Do you want to learn more about your British military ancestors? Well, this Forces War Records Review will show you what you can expect from this site and whether it is for you.
Learning more about your military heritage can be an interesting and also exciting adventure. You just don’t know what you will uncover. So please check out this review and see whether this site can help your genealogy research.
Forces War Records Details:
|Packages||12 Months – £48.95 – one payment (equals £4.08 per month)
1 Month – £8.95
|Records||10 Million Records (includes 2 Million Exclusive Records)|
|Features||Supplementary Information Provided, Quarterly Magazine, Member Discounts|
|Help & Support
||Support Centre/Contact Us, Research Tutorials, Document Expert Help, Hire a Researcher, YouTube Videos, Forum Community|
|Where to buy||Forces War Records|
Please note that this site is for the British family historian who wants to trace their military ancestors. If you are not from the United Kingdom then you can check out the military records that can be found at Ancestry.
Topics discussed in this post:
- About Forces War Records!
- What Military Records Are Available To You
- Finding Your Ancestors Records
- Get Support From The Community
- Help & Support
- Membership and Free Access
- Pros and Cons
- Other People’s Forces War Records Reviews
- Do I Recommend Forces War Records?
Credit: Forces War Records
About Forces War Records!
Forces War Records is a sister website of Forces Reunited, which as the name suggest reunites many veterans of the UK Forces. This sister site incidentally was created in 2001 and currently has close to 2 million members.
The Records site however was created much later in 2008. Despite the site being 10 years old though it has amassed a collection of over 10 million military records, and some of these records date as far back as 1700.
2 million records are exclusive to this site and so cannot be found anywhere else online.
There are new records being added to the collection all the time. Impressively 200,000 records are added each and every month.
Members of the Forces Reunited site wanted a resource that they could use in order to help them research their military ancestors. And as they were encountering dead ends and brick walls it was therefore evident that such a site was needed.
The collection of military records, (which I will come to later), can be found on other sites, such as Ancestry, but some can only be found on this site.
Today, Forces War Records employ over 70 UK staff to not only maintain and look after the site but also transcribe and enter old military records to their collection. They also feel that it is important to employ individuals from the United Kingdom as to ensure the data entered is accurate. And they feel it is important to employ UK staff rather than outsource to another country.
What Military Records Are Available To You
OK, so you are probably wondering what kind of military records that you will find on this site. Well, I will come to that in a moment. I first though want to discuss how the information is presented to you.
Military information about your ancestors!
As with many genealogy search websites you will probably find not only a transcript of a document but a scan of the original document as well.
However, you may be disappointed to read that you will not find a digital image of the record. Forces War Records make up for this by giving you supplementary information to go along with the record.
This supplementary information can be information regarding the regiment, unit, base or ship your ancestor served in or on. It can also include details as to the battles that they fought in and information regarding medals and awards.
The site even includes photos, which may possibly include your ancestors.
What I like about this
Before I outline the records that are found on this site I just want to give you my opinion regarding how information is presented to you.
When I was researching my military ancestors I found it fascinating to read about where they were drafted/enlisted, which countries they went to and also what battles that they fought in.
However, this process was just gathering information, it was not actually telling me their story. Only by reading further into the history of the wars and battles did they fought in did I understand a little more about the military life that they experienced.
I had to turn my attention to Wikipedia for this additional information. But on Forces War Records you get to learn more about your ancestors military story by reading the supplementary data that goes along with the records that you will find on this site.
And I really like that!
Historic Documents Library
This library is a collection of over 2,000 publications. Every time that you search for your ancestor this library is cross-referenced. If there is a match between who you are searching for and an article in the library then you can access that information about your ancestor.
Military Records to be found at Forces War Records
Alright, so by now you are probably itching to know exactly what records that you can expect to find on this site. I won’t delay you any further.
War related records:
- Post World War Two (1946-2018) – 346,531 Records
- World War Two (1939-1945) – 1,300,570 Records
- World War One (1914-1920) – 1,833,376 Records
- Crimean War (1853-1856) – 38,330 Records
- Boer War (1899-1902) – 391,554 Records
- African Wars
- Early 19th Century Wars (1800-1853) – 135,012 Records
- Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815) – 99,648 Records
- Pre-Napoleonic Wars (1700-1792) – 1,985 Records
Other kinds of records:
- Indian Mutiny
- Medal Rolls
- Individual Battle Data
- Other Wars Casualties Lists
- Prisoner of War Records
- Royal Marine Databases
- Figher & Bomber Command Losses
- Fleet Air Arm Data
- RFC/RAF List
- RN Losses
- Shot at Dawn Database,
- and lots, lots more.
Finding Your Ancestors Records
Searching for your ancestor or supplementary information is really simple and easy. There are a number of ways that you can do this.
Search by name!
You can find the search box near the top of the home page. All you need to do is enter the first name, surname and the time period that you are interested in.
