What are these records?
The casualty returns from units in the field were compiled into lists that were produced by the War Office and reproduced in many newspapers. They include the names of men killed, died of wounds, wounded or missing. They also included amendments: for example if a man once declared as missing was now reported as a prisoner of war. A casualty’s details would tend to appear about a month after the date on which they became a casualty.
The details in the list include the man’s name (initials rather than forenames), rank, number, regiment. From 1917 they also include the place of his residence or enlistment. This can be helpful if you are trying to identify a soldier from among others of the same name.
How to find these records
Free of charge:
Original War Office lists of men who died, were wounded or declared missing are held on microfilm at the British Library (formerly from the National Newspaper Library collection). To search them it would be necessary to know an approximate date.
The National Library of Scotland has digitised copies of the 1917 and 1918 lists. They are free to search and download. See link below.
TheGenealogist has indexes of lists that appeared in the “Times” newspaper and to the War Office lists of 1917 and 1918.
The British Newspaper Archive includes lists that appeared in many local and national newspapers.
The Times Digital Archive includes the lists in the “Times”.
Driver 2482 Frederick Baker of the Royal Field Artillery died as a result of a head wound at 3rd Canadian Casualty Clearing Station on 5 October 1917. He appeared in the War Office daily casualty list of 10 November 1917.
Lance Sergeant 7938 Albert Baker of the Scots Guards was killed in action on 18 December 1914.
If a man was declared missing and his death was eventually officially presumed, the former would appear in the lists but the latter not. In such a case it is worth seeing if there is an enquiry card held in the records of the International Committee of the Red Cross (see details), as although it will be marked “negative” it may include details of next of kin or other enquirers.
The unit war diaries sometimes name casualties or include attached lists of casualties.
Being included on an official casualty list of wounded qualified the soldier for a wound stripe.