Researching the First World War in Cornwall

The Archives and Cornish Studies Service holds many documents, resources and collections that can help with First World War research. This webpage is designed to give you an overview, and contains many helpful links.

Military Records

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Please be aware that we do not hold military records. These are looked after at the National Archives at Kew and are available online via the subscription service, However, you can search the Library edition of Ancestry, and other resources, for free at both Cornwall Record Office and the Cornish Studies Library as well as libraries across Cornwall. The Guide to Researching Service Personnel provides further suggestions for your research, as well as pointing you to locally held collections.

If you are interested in locating original documents from the period (for example, photographs, letters, diaries, committee minutes) you can search Cornwall Record Office’s online catalogue. We are currently trying to add more keywords to our catalogue so that information from this period of history is easier to find. Please note, the archive convention for cataloguing this material is by using the term ‘First World War’ (not World War One or Great War). This sample document list will give you an idea of some of the range of documents we hold. You could also search the catalogue under specific themes or events, for example, ‘munitions’ or ‘Somme’. Sometimes the information can be found in surprising places; for example, school log books are very useful for information about the home front!

The Cornish Studies Library holds our newspaper collection on microfilm. The newspapers are a rich resource for researching this period of history, although please note that some of the material was censored later in the war. However, the newspapers often include letters from the frontline and local news as well as reporting on national and international events, so are an invaluable source. The London Gazette is also available to search online.  It includes information on commissions and announcements concerning honours and awards. 

The Cornish Studies Library holds a wide variety of books that can support your research. The introductory booklist may help you get started.

For research into Cornwall or Cornish people in the First World War you could also try Cornwall’s Regimental Museum, the archive and museum for the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. For information on Cornish people lost in the conflict, as well as wider themes, you can visit the Cornwall Family History Society’s new website, Cornwall’s War History. The website for the 100 Faces 100 Stories project, which gathered First World War stories from across Cornwall, may also be a useful source of information.