What's in a Regimental History?
The history of a regiment, or sometimes a battalion. Quite often, they are the most detailed account outside the war diaries of the activities of the Regiment during the First or Second World Wars. As such, they provide an excellent context for your researches.
Understanding the campaigns that a Regiment fought will help to place the experiences of an ancestor. It may also help in describing the organisation of a Regiment, so that you can make sense of the Unit to which your ancestor belonged.
How old are Regimental Histories?
Regimental Histories seem to have started in the late 19th century. They fall into two main categories:-
- General histories of a regiment
- Detailed account of the campaigns during a war
Those in the latter category are often written as a memorial to those who have fallen, and provide many personal experiences you will not find elsewhere.
Will I find my ancestor?
If your ancestor was an officer, then you may be successful. Some histories contain "Rolls of Honour", which note casaulties, and also medals won, and these of course do include "Other ranks". But otherwise, "Other ranks" are rarely named.
However, for the First World War a good source are the Absent Voters Lists for Birmingham. The 1918 Absent Voters List contains 73,000 names, and most of these are servicemen who had not yet returned home. What makes these particularly interesting is that they give the service number, rank and regiment of the Serviceman in addition to his home address. This is information you may not be able to find elsewhere.