Explore this unique collection of trade union records recorded during the First World War. During the war years the unions often featured the names of the men and women who went off to war as servicemen and nurses in their union reports. Within the records you may you’re your ancestor’s photograph, rank and regiment. You can also find their union branch, whether they received any benefits or may have be featured in a special profile within the union’s newsletter. In addition to war records, some of the reports may include the names of those who did not serve in the war and are featured in the reports because of other trade union business. Many of the unions had branches across Great Britain and Ireland and even further around the world.
Each record will include an image of the original document and a transcript for the individual. The amount of detail in each transcript can vary depending on the record type and what the union chose to record. Many will include a combination of the following:
County and Country
Information included – records the details found within this record title
It is always valuable to view the image of the document. The images will often include more details about your ancestor and you can read more from the document and understand the context of the report.
Use the arrows to the left or the right of the image to read through the documents to find out even more about the trade union.
There are a variety of record types available within this collection and each one will hold its own valuable information. Below we have included a list of the document types and what further information is available in the images. This list is not totally inclusive and there are more record types and further details to be found in these documents.
Roll of Honour/War Record
Names of union members who were serving in the war – some of the trade unions included the names of women who joined as nurses
Additional notes for those killed in action
Rank and regiment
The National Union of Teachers included the school where the individual taught
Lists of those who paid membership fees – includes the member’s name, member number and union branch
Lists of those who received benefits such as unemployment or sick, and how much
Lists of those who received superannuation (retirement) and the amount received.
The union’s expenditures and income
Balance of funeral fund and the payments made during the year including the name of the deceased
Roll of Honour
Roll of Honour
List of members who made Christmas appeal payments and how much
Recipients of the benevolent fund
Names of members’ wives
Lists of union officers elected
Names and addresses of branch secretaries
Name, age and branch of new members
Roll of Honour organised by branch, including additional notes if the person was killed in action, discharged, wounded, etc
Lists of those who had left the union
Proposed members including age, trade, employer and proposer
Lists of new members, their branch and amount of entrance fee paid
List of those who have died in service recording the death date, place and work place before service
Report of resolutions passed at the quarterly meeting
Publications unique to specific unions
The Victoria Gazette - Liverpool Victoria Employees' Union – published monthly
Branch secretaries and meeting notices
Roll of Honour
The Municipal Officer - National Association of Local Government Officers
Articles about union meetings, decisions and new acts or policies within government
Union constitutional changes
Recipients of special war relief
The Workers' Union Record Workers’ Union
Lists of members and subscriptions
Obituaries of members
Roll of Honour – including photographs of some of those serving
Profiles or sketches of notable members
The Typographical Circular Typographical Association
Lists of new members
Reports from Annual conference and conference of Irish and Scottish branches
Names of those expulsed from the society and cause
Lists of resignations and superannuation
News from branches
Roll of Honour
Appeals on behalf of individual members
These records are do not solely featured individuals who participated in the First World War, however most of the records are related to those who served in the war. The union records frequently acknowledge those union members who have left for war, joined the services or have been killed in action. Some include photographs of the members or feature short profile about specific members. The most extraordinary of the records is the Workers’ Union Record which regularly feature full pages of photographs of service men. Other records may also include the daily trade union news and business.
Through this collection you can also discover the trade union records for those who did not go to war. It was vital for trade unions to keep accurate records of all their members and proceedings. The documents include details about individual members such as payments made, benefits received, name of spouse, etc. Many unions kept detailed records for when a member joined, paid their subscription, applied for funeral benefits or superannuation (retirement). The documents also include details about the trade unions such as directories of secretaries, meeting dates and times and items of trade union business. For more information about your ancestor's union membership before World War One you can search the Britain, Trade Union Membership Registers. You can also explore the pages of documents in the new Britain, Trade Union Membership Registers, Browse. The browse feature gives you the opportunity to read through the trade union reports from the beginning to the end.
Trade unions have played a prominent role in British society for centuries and even more so since the development of modern capitalism. In late eighteenth and early twentieth century Britain, trade unions grew, especially since the repeal of the Combination Acts in 1824. The Acts had made it illegal for workers to join together to demand better wages or working conditions. Since the repeal the unions expanded their memberships and won political and legal recognition. Trade unions were a way to create a united front for workers to improve their harsh working conditions and established a voice for many of those who were disenfranchised. In the years leading up to the First World War Britain saw a rise in trade union activity and large scale demonstrations and strikes. Women began to organise themselves into trade unions and associations and many pushed for the unions to support the fight for women’s suffrage. However, once the war broke out strikes were made illegal, and activity and the militancy of the unions declined as many joined the war effort.
