Source listing


MGC Cavalry

1914-15 Star Rolls:

A random page taken from the rolls for the 1914-15 Star. These pages provided the details necessary for the issue of the Star to servicemen who had qualified, before being transferred to the MGC. Most importantly they provide, in many cases, the battalion of the original unit served-with.
Similarly, the rolls for the 1914 Star have also been searched. Although these were constructed differently, many are annotated to reveal a transfer, at a later date, to the MGC. This information has also been incorporated into the database. Click here to see an example.


The Army List:

A page illustrating the monthly Army List which contained the name and rank of all men who held the King’s commission, both permanent and temporary, throughout the war years. Click here to see an example.


British War Medal and Victory Medal rolls:

A random page taken from the rolls for the issue of the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. These usually provide a date of discharge from the service. Click here to see an example.


Soldiers died in the Great War:

During the 1920s, HM Stationery Office printed an eighty-volume set of registers known as “Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-19". All of the deaths in service of soldiers other than officers, were gathered together by Regiment or Corps, and then alphabetically. The text provided each soldier’s full name, where he was born and enlisted, his regimental number, rank, cause of death, locality, date of death and  in many cases former unit served with.  In almost all cases, the cut-off date for death was 11/11/1918 - the date of the armistice.  A similar one-volume register containing rather less detail is available for commissioned officers. All of the MGC casualties from these pages have been incorporated into the database. Click here to see an example.


The Commonwealth War Graves Commission:

The duty of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (formerly The Graves Registration Council and later Imperial War Graves Commission) was to record all deaths in service up to a cut-off date of 31st August 1921 - the official date of the end of the Great War, and to establish and maintain in perpetuity graves or memorials to all of those casualties.  The extended date is important for researchers because it incorporates the large number of deaths that took place both in combat (North Russia, in Mesopotamia and in Afghanistan) after the armistice, and from illness or injury as a result of war service. All of the records of the CWGC relating to the MGC have been added to the database, and in some cases enhanced. The units of a substantial number of officer casualties are missing from the War Graves registers. Most of these have been reconciled from the personal files of the officers concerned.  Some years ago the MGC Old Comrades Association established a Graves Photographic Project with a view to acquiring a photographic image of every MGC grave and memorial. We can therefore provide copies at a modest cost. Only those which lie in the most difficult regions (North Russia, and Iraq for example) now remain to be visited. Click here to see an example.


General Service Medal and Indian General Service Medal rolls:

Many of the Corps soldiers who remained in the army after the armistice saw active service in the middle-east and in India. This resulted in the issue of either the General Service Medal (for Iraq, Kurdistan,and Persia) or the Indian General Service Medal (Afghanistan, Waziristan etc). The medal rolls relating to personnel of the MGC who qualified for such an award have been searched, and this information added to the database - along with the unit they were serving with at the time. This is the only major source for that information, since the medals themselves are marked simply “MGC”. Click here to see an example.


The London Gazette:

In order to put together a register of all servicemen who gained an award for gallantry or meritorious service, the pages of the London Gazette have been searched, year by year, from 1915 (the year of the establishment of the MGC and the Motor Machine Gun Service) up to 1922 (the year of the disbandment of the Corps). Wherever possible, the citation (the reason for the award and brief description of the gallant act) has been incorporated. Many citations were not published in the Gazette, but a substantial number have been reconstructed from the War Diaries of the unit in which the recipient was serving. (See the section on “War Diaries”) Also, a large number of Military Medal awards do not reveal the recipient’s unit. These have been reconciled using the relevant microfiche of original award cards, held at National Archives. Click here to see an example.


Officer’s 'Long Numbers':

At the time of the Great War, commissioned officers were not identified by a number - simply by their name, rank and regiment (or corps).  Due to the vast increase in the number of officers created between 1914-1918, this eventually led to much confusion, especially in the case of a common surname.  In fact, both regular and temporary commissioned officers (but not those of the Territorial Army) were allocated what was known as a “long number” - used only for their strict identification and the location of their files. The “long numbers” record is held at National Archives and is a useful research tool because in many cases it provides the officer’s full name, a clue to the unit into which he was originally commissioned, and an indication of whether his original service file still exists.  All of this register has been incorporated into the database. If an Officer file exists, although we may not have its content on the database, we can arrange to access it very quickly and to digitally photograph everything which has survived. Click here to see an example.


Medal Index Cards:

An example of the Medal Index Card, one of which should exist for each and every soldier, showing which medals of the Great War period were earned. A small percentage have not survived.  Some also provide details of previous and subsequent units served with, and first date abroad. It is important to remember that only those soldiers who left the UK earned service medals. Many were not sent overseas and consequently no Index Card  will have been prepared for them.  All of the information on Medal Index Cards, relating to the MGC has been incorporated in the database. Click here to see an example.


Records of Military Hospitals (MH106):

During the war, substantial records were created relating to the injured soldiers who found themselves in a casualty station or military hospital.  Only a very small proportion of such records have survived and these are held at National Archives. Where an entry can be found for an individual, a wealth of information becomes available. The surviving registers are currently being searched for entries relating to MGC soldiers. This is an on-going project. Click here to see an example.


Prisoners of War:

A full record of every soldier taken prisoner of war between 1914-1918 once existed. These were amongst documents held at the War Office Repository situated in Arndale Street, Lambeth prior to World War II.  During the blitz of 1940, all of these records were destroyed.  Information as to whether a soldier became a prisoner is very difficult to come by. In the case of Officer POWs, a high proportion are identifiable from a document compiled by Messrs Cox & Co in 1919.  Every army officer held a bank account with Cox & Co into which their pay and allowances were channeled.  When officers were taken prisoner, the simplest way of relaying that information back home was to issue a warrant or cheque via their captors, which was allowed, for the purchase of goods. When the cheque arrived in England (via neutral Switzerland) it was a sure sign that the account holder was alive. A complete record was made by Cox & Co, and the information relating to MGC officers has been incorporated in the database. Click here to see an example.

