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Poignant Last Requests of WW1 Soldiers To Go Online An ambitious project is underway to make the last wishes and thoughts of more than 230,000 soldiers from the First World War available online. The wills, which are the property of Her Majesty's Court and Tribunal Service, are to be digitised to coincide with next year's First World War centenary.
Available to view by all, some of the wills have gone live and the BBC was given access to the first batch. The documents have remained unseen for almost 100 years and as well as wills, there are several handwritten letters written by doomed soldiers that were intended for their loved ones but never posted. One will belonged to the grandfather of Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac fame. John Fleetwood's note reveals that he died from dysentery in a Maltese hospital in 1915 following fighting in the Gallipoli campaign.
Historian Jon Cooksey told the Daily Mail that the plan to scan the documents and make them available online in a clearly organised format will help researchers and others. "What this does is help us, as historians, piece together the mosaic of facts which give us the real men," he stated. This view was echoed by Professor Peter Timkins, president of the Western Front Association, who said that the organisation of the documents will be felt for many years to come.
"I think they represent about a quarter of British Empire soldiers who died in the war and that gives us a big sample, and you can follow up into groups and sub groups and establish patterns of social behaviour." The project is part of a wider scheme that will see a huge online archive formed containing the wills and testament of soldiers dating from the Boer War all the way to the Falklands conflict. Some poignant revelations The importance of this archive cannot be overstated. Contained on these pages are the thoughts and feelings of the soldiers before many of them went to their deaths.
As well as giving family members an insight into their relatives' thoughts and concerns, it makes a huge amount of information available to all in an organised and structured form. The revelations give a fascinating insight into what life was like on the trenches. One of the first notes to go live is that of corporal Albert Victor (Ben) Butler, who played professional football for Reading and Queen's Park Rangers. He wrote in his letter that he wanted all his worldly possessions to go to his wife. In addition, there is an account of him written by an Army chaplain, the Reverend Samuel Green, who described him as a "fine fellow".
Another letter was written by 24-year-old private Joseph Ditchburn from the Durham Light Infantry. Accompanying his letter is his medical record, which showed he had numerous tattoos, while other documents showed he had disciplinary problems during his career. A valuable contribution to the centenary Britain is rightly proud of its war heroes and next year's centenary of the First World War promises to be a poignant and moving celebration of those who gave their lives in defence of king and country.
The digital archive of wills and letters is one of the plans that will have the most lasting impact, giving historians, family members and other interested parties an organised database where they can access a wealth of information quickly and easily. There are other plans to honour the fallen, with specially-commissioned stones being given to local councils in the home towns of soldiers awarded the Victoria Cross. A total of 28 will be revealed as part of the centenary celebrations, while there are plans to restore war memorials up and down the country.
Communities secretary Eric Pickles told the BBC that there will be a national design competition to determine how the stones will look. Storetec News/Blogs. "http://www.storetec.net/newsblog/poignant-last-requests-of-ww1-soldiers-to-go-online/" Poignant Last Requests of WW1 Soldiers To Go Onlineâ€™. Aug 29, 2012. Storetec.