Time periods to select from:
- All Records
- World War 2
- World War 1
- Boer (1899-1902)
- Victorian Conflicts (1857-1899)
- Crimean (1853-1856)
- Early 19th Century (1815-1853)
- Napoleonic (1799-1815)
It does help if you first give the correct spelling of your ancestor’s name. I say this because there may be the possibility that your ancestor has been recorded incorrectly.
This has happened to me on a few occasions with other genealogy search sites. So it does help to try alternate spellings if you don’t find your ancestor.
Search by unit!
If you know the name of the unit that your ancestor fought in then you perform this search as well. This search can you give supplementary information that I was discussing at the start of this review.
Supplementary information includes:
- Battle honours
- Personal memories from people who served in the unit/war/service
As I have said before I really like the extra information that you get from this site because it can tell you the story of your ancestor’s military career. Also, the pictures and videos can really bring it to life as well.
To perform this type of search you just click on the ‘Search by Name/Unit‘ option that appears in the list of Quick Links to the left of the website.
Furthermore, you can Search by War/Date, or Search by Service.
Search by service options include:
- Air Force
- Joint Service
- Merchant Navy
- Royal Navy
Search WW1 Troop Movements and ORBATS
This is a new feature which is exclusive to Forces War Records. It is essentially an interactive map where you can track the progress of units during the First World War.
So you can check the unit of your ancestors from the very first battle at Mons to the closing stages of the Battle of Amiens.
For this search just click on the ‘Search WW1 Troop Map‘ option in the Quick Links section. Then enter a regiment or unit in the search box that will appear on the next page.
If that search fails then you can always enter the name of the battle or location where you think the battle took place.
Once you select a search result this will then take you to an interactive map where you will then be able to follow your ancestor’s military footsteps.
This feature also comes with in-depth and highly detailed commentary that you can listen to.
ORBATS stands for Orders of Battle and they are documents that show hierarchical structure, command organisation and disposition of units.
There is so much information within these ORBATS records. So much so that it took Forces War Records a full two man-years to transcribe these records.
Search Historical Documents
Another source of information that I mentioned earlier was the Historical Documents Library, which contain over 2,000 publications. This is only a small part of the 10 million records within the collection here.
So the chances are pretty small that you might find your ancestor within this collection. But it’s still worth checking regardless.
For this type of search you just click on the ‘Search Historic Docs‘ option in the Quick Links section. This will then take your to a new page where you will enter a keyword or phrase.
It’s worth adding a name, numbers or dates in order to improve the search results. And thus hopefully giving you a better chance of finding your ancestors.
You can also filter the search results based on what type of collection that you are searching for.
- Instruction Manual
- Official Document
- War Diary
Get Support From The Community
If you do get stuck while searching for your ancestors on the site then you can always ask for help using the community forum. You can check out the forum for free however to fain full access where you can post messages and reply to threads you will need to be a paying member.
The forum is dedicated to military heritage, so that it means it is not limited to your British military ancestors. There are even separate boards in the forum for American wars as well.
Forum sections include:
- Military – General
- Military – Army
- Military – Royal Navy & Royal Marines
- Military – Royal Air Force
- WW1 – 1914-1918
- WW2 1939-1945
- Boer Wars – (1880-1881) & (1899-1902)
- American Civil War (1861-1865)
- The Crimean War (1854-1856)
- Napoleonic Wars (1804-1815)
- American War of Independence (1775-1783)
- English Civil War (1642-1649)
Help & Support
You might find the help that you need from the community at Forces War Records. Don’t be feel stressed if that fails as there are other ways that you can get help and support on the site.
- Support Centre / Contact Us – Use the online form to submit your query, or you can email customer care directly if you wish.
- Research Tutorials – Check out excellent research tutorials which will show you how to find your ancestor’s military records.
- Document Expert Help – Get expert help to solve documents or photos that you aren’t too sure about.
- YouTube Videos – Learn quickly by viewing a helpful video made by Forces War Records.
Hire a Researcher
Sometimes you may need a little more help than solving the mystery of a particular document or photo. Or you may just not have the time to research your military ancestors but still want to know who they were.
Luckily for you that at Forces War Records that you can hire a researcher to do the work for you. Here you can get the help that you need from the experts.
As far as I am aware there are only 2 experts that can help you with your research. This will mean that you will have to wait some time for any information to be returned to you, within 45 days to be exact.
In order to get the best possible service you will need to submit your ancestor’s name, their branch, e.g. Air Force, and their date of service.
You can expect to receive:
- Detailed report summarising the results
- Notes and analysis explaining the historical significance of the documents that have been found
- Photocopies of documents featuring your ancestor.
- Information provided by download, and even CD/DVD when there are more than 20-25 images.
There are two different ‘packages’ that you can pay for, depending on your needs.
- Research an honor/award – £69.95
- Research an individual service history – £199.95
You can see that it isn’t cheap for you to discover the military service of your ancestor. But these researchers are experts and so they know where to look for the records and how to look for them.
