Fold3: Military records online

Fold3 Blog

The official blog of Fold3

Landings of Gallipoli Campaign Begin: April 25, 1915

April 1, 2017 by | 59 Comments

Fold3 Image - Gallipoli Peninsula
On April 25, 1915, troops from across the British Empire as well as France went ashore on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey, beginning the land offensive of the Gallipoli Campaign (also called the Dardanelles Campaign), which would end in high casualties and evacuation for them eight months later.

With trench warfare causing stagnation in the fight on the Western Front, the British and French decided to launch an attack against the Ottoman Empire, one of the Central Powers. The plan was to use naval power to break through the Dardanelles, a straight connecting the Mediterranean to the Black Sea, and then capture the Turkish capital of Constantinople (Istanbul). The naval attack began in February and March, but hidden mines made the British and French ships withdraw in failure.

After a month’s delay due to supply problems, the land offensive began on April 25, with 78,000 British and French troops landing at Cape Helles (at the tip of the peninsula) and what would become known as Anzac Cove (further north and named for the Australian and New Zealand troops that landed there). Some landings were met with fierce resistance and high casualties, while others were accomplished without much opposition.

Fold3 Image - Anzac landing beaches
But once the troops came ashore, little progress was made, and attempts to push forward were halted by the Turks and their German allies, leaving the Anglo-French forces trapped not far from their landing beaches. Despite renewed offensives (most notably at Suvla Bay in August) and reinforcements over the coming months, both sides settled into a high-casualty stalemate from within a system of trenches, where sickness and disease were rampant. Finally, in October, the commanding officer, British general Ian Hamilton, was replaced, and the new general, Charles Monro, decided to evacuate by sea despite estimates that an evacuation would result in extremely high casualties.

Amazingly, however, the British and French were able to evacuate some one hundred thousand men secretly and with very limited casualties, making the evacuation arguably the most successful part of the whole campaign. They evacuated Anzac Cove and Suvla Bay in December 1915, and Cape Helles in January 1916. By the time they left, the Allied Powers had sustained some 200,000 casualties (killed, injured, or sick) and the Turks had suffered at least 87,000 deaths, with many more than that in other casualties.

Did you have a family member who served at Gallipoli? Tell us about them! Or learn more about the campaign on Fold3 in our British Commonwealth Military Collection.

UK, Royal Hospital Chelsea Pensioner Soldier Service Records

March 15, 2017 by | 5 Comments

Fold3 Image - Example of attestation
If you have an ancestor who would have been eligible to receive a pension from the British army between 1760 and 1920, come explore Fold3’s UK, Royal Hospital Chelsea Pensioner Soldier Service Records!

This collection contains records for British soldiers (not officers) who received a pension from the British army. Pensions were distributed by the Royal Hospital Chelsea, which was founded in 1682. Some pensioners (called “in-pensioners”) actually lived at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, but many more (called “out-pensioners”) simply received the pension money and lived elsewhere.

The documents in this collection regard pensions distributed by the Royal Hospital Chelsea between 1760 and 1920. They typically do not include records for soldiers who died in service or who were discharged early (and thus did not receive a pension). However, some earlier records in the collection may have information on men who were not approved for pensions or who bought themselves out of their regiment.

Some records contain more information than others, and pension documents after 1883 typically have more details regarding the soldier (e.g., information about next of kin and details of marriage and children) and his service. Common details that might be found in the pension records include age, birthplace, service details (including any decorations), physical description, previous occupation on enlistment, and the reason for discharge to pension. Documents that are most commonly included are:

  • discharge forms, which were issued when a soldier left the regiment
  • attestation forms, which are the documents signed by the new recruit
  • the proceedings of a regimental board and record of service, which was a later variety of discharge form
  • a variety of supporting correspondence
  • questionnaires of past service, which an applicant for an in-pension completed if others documents had not survived
  • affidavits, which out-pensioners outside London made every quarter to state that they were not drawing on other public funds
  • Medical history

On Fold3, the records in this collection are organized in the same manner outlined by the National Archives of the UK, namely:

  • for the period 1760-1872 the documents are arranged alphabetically by name within regiment, including militia to 1854
  • from 1873-1882 the documents are arranged alphabetically under cavalry, artillery, infantry and corps
  • from 1883-1913 there are two alphabetical sequences for the entire army for discharge papers arranged by range of surname: 1883-1900 and 1900-1913

Since this is the case, you may find it faster to locate an individual by searching first, rather than browsing.

Do you have any ancestors that appear in the UK, Royal Hospital Chelsea Pensioner Soldier Service Records? Tell us about them! Or get started searching or browsing the collection on Fold3.

Grant Appointed General-in-Chief of Union Army: March 9, 1864

March 1, 2017 by | 23 Comments

Fold3 Image - Ulysses S. Grant service record
On March 9, 1864, Ulysses S. Grant was promoted to lieutenant general and made general-in-chief of the Union armies. In this position, Grant would ultimately prove the general most responsible for the Union victory in the Civil War.

