Friday 14 August 2015

WW1 Deserter and AWOL lists uploaded to FindMyPast than 13,000 records of WW1 deserting or AWOL soldiers have been added to FindMyPast. They have been transcribed from detailed lists published in a Police Gazette supplement every two weeks during the First World War.

Each record in the British Army, Deserters and Absentees In Police Gazette 1914-1919 collection contains an image and partial transcript of the original source material.

Some 600-odd Irish soldiers seem to be included. It's a small number but the personal details revealed in the lists are likely to be of interest to family historians. Here are a few examples:

  • Samuel Dunne, a 21-year-old labourer enlisted in Belfast on 27 October 1914. He was 5' 7" tall, had brown hair and grey eyes, and a 'Lillie/Samuel' tattoo on his right forearm. He was from Shankill. He served in the 3rd Royal Irish Rifles before going absent without leave on 29 October 1916 while on a home visit.
  • John Power, a 43-year-old born in Ballavadin, Co Waterford, was serving in the British Navy on the Vield as a 1st class Stoker when he deserted on 20 November 1916. He was 5' 6" tall, and had brown hair and blue eyes.
  • Edward Gibbons was 17 years old when he deserted while in Sittingbourne, Kent, England on 2 January 1915, less than three months from when he'd enlisted in Dublin. He was from St Kevin's, Dublin, stood 5' 3" tall, had brown hair and brown eyes and a scar between his upper lip and nose. He served as a messenger in the 4th Royal Dublin Fusiliers.
FindMyPast say that most of the men listed were picked up and sent back to the army for court martial. Punishments could be severe but although execution was used in some cases it was not the norm. Some deserter’s evaded capture altogether, changed their name and went on to live a completely new life.