Since this section was first written, The International Committee of the Red Cross (Geneva), has made available its records relating to servicemen of all of the combatant nations who became prisoners of war. As far as British army personnel are concerned, and Machine Gun Corps soldiers in particular, this opens up a very useful additional source of data. Probably the most significant part will be the identity of the unit in which a given soldier was serving at the time of his capture. Without doubt this new release will come to be of increasing importance to genealogists and researchers in the coming years. The MGC Database is able to access the ICRC records for the benefit of enquirers.


Order of Battle of Divisions:

As part of the written History of The Great War, authorised by the Committee of Imperial Defence, a set of books entitled Order of Battle of Divisions was compiled by Major AP Becke (RFA, MA) between 1930 - 1945. These registers outline the composition of each army division, showing who was serving with whom, the major engagements that they took part in, and their dispositions in the field.  All of this information, so far as it relates to the MGC, has been incorporated into the database. Click here to see an example.


Rolls of Honour:

Very many Rolls of Honour were compiled after the end of the war, by Schools, Colleges, Institutions, Employers and by local bodies. They commemorated the fallen, sometimes with a great deal of information and photographs. So far as is possible, a high proportion of these registers have been searched for MGC casualties and the information extracted and incorporated into the database. Click here to see an example.


The British Red Cross Society:

The British Red Cross Society (during the war amalgamated with the Order of St John) was responsible for producing regular Enquiry Lists, showing the details of servicemen wounded and missing in action. These were produced in the hope that comrades who had knowledge of any soldier whose name appeared, might come forward with information, for the assistance of relatives. A few of these lists have been published, and the entries relating to MGC personnel extracted and incorporated in the database. Click here to see an example.


The Marquis de Ruvigny:

One of the major Rolls of Honour of Great War casualties is that compiled by the Marquis de Ruvigny, published in five separate parts, and alphabetically within each. Numerous photographic images were included.  All of the entries relating to MGC soldiers have been incorporated into the database. Click here to see an example.


Silver War Badges:

Originally introduced to give soldiers discharged from active service some token of recognition that they had “done their bit”, the Silver War Badge continued to be issued well into 1919. Individually number, it was recognised everywhere as a symbol of courage and honour - so much so that many owners had their badges fitted with safety chains to prevent loss, since the badges could not be replaced .  13,000 such badges were issued to ex-MGC soldiers who were discharged as unfit through wounds or sickness - a measure of the appalling casualties sustained by the machine gunners. Click here to see an example.


Territorial Force War Medals:

Pre-War Territorial Army soldiers who volunteered immediately for overseas service, but did not go until after the end of 1915, lost the chance to gain the 1914 or 1914-15 Star. Many of them were retained at home in a training role. Those who finally managed to get themselves overseas were rewarded with the issue of the bronze Territorial Force War Medal. Some transferred to the MGC, and their details have been added to the database. Click here to see an example.


Official War Diaries:

Each active unit in the field was required to maintain a War Diary - a day-by-day journal of activities and happenings. Their quality vary from poor to excellent depending upon the literary skills and overall care of the officer delegated to keep them. By and large, the names of “Other Ranks” are seldom encountered - Officers are much more likely to be mentioned. However, some are gems of information containing recommendations for gallantry awards, long lists of officers and men killed, wounded and missing, and detailed descriptions of major battles and the parts played in them by individuals. They are a prime source, and extracting this vital information is an ongoing project for the database. Click here to see an example.


The War Illustrated:

A weekly magazine throughout the period of the Great War containing articles, maps and above all, photographs - mostly of Officer casualties, although there is a smattering of images of Other Ranks decorated for bravery.  Any connected with the MGC have been captured for the database. Click here to see an example.


War Services of Military Officers (1920):

An addendum to the official Army List, this publication contains the names of commissioned officers of the regular army only, (not Temporary Officers)  who saw service during the Great War. Arranged alphabetically, “War Services” is a useful source, since it lists all the gallantry awards, and gives the London Gazette dates of all “Mentions in Despatches”. Although these appeared in the Gazette, they are extremely difficult to find, even using the on-line tracing service which uses a very poor character recognition programme. Click here to see an example.


Enlistment Papers of Great War Soldiers (WO363)

The so-called “burned records”.  These are the surviving enlistment and service papers for soldiers of the Great War.  In the 1930s they were stored at the War Office repository in Arndale Street, Lambeth which was severely damaged by fire (and water) during the blitz of September 1940. Painstakingly handled and microfilmed almost two decades ago, they represent (we are told) the papers of about 2.6 million soldiers - a further 4 million sets having been completely destroyed.  However, a substantial number are duplicated, reducing the probable unique survival rate to under 2 million. Many are fragmentary and a high percentage have some vital documents missing. It was an immeasurable tragedy for family historians.  For some unknown reason, the MGC seems to have been particularly badly affected. We estimate that less than 25% survive, but we have the facility to check immediately, and WO363 remains a prime information source. Click here to see an example.


Pension Papers of Great War Soldiers (WO364)

The “Pension Papers”. They represent a percentage only of cases where pensions were paid to discharged soldiers by reason of war injury or disability. Pensions would only be paid to them if they had dependants - ie. wives, children or others.  Many of the papers to be found in this series are to soldiers who did not serve overseas. Click here to see an example.