Was your ancestor gazetted in the official newspaper of record in the United Kingdom? The London Gazette printed announcements of promotions within the armed forces, appointments of official public offices, Royal proclamations and much more. Additionally, read through full reports and despatches from key battles of the First World War.
The records are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). The information revealed about your ancestor will vary depending on the nature of the gazette entry.
The London Gazette was the official journal of the British government. It published statutory notes, royal proclamations and notices of insolvency or bankruptcy. It also reported official appointments in public offices such as the board of trade, board of agriculture, customers and trade, postmaster, factory department and much more. Additionally, the gazette was used to report military appointments, attachments, promotions, and awards. One was ‘gazetted’ when one was mentioned in The London Gazette for promotion.
If your ancestor is found in The London Gazette it could be for one of the many reasons listed above. Most results will tell you the gazette date and your ancestor’s occupation. For those in the armed forces, the gazette will provide your ancestor’s name, rank, regiment and the details of the event (whether it was due to a promotion, being mentioned in dispatches or receiving a medal).
The London Gazette was first published by King Charles II in 1665, during the plague and became the official journal of the British government. The publication is Britain’s oldest continuously printed newspaper. It was published twice weekly. In its first century of print, the gazette reported foreign and shipping news and official notices. It was mostly read by traders, merchants and lawyers. The publication was used to report notices of bankruptcy, dissolution of partnerships, sales of properties and disputed estates.
By the nineteenth century, it started to report military movements and awards. The first recipients of the Victoria Cross were printed in 1857. The collection available on Findmypast focuses specifically on the years of the First World War. The majority of the reports printed are related to the armed forces and the war effort.
Medals and Awards
In The London Gazette you can find lists of those who were awarded medals for their bravery and valent actions. For example, on 25 November 1916, the gazette printed the recipients of the Military Cross and detailed their actions in combat. One entry states, ‘2 Lt (temp Captain) George Bernard Ward, Gen List. For conspicuous gallantry in action. He flew over the enemy’s lines at a height of 1,000 feet under heavy fire and carried out a very successful artillery reconnaissance. He has previously done very fine work’.
The gazette reproduced dispatches from various conflicts. When a person’s name was included in such correspondence, they were said to have been mentioned in dispatches. On 4 July 1916, the gazette printed a despatch from the Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, Commander-in-Chief of Grand Fleet, reporting the action in the North Sea on 31 May 1916, The Battle of Jutland. The name and actions of a Victoria Cross recipient from this battle were printed in an issue a couple months later. It noted, ‘the King has been graciously pleased to approve the grant of the Victoria Cross to Boy First Class, John Travers Cornwell, O. N. J. 42563 (died 2 June 1916), for the conspicuous act of bravery specified below. Mortally wounded early in the action, Boy, First Class, John Travers Cornwell remained standing alone at a most exposed post, quietly awaiting orders, until the end of the action, with the gun’s crew dead and wounded all round him. His age was under sixteen and a half years’. Travers is the youngest person to receive the Victoria Cross.
You can read through the despatches of specific battles and follow the engagement from the beginning to the end. On 29 December 1916, the gazette reproduced the despatch from General Haig detailing the months of engagement during The Battle of the Somme, one of the bloodiest battles of the First World War. It described the opening of the conflict as follows: ‘On July 1st, at 7:30am, after a final hour of exceptionally violent bombardment, our infantry assault was launched. Simultaneously the French attached on both sides of the Somme, co-operating closely with us. The British main front of attack extended from Maricourt on our right, round the salient at Fricourt, to the Ancre in front of St Pierre Divion.’ The despatch is 15 pages in length. General Haig goes on to describe the army’s determination: ‘Still more importance, however, lay in the proof afforded by the results described of the ability of our new Armies not only to rush the enemy’s strongest defences, as had been accomplished on the 1st and 14th July, but also to wear down and break his power of resistance by a steady, relentless pressure, as they had done during the weeks of this fierce and protracted struggle.’
When you are searching for your ancestor, start your search with only your ancestor’s surname. Many entries only recorded surnames or first initial and surname.
You can search for despatches or reports related to specific key battles of the First World War. Despatches were printed from a couple weeks to a couple months after the conclusion of the battle. For example, the despatch from General Haig detailing the whole of the Battle of the Somme was printed on 29 December 1916. The battle concluded at the start of November 1916.