WO 76: Records of officers’ services 1760-1914

Papers in The National Archives series WO 76 cover British Army officers’ services between 1760 and 1914. You won’t find all of these records on British Army Ancestors, but you will find links to records for officers who served from the mid 1850s until 1914. In each case, you’ll find basic regimental information about the individual – and the option to add a photo if you have one – and the option to click on the blue button which will take you to the man’s record on Findmypast.

Of this series, The National Archives website states, “The records give the different ranks held by the officer and his services, together with certain personal particulars. The series includes services of Royal Artillery officers, 1771 to 1870, and one volume of returns made in 1861 by officers of the Indian Army (Artillery).

Some of the officers in this series who served during the First World War may also have papers in WO 339 or WO 374, albeit these collections have not been digitized and so you will need to commission a researcher to photograph these for you. I offer this service so drop me a line if you need help in this area: paul@britisharmyancestors.co.uk.

You will not find detailed narrative accounts or supplementary pages in WO 76. At best there may be two folios of photocopied information, at worst perhaps half a page. Nevertheless, there is some good information held within WO 76 and so this is definitely a source you will want to explore in greater detail. The series comprises 554 volumes and all can be accessed from Findmypast and The National Archives own website.

Major-General Andrew Gilbert Wauchope CB CMG is the man pictured on this page and he has papers in WO 76. Born in 1846 he was commissioned in the 42nd Regiment of Foot in 1865 and he spent the next 34 years in the service of his Queen and Country until killed in action on the 11th December 1899 at the Battle of Magersfontein in the Second Anglo-South African (Boer) War. His papers in WO 76 extend to two pages and detail his promotions from ensign in November 1865 through to brevet Colonel in May 1888. The papers also give details of his birth, education, marriage and children and the languages he spoke (French and German). There is extensive information about his military career which lists the various campaigns and battles he was involved in. His death during ‘Black Week’ of December 1899 was widely mourned.

The summaries of officers' services in WO 76 are just that: concise summaries of an officer's career from the time he was commissioned until the time he left the service.

Major General Gilbert Andrew Wauchope CB, CMG is the man pictured on this page and as noted on the left, his papers in WO 76 give great detail about his service for Queen and country. He was born in 1846, nine years after Queen Victoria had ascended the throne, and he died in her service in South Africa in 1899.

Major General Wauchope purchased a commission in the 42nd Foot in 1865 and joined as an ensign. He was promoted lietenant in June 1867 and captain in September 1878. On the 14th March 1881, the 42nd Foot having been re-titled as the 1st Battalion, Black Watch (Royal Highlanders), Gilbert Wauchope was promoted to major and by July 1891 he was second in command of the 2nd Battalion. He rose to the rank of lieutenant-colonel of the 2nd Battalion by August 1894.

His papers in WO 76 record action in various enterprises across the globe. He appears to have been a soldier who led from the front and it seems inevitable that he was destined to die leading his men against the enemy. He received a gunshot wound to his arm at Coomassie during the Ashanti War (1873-1874) and he received a sceond wound to his abdomen during the Battle of El Teb in 1884. A year later he was severely wounded in the breast and shoulder during the Battle of Kerbekan in 1885. Leading the Highland Brigade in South Africa he was killed early on during the Battle of Magersfontein.

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