So if you do want to learn more about your military ancestors and you don’t want to be wasting your time by heading into dead ends then it is worth checking out this help.
Please note that there is a £10 non-refundable deposit to pay for this service.
Membership and Free Access
Do you want free Forces War Records?
I am not going to trick you but you can search for your ancestors for free on this site. However, I am disappointed to say that in order to view the transcribed records you will need to be a paying member.
My advice therefore is to use the free search first to see whether there are any records containing your military ancestors at Forces War Records. And if there are then subscribe to the site.
By doing your research first you are not wasting both your time and money when you could be looking elsewhere.
Access free records at Ancestry!
You can though check out military records for free by going to Ancestry instead. However, these particular records are only free during certain events, i.e. Remembrance Sunday. So you will need to pay attention to when these events occur.
There are 2 packages that you can choose from when you subscribe to Forces War Records. Basically it depends on how much you will want to search for using the site and how long you think it will take you to find what you are looking for.
- 12 Months – £48.95 – one payment (equals £4.08 per month)
- 1 Month – £8.95
My advice is to use this site fully for a month and see whether it can help you or not. That way if it isn’t right for you then you haven’t wasted a full year’s subscription to the site.
Please bear in mind though that the 1-month subscription is a recurring payment option. That means that if you do not cancel the package then you will be automatically charged for the following month until you cancel it.
You therefore need to change the setting in your profile to stop your subscription automatically being renewed. You may think that this is a sneaky tactic but I have seen this used on every genealogy site I have reviewed thus far.
The 12 Months package is value for money in my opinion as the one-off £48.95 payment works out to be £4.08 a month. If you were two pay each month for 12 months then it would cost you £107.40 in total.
So it definitely makes sense to opt for the 12 Months package, (but that’s only if you are happy with the site).
Benefits of membership
Besides getting access to millions of records there are a couple of benefits that you can receive if you decide to subscribe.
- Quarterly Magazine – These magazines are packed full of tips and advice that can help you with your military research.
- Special Deals – As a member you can receive discounts on holiday tours, genealogy search sites and magazines, and plenty more besides.
Filling in your information
Once you have opted for whichever package that you want you will then need to fill in your information. You will first need to enter your first name, surname, email address and password that you want to use for the site.
After that then you obviously need to fill in your credit card details.
Once you have filled in all the required information then you can start immediately to trace your military ancestors and discover what wars and battles that they fought in.
Pros and Cons
✔ 10 million military records
✔ 2 million records exclusive to the site
✔ Supplementary information provided
✔ 1 Month and 12 Month packages offered
✔ Staff and community help and support
❌ Auto-renewed subscription
Other People’s Forces War Records Reviews
It would be unfair of me if I would to end this review without including what other people think about this website.
OK, so I have probably given you a one-sided view thus far of what I feel about Forces War Records and what it has to offer. You can see though that I haven’t totally favored this site, but saying that I haven’t disliked it either.
With that said let me share with you other customers concerns with the site.
Now it is true to say that more than half of the reviews on this site did rate this site badly. But there were some excellent reviews mixed in there from people who did find Forces Ware Records to be very helpful.
Obviously you are not going to satisfy everyone but with this site it seemed like they either hated it or loved it.
The ones that did like the site found what they were after and knew exactly what the site had to offer, i.e. they did their research of the site before subscribing.
However, the ones that did complain mostly had two kinds of complaints.
Continued being billed!
Some complainants did not like the fact that they were continually being billed after their first month. They felt that this practice was deceptive.
I have already discussed above this issue so if you know what you are getting yourself in for then you won’t be concerned with this issue.
No information or lack of information found!
Also, some customers felt that they were not getting the information that they were looking for. They felt that the service that they were receiving was just not worth the money.
My opinion on this matter is again to do your homework first. Check the free search tool and see if any records do appear for names that you enter.
If you do get results then you know that this site is worth subscribing to and getting records about your military ancestors. It’s that simple.
Do I Recommend Forces War Records?
Well, if you are British and want to research your military ancestors then this is one site that you can check out.
It does contain 10 million records, which includes 2 million that are exclusive to this site. So that is definitely one tick in the favor for Forces War Records.
But I am not going to sound biased and say for you to hand over your money and subscribe to this site. Yes there are some complaints about this site which I have addressed in the previous section.
But try it out first and if you do not like this service then just discontinue with it. So please untick the auto-renew option for whatever subscription package that you opt for.
I also like the fact that this site can give you supplementary information that goes along with the records that it finds regarding your ancestor. So not only do you get access to military records but you can find out all about the wars and battles that they fought in.
The interactive map for WW1 is also a great tool that can give you even more insight into the life of your First World War ancestor. I only hope that in future other wars can benefit from this tool.
Do I recommend Forces War Records?
Yes, I definitely do recommend Forces War Records.
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