After the outbreak of the Civil War, Grant—who had previously served in the army—rejoined as the colonel of an Illinois volunteer regiment. He received steady promotions until attaining the rank of major general (in the regular army) in command of the Military Division of Mississippi. Meanwhile, he had likewise been gaining recognition for his capture of Forts Henry and Donelson and victories at Vicksburg, Chattanooga, and others.

Grant’s successes led to the introduction of legislation in Congress to revive the rank of lieutenant general (last held by George Washington) so that Grant could be awarded that rank and thus gain command of the entire Union Army. President Lincoln, who had never met Grant but was unhappy with the performance of the previous commanding generals, also threw his weight behind the bill, and it passed and was signed into law in late February 1864.

Grant’s name was shortly thereafter submitted to the Senate for confirmation and his commission was signed by the president. Grant was in Tennessee when he received word of his pending promotion to lieutenant general, and he traveled to Washington DC in early March to accept his new commission. He met President Lincoln for the first time on the 8th at a reception at the White House, and then the following day, March 9th, he returned to the White House for an acceptance ceremony.

Grant's headquarters attached to Army of the Potomac
President Lincoln wanted a commanding general who would take initiative and responsibility and act independently, freeing Lincoln from having to make military decisions. Grant was happy to oblige. He quickly put his senior command in place and set his basic strategy. Rather than commanding from the capital, Grant decided he would command from the field—attaching his headquarters to the Army of the Potomac—and commenced a course of action based on attrition.

Though Grant’s path to victory was far from easy—and his detractors would accuse him of being a butcher for his heavy casualties—he successfully destroyed the Confederates’ ability to fight and kept their armies on the defensive, ensuring the eventual success of Union forces and the preservation of a unified nation.

Learn more about Ulysses S. Grant by searching Fold3.

UK, Navy Lists

February 24, 2017 by | 8 Comments

Fold3 Image - Example of a UK, Navy List page
Do you have an ancestor or other family member who served as an officer with the British Royal Navy between 1888 and 1970? Come explore the UK, Navy Lists on Fold3! In addition to including officers of the Royal Navy, the lists also include information on officers of the Royal Marines, Queen Alexandra’s Royal Nursing Service, Coast Guard, and other naval entities.

The Navy Lists began publication in 1819 and provide information on people who were serving as either commissioned or warrant officers in various naval services. Fold3’s UK, Navy Lists collection contains Navy Lists published between 1888 and 1970. Though not every year between these dates is available, the majority of them are.

The Navy Lists contain basic information on officers, including name, where they were serving, rank, date of seniority, and (in later editions) specialization. The information within the Navy Lists is grouped in a variety of ways, such as alphabetically by officer’s surname, by rank (further broken down by date of seniority), and by ship or station. There are also lists of pensioners and retired officers, as well as lists of officers in the reserves.

In addition to information about officers, the Navy Lists also include a variety of other details about the Royal Navy. This information varies from year to year but may include regulations, members of boards, and vessels for sale. There may also be lists of clerks, schoolmasters, civilian dental surgeons, warrant writers, warrant armorers, head schoolmasters, head stewards, and others.

And here’s a tip: If you’ve found an ancestor in one year’s edition of the Navy Lists, try searching for that person across multiple years’ worth of Navy Lists. Keeping track of their commissions, promotions, and stations over the years will help you gain a more complete understanding of their naval career and what their experience was like.

Do you have an ancestor who appears in the UK, Navy Lists? Tell us about them! Or get started searching the UK, Navy Lists on Fold3.

Battle of Manila Begins: February 3, 1945

February 1, 2017 by | 137 Comments

Fold3 Image - Corregidor, guardian of the entrance to the harbor at Manila, is bombed by the Consolidated B-24 Liberators of the 7th AAF.
On February 3, 1945, American forces entered the outskirts of Manila, capital of the Philippines, beginning the Battle of Manila, a ferocious and destructive urban battle against the Japanese that would leave Manila the second-hardest hit Allied capital (following Warsaw) of World War II.

As part of his campaign to retake the Philippines from the Japanese (who had captured it from the Americans in 1942), General Douglas MacArthur first invaded the island of Leyte and then moved on to the island of Luzon, the largest of the Philippine islands and home to the capital, Manila.

American troops were able to rapidly advance to Manila, leading MacArthur to believe it would be a relatively easy fight. They entered the city limits on February 3, quickly liberating Allied (mostly American) POWs and civilians from their incarceration at the University of Santo Tomas and Bilibid Prison. However, Japanese forces dug in and put up a fierce fight in the city, forcing the Americans and their Filipino allies into a challenging urban battle, in which they fought block by block, building by building, and floor by floor, frequently hand-to-hand.

Eventually, over the course of the month, the Americans and Filipinos were able to capture much of the city as well as the island of Corregidor, in Manila Bay. However, Japanese remained within a walled portion of Manila, called Intramuros. MacArthur denied the use of air support out of concern for the civilian population, so the Americans used heavy artillery instead, pounding the walls until they were breached and then fighting to clear the area of Japanese.

