Please note: the transcriptions of forms are based on images from the National Archives except Form A. 36 which is based on a 1918 copy from National Archives (TNA) WO 162/199 General procedure for dealing with Casualties in War (1939)
1. A.F.B. 103 Casualty Form – Active Service Aside from Infantry and Corps Record Offices back in the U.K., these forms were maintained by the so-called Third Echelon (the Army personnel office in Rouen) to record postings and casualty reports for France and Flanders. Third Echelon in other theatres kept copies of A.F. B 103 for the same purpose.
2. Part II Orders – During WW1 often issued daily
‘…(ii.) Part II. of orders will be framed in the identical words in which the entry is to be made in original and duplicate attestations.
(iii.) Copies of Part II of orders (or a notification that none have been issued) will be sent weekly, and on the last day of each month, to the officer i/c records…[Editor’s note: of the particular Army Records Office to which the unit was affiliated to]…who will retain them for reference. In the case of units at home the weekly copies will be despatched so as to reach the record office on Mondays.
(iv.) Each issue of each Part of orders will be numbered consecutively, commencing on the 1st January of each year…
[Editor’s note a good idea of the range of matters covered by Part II Orders can be seen from the examples of wording and issues covered in this transcript of Appendix A]
In wartime as well as the all important matters of transfers between companies, regiments and corps, Part II Orders remained the lynchpin of the British Army’s systems for keeping track of its soldiers and also giving it vital information needed for the Pay Offices when calculating allowances and deductions for families based on a soldier’s pay. It is noticeable that many of the surviving pages of Part II Orders related to WW1 (the specific sets of unit WW1 Pt II Orders were destroyed in the Arnside Fire in September 1940) preserved in surviving British Army service files focus on issues such as soldiers hospitalisation, leave and sickness as well as the company transfer/more routine pay/disciplinary issues that would be expected to dominate Part II Orders in peacetime.
A list from 1918 for a home based 12th Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment, unusually providing workers for transport and dock based work (from the file of Gunner Alfred Taylor, Findmypast have him listed under the service no 103418, whereas he was in fact 105418, his file appears to either have been missed by or poorly transcribed by the Ancestry indexers )
Taylor is on the Part II Orders of another unit as he and other soldiers were down to be provided with rations by the unit as they were detained by the local police.
A good example of the comprehensive nature of Part II Orders and how ultimately they recorded the movements in and out of a unit (including through death or injury) is found in the comments made by Sir James Edmonds, the ex-General and colleague of Field Marshal Haig to who we owe the completion of much of the Official History of the Great War. Edmond’s wanted to know for the volume of the Official History which included the 1st July 1916 what was the accurate figure for the number of British Army casualties on that day. Edmond’s knew that War Diaries kept by units were written and then sent off ultimately to the Committee of Imperial Defence Historical Section for use in the Official History and even though other copies were kept by the units themselves and Headquarters in the different theatres of war they were essentially snapshots, not revised and updated as new information came in on a particular event or in this case the ultimate fate of men lost became clearer. By contrast Edmonds saw that the Part II Orders which ran throughout the year and which had to account for every one in the unit for Pay Office and other uses over a much longer period provide a more accurate answer to the question how many casualties were there on the 1st July 1916:
‘…The question of casualties at the Somme presented a problem. The British returns rendered were really the record of absentees, with only those who were definitely known to be dead and wounded reported as such. The number of dead was comparatively few, the number of “missing” excessive. It was therefore decided to examine, as regards the infantry, the heaviest sufferers, the Part II. Battalion Orders, which account sooner or later for every man. To do this for the 1st July 1916 alone took a member of the staff of the Historical Section just under six months, and for reasons of economy the enquiry could not be pursued further. The examination show that the original returns for the 1st July were nearly 7 per cent too high. The corrected figures are given in the text…’
‘…The reports of the casualties in the Fourth Army and the VII. Corps of the Third Army rendered at the time gave the number of absentees from roll call, and included a very large number of missing: most of these were subsequently accounted for, many of course having been killed. The figures showed a total of nearly 62,000. Subsequent examination of the Part II. Battalion Orders of the infantry, the heaviest sufferers—the artillery loses were small as the Germans did little counter-battery work— has reduced this total by approximately 7 per cent, due to many of the missing having rejoined.
The original figures, in the diaries[Editor’s note: the Battalion etc. War Diaries], were:—
|Killed or Died of Wounds.||Wounded.||Missing.||Total|
|Other ranks .||7,449||34,357||17,419||59,225|
The corrected figures are: —
|Killed or Died of Wounds.||Wounded.||Missing.||Prisoners of War.||Total|
|Other ranks .||18,247||34,156||2,056||573||55,032|
The figure of 57,000 casualties on the 1st July 1916 comes from the number obtained from the research using Part II Orders by a member of Edmond’s staff. However his comment that to do this research for the 1st July alone took six months shows how detailed a record of the personnel of the British Army of WW1 we have lost.
Similarly some copies of post-Armistice Part II Orders were sent to the Commission by Army Record Officers to add to the Battalion Ledgers (see Glossary: Battalion Ledgers) as a source for post-Armistice deaths.
In common the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence I.W.G.C. was prepared to send clerks to look at Part II Orders at the Isleworth Army Records store, with clerks sent to look for deaths in the Army of the Black Sea Records in either 1927 or 1928 (C.W.G.C. Archive WG 219/4 Memorials to the Missing: Nominal Rolls & Battalion Ledgers: Lists of: note to Director of Records, in between notes on the same page from Henry Chettle (Director of Records) dated 10 March 1928 and 16 March? 1928).
3. A.F. B 213 Field Return How often rendered: Weekly By whom rendered: Unit Commanders
For a copy of an A.F. B 213 including casualty information on the rear side of the form click here
For a copy of the form (front side – different version of A.F. B 213) only click here
4. A 36 Nominal Roll of Men in Hospital How often rendered: Weekly By whom rendered: Commanders of Medical Units
5. W 3034 Nominal Roll of Men in Hospital How often rendered: Daily By whom rendered: Commanders of Medical Units
6. A.F. B 2090A Death of a soldier By whom rendered: When necessary by the Officer who holds the man’s A.F. B 103 To whom rendered: (1) War Office (2) Regimental Paymaster (3) Filed with will copied on back. Remarks: (1) Original with will attached. (2) Duplicate with pay book, after removal of will (if any) attached.
7. A.F. B 2090B Death Report (unofficial). By whom rendered: War Office To whom rendered: O.C. Unit Remarks: To be answered by O.C. Unit and returned direct to War Office.
8. A.F. B 2090C Presumed death. By whom rendered: War Office To whom rendered: O.C. Unit. Remarks: To be answered by O.C. Unit and returned direct to War Office.
A.F. B 213 to A.F. B 2090C, entries 3-8 (with the exception of the transcribed forms) adapted from General Routine Order 6685 – Procedure to be Adopted on Closing of G.H.Q., 3rd Echelon 17th April 1919 see National Archives (TNA) WO 123/201 General Routine Orders: France