By Michael O'Leary; The Regimental Rogue
While it may not be the best news to discover that your ancestor was court martialled during the First World War, it does present an advantage to researching the soldier's wartime experiences. Like the service records, court martial files have survived the threats of bureaucratic house-cleaning and are available through Library and Archives Canada (LAC). These records can be ordered, similar to service records, through the LAC website starting with the Courts-Martial of the First World War database.
Even if you don't think your ancestor was court martialled, and there's no mention in his service record, it is still a worthwhile exercise to confirm with searches by name and service number.
The introduction page at the Library and Archives Canada Courts-Martial of the First World War database.
Searching for a soldier in the Courts Martial data base may be done by name, regimental (service) number, or unit. The soldier's service number, if not already known from the Soldiers of the First World War (1914-1918) database, can be found on any surviving documents you might have, such as a discharge certificate, or it can be found on the back or bottom edge of his medals if you have them.
The search form at the Library and Archives Canada Courts-Martial of the First World War database.
Searches of the Court Martial database may also be made using the asterisk as a wildcard character, for example searching for "Curr*" to find both "Currie and "Curry".
An example of results returned when searching on a surname with widcard (Curr*).
Once an individual record is found, the details for that database record will include the file reference for ordering the court martial file. These instructions are reproduced below:
An example of an individual record in the Courts martial database (Private William George Curran).
Military offences were identified by 'AA' for Army Act, followed by a number indicating the specific section of the Act under which the service person was charged. Some of these sections are summarized below:
With the details for the individual record, files may be ordered using the same system as for service records. These instructions are reproduced below:
Once you have located a person, you may wish to view the microfilm. There are several options:
As for service records, files will cost 40 cents per page plus postage. Once the LAC has your order, either by letter, facsimile or through their on-line ordering system, it can take four to six weeks to receive the records. (This time can increase if they are backlogged, as they can be around Remembrance Day or other times when people's interest in researching their soldiers ancestors is piqued. Ordering a digital copy may reduce your wait time.
Court martial files can be 12-40 pages, depnding on how many witnesses were heard and how much testimony was recorded. They will include all of the documents of the proceedings including witness statements as given to the court.
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