct Lists Box 1015 (Letter 1 October 1925)).
Before work on the Memorials had begun the Imperial War Graves Commission was always anxious to tell the next of kin that their loved one would be given a memorial that would be of equal esteem to those men with known graves, as for example in a 15 July 1920 letter from a surviving Enquiry File (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file CDEW 34/16968 12488 L/Cpl P. Smith 6th Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment) which featured standard wording telling relatives that all missing officers and men would be commemorated in this way.
Before the completion of memorials the Memorials to the Missing Branch was able to use information gathered from War Diaries to locate the place where a unit was operating at the time of the missing casualties death, for example a search slip from the C.W.G.C Enquiry Branch file YP 2/860 concerning Lance Corporal 2221 A. Birbeck 1/8th Durham Light Infantry dated 15 March 1928 places his name as going to be on the new memorial at Thiepval and his battalion at the time of his death as being in the area of the Butte de Warlencourt.
A great deal of the effort had to be put during the verification process into dealing with the inaccuracies of Soldiers Died In The Great War (S.D.G.W.) and Army record keeping, particularly of dates of death for those missing presumed lost (M.P.D.) and those attached to other regiments/units. The following examples show some of the problems faced which made it difficult for the Branch to avoid revisions to the placing of casualties on the relevant memorials throughout the process.
In regard to casualties from the Suffolk Regiment 28 cases of missing soldiers reported in the relevant S.D.G.W. as having missing presumed dead dates of 8 or 9 April 1915 were actually found after the return of 5 Missing Register forms to have gone missing on 26 August 1914, showing that when the Record Office compiled this particular volume the clerks had substituted the acceptance date for the soldiers being missing presumed dead as the date they had gone missing ((C.W.G.C. Archive W.G. 219/4/42 Box 1015 Memorials to the Missing Obtaining Correct Lists: Memorials to the “Missing” Mr Dennis Memorials to the Missing Branch to Director of Records & Joint Director of Records (14 August 1925)). This meant that the soldiers concerned names would be placed on the Ferte-sous-Jouarre memorial and not the Menin Gate. Other entries with the same status had been correctly dated, showing that the errors were often simple errors in checking. Another 12 names from the same Regiment from the Menin Gate to other memorials after different death dates were given by next-of-kin on the Memorial Register forms (Ibid), making very clear the problems faced in using S.D.G.W. when putting together the memorial lists. Final Verification of the Memorial Register details was vital in picking up errors missed by the Record Offices both when putting together S.D.G.W. and when verifying the lists sent to them by the I.W.G.C. in the 1920s.
The same letter also bring up the problems of the failure by Record Offices to list attachments on the lists they were asked to verify, making it easy for errors to occur if the casualty was attached to another unit (Ibid) as the unit the casualty was attached may have been in a different area to their original unit at the time they went missing. A good example of this sort of error that was picked up by the next-of-kin at Final Verification was the fact that the father’s son had been an Officer in the Gordon Highlanders attached to the Northumberland Fusiliers. In Officers Died In The Great War (O.D.G.W.) the casualty was listed twice, once under each different regiment. 2nd Lieutenant W. Diack is listed in the C.W.G.C. register see: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1629894/diack,-william/ . However criticism of this error was enough for the clerks of M.M. Branch to condemn the War Office for an official policy of not undertaking proper verification of the details from O.D.G.W. and S.D.G.W. ((see C.W.G.C. Archive Box 1011 WG 219/2/1/1 Memorials To Missing Menin Gate & Tyne Cot Lists: Dennis M.M. Branch to Director of Records (18 December 1925)).
There were also problems to do with the way that information for some corps was put together, with for example the particular units of officers in the Royal Engineers and Royal Artillery often omitted from Officers Died in the Great War (O.D.G.W.)(Ibid: Memorial Register Forms: Royal Engineers. Director of Records to Joint Director of Records (Douglas Cockerell) (1926?)). Cockerell in a following letter to the Director of Records made clear the scale of the overall problem when it came to identifying officer’s units from O.D.G.W., with many not listing entries not listing attachments to other units or missing battalion details making it hard to locate the unit they were serving with at the time they went missing. A July 1922 memorandum sets out a number of volumes of S.D.G.W. where there are no unit details, ranging from the Royal Artillery to the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, with Corps apart from the Scots Guards the common denominator where vital unit detail was left out (Ibid: Memorials to the “Missing” – France and Belgium. Fisher M.M. Branch to Director of Records (5 July 1922)). The solution to this was to send out nominal rolls of missing soldiers to the affected corps to fill in the unit details and this was agreed by the War Office despite reductions in staff in Record Offices (Ibid: Extract from No. 18 Circular of Decisions etc of 1922, addressed to all Officers i/c Records: Unregistered Graves of Soldiers. Follows letter dated 13 July 1922, Director of Records to Lieut-Colonel J.H.T. Cornish-Bowden). This meant that the work saved by the various Army Corps Record Offices in not identifying individual units when they were putting together their respective lists for S.D.G.W. had only been postponed.
In a test sample of forms Cockerell found that 11 out of 30 had no battalion or other unit information (attachment etc.) shown in O.D.G.W (Ibid: Douglas Cockerell to Director of Records (5 March 1926)).
Problems were also noted in relating the relevant Battalion Ledgers and Soldiers Died In The Great War volumes to the Royal Fusiliers and London Regiment battalions, with many Royal Fusiliers recorded as casualties under the London Regiment and vice-versa as a result of attachments to Royal Fusilier or London Regiment battalions (WG 219/4 Memorials to the Missing: Nominal Rolls & Battalion Ledgers: Lists of: Royal Fusiliers and London Regiment. Fisher Memorials to the Missing to Director of Records (27 March 1922)). The Battalion Ledgers might also be used more generally by M.M. Branch as a supplement to the S.D.G.W. information, for example with 66 extra names added to the list for the Menin Gate of the 10th Battalion Royal West Surrey Regiment, this meant that the final list would need to be rearranged quickly to allow work to proceed on the memorial, however the names had not been verified, therefore there was a danger that Final Verification might cause changes to recorded rank. This could lead to changes to the order of the list (divided by rank, then alphabetical) so the Director of Records told M.M. Branch to check the ranks for the 66 to pick up as many errors of ranks as possible to reduce the later work in rejigging the lists if relatives informed them of a change to the casualty’s rank (see C.W.G.C. Archive Box 1011 WG 219/2/1/1 Memorials To Missing Menin Gate & Tyne Cot Lists: Menin Gate Memorial. Director of Records to Director of Works (30 July 1925)).
As with other aspects of the Commission’s work, when it came to compiling lists for the Memorials to the Missing the I.W.G.C. were also prepared to send out clerks into the Record Offices if necessary to finalise names to put on the lists for the Menin Gate/Tyne Cot Memorials, as demonstrated by them sending out two clerks to the Royal Artillery Record Office at Woolwich to work through the service records of 1,500 casualties (C.W.G.C. Archive Box 1011 WG 219/2/1/1 Memorials To Missing Menin Gate & Tyne Cot Lists. Notes on Conference between Director of Works and Director of Records 19.11.24 (19 November 1924)).
Letters in reply to those still hopeful of finding their missing next-of-kin (written by Enquiries Branch, it seems likely that M.M. Branch had been absorbed back into Records by the 1930s) were by the 1930s decidedly pessimistic about the chances of further casualties being found and identified despite the continuing steady flow of newly discovered remains in the 1930s (for example see the letter dated 3 December 1934 in C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file YP 1/441 33995 J.W. Rogers 8th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment). Apart from the fact that the 38,000 bodies found by the I.W.G.C. inbetween 1921-1937 represents a small fraction of the lost commemorated on the memorials to the missing, this pessimism was reinforced by a declining chance due to decay (e.g. of identification tags, effects etc.) of identifying those bodies found, with a decline from an estimated 20% of bodies identified in the 1920s by the I.W.G.C. to 10-15% by 1937 (adapted from Fabian Ware (1937) The Immortal Heritage, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge: p. 37).
The Red Cross unit run by Fabian Ware in France and Belgium that along with another British Red Cross Society (B.R.C.S.) mobile unit became from October 1914 increasingly involved in the role of registering graves (see C.W.G.C. Archive GRC 2 Box 2029 Appointment of Graves Registration Commission: C.H. Langston-Cazalet Mobile Unit to Lt. Col. Stewart B.R.C.S. (8 March 1915) for a brief history of how the unit began the work of grave registration alongside its ambulance duties with the French Army) . In March 1915 it became officially the only approved British Army graves registration unit on the Western Front and was renamed the Graves Registration Commission (see G.R.C.).
