Members of The Western Front Association who are currently finding the 'lockdown' tedious may be interested in a new project which will alleviate boredom, and also make a massive contribution to help present and future historians and researchers who are looking at men who lost their lives during the Great War.

As members will know, the WFA's Pension Records are a brilliant resource for locating servicemen. The particularity unique aspect of these records is that they enable users to locate servicemen by their military details (such as regimental number) and their personal details (such as home address).

Above: captioned 'Preston Pals', this IWM photo (HU53725) shows men from the town of Preston parading after they had 'joined up'. These men will be 'findable' using the WFA's Pension Record cards. 

The WFA's partners, Ancestry, have done an excellent job with indexing the often difficult to read pension records, which enables cards to be located using various search criteria, but occasionally mistakes have been made. These errors are often caused by difficulty in reading the awful handwriting on the cards, but may also be due to human error. Some mistakes may also result from a misunderstanding of the geography of the UK. A sample has been taken of the cards, and it is possible that 90% are correctly tagged, but that perhaps 10% would benefit from some form of correction.

Look at the example below. 

The address of 19 Upper Abbey Road is legible, as is the county (Kent). However, the town here is far from obvious. A very quick google search enabled the address here to be revealed as 'Belvedere' and by adding this 'tag' to the card, the soldier detailed on this card will now be 'found' if a search for 'Belvedere' is undertaken. 

Below is another example. 'Tower Ramparts' is clear, but the Ministry of Pensions clerk has clearly written 'Ipswick' instead of Ipswich. Therefore, a search under 'Ipswich' - unless this is corrected - will not reveal this soldier's card. We aim to correct this.

Unfortunately, the Ministry of Pensions clerks had a habit of abbreviating some places. Birmingham may be obvious now, but this card needs to be correctly tagged with the word 'Birmingham'. 

This piece of work is of course large scale, but undertaking it will ensure the men whose addresses are not correctly indexed at the moment will - in future - be able to be located via a search.

We have therefore set up 'Project Hometown'.

This project will use WFA volunteers to assess the cards and submit on a simple online form details of those cards (the ten percent mentioned above) that are likely to need some form of correction.

Those WFA members who have time on their hands and who would like to become involved in this ground-breaking piece of work which will permanently improve the data recording on the WFA's Pension Records are invited to contact me for further information. 

The present 'lockdown' we are all enduring makes this a perfect opportunity for the WFA community to make a lasting contribution for which future generations of researchers will surely be grateful.

Please do join this project and become a volunteer on 'Project Hometown'

David Tattersfield


Project 'Hometown'

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