WW1 digital archive launches as part of centenary commemorations

Anyone can contribute a family story to the project, which will be preserved by the Imperial War Museum for future generations

A digital archive designed to preserve the stories of the millions of people who served during the First World War went live online on Monday – giving public access to the records of more than 4.5 million men and 40,000 women who served with the British Army overseas.

Launched as part of the WW1 centenary running until 2018, it is hoped the site will become a useful research tool for future generations.

The project’s organisers are inviting members of the public to help piece together the stories of more than eight million people from across Britain and the Commonwealth who served abroad and on the home front, by contributing stories, family photos, and official documents to the website.

Among the accounts that co-ordinators hope to collect further details on, include: Sister Martha Aitken, who served in the Territorial Force Nursing Service in casualty clearing stations and military hospitals in France and Flanders; Private Michael Lennon, who fought with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers at Gallipoli; Albert Tatersall, from the North West, who lined up for the attack on the first day of the Battle of the Somme; and Thomas William Stratford, who served in China and Gallipoli before being wounded in France and discharged.

Over the coming months, new records from the Royal Flying Corp/Royal Air Force, the Royal Navy, the Canadian Expeditionary Force and the Australian and New Zealand Imperial Forces, as well as records of almost 17,000 conscientious objectors, will be added to the site run by Imperial War Museums (IWM) with DC Thomson Family History.

Read more: A History of WW1 in 100 Moments

The site is free, and those who have sources can contribute by uploading scans and typing in family stories.

Luke Smith, IWM's digital lead for the war's centenary, said: “The launch of Lives of the First World War is just the beginning. We need the public to help us piece together over eight million life stories, so that we can remember these people now and in the future.

"Everybody can contribute to Lives of the First World War, whether they choose to simply remember someone online, upload a picture from their family album, share a story passed down through generations, or connect official records to build a full and factual picture of what happened to that person throughout the war.

"This is the start of a journey and we urge everyone to get involved."

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