Principal Assistant Secretary’s Department:
Enquiries (see Enquiries Branch) was part of this Department which also had branches responsible for dealing with general administrative issues (that fell outside Works responsibility) and crucially external relations with Government/Government Departments and other interested groups such the Church Army or British Legion (see C.W.G.C. Archive SDC 65 Establishments And Duties. 1920 – 1922: Imperial War Graves Commission London, draft directory: pp. 2-3). The Department also dealt with the public relations aspects of the Commission’s work. Letters from the Principal Assistant Secretary (P.A.S.) Lord Arthur Browne or more often sent out in his name for more difficult/sensitive cases appear in surviving C.W.G.C. Enquiries files from the 1920s, for example in the case of confusion over a lost temporary wooden cross (see C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file WW 49/22344 Captain L.C. Nash K.R.R.C., signed Stopford for Principal Assistant Secretary to Mrs Nash (11 April 1923 )) . A blank copy of a form intended to show the daily number of W.G. series, Enquiry and other files dealt with by the the Principal Assistant Secretary (or possibly where actions needed to be agreed by the P.A.S.) can be found in C.W.G.C. Archive WG 1294/3/2 Box 1084 Exhumation: France & Belgium: Army Exhumation Staff (undated follows a letter to the P.A.S. from the Secretary of the Anglo-Belgian Mixed Cemetery Committee dated 21 August 1922).
The French and Belgium I.W.G.C. H.Q. office had its own Records Department (other I.W.G.C. areas also had Record Officers) responsible in the 1920s for grave registration and exhumation for the London H.Q. of I.W.G.C. They in effect took over the work of the Army in this role from September 1921, although with fewer resources (See C.W.G.C. Archive SDC 65 Establishments And Duties. 1920 – 1922: Imperial War Graves Commission London, draft directory: p. 12). An explanation of the more technically restricted mandate they worked under compared to their recent Army predecessors can be seen under Weekly Reports. Also under Weekly Reports there is a summary of a rare surviving Weekly Report made by the Assistant Records Officer for the Aisne and Marne Area that shows the amount of active work, travel and supervision/completion of reports on the exhumation of bodies found that this role entailed in the early 1920s.
The scale of the exhumation and reburial work undertaken by the I.W.G.C. which involved work by French and other Record Officers based in the various I.W.G.C. offices outside the U.K. from 1921 onwards is clear from Fabian Ware’s report/book to celebrate the 1937 twentieth anniversary of the founding of the I.W.G.C., The Immortal Heritage. Ware stated the 38,000 bodies had been found by locals and those searching for scrap metal since Army had ceased its work in September 1921. Ware attributes a success rate of about 20% identification of these previously unknown remains by the I.W.G.C, without mentioning the work of the Assistant Record Officers in France and Belgium (plus other countries) or the supporting work of the Records Department back in London. That this work was becoming less successful with decay of identification disks and other surviving personal effects is made clear with a statement that the success rate is now down to between 10 to 15% of bodies identified (adapted from Fabian Ware (1937) The Immortal Heritage, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge: p. 37).
A good example of the thoroughness that many Assistant Record Officers brought to their supervision of exhumation work can be seen here in two examples from Cabaret Rouge British Cemetery, used after the war as a concentration cemetery.
See Concentration documents under https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/584587/young,-george-minchin/
See Concentration documents under
Registers (published) – War Graves of the British Empire and Memorial Registers:
Click here for a page about what the way the Registers were compiled and published tells us about the Commission and its priorities in the 1920/1930s, plus an explanation of how and why the numbering system for the published registers differs from the Imperial War Graves Commission Index to Cemetery And Memorial Registers of Those Who Fell In The Great War
Registrar (Part of Records Department in the I.W.G.C.):
The office of Registrar began in 1915 under the G.R.C. The Registrar’s job was to keep records of all the graves and burials that the G.R.C. had registered or had been informed about. The earliest detailed description of the Registrar’s duties comes from around the time of the formation of the G.R.C. in March 1915. At this point apart from the duties of Registrar they were also required to run the new Enquiry and Photographic branches, together with acting as the financial officer for the Commission (see C.W.G.C. Archive GRC 4 Box 2029: Officers’ Duties: Graves Registration Commission Establishment: The Registrar and Accounting Officer (undated)). By 1917 the Registrar and their staff in London were responsible for correcting/research to verify the details of all known burials and to correct G.R.R. forms once received when a cemetery was handed over by the Army to the D.G.R. & E. Between 1919 to the mid 1920s the Registrar’s Department was one of the largest departments in the I.W.G.C., employing over 100 clerks ((See C.W.G.C. Archive SDC 65 Establishments And Duties. 1920 – 1922: Imperial War Graves Commission London, draft directory: p. 4).
The Registrar’s department also looked after lists supplied via the Commonwealth forces as well as from foreign governments (dealt with by R1b (see C.W.G.C. Archive Add 1/3/4 Box 2033 Taking over of D.G.R. & E. by I.W.G.C.: Organisation (9 December 1920)) and included perhaps a small number of staff with the ability to translate from German, an example being the case of the Indian pilot Lieutenant S.K.C. Welinkar whose German burial cross included a mixture of garbled German and English (C.W.G.C. Archive CCM 25/12562 request to R1b for translation and R1b response (30 April & 3 May 1920)).
Files associated with changes to personal details such as military number, name etc. They are likely to have been linked to investigatory work by branches of the Registrar’s Department. A small number of RU file related fragmentary documents can be found in surviving Enquiry Files. Many RU references can be found on GRR (Graves Registration Report) forms and Concentration documents. The following is a good example of consecutive and near consecutive R.U. related references, see Concentration documents: http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/462170/CAMERON,%20ROBERT
A copy of an R.U. file letter from 1924 concerning the mistaken identification of a casualty who had another man’s identity disc can be found here: http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?/topic/76551-mystery-of-buried-soldier/. A fragment of an R.U. series file letter R.U. 30550 refers to a Belgian soldier, Van Homells, who died on 22nd October 1914, he is buried in Kensal Green Catholic Cemetery in one of a series of collective graves for members of the Belgian Army, as a non-Commonwealth commemoration there is no information about him beyond his name and date of death: http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/6010820/VAN%20HOMELLS . The copy of the Graves Registration Report:
has the following comment ‘Unable to obtain confirmation of Regtl. Particulars. RU/30550’, presumably from the Belgium Government as many other Belgians within the same plot have ‘Verified by Belgian List’ written next to them.
S.D.G.W. Soldiers Died in The Great War:
A War Office publication based on the service files kept by the Army Record Offices of every dead service person from the British Army, published from 1921 in 80 parts, with each Regiment (e.g. Yorkshire Light Infantry) or Corps (e.g. Royal Artillery) having its own volume. In a 1927 War Office note concerning an amendment to an entry in Soldiers Died In The Great War, an error connected to 10147 Private Albert Harold Corby of the D.C.L.I. is explained as having come from an error made in his service papers, recording him as died as a prisoner of War on 9 May 1915 when he actually died when or since being reported missing on the 26 August 1914 ((C.W.G.C. Archive Box 1027 W.G. 267 Pt. 2 Soldiers Died In The Great War: R. Records War Office to The Director of Records I.W.G.C. (30 March 1927)).
