At first sight the task of researching an ancestor who fought during the First World War seems relatively straight forward. The medals give his regimental number (79709) and his regiment (Royal Field Artillery). His discharge certificate gives his date and place of enlistment (Accrington, 12th August 1914) and date of discharge (12th March 1919).
During the war his regiment would have kept records of his enlistment, transfers between units within the regiment, pay, leave, details if wounded and finally his discharge. After the war all medical records were sent to the Ministry of Health and Pensions to verify pension claims and the soldiers' personal records were forwarded to the War Office (now the Ministry of Defence).
There are however several problems. Due to the size of the army at the time, over 5 million men, the problem of storing the records was too great and most regimental information was destroyed in the 1930s. By 1975, all those who could make pension claims would be receiving old age pensions anyway, so all but a small sample of the medical records were destroyed. This just left the soldiers' personal records which were badly damaged during a bombing raid in 1940 in which about 80% were completely destroyed. Having contacted the MOD at Hayes, it seems that Herbert Halliday's records were amongst those that were destroyed.
The only official records left guaranteed to list Herbert Halliday are the medal rolls kept in the Public Record Office (PRO) at Kew. These used to be kept by the Army Medal Office at Droitwich and for each medal issued, list the names of those that received the award. They give very little information on the individual soldier.
This then was the starting point for my research. I will never be able to recreate the knowledge my grandfather took with him but what I hope to do is find where he served, understand what was happening at the time and so build up a picture of what life in the army was probably like for him.
What follows is my attempt to construct a history of my grandfather's service during the war and an explanation of the sources I have used.