Lives of the First World War 'digital memorial' goes live

British troops cross the Somme during WW1 in late 1916 Image copyright PA

An online archive remembering the millions of people from Britain and the Commonwealth who served in World War One has gone live.

Four-and-a-half million British army members are already included in the Lives of the First World War project.

But for many entries there is little more information than their names.

Organiser Imperial War Museums (IWM) wants families to add their own photographs, stories and memories to build a "permanent digital memorial".

The records of more than 4.5 million men and 40,000 women who served with the British army overseas are currently listed.

Millions of others will be added to the website in the coming months including the names of members of the Royal Flying Corp/Royal Air Force, the Royal Navy, the Canadian Expeditionary Force and the Australian and New Zealand Imperial Forces.

Image copyright Other
Image caption It is hoped the archive will grow to include more than eight million stories

The records of almost 17,000 conscientious objectors will be included, and IWM is also hoping to list the Indian Army, home front workers, and others who made a contribution from across the empire.

By the end of the WW1 centenary commemorations in 2018, the Lives of the First World War project could contain the stories of more than eight million men and women.

Among the stories already archived are that of Sister Martha Aitken, who served in the Territorial Force Nursing Service in casualty clearing stations and military hospitals in Scotland and France; Private William Cecil Tickle of the Essex Regiment, who died in the Somme in July 1916, three days before his 18th birthday; and Thomas William Stratford, who served in China and Gallipoli before being wounded in France and discharged.

Documents such as medal and grave records, census information, family photographs and battalion diary entries record their lives, but the IWM says it is still seeking more details about them.

The project, which is free to use, is being supported by DC Thomson Family History, which runs several online ancestry websites.

Each person in the archive will have their own web page, where the public can upload photographs, write stories and recollections or add links to other records.

The IWM says the centenary of WW1 will see many families showing a renewed interest in documents, diaries, letters or photographs handed down by relatives or picked up from museums, libraries and archives.

It is encouraging people to keep original material in family collections for future generations, while uploading and sharing images of the documents on its website.

Luke Smith, IWM's digital lead for the war's centenary, said: "We need the public to help us piece together over eight million life stories, so that we can remember these people now and in the future.

"Everybody can contribute... whether they choose to simply remember someone online, upload a picture from their family album, share a story passed down through generations, or connect official records to build a full and factual picture of what happened to that person throughout the war."

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