S.D.G.W. was the basis of the list used by the I.W.G.C. to put together the draft list of British Army casualties for Memorials to the Missing. It was checked against information from the I.W.G.C.’s own records (I.W.G.C. Card Index, enquiries, S.S.P. reports etc.). S.D.G.W. was regarded by the I.W.G.C. as more accurate than the Battalion Ledgers (see Battalion Ledgers) as it had been through a process of listing and checking by the Army Record Offices. However, the lists in S.D.G.W. were put together by the Army Record Offices when they were being reduced in size and at the same time had to complete other big tasks such as: processing records for the demobilisation of the majority of the British Army, submitting records to support many war related pension claims and issuing medals. Therefore S.D.G.W. and its single volume equivalent for officers ‘Officers Died in the Great War’ (O.D.G.W.) which was published in 1919, contain a number of errors and omissions as the Record Offices were not able to spend enough time checking the lists. The I.W.G.C. had therefore to go through a process of checking discrepancies between S.D.G.W. and its own records the Army Record Offices and relatives (see Final Verification). Douglas Cockerell the editor of both the Cemetery and Memorial Registers in the 1920s complained in 1923 about both the frequent inaccuracy when it came to theatre in which the casualty died in S.D.G.W. as well as the absence of such information in O.D.G.W. He also identified a problem with names being misspelt in S.D.G.W. causing problems in the process of checking with the Record Offices and sometimes missing the fact that under a different spelling there was a registered grave ((see C.W.G.C. Archive W.G. 219/4/42 Memorials to Missing: Obtaining Correct Lists Box 1015. Preparing lists of Missing: Alteration of Procedure: Douglas Cockerell to Controller & Financial Adviser (12 October 1923)). Cockerell also identified the problem that it would be difficult to avoid many of these errors affecting the Memorials to the Missing until the cemetery registers were complete, a process that was not largely complete until the end of the 1920s (Ibid, plus see page on ‘Registers (published) War Graves of the British Empire and Memorial Registers’ by clicking here). The need for a check to see if soldiers listed as missing were in fact actually buried in registered graves can be found in some statistics given by the Director of Records in the same year, with Missing Cards presumably made from S.D.G.W/O.D.G.W. and then according to the Director of Records typed up from the information included in the punch card based printed lists (C.W.G.C. Archive W.G. 219/4/42 Box 1015 Memorials to the Missing: Obtaining Correct Lists. Director of Records to Mr Davidson Memorials to the Missing Branch (8 February 1922)). For example 87 graves were found when the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders 2952 Missing Cards were checked; 170 out of 3440 for the Bedfordshire Regiment and 446 out of 4723 for the Black Watch (C.W.G.C. Archive W.G. 219/4 Box 1015 Memorials to the Missing: Lists of Names for “Missing” Memorials. Director of Records to Controller & Financial Adviser (8 February 1924)). Ultimately a so-called pool of cards with missing or inaccurate information was tried, ordered by regiment/unit with incomplete or missing details checked through to try and weed out errors in names, regimental details or burial (see C.W.G.C. Archive W.G. 219/4/42 Box 1015 Memorials to the Missing: Lists of Names for “Missing” Memorials. Director of Records to Registrar (8 February 1924)).
The final lists for Memorials to the Missing are therefore a verified and expanded list based upon S.D.G.W. For an example of a reference to S.D.G.W. in a Graves Registration Report see (937 C.E. Lowe 16th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment): http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/463657/LOWE,%20C%20E For an example of a reference to O.D.G.W. in a Graves Registration Report see (Lieutenant Austin James Arthur Craven Special List and Royal Artillery: http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2906032/CRAVEN,%20AUSTIN%20JAMES%20ARTHUR
To see how S.D.G.W. and O.D.G.W were checked against the Battalion Ledgers/S.D.G.W./O.D.G.W. marked up for checking against existing Commission records see:
Battalion Ledgers and the Work Checking/Adding to the Information in Soldiers Died In The Great War
A note from the Director of Records Henry Chettle records that the I.W.G.C. stopped correcting its copies of S.D.G.W. in May 1925 from the information in the Missing Cards in the Card Index (C.W.G.C. Archive WG 267 Pt. 2 Soldiers Died In The Great War: Director of Records to M.M. Branch (8 May 1925)).
In 1922 the then Adjutant General George Macdonogh wrote that Record Offices had begun to circulate corrections to S.D.G.W. (see WG 219/4 Box 1015 Memorials to the Missing: Nominal Rolls & Battalion Ledgers: Lists of. Adjutant General War Office to Director of Records (5 April 1922)). By November 1924 a War Office letter survives showing that the corrections received from the Officer in Charge of Records at the Army Record Offices had reached the thirtieth list of replies (C.W.G.C. Archive Box 1027 W.G. 267 Pt. 2 Soldiers Died In The Great War: Director of Recruiting and Organization War Office to Director I.W.G.C. (20 November 1924) with the 30th list including changes from the Perth, Shrewsbury, Preston, Exeter and Royal Artillery Record Offices (none of the once attached lists survive). The covering letter for the thirty first list mentions amendments from Preston, the London Infantry Record Office, Exeter and Shrewsbury (these lists have also not survived), showing that changes came from the different record offices at varying times. The covering letters also usually state how many lists have been attached from each Record Office, which in the case of the thirty first list were as follows: six from Preston, five from Shrewsbury and only one list each from London and Exeter (Ibid: Director of Recruiting and Organization War Office to Director I.W.G.C. (24 December 1924)).
In 1926 most of the service records of other ranks who had been demobilised before 8 August 1920 (when Army wide service numbers replaced regimental numbers for then serving soldiers) were transferred to War Office R. Records at Isleworth. This change from Army Record offices submitting amendments to S.D.G.W. to R.Records at Isleworth taking over responsibility for these changes is first reflected in a surviving unnumbered covering letter from R.Records to I.W.G.C. dated June 1927 (Ibid: Director of Recruiting & Organization War Office to Director of Records I.W.G.C. (2 June 1927). A surviving amendment made as a result of a change to S.D.G.W. in 1932 when I.W.G.C. was notified that the date of death should change from 26/8/14 to 30/8/14 can be seen here for Frederick Arthur Vaughan https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/724435/vaughan,-frederick-arthur/ . The corresponding change in S.D.G.W. would have been to Part 2 Section 5 Page 13 of the Royal Horse and Royal Field Artillery. Regulars and Territorial Force (including Honourable Artillery Company Batteries) volume or part volume (C.W.G.C. Archive WG 267 Pt.2 Box 1027 Soldiers Died In The Great War: Director of Recruiting and Organization War Office to Director of Records I.W.G.C.). The latest amendment sent from the War Office Records Depository in Arnside Street Walworth is dated August 1935 (Ibid: R. Records to Secretary I.W.G.C (31 August 1935). Apart from changing his place of birth from New Machar Aberdeenshire to Galashiels and his place of enlistment from East Perth to Galashiels the change in date from 16 May 1915 to 1 August 1917 had been picked up 14 years before years before (the Brandhoek Register was published in 1922) with a different incorrect date of 31 August 1917 entered in the Graves Registration Report but not in the Register published four years after the form had been certified: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/430505/newlands,-/#&gid=null&pid=2 .
There is also evidence for changes being made to Officers Died In The Great War, with unspecified amendments (only the covering letter survives) for Douglas Clifford Campbell Sewell, which appear not to have required changes to the Register or I.W.G.C. grave records and so must have been only to the paper copies of O.D.G.W. (Ibid: R Records War Office to Director of Records I.W.G.C. (7 June 1933). See https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/894915/sewell,-dougal-clifford-campbell/
I.W.G.C. interestingly refers to S.D.G.W. as the Grey Books in one of the lists for verifying names for the Memorials to the Missing (C.W.G.C. Archive W.G. 219/4/42 Box 1015 Memorials to the Missing: Obtaining Correct Lists. Revised Procedure & (1923) Proposed Scheme (1922) (attached to memoranda from Director of Records to Director of Works dated 8 August 1924)) and in the list of records destroyed in the fire at the War Office Records Centre at Arnside Street Walworth on the night of 7/8th September 1940 it also mentions the ‘Grey books’. They are referred to as the ‘Grey books of officers and men killed and missing 1914/18’ (National Archives (TNA) WO 32/21769 Records Destroyed at Arnside Street: Records Destroyed At Arnside Street (list). p.3) and together with the evidence from the I.W.G.C. memorandum we can now positively identify them as copies of Soldiers Died In The Great War and Officers Died In The Great War. It is also likely that one or all of the copies had been updated with the amendments from the Record Offices and then R. Records since the 1920s. With the destruction of these copies and the War Office files papers concerning these amendments the only surviving evidence we have for this process is this surviving file and the amendments to the C.W.G.C. Records that we can link to this process.
Before the introduction of WGR 1 Exhumation Forms in 1921 this was the name given to exhumation or information requests sent out to D.G.R. & E. working parties in the field from D.G.R. & E. London. See Slips Checked/Entered for the wider meaning of Slips as related to Graves Registration Reports/Comprehensive Reports.
The large number of such slips sent out long after the main effort of concentration and exhumation had started in the second half of 1919 was discussed at the 1921 Enquiry into the exhumation and concentrations at Hooge Crater, with 150,000 of these slips sent out to D.G.R. & E. in France and Belgium for investigation in July 1920, some after the Concentration and Burial (Exhumation and Re-Burial) Burial Returns (Form “A’) had been sent back to London (From C.W.G.C. Archive CWGC/1/1/7/B/48: DGRE 46 Report Of Committee Of Enquiry. March 1921: Proceedings 13th January 1921: p. 4).
This refers to the initial amendments made by Registration Department staff to the Graves Registration Report form (G.R.R.) after receipt from D.G.R. & E. and later I.W.G.C. working parties. However it appears that the checking process by the Registrar/Records Department could go long after the initial amendments had been made. This process had to be completed before the records were passed on to the Works Department of I.W.G.C., who would then proceed with Final Verification (see Final Verification).
