Once again the rarity of the Datlen name has proved beneficial. Normally it would be a near impossible task trying to find the record of an un-named individual among the masses of military papers held at Kew in London and it would be a task that not even the most experienced researcher would attempt without knowing the regiment and regimental number of the soldier. But with the Datlen name being so unique the search is made somewhat easier, even more so as the search is not for a specified individual but for all Datlen soldiers appearing in the World War One archives.
There are a number of WW1 research tools available for the public to search:-
THE COMMONWEALTH WAR GRAVES COMMISION.
This is a register of soldiers who died during the wars and can be found online at www.cwgc.org The soldiers name, rank, regiment and date of death will be listed and sometimes you can find the soldiers age and details of his next of kin. There are two Datlen’s named in the CWGC registers, one died during WW1 and the other during WW2.
I also found a C. Dietlan, private 213844 who served with the 19th Btn, Canadian Infantry (Central Ontario Regt.). He died on Monday 28th May 1917 and is buried at Ecoivres Military Cemetery, Mont-St. Eloi, Pas de Calias, France. I have not been able to identify this soldier.
MEDAL INDEX CARDS
The Army Medal Office at Droitwich in England maintained a card index of all soldiers who were awarded a campaign medal in WW1. Information included on these records include Corps, rank and regimental number. There were 13 such records relating to the name Datlen.
The Public Record Office at Kew hold service records for soldiers who served during the Fist World War. The records were originally kept so that the authorities could answer questions about pensions, claims for disability allowances, and queries about entitlements for medals. During 1940 they were badly damaged in a bombing raid and about 60% of the records were totally destroyed.
The vast majority of the surviving records suffered badly from both fire and water damage. Known, naturally enough, as the Burnt Documents, they contain records for about 25-30% of the men who served in the British Army during the First World War. There is thus a one in three or one in four chance of finding a soldier's record.
Of the 13 Datlen soldiers listed in the Medal Index I have 5 corresponding service records and an additional 2 records for men who are not listed in the Medal Indexes. The surviving service records are likely to fall into one of the following categories
- Soldiers who were serving prior to 1914 and whose service finished between 1914 and 1920
- Soldiers who were serving prior to 1914 and who were medically discharged without seeing service overseas between 1914 and 1920
- Soldiers who were serving prior to 1914 and were medically discharged having seen service overseas between 1914 and 1920
- Soldiers who joined between 1914 and 1920 and who were medically discharged without seeing service overseas
- Soldiers who joined between 1914 and 1920 and who were medically discharged having seen service overseas.
There are various other sources of military information such as War Diaries, Trench Maps, Regimental and Battalion Histories and Rolls of Honour, some of which I have requested in order to build a more complete picture of a soldier’s military career.
The amount of information provided in all of these sources varies greatly and I have tried to paste all the facts together as best I can to provide a summary of the soldier’s military career. By far the most useful source is the Soldiers Service Records. Most show the result of extensive fire damage but what little information does remain provides interesting reading. Several of the records even describe the soldier’s physical appearance. From this information we can paint a mental picture of the soldier as we read about his experiences during WW1. Typically the Datlen soldier had brown eyes, brown hair and was not a tall chap, ranging in height from 5 foot 2 inches to 5 foot 9 inches, on average being under 5 foot 6 inches.
Two of the soldiers were relieved from military service on account that they sustained injury, two of the soldiers were relieved from military service on account of illness, while another was relieved from military service on account that he lied about his age. One soldier was relieved from military service on account that he was killed in action on the bloody battlefields of the Somme.
The postings which follow tell their story…