Millions of people across the Commonwealth, including thousands of families in New Zealand, could discover more about their relatives who fought and died during WW1, as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) today launches two exciting new online resources, designed to help the public gain a greater understanding of those who lost their lives in service during the war.
The unveiling of the CWGC’s recently completed online archives and the brand new Discover 14-18 microsite will make locating and visiting memorial sites of relatives and loved ones killed in the war, easier than ever before. The online resources will also greatly enhance the service that the CWGC is able to provide to the 1.6 million people from across the world who contact them every year.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission, founded in 1917, is responsible for marking and caring for the graves and memorials of over 1.7 million Commonwealth war dead from the two world wars, over 18,000 of which were WW1 casualties from New Zealand. However, in the lead up to the Centenary of WW1 this August, they have also undertaken a five year project to scan over 300,000 working documents relating to those who died in service during WW1 and upload them to the www.CWGC.org website, all of which will be available for the public to view for the first time from 8 July.
These documents will give a unique insight into the process of commemoration undertaken by the Army and the CWGC after WW1, and include details of personal headstone inscriptions, date of death, rank, regiment and even some documents which show the journey of the deceased to their final resting place.
Andrew Fetherston, the CWGC’s Archivist and Records Manager, said:
“For the first time, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is providing public access to the hundreds of thousands of documents in its archive. The documents are a window into the Commission’s past, and the incredible work carried out after the war, to ensure those who died will not be forgotten.
“As working documents, it is fascinating to see the typed and handwritten lists, the corrections and notes as they strived for accuracy. For the families of those we commemorate, these records give a snapshot into the processes by which their relatives would have been identified and buried, or commemorated on a memorial, and give a direct link back to a time in the immediate aftermath of the war.
“We believe the documents make the experience of searching through our records even more fascinating than before.”
In addition to this, the brand new Discover 14-18 microsite www.cwgc.org/discover1418 launching on the same day, is designed to enable the public to visit some of the 23,000 CWGC memorial sites more easily during this Centenary year, and enhance their understanding of the historical context of the cemeteries and memorials. The site will feature a timeline and events calendar for WW1, and content will be themed around major battles and the different roles of the Army, Navy and Air Force, all linking back to the CWGC memorial sites and the new online archives.
To raise awareness of these new online resources, the CWGC is hosting a live Q&A session with one of their archive experts across their Twitter and Facebook platforms on 9 July at midday. This will give the public the opportunity to receive tips on the best way to search for relatives or loved ones using the sites, and how to get the most out of the archived documents. To take part people simply need to tweet their question to @CWGC using the hashtag #Discover1418 or post it on the timeline at www.facebook.com/commonwealthwargravescommission.
The launch of the new digital resources will be the start of a series of activity by the CWGC to commemorate the Centenary of the start of WW1. You can keep up to date with the latest news and events at http://www.cwgc.org/news-events.aspx.
1. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (www.cwgc.org)
The CWGC maintains the graves of the 1.7 million Commonwealth servicemen and women who died during the two world wars. It also holds and updates an extensive and accessible records archive.
The CWGC operates in over 23,000 locations in 153 countries across all continents except for Antarctica.
The CWGC provides teachers and youth workers with a comprehensive range of educational resources and support materials so that future generations remain engaged in the work of the CWGC and continue to remember those who died in the two world wars.
2. *Combined number of unique visitors to the CWGC website and phone/email enquiries from the public during 2013
3. Case studies illustrating the work of the CWGC are available on request
4. 18,053 servicemen from New Zealand, who died during WW1, are commemorated at CWGC memorial sites across the world.
Updated on 23rd July 2015