The process as far as checking the Graves Registration Reports is described in a March 1921 letter to the next of kin of Lieutenant W.H.E. Nield 11th Fusiliers (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file HLG 57/28098: Letter to Sir Herbert Nield (2 March 1921)) explaining the process to the next-of-kin which confirms that the details contained in the Comprehensive Reports have to be checked against existing records (the letter doesn’t mention the part of the process involving relatives, Final Verification) before permanent headstones can replace the wooden crosses. A 1924 memorandum found on the file of ex-Prime Minister’s Asquith’s son Lieutenant Raymond Asquith to Fabian Ware states when referring to Guillemont Road Military Cemetery that as the Comprehensive Report had not yet finished being checked by the Records Department Final Verification of details for the headstone could not yet proceed (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file HLG 59/29170: Copy of a Memorandum to Fabian Ware from Lord Stopford Secretary Enquiries Branch (16 January 1924)).
Comprehensive/G.R.R. reports completed before November 1918 tend to have less corrections/additions made to them by the Registrar/Director of Records (see respective entries in the glossary) than those submitted after the end of WW1. A massive increase in the Registrar/Record Department’s workload lies behind the change, firstly with the massive programme of exhumation/concentration and rebuilding of cemeteries ready to hand over to I.W.G.C. (see I.W.G.C) the was no longer the time or resources at the London H.Q. or for the Graves Registration Units to extensively retype the Comprehensive reports for the cemeteries to include the amendments. From June 1919 many of the reports from France and Belgium were certified by relatively inexperienced (at the beginning) Labour Corps units specially formed to rebuild and concentrate the cemeteries. Secondly damage to graves in cemeteries over-run or damaged by German shell fire during the German offensive between March-July 1918 meant more research work at H.Q. to securely establish which graves had been lost/certify the identity of the graves in the territory recovered from the Germans before November 1918. There was also research work to be done in certifying Prisoner of War (P.O.W.) graves in Germany and across Europe. Certified reports coming in from other theatres of war such as the Mediterranean and the newly accessible Gallipoli Peninsula further added to their workload. It was also the case that many of the cemeteries whose records were certified before the end of the War or before June 1919 were in the Base Area extending back to the coast well away from the fighting, including during the German offensive of 1918. They did not suffer damage from shellfire (this was a problem for cemeteries near the front line throughout the war) or include as many concentrated graves as many of the cemeteries rebuilt after 1918 (many Base Area cemeteries served hospitals).
Looking at the reports for a Front Line and Base Area cemetery helps to see where the increasing workload came from. For example a simple visual comparison of a page from the Tyne Cot Cemetery which was subject to massive expansion/concentration in 1919 http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/463124/HAYWARD,%20H with Etaples, a large Base Area cemetery: http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/501124/FLEMING,%20WILLIAM%20BENNET serving large base hospitals.
The Graves Registration Report for Etaples has few handwritten amendments and the information is put together in the neat four name blocks specified by the D.G.R. & E. to help card index the information. For Etaples there are around 260 pages of Graves Registration Reports and only 35 unidentified Commonwealth Great War burials, out of a total of 10,771 burials from WW1 (there are also several hundred German burials (there are also some other non-Commonwealth burials). In contrast the pages from Tyne Cot have more amendments and information to be checked running to over 900 pages of Graves Registration Reports and nearly 600 pages of Exhumation/Burial Reports. With today 11,961 Commonwealth WW1 burials at Tyne Cot, of which 8,373 are unidentified burials (as far as possible an attempt was made to identify each body exhumed when the Cemetery was rebuilt) the scale of the research work required both on the ground and by the Records Department in London is evident.
Figures supplied to the Times by the I.W.G.C. at the end of the 1920s give an overall scale to the great research effort required by Records, with the exhumation of 204,654 bodies between the Armistice and September 1921 when the Army ceased to be involved in this work (The Times (1929) War Graves of The Empire: Reprinted from the Special Number of the Times November 10, 1928. Times: London p. 5). Between 1921 to 1928 according to the same source a further 32,000 graves were identified by the I.W.G.C. Tens of thousands of corrections were then made following cross-checking and research to the Graves Registration Report Forms (Comprehensive Report Forms which survive and can be accessed in the C.W.G.C. Casualty Archive) before they were passed to the Works Department for Final Verification (see entries for the Works Department and Final Verification). Without the successful completion of this work Final Verification of Cemeteries would be delayed, work on landscaping cemeteries and installing I.W.G.C. headstones put back and next of kin would see the original wooden (and not infinitely durable) crosses if they visited. Sidney Hurst’s survey published with I.W.G.C. approval of the Commonwealth war cemeteries of France and Belgium with most cemetery pictures showing C.W.G.C. headstones in place demonstrates the ultimate success of the research and checking progress (see Sidney C. Hurst (1929) The Silent Cities. Methuen & Co. Ltd: London).
A system for referencing and filing reports of the location of the details and location of a burial submitted by either a Chaplain/other officer responsible for the burial or from late in 1916 the newly appointed Army Divisional or Corps (both larger units of the Army) Burial Officers. Examples of forms used by chaplains, other officers and Divisional/Corps Burial Officers can be seen by clicking here.
Any of these sources could produce reports containing multiple names, particularly in the case of reports by Divisional or Corps burial officers responsible for burial arrangements from respectively Divisions of 18 to 20 thousand men and Corps made up of 2 Divisions. Corps and Divisional Burial Officers responsible for co-ordinating the burial of casualties and maintenance of cemeteries in their area had come into existence by 1917, because of a realisation that regiments and other frontline units needed co-ordination to cope with the number of burials that needed to be made/reported and graves maintained.
Graves Registration Units and Sections were also expected to submit copies of any such lists they received (they would have properly been the first recipients as they had to register the graves) and many of the S.S.P. lists presumably came to H.Q. in London from this source. Henry Chettle, the future Director of Records for the I.W.G.C in his March 1917 visit to report on the records kept by some of the sections on the Western Front stated that duplicate copies of Divisional, Brigade, Regimental or any other list of burials should be forwarded to the D.G.R. & E. in London. Grave Registration Units were also to submit a weekly summary with reference numbers of the lists and names of lists sent (see the 1917 visit report by H.F. Chettle to the Graves Registration Sections on the Western Front in C.W.G.C. Archive CWGC/1/1/13/16 ).
S.S.P. references in common with other file references are written on Grave Reference Reports as authority for information or amendments, in the following example (the third document in the set Grave Registration documents for this particular casualty) we can see a typed reference to SSP/5500/14, the last number showing that this report comes possibly from a set of linked or multipage reports under the SSP/5500/14 reference: http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/325928/REED,%20ARTHUR%20ERNEST .
Using an average calculated from the entries in the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders I.W.G.C. Index to Cemetery And Memorial Registers of Those Who Fell In The Great War, where 8% of the entries having listed S.S.P. Series Enquiry files next in the Enquiry Files column gives an estimate of around 88,000 files S.S.P. Series files still in use in 1929/1930 (based on 8% of the total number of Commonwealth Casualties from WW1).
The importance of the information filed in the S.S.P. series can be seen from a document discussing the location of the grave of Captain A. Roberts 15th Londons, which survives in the C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file, HLG 3/1224. The contents of two Corps S.SP. reports, SSP/65 and SSP/2649 (III Corps and V Corps) are discussed alongside another report S.S.P. 2948C. The S.S.P. reports in this case reflect some confusion over where Roberts and other casualties were buried. There are slight differences in grid references and also overlaps and differences in the names of the individuals covered in each report. S.S.P.s in this case were used as part of the process of elimination and investigation to identify the actual site of Roberts’ burial. Communal Reports were also used as part of the process (communal reports are discussed elsewhere ) and when the evidence pointed to one particular cemetery an exhumation took place. Roberts’ grave was identified by badges of rank and effects which identified him as an officer of his regiment and battalion, see concentration report included with his GWGC register entry: http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/261012/ROBERTS,%20ARTHUR
Although there is not a reference to the actual words behind the S.S.P. acronym, C.W.G.C. records do have references to these documents as being burial reports. See for example the C.W.G.C. Enquiry file for Lieutenant Robert Maule of the Royal Scots, where it is stated that there had not in May 1921 been a burial report, either through the S.S.P. system or through a letter received through Enquiries (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file P.H. 28/13699: Note to Registrar (24 May 1921)). A reference to an S.S.P. reference connected with the Gallipoli Campaign (Lancashire Landing Cemetery) and S.S.P. 5201/15 (C?) can be found on an Index card in a surviving Enquiry file (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file C.C.M. 25/12739, Lt-Col. R.H.N. Settle 19th Hussars and 21 Btn. M.G.C.: Enquiry Index Card Dvr. S. Weller A.S.C. No. 2 Div. Train (undated, back reused for Registrar’s Department notes 17 May 1919). Weller’s entry in the C.W.G.C. Register and his Casualty Archive papers can be found here: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/600545/weller,-/
Mention is made of Chaplain’s burial reports (which would have been filed in the S.S.P. series) as late as 1937 in a Enquiry file. The reports helped confirm the identity of six soldiers and their officer found in Bernafay Wood North Cemetery in 1936 and subsequently reburied in London Cemetery Extension (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file C.D.E.W. 34/16970 Pte. 11928 W.C. Robinson 11928 D.C.L.I.: Director of Records to Enquiries (18 November 1937)).
