Website hosts Britain's First World War records

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London, Feb.20 : Britons will now have easy access to records relating to the heroism of millions of First World War servicemen, ranging from foot-soldiers to actors and future prime ministers.

The heroics of these people will be available on the Internet from today, The Telegraph reports.

The site ancestry.co.uk/war profiles will include former Prime Minister Harold MacMillan's medal card exploits of former British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden, as well that of Noel Coward and Harry Patch and the last remaining "Tommy".

The records of 5.5 million troops awarded medals between 1914 and 1922 - the most comprehensive Great War collection in existence - are being released by the website.

Fifteen different medals were awarded, from the Victoria Cross to campaign honours such as the Victory Medal, to British and Commonwealth troops.

The online files are based mainly on index cards recording each serviceman's medals, reason for decoration and corps, unit and regiment.

Noel Coward, the actor and playwright, served in the Army for only 158 days at the age of 18 before being marked down as "nervy".

Noel Chavasse, however, was Britain's most decorated soldier of the war, winning the Victoria Cross on two occasions. The medical officer won the Military Cross in 1915 and his first VC in August 1916 for "extreme bravery under enemy fire while tending to and rescuing the wounded".

A year later he suffered a serious head wound while helping injured soldiers on the battlefield near Ypres, yet carried on for four days before succumbing to his injuries. He was awarded the VC posthumously.

Albert Ball, the first of Britain's air aces, also won the VC. He was recognised for his "most conspicuous and consistent bravery" during April and May 1917 in which he flew alone in 26 dogfights, destroying 11 enemy aircraft. Ball was killed after combat with Baron Manfred von Richthofen's "Flying Circus".

Macmillan and Eden both fought at the Somme, Eden winning the Military Cross for rescuing a comrade under heavy fire, and Macmillan demonstrating great bravery by leading a raid on a machinegun post which left him with a bullet in the thigh.

The files are held by the Western Front Association and go online in two phases, starting today.

ANI

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