Well, prompted by the groundbreaking work of others regarding these papers, I managed to get along to the National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh. I was invited along on this trip by Garry Ketchin who was kind enough to share with me his findings so far.
I have to say the potential of these papers is nothing short of game changing for the relatives of men who served in the Great War and whose papers were burnt in the fire at the National Archives during the Blitz in WW2. There are around 295 boxes (I think) of papers, each containing at least 100 sets of case notes it would appear.
That is the good news, the bad news is they are unindexed, they are in alphabetical order, but within each box, meaning you would have to search all of them to be sure you have covered all the bases so to speak in your search. They are also held ‘off site’.We only managed about a 100 or so records in 4 hours solid, I must confess the tempation to read them in depth rather than speed read and index was proving too much at times.
The success rate amongst applicants was very low, in Garry’s box around 5% were successful and around 20% in the box I was looking at. The reasoning at times seemed harsh and heartfelt pleas for money from pretty much destitute widows with bairns often fell on deaf ears. What I found interesting was the man, or his next of kin, was invited to make a statement regarding the circumstances he had obtained the disability, some were frankly ‘at it’ but others were very specific stating I was shot / wounded by shrapnel etc at (location) on a specific date. This is backed up by extracts obviously taken from military records and can be fairly lengthy in nature.
I was struck by not only the number of men who had been regulars and had survived the war, but also a fair few South African war veterans who most defintely been around the block. One Old Sweat was refused his pension as his injury had been picked up in the Boer War and not WW1, his 20 odd nears counting for nought it would appear.
So how does this material compare with the records held online at Ancestry?
This is where for me it gets exciting I dip sampled the records we had indexed and found that virtually none of them appeared online, it maybe that this is a fluke but I get the impression it is likely not to be the case. A further bonus was that many men who had seen only Home Service and did not have a medal index card were recorded, if their record was destroyed there would be absolutely no record of them having served in HM Forces.
Garry and I intend to get back as often as we can but as you can imagine we are oly scratching the surface and it really needs some time and money thrown at it. Perhaps a project for me when I retire next year, who knows?
We will keep you updated as we progress with the project.