There is also fragmentary evidence in some surviving Enquiry files that burial reports for enemy soldiers were also filed using the S.S.P. reference, for example on a surviving fragment of an index card for a soldier called Schuldenzurker whose burial was reported by the IV Corps Burial Officer (G.W.G.C. Enquiry file CCM 5/2250 Lieutenant F.V. Hall Royal Air Force (undated fragment reused for notes, first note to Major Chettle (21 December 1918)). A full card surviving in another file for L/Cpl. H Otte of the 374 German Infantry Regiment was based on information taking from the forces chaplain connected with Abbeville (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file CCM 25/12513 Brigadier General F. Wormald 12 Royal Lancers (the back of the card has been reused as a note for information to be put into two standard letters (3 December 1918)).
S.S.P. 4995 Files:
Information provided by the Germans post WW1 on burials of British/Commonwealth soldiers (often P.O.W.s) or graves lost to the Germans in the German Spring Offensive of 1918. Often associated with J.K. lists (see J.K. Lists below) or German Burial lists. A figure given by I.W.G.C. in 1921 for the number of previously registered graves lost during the War of roughly 42,000 graves would include many lost or destroyed in the 1918 Spring Offensive. The figure does not include the much larger figure of missing and unverified burials not registered with the C.W.G.C. in France, Belgium, Germany, some of which were buried and recorded by the Germans either after death in battle/following battle or during incarceration as Prisoners of War (C.W.G.C. Archive WG 1294/3/2 Box 1084 Exhumation. France and Belgium. Army Exhumation Staff: see undated lists and accompanying letters, followed by a note from Arthur Browne (Principal Assistant Secretary) of a meeting with a journalist (10 October 1921)). The same 1921 lists also make clear that by October 1921 the Directorate of Graves Registration and Enquiries (D.G.R. & E.) and Imperial War Graves Commission had located and registered 493,000 graves, of which 42,000 had been lost as discussed, compared to a then estimated figure of 739,000 deaths/missing in France, Belgium, Germany and the U.K. Including the 42,000 meaning that roughly 246,000 casualties were unaccounted for in I.W.G.C. records, of which only 122,000 were known to be missing or their graves known to be lost (42,000 plus 80,000 names known in I.W.G.C. records to be missing). Many had hoped that the German lists would fill much of this gap, at least when it came to finding the missing burials that remained after the release of Commonwealth prisoners of war following the Armistice.
The J.K. and other German lists were compiled by the Allies from German card indexes. A surviving example of one of the German cards can be found here (in an Australian Red Cross file): https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/R1497776 (Corporal Charles Joseph Smith) or to a slightly different design in the Australian service file for Robert David Burns (go to page 39): https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=3173058
In the following example, the JK list and S.S.P. 4995 reference both securely show this information to have come from German records, see Concentration documents in http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/461907/BELL,%20W
A newspaper article from April 1922 discussing the end of work by the D.G.R. & E. (Central Europe) says the following about the difficulty of compiling these lists once the problems of records being lost in 1918 has taken into account (C.W.G.C. Archive W.G. 436/1 Box 1037 Graves of British Prisoners of War in Germany):
‘…It has been the task of the Graves Directorate to trace these records which are not permanently lost and to copy out the names of the British contained therein. In this way 350,000 British names have been forwarded to the home authorities from the German burial lists alone in the course of the last 18 months, of which more than 15,000 referred to men whose fate has hitherto been unknown. In cases where grave-lists were irrevocably lost, hospital records, the rolls of prison camps and of similar institutions have been searched, and names thus found have been traced from camp to camp and hospital to hospital, until in many cases the place of the man’s death has been obtained and definite information forwarded to the authorities giving the name of the hospital or place of death of a hitherto missing man. It has been necessary to search and to correspond with over 50 German departments in order to obtain this information….lunatic asylums…were circularised…The commanding officers of German units fighting opposite British regiments and German officers who brought down British aeroplanes were written to in many cases…The Ministers responsible for the Graves and Casualty Departments of the Central European Powers were visited personally by the Chief of the Graves Directorate [Editor’s note: Major General Perceval] and steps taken similar to those taken in Germany to ascertain the fate of the missing men were equally taken in every country concerned…’
Examples in surviving C.W.G.C. Enquiry files include references to named German Burial Lists for a particular area such as G.B. (German Burial) List No 691 which was said to have been sent to I.W.G.C. on 26 May 1921 ( see C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file C.C.M. 25/12739, Lt-Col. R.H.N. Settle 19th Hussars and 21 Btn. M.G.C. E.M. Perceval Major General I.W.G.C. Germany to Secretary I.W.G.C. (8 August 1922)). The memorandum also mentions German effects lists (presumably of Allied soldiers who they buried) (Ibid). In the same file a list on the file S.S.P/4995/1098 is said to report the same seven Unknown British Soldiers (U.B.S.) as the G.B. list (Ibid: Memoranda to Mr Davidson Registrar’s Branch (24 August 1922)).
Another example mentions the use of two G.B. Lists connected to two old German cemeteries (one whose existence was in doubt at the time the memorandum was written) at Droogenbroodhoek Cemetery and Eppeville Communal Cemetery German Extension. The two connected S.S.P. numbers are S.S.P./4995/2246 and S.S.P./4995/1557, although it is not clear which S.S.P. applied to which cemetery (see (see C.W.G.C. Archive Box 1011 WG 219/2/1/1 Memorials To Missing Menin Gate & Tyne Cot Lists: Missing Memorials. Menin Gate and Tyne Cot. Registrar to Director of Records (4 May 1926)).
The Director of Records in 1928 stated that the Germans reported 38,691 burials via the Burial Lists with the figures including dead found by the Germans on the battlefield, those of Commonwealth soldiers graves in areas captured by the Germans, in addition to the P.O.W.s who died in German custody or shortly after the end of the War ( Ibid: Prisoners of War. Director of Records to Principal Assistant Secretary I.W.G.C. (22 June 1928)).
Standard Letters – D.G.R. & E. and I.W.G.C.
D.G.R. & E. to I.W.G.C.
They were used from early in the Graves Registration Commission’s (G.R.C.) history, with an early draft example enquiry letter put together by Charles Pilkington Wilson, who devised the first enquiry, card index and photography request systems in 1915 for the G.R.C. simply stating that not enough information was held to answer the enquiry (C.W.G.C. Archive GRC 5 Box 2029, Section for dealing with Photographs and Enquiries: May 1915)! However as can be seen by looking at the growth of what became Enquiries Branch, both the G.R.C. and its successor the D.G.R. & E. were soon dealing with thousands of enquiries and requests for photographs. Most of the surviving standard letters have print dates from 1917 onwards but a copy of standard letter which was originally designed to accompany a photograph produced of a grave taken either in 1915 or early 1916 by the G.R.C. survives (see C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file WW 49/22352 Prince Maurice of Battenberg K.R.R.C.: follows a letter from H.M. Maitland Intelligence Officer to G.R.C. H.Q. dated 13 March 1916). They were designed to save labour with only the details of the individual/unit involved needing insertion into a standard letter by the typist. Examples include (the print dates are as per the examples chosen from the files concerned):
(No Form identity letter) Print dates 5/17 (20,000 copies) and 7/17 (40,000). The letter is designed to inform next-of-kin that a grave has been registered and that it has been marked by a wooden cross including the casualty’s name/unit details. (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file YP 5/2202 Captain F.T.P. Day 15 West Yorkshire Regiment: Stopford D.G.R. & E. to ? Day (? May 1918)). An earlier example has a print date of 5/17 (20,000 copies printed) (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file YP 5/2120 2nd Lieutenant C.W. Gray 23rd Manchester Regiment: Stopford D.G.R. & E. to Mrs Gray (1 February 1918)). It differs from the similarly worded Form E in that the letter is written to be sent without an enquiry having been made by the next of kin or Army officer whilst in Form E it is stated that the letter is sent in response to an enquiry.
