Document Scanning

Vast project allows public to see wills of WW1 soldiers

The wills and letters of thousands of British Empire soldiers are to be digitised and placed on a new website.

Handwritten documents from soldiers fighting in World War 1 are to be digitised and placed online for the public to view.

An ambitious document scanning project has begun which will see wills and letters penned by troops on the frontline be archived and organised ahead of next year’s centenary for the conflict.

The documents have been kept in storage for 100 years, with many of them being letters intended for relatives back home but were ultimately never sent.

Her Majesty’s Court and Tribunal Service owns the documents and they are part of a wider project which will see the wills and letters of troops from all wars sent to a document scanning company to be made publicly available.

Historian Jon Cooksey told the Daily Mail: "What this does is help us, as historians, piece together the mosaic of facts which give us the real men."

One of the wills uncovered from World War 1 was written by the grandfather of Fleetwood Mac star Mick Fleetwood.

Private John Henry Fleetwood’s musings revealed that he was a boilermaker before being drafted into the conflict and lost his life to dysentery while in Malta, where he is now buried.

Another document was written by a professional footballer who played for Reading and Queen’s Park Rangers.

Corporal Albert Victor Butler’s writings showed he suffered shelling during the war and his right leg was shattered as a result.

Mr Cooksey revealed that there was an account written by the Reverend Samuel Green accompanying corporal Butler’s notes, which described him as "a fine fellow".

President of the Western Front Association Professor Peter Simkins told the newspaper that the decision to scan and organise the documents into a clear and comprehensive archive will benefit the public, historians and anybody else with an interest in them.

The World War 1 centenary will also see specially-commissioned paving stones produced and installed in the home towns of soldiers who were awarded the prestigious Victoria Cross for their efforts in protecting the nation, the BBC reports.