About the National Roll of the Great War 1914-1918
- One of the most sought-after sets of reference books of the First World War is the National Roll of the Great War. The National Publishing Company attempted, shortly after hostilities ceased, to compile a brief biography of as many participants in the War as possible. The vast majority of entries refer to combatants who survived the Great War and the National Roll is often the only source of information available. Fourteen volumes were completed on a regional basis; this index database now allows simple searching of this unique reference source. Original volumes of this work are scarce the only 14 volumes ever published, cover a region, as follows:
- Section I London W, C and N
Section II London W, C and N
Section III London W, C and N
Section IV Southampton
Section V Luton and vicinity (includes other parts of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire)
Section VI Birmingham
Section VII London W, SE and C
Section VIII Leeds
Section IX Bradford
Section X Portsmouth
Section XI Manchester
Section XII Bedford and Northampton
Section XIII London SE
Section XIV Salford
- The regions are those in which the persons on the Roll, or their next of kin, were residing at the end of the War.
- Each original volume is arranged alphabetically by name. Some original volumes are subdivided into Parts, i.e. have more than one alphabetical sequence of names.
- If these places are mapped, it will be seen that the coverage is far from complete and that large cities (such as Liverpool and Newcastle upon Tyne) and regions (for example, Wales and the SW) are not included. The Editor states as much in his Foreword: "The National Roll makes no claim to being a complete book of reference – in fact no such record could be compiled".
- Nevertheless, over 100,000 people are remembered and, if you are lucky enough to find that your relative is among these, you will find a fascinating snapshot of their experience of the war which might not be readily available elsewhere.
- This National Roll differs from most other WW1 resources in focusing primarily upon people who served in and survived the War, rather than those who died in the conflict. An estimated 16% of the persons remembered were killed, or died of wounds; the remaining 84% survived. This would be one of the motivating forces behind the project, to precisely record the contribution of those who survived, with many entries referring to injuries sustained and men discharged early.
- The Roll covers all sections of the active services but also support staff and people such as nurses, war workers and other civilians who seldom feature in other WW1 Records.
- The format of an individual record is fairly constant. The header line gives the surname, the person’s initials and their rank and unit, or other qualification for being included. For instance, an entry for "CUDD, WG, Private, 8th Royal Berkshire Regt" is followed by one for "CUDDINGTON, W, Special War Worker", who was exempted from being called up because of his essential work in an aircraft factory. After the header line, there is a paragraph of on average eight or nine lines of text summarising the individual’s contribution to the war (often giving a potted service history and mentioning wounds, medals and/or demobilisation) and closing with an address. Finally, each entry has a reference number (such as Z2323A in the case of WG Cudd mentioned above). The significance of this reference is no longer clear but presumably referred to a card-index or other filing system used by the publishers to track contributions to the book and published entries.
- It is thought that the information came not from official sources but from the subjects themselves or their families. Furthermore, like any other resource, the National Roll will contain errors, originating either in the original information supplied by the individuals or their next of kin, or introduced accidentally during the editing and production of the books themselves.