Form A: Print date 10/18 (40,000 copies printed). Presumably to next-of-kin and states that the grave of the individual concerned had not yet been located. (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file PH 24/11963 303088 J. Adam 1/8th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders: undated fragments, following note to Mr Davidson I.W.G.C. dated 3 February 1922).
Form B: Print date 11/16 (20,000 copies printed). Letter for next-of-kin stating that it was not yet possible for photographers to take photographs in a particular area and that when it is was possible a photograph would be taken (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file WW 30/14185 2nd Lieutenant H.R. Isaacs: form undated and not filled in, next dated correspondence letter for Director of Records to D.G.R. & E. British Troops in France dated 21 February 1921).
Form C: Print date 10/19 (5000 copies printed).Letter for next-of-kin stating that a record has been made of a request for a photograph of a grave but that there will be a delay due to the number of requests for such photographs (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file YP 5/2124 2nd Lt. S.R.E. Carter King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. undated, on back of the form there is a note dated 8 June 1923).
Form C1: Print dates 2/19 (10,000 copies printed) and 7/19 (10,000 copies printed). Letter for next-of-kin stating that a photograph would be sent a soon as possible, it includes a blank space for a reason to be added to explain why sending on the copy of the photograph might be delayed (see fragments in C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file SL 32/15930 Captain M. Settle 5 North Staffordshire Regiment. One fragment is on a note from the Registrar dated 17 December 1920, the other on a note also from the Registrar dated 22 December 1920).
Form D: Print date 9/17 (20,000 copies printed). The letter is very similar to Form D1 except that it specifically that verification will be by officers of the Graves Registration Units (G.R.U.s), who will try and find/verify the grave as soon as possible (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file YP 3/1209 25818 Private T. Sheppard 7th Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment: Stopford D.G.R. & E. to Mrs Sheppard (11 December 1917)).
Form D1: Print date 4/18 (10,000 copies printed). Letter for next-of-kin stating that in response to their enquiry the casualty is reported as buried at a particular location. There is also a statement that as the death/burial has only recently taken place that the grave has not yet been verified. Once this had been done the enquirer would be notified (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file WW 30/14185 2nd Lieutenant H.R. Isaacs: form undated and not filled in, note dated 4 February 1921 written on back).
Form E: Print date 9/16 (20,000 copies printed). The letter confirms the registration/location of a grave and its marking by a wooden cross (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file AA 8/3544 Captain F.M. Chenevix Trench Royal Field Artillery. Stopford D.G.R. & E. to Major S.R. Warren, 277th Brigade, R.F.A., B.E.F. (29 March 1917)). It differs from the similar no form identity letter (see above) in that it was used in response to an enquiry.
Form E1: Half of the form survives (print date and number printed are missing), cut vertically down the middle and it is possible to see from the surviving fragment that it mentions the grave having been registered, marked with a wooden cross and the taking of a photograph (Ibid: fragment dated 28 January 1917 and concerning L.S.H. Griffin, for C.W.G.C. details see https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/544800/griffin,-/). Another fragment of the form, cut horizontally down the middle gives a print date of 10/16 (20,000 copies printed) (see C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file: CCM 5/2304 Lieut F.W. Sprott Indian Army: fragment of letter from C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file AA 14/6828 2855 Driver T. Kent, 14th Australian Machine Gun Corps, British Armies in France, no date but states in reply to enquiry 7 July 1918).
Form F: Print date 9/17 (20,000 copies printed). Letter to next-of-kin in reply to their enquiry expressing regret that the grave of the casualty has not yet been found and that they will receive another letter as soon as more information is available. (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file YP 3/1209 25818 Private T. Sheppard 7th Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment: Stopford D.G.R. & E. to Mrs Sheppard (22 November 1917))
Form G: The surviving fragment does not include the print date or number of copies printed, from what can be seen from the strip of surviving letter the letter was also concerned with the supply of photographs to next-of-kin (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry File SL 27/13357 Major R.G. Raper South Staff Regiment: the note on back of letter fragment from the Registrar is dated 11 February 1919).
Form H: Print dates 1/19 (5000 copies printed) and 7/19 (10,000 copies). Directed at the Officer Commanding the casualty’s unit it asks for information including a map reference of the place that the casualty was last seen. Information is also requested if the casualty’s unit was not responsible for their burial, including the identity of the unit responsible and if the casualties unit has any information from them (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file YP 5/2238 Lt. Col. F.A.W. Armitage 1st West Yorkshire Regiment attached 1/ Hampshire Regiment: undated and not completed, followed by a letter to I.W.G.C. from Mr Armitage dated 8 June 1922). Within one month of the later print run there were another 20,000 copies printed on the 10/17 (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file YP 2/ 2221 Lance Corporal A.M. Birbeck Durham Light Infantry. Stopford D.G.R. & E. to The Officer Commanding, 8th Durham Light Infantry, British Armies in France (24 November 1917)). An earlier example of Form H has print dates of 9/16 (20,000) and 3/17 (20,000) showing how each form is only likely to show the print dates since its last revision. This is significant as it demonstrates that the first use of some of these forms probably goes back to soon after the move of the D.G.R. & E. Headquarters from France to London (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file WW 30/14185 2nd Lieutenant H.R. Isaacs: Stopford D.G.R. & E. to The Officer Commanding, 4th Suffolk Regiment, British Expeditionary Force (16 May 1917)).
Form L: Print dates 1/17 (10,000 copies printed) and 12/17 (also 10,000 copies). Addressed to the Officer Commanding a unit and asking whether they could follow up on a minute addressed to them asking for information on the burial of the individual concerned as it has not been registered with D.G.R. & E. (CWGC 1/1/1/34 Directorate of Graves Registration and Enquiries: Files 1-19: DGRE 7 Formation of burial companies or corps (not completed, undated form, follows letter dated 28 January 1917 from Lt. Col Braithwaite D.G.R. & E. Officer Commanding Graves Registration Units to D.G.R. & E. London).
Acknowledgment that the Commission has been informed that the next-of-kin would like the return of the wooden over their relative’s grave – standard card (5000 printed March 1920) (see C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file Captain G.K.T. Fisher Norfolk Regiment: Card (26 June 1920)).
Slip asking for full name, regimental details and date of death of the casualty, the earliest copy so far found was printed in October 1917 with a print run of 5,000 copies (see C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file YP 5/2202 Captain F.T.P. Day Yorkshire Regiment: slip stamped ‘D.G.R. & E. Received 6 May 1918’).
The work of the I.W.G.C. in running Enquiries Branch by December 1919 and then in the replacement of wooden crosses with headstones is reflected in a selection of standard letters and forms described here. Forms for Final Verification are discussed under Final Verification Branch. There is also much more personalised correspondence in the surviving C.W.G.C. Enquiry files, partly a reflection of the fact that the surviving files mostly deal with long running, precedent setting or difficult cases. The letters tend not to have standard references as in the D.G.R. & E. derived examples.
Acknowledgment that the Commission has been informed that the next-of-kin would like the return of the wooden over their relative’s grave – standard letter (for example see C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file CCM 25/12507 Major The Hon. C.B.O. Mitford, D.S.O. 10th (Prince of Wales’s Own Royal) Hussars. Stopford for Principal Assistant Secretary to J.Kennedy Esq. (25 July 1921)).
Director of Works/Enquiries Branch Headstone Memorandum, concerned with matters such as engraving on headstones and other Works related matters. The top of the memorandum has space for regimental number and rank, regiment, plot, row, grave number and cemetery to be typed in by the Directorate of Works (see C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file WW 30/14235 2nd Lieutenant F.H. Brown 76th Fld Coy. R.E.: changes needed to inscription carved on headstone (19 April 1923), in this case Enquiry Branch have filled in the side of the memorandum reserved for queries from Director of Works and Director of Works has answered in the side normally used for replies from Enquiries Branch).
Flowers placed on grave for relative (internal) form used by France/Belgium I.W.G.C. Areas to acknowledge work done/accompany florist’s receipt. Included here for completeness the use of memoranda, letters and forms varied in form in the 1920s/1930s (see Ibid (4 January 1938)).
Memorial to the Missing Branch, Enquiries Branch Slip asking for name of memorial and location of battalion at time of casualty’s death (see for example C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file YP 2/860 Lance Corporal 2221 A. Birbeck 1/8th Durham Light Infantry: Slip (14 March 1928), the slip shows the ready access by Memorials to the Missing Branch to the War Diary extracts made in the 1920s).
