Press Release - 23 July 2013 releases new military records ahead of WWI centenary

Gallantry and bravery of servicemen highlighted in detailed records

Sydney, 23 July, 2013: In the lead-up to the centenary of the First World War next year leading family history site has announced that it has published its holdings of Royal Naval Division Service Records from 1914 to 1920. The records cover more than 50,000 officers and servicemen who joined the Royal Naval Division or went through the initial training program in London.

These service records are a potential goldmine for family historians researching their British ancestors’ military service in the First World War, listing biographical information, service history and some rather more unusual characteristics, such as swimming ability. The records demonstrate both the gallantry and tragedy displayed and endured by the servicemen.

General manager of Vicki Dawson states, “These records are an invaluable source of information for Australian family history enthusiasts with British relations. While they may be aware of their ancestors involvement in the defence forces these new records can shed a previously unavailable light onto their level of service and their physical and personal characteristics.”

The British Royal Naval Division comprised men of the Royal Navy and its reserve forces. In World War One, these men, who were not needed at sea, fought on land alongside the Australian army at both Gallipoli and the Western Front. Many of the men who signed up to the division were unable to swim yet were determined to commit themselves to service.

The records also provide snapshots of the tragedy and bravery encompassed in the First World War. Bernard Cyril Freyburg, the seventh Governor General of New Zealand, received his Distinguished Service Order while serving with the Royal Naval Division in the first two years of the war. His service record indicates that he saw service at both the Western Front and the Dardanelles (or the Gallipoli campaign), where he in fact played a crucial role.

By cross-referencing the Royal Naval Division Service records with’s vast British newspaper collection, an account of Bernard’s bravery was uncovered. During the initial landings of Allied troops at Gallipoli, Freyburg “volunteered to swim ashore alone in the dark” and throw flares at the Turkish defenders in order to distract them from the real landings. This act, described in the newspaper as one of the finest deeds of gallantry recorded during the Dardanelles campaign earned him a Distinguished Service Order. A later act of bravery earned his Victoria Cross at the Battle of the Somme.

Search these records here.