Last Tuesday brought us the first episode of War Hero In My Family on Channel 5, featuring Chris Tarrant and Lisa Faulkner learning about their family members’ roles in WW2.
I thought the show was very interesting, and certainly learnt from it. The programme makers were evidently trying to compare and contrast the two stories, but personally I would have preferred to not be constantly switching between them. On the whole the material was treated intelligently, but I thought it unfair on Chris Tarrant to have certain finds sprung on him on camera. Researching his dad’s role in the war was always going to be emotional for him.
Your Ancestor’s Role in WW2
WW2 service records are not freely available, however service records can be requested by former servicemen/servicewomen, or if deceased, records will be released with the consent of their next of kin if the death occurred within the last 25 years. If the serviceman/woman died more than 25 years ago, anyone can request their record. Full details in Making a Request for Information held on the Personnel Records of Deceased Service Personnel.
In summary, two forms need to be completed. The forms, together with a copy of the death certificate and a cheque for £30 (cost waived for widows/widowers) are submitted by post.
In order to complete the forms, you must know the full name and either the service number or date of birth, as a minimum.
Coincidentally, I decided to request my grandad’s service record last week. This was brought about partly by the recent death of my mum, meaning that I am now next of kin. Within a week of posting my forms, I received an acknowledgement of my request, warning me that “family interest enquiries may take 9-12 months to complete”.
Don’t apply if you are looking for quick answers! It makes sense to look at other sources first, such as newspapers, including The London Gazette, The National Archives, regimental museums and online sources.
Future Episodes of War Hero In My Family
Tonight’s episode (May 8th) features Ann Widdecombe & Quentin Wilson.
In future weeks we will see:
May 15th: Paddy Ashdown & Helen Lederer
May 22nd: David Gower & Sara Cox
May 29th: Dom Littlewood & Pamela Stephenson
June 5th: Robert Llewellyn & Angela Rippon
I’m looking forward to tonight’s show, will you be watching? I’m interested to hear opinions on last week’s episode too, and if anyone can tell me how long it took for their ancestors service record to arrive, I would love to know!