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WW1 Wills and last letters.

ProfilePosted byOptionsPost Date

Cornish Susie

Cornish Susie Report 1 Sep 2013 10:20

Not sure if this has been mentioned elsewhere, but in the Telegraph this week there was an article about the 'discovery' of 230,000 wills written by soldiers who died in WW1, which in some cases incl. their last letters written to relatives but sadly never delivered. It has all recently been scanned and transcripted and is available on It's free to search, but then £6 to look at an individual will. Sadly I didn't find my relative - but well worth a look for anyone else.



Porkie_Pie Report 1 Sep 2013 10:23



Cornish Susie

Cornish Susie Report 1 Sep 2013 14:46

So terribly sorry, I was only trying to be helpful! I looked on this board ( thinking it was the most appropriate ) and didn't see anything similar as a heading so went ahead with my posting. Can't win 'em all, as they say.


Pam Report 1 Sep 2013 16:46

Thanks Cornish Susie. I have just found and ordered the Will of my grandmother's first husband who died in 1918.

Cornish Susie

Cornish Susie Report 1 Sep 2013 17:16

Delighted to help, Pam - lucky you!


Porkie_Pie Report 1 Sep 2013 17:30

Sue, No need to be sorry, it all helps, I only posted the link's in answer to your OP "Not sure if this has been mentioned elsewhere"



Pam Report 1 Sep 2013 22:55

Now have to wait up to 10 days for the Will to appear in My Account.

You get 31 days from the date it enters "My Account" in which to download the Will and after that you have to pay again to view it.


Porkie_Pie Report 1 Sep 2013 23:07

Pam I ordered my rellies Will from them on the 29th it was ready to download today so only 3 days,

When you download it save it to your documents on your PC then you will have a copy, I don't think 31 days to do a simple download that takes seconds is a problem



TessAkaBridgetTheFidget Report 5 Sep 2013 01:28

Will have to list the people in my tree who died in WW1. As don't remember them without checking.

Cornish Sue and Roy, Thanks for this info.

When I have sorted out names and dates I will go to the site and search.


juma Report 5 Sep 2013 09:52

Before reading about the discovery of these wills on Genes I had no idea that any had been found. Was it negligence on the part of someone or some dept that the wills were never forwarded to families? Was it ever the intention they would be? I am surprised that this has not caused more of an uproar in the press. Apart from the article in the Daily Telegraph I have not seen any reference in other newspapers. I have found one will, for my grandads brother in which he leaves £5 to his sweetheart (gives a name) and his post office savings to his mother.


Porkie_Pie Report 5 Sep 2013 11:53

juma, Not sure what you mean by "these wills being found", As far as i understand they where never lost.

I have downloaded 3 wills and all have the words "Please place this will with wills forwarded to Somerset house" and all dated aprox 3months after the date of death,

In WW1 not all Wills survived the battlefield for obvious reasons

These wills where not done as you or i do today, They are written at a time when normal practice didn't apply and were only ever intended to apply in the event of a soldiers death whilst serving for his/her country,


Cornish Susie

Cornish Susie Report 6 Sep 2013 11:08

According to the article in the Telegraph, these wills are classified as Official Records and very few people knew of their existence. A historian contacted the Ministry of Justice which ultimately owns the wills and requested their release under the Freedom of Information Act. Apparently about 5% of the Wills also enclosed a letter to their relatives, but none of these were posted as also deemed public records, and property of the then War Office. It seems such a shame that the letters were never delivered, presumably the Wills were acted upon after the death of the soldier?
My relative who died was still under training in this country and died of illness, so perhaps had never made a Battlefield Will, but I have found his Will on Ancestry nevertheless and so wonder if that was in fact his military Will, rather than an ordinary civilian one as I had previously supposed.



juma Report 6 Sep 2013 15:43

That's the question I would like to know the answer to. Were the wills acted on after the soldiers death? How would their wishes have been carried out?

My relatives will was dated 8/4/1917 and he died on 2/5/1917

Cornish Susie

Cornish Susie Report 6 Sep 2013 18:08


How sad that he only survived for a month after making his Will. I have looked again at the Will which I found on Ancestry for my g.g. uncle, and in fact it states that he was a Private in the K.O.Y. Light Infantry on Active Military Service. His death Cert says that he died in a Military Hospital of Meningitis. So I really don't know what type of Will he had made out, except that I can't find him on this new site. Presumably his wishes were carried out anyway. From what Roy said, these wills were sent to the 'civilian' Records Office after they had been acted upon, so probably the War Office kept a copy too. I don't think Wills would ever have been sent to the relatives, but certainly the letters should have been. I guess the bequests would have been made in the normal fashion. All very sad, but I suppose the sheer number of deaths would have all but overwhelmed the Army and so some things were overlooked.



Porkie_Pie Report 6 Sep 2013 18:45

As indicated before these wills were written at a time when normal practice didn't apply

One page is an Army form with the heading (INFORMAL WILL)

A hand written note under the heading says, To be placed with will transmitted to sumerset house 8.11.1917 No 281 on the list

It says,

This document date dd/mm/yyyy and signed by the soldier Private blogs appears to have been written or executed by the person named in the margin while he was "in actual military service" within the meaning of the wills act 1837 and has been recognised by the war department as constituting a valid will

then again at the bottom hand written it says "Please place this will with wills forwarded to Somerset house" 8.11.1917 No2 81 on the list


 Sue In Yorkshire.

Sue In Yorkshire. Report 18 Sep 2013 22:03


Thank you so much for putting the site up to get the wills of our ancestors that died in WW1.

I set up the site and just out of curiousity I put my Uncle's name in the search box not expecting to get any response at all.

I got a shock as his name came up in the list for his surname.

Well you can gather what I did straight away,,,Yes I ordered the will...
Can't wait for to get the email letting me know I can read the will..

Cheers for helping me and other people to look for the wills of rellies.

Cornish Susie

Cornish Susie Report 19 Sep 2013 19:35

Good to hear of another success story - I've had so much help on here one way or another that it's good to be able to give a little back sometimes! There are just so many new sites coming along all the time that it's just impossible for one person to spot them all, so sharing is a great idea. I've just bought a copy of the Oct. issue of the WDYTYA Magazine, and that has a very good article on the Soldiers Wills, and also one on the records for the RAF in WW2.


 Sue In Yorkshire.

Sue In Yorkshire. Report 20 Sep 2013 09:52

Cornish Susie,

Yes it's good to share and by golly you have made me a very happy person today as I have just received the download for my uncle's will.

And thanks so much for sharing.. :-D :-D

 Sue In Yorkshire.

Sue In Yorkshire. Report 28 Sep 2013 10:39

Just pushing this thread to the top as someone else might want to have a look for their rellies wills..


Sylvia Report 29 Sep 2013 23:50