Discover Your Ancestors

Discover Your Ancestors

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The Utmost Bravery

Records of thousands more World War One heroes are now available online thanks to TheGenealogist.

Leading family history data website TheGenealogist.co.uk has continued to affirm its status as a major resource for military records too with the release of more than 25,000 records detailing recipients of the Distinguished Conduct Medal. The records cover non-commissioned officers and 'other ranks' who were awarded the DCM for their role in either the Second Boer War or World War One.

Uniquely these new records show full details of the recipient's original Medal Card combined with a link to the original award announcement in The London Gazette describing the heroic deed that won them the medal. The new records add to the Military Medal collection announced last month and described in the last issue of Discover Your Ancestors Periodical.

From capturing enemy machine gun posts, keeping telephone lines intact under fire, to discovering important enemy documents valuable to the war effort, the Distinguished Conduct Medal was an award of great significance marking bravery during the heat of the battle.

This new records collection features:

  • a copy of the image of the Medal Card as well as information about how the medal was won.
  • Full details of the medal-winning soldier - their name, service number, rank, regiment, date of medal citation and the details of their heroism in battle
  • The site's unique 'SmartSearch' feature can be used to see the citation in the official government paper (and one of the oldest surviving newspapers) The London Gazette
  • ¬†SmartSearch also links to the comprehensive range of other military records published at TheGenealogist.co.uk
  • These new records cover both The Second Boer War and World War One - in fact, the full periods covered are 1898-1902 and 1914-1923 respectively.

The Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) was (until 1993) an extremely high level award for bravery. It was awarded to other ranks of the British Army and formerly also to non-commissioned personnel of other Commonwealth countries.

The medal was originally instituted in 1854, during the Crimean War, to recognise gallantry within the other ranks, for which it was equivalent of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) awarded for bravery to commissioned officers. After 1942, members of the Navy and Air Force were also entitled to the award.

Bars were awarded to the DCM in recognition of the performance of further acts of gallantry meriting the award. Recipients were entitled to use the letters DCM after their surname.

These new records now available at ThegEnealogist.co.uk reveal some fascinating stories about some of the medal recipients.

Lance Corporal Joseph Thomas of Aberystwyth was a professional soldier in the 2nd Battalion, Royal Scots. A soldier who fought with great personal courage, he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal at Hooge in Belgium in September 1915. According to local newspapers at the time, his award “prompted great celebrations in the town of Aberystwyth “.

Joseph Thomas received a promotion to Sergeant and in May 1917, his battalion, the 12th Royal Scots in fighting around Arras taking heavy losses. Again acting courageously, Joseph Thomas was wounded twice on the battlefield before succumbing to his wounds.

One mouse click gives you full details from the citation in the London Gazette of how the medal was awarded.


Joseph Thomas's DCM record at TheGenealogist.co.uk

Lance Corporal Joseph Thomas

Meanwhile Sergeant John William Russell joined The Royal Engineers (Signals Service) as a pioneer in 1914 and was promoted to Sergeant by 2 March 1815. He was 'Mentioned in Despatches' on 1 Jan 1916. He received his DCM in the King's Birthday Honours gazetted on 21 July 1916.

Again, one click gives us further details: "For conspicuous and consistent good work on his system of telephone lines. He has shown tireless energy and resource, besides great gallantry, under fire."

Sergeant Russell later fought in the major battles of Arras and Passchendaele, winning a Military Medal (the record of which is also available at TheGenealogist) and promotion to Second Lieutenant.

Mark Bayley, head of online content at the site, said: "We cannot but admire those many brave servicemen that performed outstanding acts of gallantry. Even more record releases are to follow as we further expand our already comprehensive World War One military record collection this year."

To find out about the extreme bravery of these soldiers and their courage in the line of duty see the dedicated records page at TheGenealogist.co.uk/DCM. There you will find photographs, stories, statistics and a free search facility.

The Medal & Ribbon

The Distinguished Conduct Medal is a silver medal 36mm in diameter. The original obverse of this medal depicted a trophy of arms, as seen on early Army Long Service and Good Conduct Medals. However, in 1902 this was replaced by the image of the reining monarch.

The reverse on all issues bears the inscription 'FOR DISTINGUISHED CONDUCT IN THE FIELD'. The suspender is of an ornate scroll type. The ribbon is 32mm wide, with three equal parts crimson, dark blue, and crimson.

Bars were authorised for subsequent awards, originally bearing the date of the subsequent awards but changing to laurel wreaths in 1916.

Deserter then Hero

As well as British and Irish soldiers, the records also contain the Distinguished Conduct Medals of Australian, New Zealand (ANZAC) and Canadian soldiers.

Maurice Buckley of the Australian Army received the DCM, and was also awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 18 September 1918, at Le Verguier near St Quentin. His unit was advancing under cover of a creeping barrage but was held up by German machine gun posts. Buckley attacked them with his Lewis gun section and captured 30 German prisoners of war. When the advance was again held up by machine-gun fire, Sergeant Buckley, supported by another platoon, put the enemy guns out of action. Later, he again showed conspicuous initiative in capturing hostile posts and machine-guns. According to the citation, he was "to the fore dealing with enemy machine-guns, rushing enemy posts, and performing great feats of bravery and endurance without faltering or for a moment taking cover".

The story is all the more remarkable considering Maurice was originally discharged from the Australian 13th Light Horse Regiment in September 1915 and classed as a deserter. He re-joined the army under an assumed name in May 1916, in the 13th Australian Infantry, taking his brother's first name and his mother's maiden name and being awarded his medal for outstanding bravery under his 'new name' of Gerald Sexton.


More Military Records

The Military Medals collection at data website TheGenealogist.co.uk is just one facet of the many military-related records now available at the site to benefit researchers. Also on offer are:

  • De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour 1914-18. About 7,000 of the 25,000 entries have photographs.
  • The National Roll of the Great War: 14 volumes in total, and a total of more than 110,000 records.
  • Bond of Sacrifice: a biographical record of all British officers who fell from August 1914 to June 1915
  • British Roll of Honour 1914-18
  • Chatham, Plymouth and Portsmouth Memorial Register 1914-1921
  • The Victoria Cross and Distinguished Service Order records 1857-1923
  • Great War Memorial Registers
  • The World War 1 Death Index, linked to results at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
  • Army lists available ranging from 1661 to 1940
  • Navy lists ranging from 1689 to 1944
  • Air Force Lists¬† for 1918, 1939 and 1933
  • Militia records
  • 1865 Indian Army & Civil Service List and the 1938 Indian Army List

The site has also updated its collection of War Office Casualty Lists form World War One - this collection now comprises 2.2 million records.