Amalgamated Society of Lithographic Artists, Designers, Engravers & Process Workers
In 1885 the National Society of Lithographic Artists, Designers and Writers, Copperplate and Wood Engravers was formed in 1885. The society renamed itself a number of times before it became the Society of Lithographic Artists, Designers, Engravers and Process Workers (SLADE) in 1922. Then in 1982, it dropped its name when it amalgamated with the National Graphical Association.
Amalgamated Society of Paper Makers
The society was formed in 1894. During World War One the society established a close relationship with the National Union of Printing and Paper Workers. Then in 1937 the two merged.
Amalgamated Society of Watermen, Lightermen & Bargemen
The Amalgamated Society of Watermen and Lightermen of the River Thames was established in 1872. In 1901 it changed its name to the Amalgamated Society of Watermen, Lightermen and Watchmen of the River Thames. In 1912 the name was changed to the Amalgamated Society of Watermen, Lightermen and Bargemen. On 1 January 1922 it merged with thirteen other unions to form the Transport and General Workers' Union.
Association of Correctors of the Press
The association was created in 1854. It served the correctors of the press (newspaper proofreaders). In 1965 it merged with the National Graphical Association.
Incorporated Association of Assistant Masters in Secondary School
The association was establish in 1891 with the name the Assistant Masters’ Association, it added ‘Incorporated’ to its title in 1901, but was still known by its original name. In 1978 it merged with the Assistant Mistresses to become the Assistant Masters’ and Mistresses’ Association then later in 1993 it became the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.
Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company
In July 1847 the Manchester & Leeds Railway absorbed a number of earlier local railways and then took on the title Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway.
Liverpool Victoria Employees' Union
The Liverpool Victoria Employees' Union was formed in or before 1910 to promote the interests of employees of the Liverpool Victoria Legal Friendly Society. The society was founded in 1843 initially as a burial society and then expanded into savings and insurance. In 1965 it became a part of the National Union of Insurance Workers Liverpool Victoria Section.
London Society of Compositors
The London General Trade Society of Compositors was established in 1826 and adopted the name London Society of Compositors in 1848. In March 1955 it formed the London Typographical Society after it merged with the Printing Machine Managers' Trade Society.
National Association of Local Government Officers
The association formed in 1914 representing local government workers.
National Society of Operative Printers & Assistants
The society was formed in 1889 as the National Society of Operative Printers, Graphical and Media Personnel. In 1904 the society renamed itself the National Society of Operative Printer’ Assistants. Then in 1912 it changed again to the National Society of Operative Printers and Assistants (NATSOPA). Over the decades the society continued to grow and amalgamate with other groups.
National Union of Printing & Paper Workers
The union was created in 1914. It was a merging of the National Amalgamated Society of Printers’ Warehousemen and Cutters and the National Union of Paper Mill Workers. Then in 1921 it merged again with the National Union of Bookbinders and Machine Rulers to become the National Union of Printing, Bookbinding, Machine Ruling and Paper Workers.
National Union of Teachers
In June 1870 the National Union of Elementary Teachers was formed in London. They changed the name to the National Union of Teachers in 1889 because of the term ‘elementary’ was thought to be demeaning. The union is still the largest body representing teachers in England and Wales.
Northern Association of Publishers' Educational Representatives
In 1906 this Northern association was formed after it had split away from the Association of Publishers’ Educational Representatives. The two groups re-joined in 1945, but the association ended in 1998.
Operative Bricklayers' Society
The Society was created in the later 1820s or early 1830s. During the 1840s the organisation split into the London Order of Operative Bricklayers’ Society and the Manchester Unity of Operative Bricklayers’ Society. The two reunited in 1921 when they merged with another society and became the Amalgamated Union of Building Trade Workers.
Printing Machine Managers' Trade Society
The society was established in 1839 for those who operated the presses in London’s printing works. In 1955 in merged with a compositors association and became the London Typographical Society.
The Provincial Typographical Association was created in 1849. It dropped ‘Provincial’ from its title in 1877. In 1963 it merged with the London Typographical Society (see above) to form the National Graphical Association.
Union of Engravers to Calico Printers & Paper Stainers
The union originated from Manchester in 1889. Then in 1909 it merged with a Scottish union and created the Amalgamated Union. Then in 1920 it changed its name to the United Society of Engravers of Great Britain and Ireland. Finally, in 1973, the union merged with the Society of Lithographic Artists, Designers, Engravers and Process Workers.
The union was founded in 1898 and in 1919 it joined the National Amalgamated Workers’ Union, but it dissolved by 1922.
Isle Of Man
U S A
The Typographical Circular printed an announcement of one of its members receiving an army commission.
