The Ultimate Sacrifice

The Ultimate Sacrifice

Nick Thorne, Writer at TheGenealogist

Nick Thorne

Writer at TheGenealogist

We all owe a debt of gratitude to those who died fighting for our country, and November 11th is the time when we remember those who died in the Great War of 1914 to 1918, the ‘War to end all wars’. It was the largest conflict in history and involved 70 million people from different countries, backgrounds, religions and race. Just about every family was affected by this war, including the famous Charles Darwin, whose grandson Erasmus Darwin was killed in the second battle of Ypres. Searching in the Roll of Honour on gives three results for Erasmus. The first is an official GRO death entry, which provides a reference number to order his death certificate, and also a link to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website, which then provides details of where he is buried.

The second entry comes from De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour, which contains 25,000 records, 7000 of which also have a portrait photograph. Erasmus’s death on 24th April 1915 is recorded along with his rank, regiment, photograph and profile. The profile section is a biography often provided by family and friends and is intended as a tribute and memorial. The third entry for Erasmus is from the Bond of Sacrifice records, which covers officers who fell during the war, and also gives details of rank, regiment, date of death and a short profile.

The National Roll of the Great War is a tribute to the men, and also women, who survived and died in the First World War. It has 14 volumes in total, and given that it is only a selection of the people involved, it just demonstrates how many lives were affected by the tragic events of 1914 to 1918. You can view The National Roll of the Great War on in the ‘Roll of Honour’ section, along with the British Roll of Honour which remembers officers who fell during the war. Entries can include a biography of the officer, information on the circumstances of the death, their education and immediate family that were left behind. Some of these can include a portrait photograph. Also available is the Chatham, Plymouth and Portsmouth Memorial Register, which remembers both officers and men of the Royal Navy who died at sea, with their rank and place of service, details of immediate family and date/circumstances of death.

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When we think of war records we immediately think of those who fought and died, but the new RG32 records now available on also contain births of British citizens in France and other countries across the world during the first and also Second World War. The RG32 records are part of the exclusive BMD Registers collection, and can be found in the non-conformist section. These records contain Births, Baptisms, Marriages, Deaths and Burials abroad, and on British as well as foreign ships, of British subjects. It also includes certificates issued by foreign registration authorities and documents sent by individuals to the Registrar General. For the Second World War period it includes some notifications of deaths of members of the services, prisoners of war, civilians, internees and deaths through aircraft lost in flight, as well as births and marriages that took place around the world.

The internet has now opened up a whole world of records that were previously hidden away in archives, and although the original record itself is important, being able to see the information they provide in the comfort of your own home is of enormous use, and will keep the message alive that the mistakes of the past should not be repeated, and the tremendous bravery of our ancestors should never be not forgotten. So as we remember the 15 million people who gave their lives for us in the First World War, remember also the soldiers still alive in the UK today who have fought for us and who still continue to fight for us. The Royal British Legion provides financial, social and emotional support to millions who have served or are currently serving in the Armed Forces, and their dependants. Please make a donation to their cause at and wear your poppy with pride.

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