Two more sets of Pension Record Cards ('PRCs') have been digitised and made available by the WFA's partner Ancestry. These records comprise a relatively small percentage of the entirety of the archive that the WFA saved. The newly released records relate to officers pension awards (both officers who survived and claims made by widows of officers who died) as well as nurses pension records.

Within these records are cards that will be helpful to family researchers or historians who are - for example - researching a local war memorial. This article aims to give an overview of these two sets of records.

1) 'Officers survived' Pension Record Cards

This set totals 143,788 cards. They are searchable in a number of ways, but the most obvious is by name.  

The cards were created to help with the administration of pensions to officers who survived the First World War and who claimed a pension in respect of injuries incurred during the conflict. These were originally filed alphabetically and stored in 51 wooden drawers.

 

Above: Examples of the type of wooden drawers that held the cards. 

Above: The PRC of Major AWJF Abbott. This card provides details of his disability, age (although the unknown date of the creation of the card reduces the usefulness of the recorded age) and an address, as well as his regiment.

The set includes Army officers as well as those who were commissioned in the RAF and the Royal Navy. It would seem that only officers who claimed a pension are included: this means those who did not claim a pension will not have a record card in this set.  

Above: The PRC of an officer from the Royal Naval Reserve - Lt Bernard Edwin Abbott from Streatham

The set of records also includes women's records including, for example, VAD nurses and nursing sisters from of the Queen Alexandra Imperial Nursing Service.

Above: The PRC for Miss Kathleen Abbs.

The printed cards seem to be a batch dated from May 1921 - some of the earlier cards were produced between May and July 1919.

The utility of these officers records is enhanced when it is remembered that sometimes looking for an officer's Medal Index Card (which are also available on Ancestry/Fold3) draws a blank. This is because it is the case that Great War Medals (1914/15 star, Victory Medal etc) were only issued to officers on request. ('Other ranks' did not need to apply: their medals were dispatched to all who served in a theatre of war). This means sometimes Medal Index Cards for officers cannot be located. Therefore using these Pension Records for officers may 'fill in the blank' in many cases where no Medal Index Card exists. 

Some cards contain extra information such as details of the disability suffered by the officer, a home address, or a reference number, often prefixed by OA, ON or OAir (Officer Army, Officer Navy, Officer Air Force). The Nurses cards have the 'Nurses' prefix.

These reference numbers do not cross-reference any other records held on Ancestry/Fold3 but sometimes cross reference to officers files held in the UK's National Archives (the WO 374 and WO 339 records) and also the files found in the PIN 26 files at The National Archives. For a detailed examination of how the cards relate to the PIN 26 files please read the following article (which was the second in a series of three similar pieces). 

Pension Record Cards and Ledgers - how they fitted in to the bigger picture (part 2)

The section of the above article that relates to 2/Lt Maurice Young is the relevant part of this article which will provide a useful example of the officers PIN 26 records held at The National Archives.

 

2) 'Officers Widows' Pension Record Cards

This set totals 16,276 cards. The 'Officers Widows' Pension Cards look very similar to the 'Officers Survived' Pension cards. The most obvious way to tell these apart is that in a lot of cases (but not all) these cards have the word 'CLAIMANT' on the top of the card. Unfortunately this is however not universal. These were originally filed alphabetically and stored in 13 wooden drawers.

These cards also can be identified by the prefix that is provided to the reference number. These prefixes are O.A.F. (for Army), O.N.F. (for Navy) and O.Air.F (for the RAF). Clearly the 'F' here is some form of designation that applies to the 'widows' cards. 

Above: Sidney Herbert Abbott's card - this is also 'findable' using the widow's name. Sidney is buried at Cross Roads Cemetery, Fontaine-au-Bois, France. 

When the WFA saved this collection, it was initially believed that these cards were created to help with the administration of pensions to widows of officers who were killed in the Great War. However investigation and research shows that not all the cards are for officers widows. For example, see the card below. 

Above: Within the 'Officers widows' cards are a number which record claims by mothers. Why this is the case is not yet known. Alfred Abbott is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial. Although the card shows (correctly) he was in the East Yorkshire Regiment, the CWGC record him as being attached to the 9th KOYLI. The details of his mother and his address are not recorded by the CWGC which shows the value of this particular card. 

Some of the claims would appear to be for deaths incurred after the end of the war. Below is an example of this.

The majority of cards are for officers who were killed and whose widows claimed a pension. As mentioned above, the number of cards in this subsection (16,276) means that this does not therefore represent all officers who were killed, but (as with the 'Frew' example above) does include some who survived the war. The number of cards seems to represent about 33% of officers who were killed in the war.[1]

The reason for the large disparity in the numbers suggests the majority of officers who were killed were not married and therefore no 'widows card' was created by the Ministry of Pensions.

More work needs to be undertaken on these cards to fully understand how they were used.

How to search

To search for these cards, it is simply a matter of using the search facility provided by Ancestry. If the search is for a common name, then clearly most of the results will be of 'other ranks' as these records massively out-number the cards of offices. It is, however, possible to isolate officers (and officers widows) by using the 'browse' facility. (Note: the nurses cards were not separated out by the Ministry of Pensions and are therefore found within these two sets of cards). 

How to browse

The use of 'browse' has been detailed previously and can be read on the following article: 

How to use the 'Browse' function on Fold3

On the Fold3 Library edition, click 'Browse' rather than 'search'. Using the options, click through from the initial 'All titles' then to 'UK WW1 Pension Ledgers and Index Cards' then click on 'Pension Record Cards' and then 'Officers survived and Officers Widows' in the next set of options. This will provide access to 64 'drawers' (these cards were held in wooden drawers). However at the time of writing (May 2020) the difference between 'officers survived' and 'officers widows' sets of drawers is not obvious. The easiest way to enable users to differentiate these drawers is using the browse function is this:

Assume all the drawers are for Officers Survived apart from the following which are the 13 drawers for Officers Widows cards: 

018/0001/ABB-BER

002/0002/BER-CAR

002/0003/CAR-DAW

003/0004/DAW-FRE

003/0005/FRE-HAW

004/0006/HAW-JON

004/0007/JON-MCC

005/0008/MCD-MOR

005/0009/MOS-POO

006/0010/POO-SCO

006/0011/SCO-STU

007/0012/STY-WAT

007/0013/WAT-ZET 

 

To read more about officers cards and officers widows cards, click on this link: Interesting examples of Officers Pension Cards  

 

David Tattersfield

Vice Chairman

The Western Front Association

[1] Approximately 48,000 'UK' officers listed by the CWGC. This is made up as follows:

Air Force officers: 6,082. This comprises RAF (3,086) RFC (2,657) and RNAS (339)

Navy (excluding RNAS): 2,281. This comprises RN (1,069) RNR (665) RNVR (495) and Royal Marines (52)

Others (i.e. Army): 39,249 (excluding RFC)

The above totals 47,612 officers commemorated by the CWGC but excludes non-UK regiments such as KAR and also excludes Indian Army Officers and 'civilian' units. Data obtained from the CWGC was correct as at May 2020. 

 

 

Further Reading:

Further examples of unusual Pension Claims

Further Hints and Tips to assist with finding Pension Records

Correction of errors on Fold3 - good news!