Fold3 Image - Bomb damage at Manila, Philippine Islands
Finally, by March 3, Manila had fallen and MacArthur had turned the city over to the Filipino government. But the victory was not without great cost. In addition to the 1,000 Americans and 16,000 Japanese estimated to have been killed, it’s believed that at least 100,000 Filipino civilians were killed during the battle. Many were brutally murdered by the Japanese, others were killed in fires that swept through portions of the city, and still more were killed as an unintended consequence of the American attack (particularly the artillery fire). In all, 80 percent of the southern residential district, 75 percent of factories, and all of the business district were destroyed, as were numerous governmental, educational, cultural, commercial, financial, and religious buildings.

Despite the horrors of Manila, the battle for Luzon was not yet over. In fact, a portion of MacArthur’s forces would remain fighting in Luzon for the remainder of the war.

Do you have any family member who fought in the Battle of Manila? Tell us about them. Or learn more about the battle by searching Fold3.

WWII Paratroopers

January 18, 2017 by | 237 Comments

Fold3 Image - Paratrooper's equipment being inspected before leaving on invasion of Europe. Somewhere in England.
The Allied commanders of World War II saw the need for airborne troops in Europe during the German invasion of Crete in May 1941. Although German paratroopers nearly met with disaster, they eventually succeeded in taking the island. The German attack was the first time an invasion of an island was successfully accomplished by air, and though the near failure made the German high command wary of relying much on paratroopers, the Allies saw the advantages and began training their own airborne forces.

Paratroopers were valuable because they allowed the Allies to drop light infantry behind enemy lines, enabling them to deploy a fighting force without warning. Two of the most active of the American airborne divisions were the 82nd and 101st, though there were others, including the 17th, 11th, and 13th. American airborne troops fought in battles in places such as North Africa, Normandy, the Netherlands, Sicily, the Philippines, and elsewhere.

Fold3 has many records relating to the airborne troops of World War II, including numerous photos in the WWII U.S. Air Force Photos collection. Below are just a few of the photos you can find on Fold3 of paratroopers in World War II:

Do you have any family members who were paratroopers? Tell us about them! Or find more images and documents about the paratroopers of World War II by searching Fold3.

Battle of Cowpens: January 17, 1781

January 1, 2017 by | 290 Comments

The troops I have the honor to command have gained a complete victory over a detachment from the British Army, commanded by Lt. Colonel Tarleton. the Action happened on the 17th inst. about sunrise at a place called the Cowpens...
In the early morning of January 17, 1781, in South Carolina, American troops under Brigadier General Daniel Morgan defeated a force under British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton in one of the more decisive victories for the Americans in the south during the Revolutionary War

In late 1780, the American commander-in-chief of the southern theater, Nathanael Greene, made the daring decision to split his already limited number of troops in the face of a superior force under British Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis. Accordingly, part of Greene’s force was given to Daniel Morgan. The British saw Morgan’s troops as a threat to some crucial posts, so Cornwallis sent troops under up-and-coming commander Banastre Tarleton to take on Morgan.

When word reached Morgan of Tarleton’s approach, he decided to face his enemy in a cow pasture called Cowpens rather than risk being overrun while trying to cross the Broad River. Knowing Tarleton favored frontal attacks, Morgan deployed his infantry troops into three lines—meant to exhaust the energy and resources of the British—with his dragoons positioned in reserve behind the third line.

When Tarleton’s men arrived, they were met by fire from riflemen in Morgan’s first line, who after a few shots withdrew to join the second line, composed of militia. Morgan had instructed the militia to fire two volleys at the approaching British and then retire, which they did. Seeing the American militia appearing to flee, Tarleton sent dragoons after them, but they were met by the American dragoons, led by Lieutenant Colonel William Washington.

The British infantry had been stunned by the fire from the American’s first two lines and now faced the third line, predominately composed of experienced Continental troops overseen by Lieutenant Colonel John Howard. Meanwhile, Tarleton sent his reserve infantry and additional dragoons to try to outflank their opponents on the Americans’ right. The Americans on that side were commanded to turn to face the British, but the order was misunderstood, and they instead began marching to the rear, triggering a retreat in neighboring parts of the line. The confusion was corrected, however, and they turned to face the British in time. Those Americans were joined in the fight by the militia of the first and second lines, who had circled around the back of the American position.

Morgan‘s near-genius plan worked, and the Americans decimated the British. Although the two forces were relatively evenly matched, with roughly 1,000 men each, the British sustained 110 killed and 830 captured or wounded, while the Americans had 12 killed and 61 wounded. The battle wiped out nearly all of Tarleton’s force, striking a serious blow to Cornwallis’s army.

Did you have an ancestor who fought in the Battle of Cowpens? Tell us about them! Or learn more about the battle on Fold3.