‘At the outbreak of war Mr. Dan Davies was peacefully pursuing the life of a stone-hand on the staff of the Western Mail, Cardiff. Being an old Volunteer, Mr. Davies joined the first batch of National Reservists for duty at Cardiff on mobilisation of that body on August 7. He enlisted as a private in the 10th (Service) Battalion of the Rifle Brigade on September 2, and went into training with that unit until November 13, during which period he had attained promotion to the rank of sergeant. While on three days leave at Cardiff, Sergeant Davies was offered and accepted a commission in the 10th (Service) Battalion Welsh Regiment, generally known as the 1st Rhondda Battalion, having been principally recruited from amongst the miners of the Rhondda Valleys. The battalion is now in training at Rhyl. At the present moment Lieutenant Davies is engages in a recruiting mission, and is accompanied by, amongst others, Sergeant Sam Longville, another member of the Cardiff Branch. The object of the effort is to raise an additional company for the battalion.’
As printed in the Workers Union Record in 1915:
‘Extract from the last letter written home by Rifleman E. M. Smith (late of the Chief Office Staff – Health Section) to his mother. The engagement described in the letter took place at Hooge, at which place the lad subsequently received the wounds which led to his death.
“Our Battalion were attacked yesterday morning, 30th July, at 3 am, after a bombardment. They retired with losses. The hellish monsters (the Prussian Guard are monsters compared to us lads – big sturdy men) are now using burning liquid against us. They spray it along the trenches; men, rifles, equipment and sand-bags with which the parapets are built, all suffer through it. Our Battalion, which was in reserve, was called up, and at 2 pm the same day we bombarded the enemy’s trenches until about 3pm. When our 7th charged to retake the trenches, we had to advance and carry out certain orders. I can’t tell you what it was we had to do, in case this letter should fall into the hands of the enemy.
I, with eight other lads and a sergeant, lost connection with Mr. Molson and the rest of our platoon. Our sergeant led us forward in face of the enemy. Machine guns opened on our left and in front of us, in conjunction with rifle and shell fire, and literally mowed us down. Our sergeant died a real hero’s death. He had two shots in the neck, but he ignored them, and with one foot on a mound and the other on level ground he made a fine picture as he shouted above the roar of the guns for us lads to push on. Suddenly he turned, as if to walk back to safety and the dressing station, when I saw him draw a sharp breath and then collapse. He was groaning a little as I crawled past him, and then he ceased breathing. He was riddled with bullets. He was about five paces off the trenches we were making for. He urged us lads on until the last, and never before have I seen such an exhibition of heroism, as he stood there giving orders in the face of a perfect hurricane of bullets.
Out of the ten of No. I Platoon who faced that fire, only four got through to the trenches – I and three other lads. We stayed in the trench with some of the ‘A’ Company and under the command of an ‘A’ Company sergeant remained there for five and a half hours until it was dark enough for us to crawl out and get back to headquarters. Mr. Molson (lieutenant) was wounded. From what I can make out through conversation with the other lads, ‘A’ and ‘B’ Companies had orders to retire. The few that lost connection knew nothing of this order, so we went right on and reached the trench.
Mother, it was terrible. I have read of troops advancing through a shower of bullets, but it is the first time I have been through it and seen it. Men said their prayers that night who have not said them since they were children. Our officers are proud of us. We upheld the reputation of the 60th Rifles excellently; the regulars would praise us for the way we pushed forward against such odds had they seen us. I was carrying my rifle at the trail when a bullet struck it just where my hand was; it splintered the wood, and how the bullet missed me I don’t know. When I was in the trench a bullet struck the parapet, and a piece of the bullet hit me on the cheek. It bled for a minute or two but the mark is practically gone now. Mr. Molson being wounded has taken all the go out of us lads.
Keep cheerful, mother; it is no good being down-hearted, as it is only warfare, and we must thank God that we came safely through.’
A few days after this, 5th August, he was wounded in the head and back, and had his leg broken by shrapnel, and the wounds proving fatal, he died 8th August, and was buried in one of the soldiers’ cemeteries.”
View the records for Ernest Malcom Smith in Findmypast’s British Army Service Records 1914-1920 and World War One Medal Index Cards. Smith was a member of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps in the 8th (Service) Battalion. He enlisted in 1914 for three years at the age of 19. His service number was R6022.
This collection has been made available through Findmypast’s partnership with the University of Warwick’s Modern Records Centre.
The Modern Records Centre
The Modern Records Centre was established at the University of Warwick in 1973 with the objective of collecting primary sources for British social, political and economic history, especially in the fields of industrial relations, labour history and industrial politics. It now holds a large collection of material in these fields, including the archives of many trades unions and professional associations and employers' and trade associations, as well as extensive collections relating to pressure and campaigning groups, radical politics and the history of cycling and the motor industry.