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Ancestry and the Royal British Legion remember over 1.5 million home front heroes of World War I


Ancestry and the Royal British Legion are commemorating the centenary of the end of the First World War by offering a different take on the commemorations - remembering the 1.5 million Brits who contributed to the war effort from the home front.

Ancestry has mapped out how the ‘Total War’ looked across the UK after over two thirds of Brits admitted they know little or nothing about how the war was fought on home shores.

In addition to the six million soldiers that fought on the front line, millions of Brits back home supported the war effort in an astounding number of ways – from factory ‘munitionettes’ to miners, messenger pigeon breeders and Boy Scouts spotting enemy ships, as well as thousands of Postal Workers based in London’s Regent’s Park.

World War I on the home front

This week, Ancestry will reveal three commemorative plaques at Letchworth in Hertfordshire, Blaenavon in south Wales and Birmingham to remember over 1 million munitions workers, miners and Women’s Land Army who contributed enormously to the war effort. The plaques have been created by Sarah Arnett, the artist behind British Legion’s ‘Thank You 100’ project.
Bringing together Ancestry’s military records, censuses and other collections from the wartime period, expert genealogists have painted a picture of the home front, revealing and commemorating the locations where millions contributed to the war effort at home.
Russell James at Ancestry said: “The Centenary moment gives us the opportunity to reflect on the brave efforts of millions of people during the War, both on and off the battlefields. Ancestry’s wealth and diversity of historical records has allowed us to shine a light on the heroic home front efforts for the first time. We hope this will inspire more people to discover their ancestors’ roles in WWI in the run up to this milestone anniversary.”
The map reveals numerous contributions from across the country:
  • By the end of the war, up to 1 million women had become ‘munitionettes’, creating military armaments, with a significant amount being produced in the East Midlands and the North West
  • In 1917 the Women’s Land Army held a march through Birmingham to celebrate the 23,000 women working to produce food and farming the land after the majority of male agriculture workers headed to war
  • In 1914, nearly 1,300 Scouts took on coast-watching duties in seaside towns such as Saltfleet, Lincolnshire in the absence of coast guards, looking out for enemy vessels
  • 22,000 people watched Blyth Spartans Ladies FC win the first Munitionette's Cup – held in Middlesbrough – women’s football boosted morale during the war
  • The establishment of the first Women’s Institute in Singleton, Sussex, helped raise Britain's food self-sufficiency by 25% by the end of the war - this was done through the farming of animals, grains and vegetables on British soil which reduced the UK’s reliance on food imports
  • The Carlisle experiment in Cumbria saw the state take ownership of 343 pubs to control alcohol consumption during the war due to fears that excess drinking was negatively impacting the productivity of the workforce
  • Over 100,000 homing pigeons were used to send important messages to the front line with the National Homing Union in Leeds threatening six months in prison for anyone shooting a pigeon
  • 25,000 motorcycles were built in Bristol and then sent to countries where the fighting was taking place

Free access to Ancestry's wartime records

Normally available only to Ancestry members, all UK and Irish wartime records will be free to access from 8th – 12th November 2018 at the Ancestry website.

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