Photography record slips (internal use). These simple slips often appear on C.W.G.C. Enquiry files where a request for a photograph had been made. They simply state:
- the number of photographs sent out, the name, rank and regiment of the casualty headstone photographed;
- the name/address of the recipient of the photographs;
- the number of the Enquiry file;
the negative number of the film which included the photograph and the date (presumably when the photographs were sent out).
The format of the form (other than the size of paper used) remains stable in between 1918-1923 (see for an example of a slip from 1918 in C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file YP 2/962 22/105 Pte. T.W. Rice Northumberland Fus. form dated 25 July 1918).
Simple form (for internal use) asking for the Enquiry file nos, regiment and cemetery details to answer an enquiry. There is also a space for Works Cards implying that Works Department had some sort of card/card index system for the graves (see example in C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file YP 5/2065 2nd Lt. V.L. Patch 2/4th West Riding Regt: form follows letter dated 3 June 1936 from A. Lewis Watson Asst. Sec. General I.W.G.C. Canada to Secretary I.W.G.C.).
Slip asking for full name, regimental details and date of death of the casualty, reprint from November 1919 to coincide with the completion of the move of Enquiries Branch to I.W.G.C. (return address changed from D.G.R. & E. to I.W.G.C), with a print run of 5,000 copies (see C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file PH 24/11963 303088 PH 24/11963 303088 J. Adam 1/8th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders: slip to be sent out with letters, follows letter dated 1 December 1919 for Principal Assistant Secretary to Mrs J. Adam).
Slip informing relatives that headstones have erected in a particular cemetery (for example see C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file YP 5/2065 2nd Lt. V.L. Patch 2/4th West Riding Regt: Voormezeele Enclosure, No 1 & 2 (22 March 1927), the back of the form has been reused and does not relate to this particular casualty).
Visit Letter Received form to trace details for inclusion in reply letter following next-of-kin’s interest in visiting casualties grave or memorial (cemetery, grave number, memorial number etc.), there is also an option for no-trace of the casualty under the details given by the enquirer (see for example C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file YP 2/860 Lance Corporal 2221 A. Birbeck 1/8th Durham Light Infantry: Form (13 March 1928)).
Fragments, unfortunately lacking the standard text survive, from what is termed an ‘Isolated Grave Letter’ (see C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file YP 2/631 33351 Lance Corporal A. Upham Border Regiment: carbon of non-standard parts of standardised letter dated 9 March 1927) and a ‘Despatch of Cross Letter’ (see C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file YP 2/962 22/105 Pte. T.W. Rice Northumberland Fus.: carbon of address details and type of letter sent out only dated 31 January 1924).
As discussed in the entry for the Memorials to the Missing Branch Army War Diaries were used extensively by the Imperial War Graves Commission (I.W.G.C.) to help locate units and officers (whose deaths were often mentioned by name in the relevant War Diaries unlike other ranks) for placing on the relevant memorial to the missing. In a memorandum dealing with the difficulties of deciding the dividing date between the Menin Gate and Tyne Cot Memorials in the Ypres Salient Henry Chettle the Director of Records made clear that the most useful piece of information alongside their date of death for allocating a missing man to a memorial was knowing to which battalion/unit they belonged (C.W.G.C. Archive W.G. 219/4 Box 1015 Memorials to the Missing: Sorting Cards Into Engraving Order. Director of Records to M.M. Branch Mr Davidson (19 March 1924)).
The difficulties of finding information from War Diaries when faced by difficulties such as variations in place-names, the division of information between the War Diaries of the different levels of the Army and the sheer amount of time involved (an average of half an hour per query) was made clear to the I.W.G.C. in a letter giving five examples from the Director of the Historical Section (Military Branch) of the Committee of Imperial Defence James Edmonds in a letter of complaint about the work they were being asked to do for the I.W.G.C. (WG 219/4 Box 1015 Memorials to the Missing: Nominal Rolls & Battalion Ledgers: Lists of. J.E. Edmonds Historical Section Committee of Imperial Defence to Director General D.G.R. & E. (21 January 1921)).
The solution was by 1921 to grant I.W.G.C. clerks special access to the War Diaries which were then held by the Cabinet Office section referred to above (the Historical Section were responsible for writing the British official history of the War). Information received by Enquiries and the then newly absorbed Effects Branch about the location of units was also being carefully noted according to the Registrar (see WG 219/4 Box 1015 Memorials to the Missing: Nominal Rolls & Battalion Ledgers: Lists of: Memorials to the “Missing”. Registrar to Director of Records (21 June 1921)).
A note from the Director of Records states that the Memorials to the Missing Branch had begun the effort to bring together the information needed to track Army Divisions during the War, by establishing the units that made up the divisions and their locations and casualties on a daily basis (Ibid: Director of Records to Registrar (? 1921)). Why this mattered for establishing casualty locations for memorials to the missing follows.
The organisation of War Diaries, besides Army battalions and units keeping diaries, also extended to the larger units of which they were part, such as the Division which usually included 12 infantry battalions and supporting units, or the Corps made up of two or more divisions. The way information from the War Diaries were used to allocate battalions/units to particular memorials is set out in a 1923 memorandum showing the procedure for putting together lists for memorials to the missing (C.W.G.C. Archive W.G. 219/4/42 Box 1015 Memorials to the Missing: Obtaining Correct Lists. Revised Procedure & (1923) Proposed Scheme (1922) (attached to memoranda from Director of Records to Director of Works dated 8 August 1924)). Once extracts had been taken from relevant Divisional War Diaries, cards were made showing how the units in that Division and relevant Divisions were placed in the area of a particular memorial (Ibid). The term used in the I.W.G.C. and elsewhere for the process of identifying the area in which a unit was operating at a particular time was ‘areaing’, with for example the location of the various London Regiments in relation to the Ypres memorials fixed on 25 July 1924 ((C.W.G.C. Archive W.G. 219/4/42 Box 1015 Memorials to the Missing Obtaining Correct Lists. M.M Branch memorandum (28 September 1927))
War Diaries could also be useful in helping to establish the likely unit of casualties in isolated graves found after the war where the regiment but not the battalion was known. ‘War Diaries Enquiry’ proforma survive in some of the remaining C.W.G.C. Enquiry files and have space simply to write in ‘Location of’, then ‘On’ followed by ‘And Any Information Regarding’, with the other half of the form available for the ‘Reply’. One example of an attempt to use War Diaries to help trace a missing grave is that of Lieutenant Colonel R.N.H. Settle who was attached to the 21st Battalion of the Machine Gun Corps and a request that the War Diary for that unit be used to narrow down his location on the 24 March 1918 (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry file C.C.M. 25/12739, Lt-Col. R.H.N. Settle 19th Hussars and 21 Btn. M.G.C.: War Diaries Enquiry (September? 1922)). Interestingly this was a repeat of information already requested from the Historical Section, Committee of Imperial Defence at the Cabinet Office who held the diaries ready for the compilation of the official history of the War (Ibid: draft note to Cabinet Office (4 April 1919) and Captain C.T. Atkinson’s C.I.D. reply (8 April 1919)). Besides the Battalion War Diaries we see references in the C.W.G.C. Enquiry files to the Divisional War Diaries as another reference point for the location of a particular unit (Ibid: Note to Mr Davidson I.W.G.C. mentioning that the divisional diaries (21st Division) have not been helpful in Settle’s case (6 September 1922)) . The surviving ‘War Diaries Enquiry Forms’ were labelled for R2, which we know from a 1920 organisation chart of the Registrar’s Department was called R2 Untraceables (C.W.G.C. Archive Add 1/3/4 Box 2033 Taking over of D.G.R. & E. by I.W.G.C.: Establishments. Director of Records to Fabian Ware (4 January 1921)). In a later organisation chart from after the takeover of the London H.Q. of D.G.R. & E. by the Imperial War Graves Commission Memorials to the Missing Branch is said to have responsibility for noting the location of all military units during the years 1914-1918, although the Registrar was still said to be responsible for registering graves and gathering together information (See C.W.G.C. Archive SDC 65 Establishments And Duties. 1920 – 1922: Imperial War Graves Commission London, draft directory: p. 4). The examples cited above also continue to be labelled R2, so perhaps either forms printed in earlier years continued to be used or R2 had become part of Memorials to the Missing Branch.
