Remembering World War 1 – and the impact on your family history.

World War 1 – also known as the Great War and  “the war to end all wars” – began in 1914 – One hundred years ago. The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand took place on 28 June 1914 – diplomatic maneuvering failed to prevent the war.  While the first shots were fired on 28 July 1914, Britain did not officially declare war until 4 August  when Germany invaded neutral Belgium.  This year is the centenary!

This tragic and brutal war lasted 4 years and over 9 million combatants were killed – no body knows the exact number.  This had a dramatic impact on society, culture, families, villages, towns, and cities. World War 1 had a great impact on Canada.

My father told me story of a bombing raid by a Zeppelins airship in Nottingham, England – as a small boy I thought he was just making it all up – he had quite a sense of humor! .

 “The glow from Nottingham’s blast furnace chimneys made the city an easy target for Kaptinleutnant Herman Kraushaar, commanding L17, when he raided between 12.00 and 1.00 am on 24 September 1916. Eight high explosive and eleven incendiaries were dropped on what Kraushaar thought was Sheffield, killing three and injuring seventeen. The Midland Railway freight station was wrecked and damaged caused to the Great Central Railway Station and railway track. Bombs also affected Lister Gate, Greyfriar Gate and Broad Marsh. Little resistance was offered to the attack: a blanket of mist rising from the Trent obscured the German airship from below, whilst one of its bombs by fluke severed the telephone wires connecting the AA battery and searchlights at Sneinton, preventing their cooperation.” Thomas Fegan “The Baby Killers – German Air Raids on Britain in the First World War” (Pen & Sword 2002).  My father was living just down the road from the Midland Railway station near to Broad Marsh! I wish I had asked him more about it

Which of your ancestors were involved in World War 1?  Were any of them casualties?  What did your ancestors do during the war?  Where did they serve? Do you have family stories from this time? 

My great grandfather’s first wife had died in 1890 leaving him with 2 young boys – they had only married in 1881.  He remarried by the end of 1890 and his second wife – whose knee I remember sitting on as a small boy – had one son, Charlie.  He went to war and died in northern Greece after surviving the horrors of the Dardanelles campaign.  She lost her only son!  He died on her birthday!

Where can we learn about our Ancestors and World War 1?  My starting place was the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) –   Here you can put in the name of someone you think may have died – and be surprised at what you find.  

I always imagined Uncle Charlie dying in Flanders Field in a trench . . . .  What a surprise to find his grave in Greece!  I even get to see a picture of the cemetery! Advanced search will let you specify if you want to search World War 1 or 2 , search by country of origin and military service number.  Remember to be careful how you search – was he Charlie Darker, or Charles or just C?  I found him by searching with just his last name – wouldn’t do that if he was a Smith! You can even download a nice certificate.

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The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) has a special website to help us learn about World War 1

Several countries including Canada have military records online – use the wiki at to find my information.  For Canada go to   Both and have extensive collections of military records to search.  The Memories section at is an excellent place to record stories and preserve pictures.

Find out about your ancestors and how World War 1 impacted their lives – record and preserve their stories and pictures.

Did you know that there are war graves in Red Deer? – and that the CWGC still pays money each year for their upkeep.

Did you know that Winnie the Pooh had his origins in World War 1.  Winnipeg the bear – Winnie for short – was the mascot for Canadian Soldiers who gave him to London Zoo when they were sent to France.  A A Milne and his son Christopher Robin went to the zoo, saw Winnie, and was inspired to write a series of stories about him.

There are lots of other interesting animal stories from World War 1 – Jimmy the donkey was born during the Battle of the Somme in 1916, was wounded 3 times during the war, learnt to raise his hoof in salute, and survived the war – glow worms were collected and used as lanterns in the trenches!

Other websites of interest:

National Archives in the UK

The Imperial War Museum in partnership with FindMyPast are gathering and publishing stories of the lives from World War 1

The British Broadcasting Corporation has a special World War 1 website

Canadian War Museum

and many many more . . . .

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