According to a note from one of the officials in charge of collating the War Diaries in M.M. Branch the Branch had finish working on the War Diaries for the Divisions of the B.E.F. (in France and Belgium) held at by Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence by February 1923, although it is stated that the I.W.G.C. would need to refer to other War Diaries for units that were not allocated to Divisions and for other investigations (C.W.G.C. Archive WG 219/4 Memorials to the Missing: Nominal Rolls & Battalion Ledgers: Lists of. Fisher M.N. Branch to Director of Records (7 February 1923)). Brigadier General Sir James Edmonds of the Historical Section (Military Branch) Committee of Imperial Defence also stated in his report on the period 3rd December 1924 to 2nd November 1925 that (see National Archives (TNA) CAB 103/3 Cabinet Office and predecessors: Historical Section: Registered Files (HS and other Series): Periodical Progress Reports: Report 3rd December 1924 – 2nd November 1925: p. 1)
‘One officer and clerk of the Imperial War Graves Commission are still paying regular visits and require the use of a large number of war diaries.’
Clearly reference to a range of War Diaries continued to be made after the Divisional Diary extracts had been completed.
Taking extracts from Divisional War Diaries and putting together lists of where units were during the War was also not a guarantee that gaps in knowledge within the I.W.G.C. about the events of the War could not take place and affect the memorials to the missing. In March 1926 the Director of Records admitted that cavalry casualties from a dismounted cavalry division stationed in the trenches around Loos in France had been placed on the wrong memorial, the Menin Gate Memorial list instead of the Bethune Memorial in France because of I.W.G.C. not being aware that this had happened ((see C.W.G.C. Archive Box 1011 WG 219/2/1/1 Memorials To Missing Menin Gate & Tyne Cot Lists: Menin Gate Memorial. Director of Records to Principal Assistant Secretary I.W.G.C. (25 March 1926)).
I.W.G.C. War Diary Extracts at the Imperial War Museum
The set of typed Divisional Diary Extracts from the Divisional Diaries made at the Historical Section Committee of Imperial Defence by the I.W.G.C. clerks survive in the Imperial War Museum (I.W.M.) collection. Their structure focuses on the location and activities of the Division and the brigades/units within it, arranged by month and day. Aside from noting military engagements and going out of the line/training most also have monthly figures for casualties as recorded in the particular war diary. Some also have specific map co-ordinates for particular units. A link to the I.W.M catalogue including all of the War Diary extracts made (exclusively judging from what survives for France and Flanders) and also Imperial units, for example the Canadians and Indian Army, can be found here:
Weekly Reports/Ad Hoc Reports:
These reports consisted of presumably adhoc reports sent in by D.G.R. & E/I.W.G.C. areas to report their work/progress and Weekly Reports made at the London H.Q. mostly from the continuing updates to the Enquiry Card Index.
Sent in by Graves Registration Units and also D.G.R. & E. Areas up to the disbandment of D.G.R. & E. in France and Belgium in 1921 (1922 in Germany, for references see glossary entries), at the time of writing no copies or fragments of these reports have been found. However a copy of a report from 1922, by the I.W.G.C. area Records Officer, written when I.W.G.C. had taken over the work of exhumation and burial of bodies from the Army survives and gives an excellent idea of the type of content included and importance for keeping researchers based in Head Office in London informed. These more detailed written reports were often used together with Communal Reports (see Graves Registration Reports) from 1915 to the 1920s in efforts to identify or locate the missing through information reported on the work of registration and search for burials linked to specific locations. The main difference between the G.R.C./D.G.R. & E. reports from before the end of the Army exhumation work in September 1921 and I.W.G.C. taking over after this date would be likely to be seen in two ways. There was the reduced volume of active exhumation work which was now supposed to be purely dependent on local reports of bodies rather than active searches for graves, except in the case of special exhumations or cases where compelling new information demanded a special investigation of a location. The I.W.G.C. was also to be dependent on French and Belgian Labour for most exhumations carried out (although some were undertaken by I.W.G.C Horticultural staff). A surviving report for the week ending 4th February 1922 includes: the collection of bodies, enquiries about local rumours of graves, two exhumations, discussions with the French Sector Officer about exhumation of isolated graves, another two exhumations, more investigations, speaking to the Etat-Civil Francais, yet another exhumation (this time from swampy ground with a maker’s inscription on a ring found with a body), a special exhumation which makes reference to three Enquiry files (in the CCM and WW series) together with a 3/ series Registrar’s file and an unsuccessful dig in a garden (C.W.G.C. Archive W.G. 1294/Pt1 Box 1082 Exhumation by I.W.G.C. General File: Copy Weekly Report to Week Ending 4.2.22. Richard Stiles Assistant Records Officer Aisne & Marne (13 February 1922)).
The main form of Weekly Report in use both before and after the D.G.R. & E. merger with I.W.G.C. was as follows. The Registrar Charles Miskin was rather doubtful in 1921 about the accuracy of using this form of Weekly Report for statisical purposes as many of the entries were duplicates based on cards from the Card Index generated each time the particular grave was re-registered (for example if the original marker had been lost to artillery fire) (C.W.G.C. Archive WG 1294/3/2 Box 1084 Exhumation. France and Belgium. Army Exhumation Staff: Unrecovered Bodies. Charles Miskin to Director of Records (6 October 1921)) . An undated surviving fragment in C.W.G.C. enquiry file represents part of a blank statistical table showing the compilation of weekly reports from cards created (including British Graves and Exhumations) or (possibly updated?) during that week (C.W.G.C. Archive Enquiry File SL 27/13357 Major R.G. Raper South Staff Regiment: undated fragment, back used for note to Major Stopford dated 1 May 1928). Also see a mention from 1917 by Chettle (the later I.W.G.C. Director of Records) that Grave Registration Units should send a weekly summary of the lists they had sent to the London Headquarters (see S.S.P.).
W.G. Series Files:
An important series of files between used between WW1 and WW2 for cemeteries and policy/administrative matters. Some examples of policy/administrative areas covered by this series include C.W.G.C. Archive WG 219/4 Memorials to the Missing: Nominal Rolls & Battalion Ledgers, C.W.G.C. Archive WG 1609 Record of Directorate 1918: The Work of the Directorate of Graves Registration And Enquiries 1918 and C.W.G.C. Archive WG 1294/3/2 Box 1084 Exhumation: France & Belgium: Army Exhumation Staff.
Works Department (I.W.G.C):
As recorded in a draft Imperial War Graves Commission Directory, the Works Department was responsible for managing the construction of the cemeteries following their hand over from the Army (including contracts and construction) and Final Verification confirming details from next-of-kin for Cemetery Registers/Memorial Registers (also headstone inscriptions/names on Memorials to the Missing). Works was also involved in the horticultural and logistics work of the Commission (See C.W.G.C. Archive SDC 65 Establishments And Duties. 1920 – 1922: Imperial War Graves Commission London, draft directory: pp. 5-7).
X/Y series files were associated with changes to cemeteries, graves and particular plots including exhumations. The X/Y series was associated with the Registrar’s Department before the merger of the D.G.R.&E (Directorate of Graves Registration and Enquiries, an Army Agency, with the I.W.G.C. (Imperial War Graves Commission) in March 1921. It was then used by the new combined Records Department of which the Registrar then became a part. Also see 3/ Series files. Some surviving correspondence from X/Y files can be found in other still extant C.W.G.C. file series, including for example a taking over [Editor’s note: transfer] form for Templeux-Le-Guerard British Cemetery from D.G.R. & E. to the I.W.G.C. from the 5 August 1920 which has the X/Y reference XY/1444 (see C.W.G.C. Archive CEM 19099 Templeux-Le-Guerard British Cemetery). There are also many surviving pieces of correspondence featuring these file number references in policy and surviving Enquiry files. X/Y references can also be found on Graves Registration Report forms (including for example the X/Y 1444 reference for Templeux Le-Guerard which can be found on the page of the form under 307386 Private W. Marriott 2nd/8th Battalion Sherwood Foresters: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/337672/marriott,-/) and Concentration documents. In common with 3/ series files X/Y files often are used as authority for several separate changes made within a cemetery under the same file number, although as with the 3/ series this is not always the case, with sometimes additional X/Y or 3/ numbers mentioned in the G.R.R.F. and Concentration documents. The following is an example of a change made in 1925 by the Director of Records under the authority of information contained in an X/Y series file (see Graves Registration Report): http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/104040/SELBY,%20G
Another entry in the Pozieres British Cemetery explicitly mentions changes to a plot being linked to the main X/Y file for the Cemetery X/Y 1697, see 3844 David Bernard Harford Grave Registration Report: http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/588960/HARFORD,%20DAVID%20BERNARD
A reference to a document being placed on an X/Y series file related to a WW1 casualty can be found as late as 1950 (X/Y 5801), see 32613 Joseph Sheen (Concentration documents):
A File series associated with more recent changes to CWGC graves e.g. http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/75191373/GARTHLAND,%20JAMES