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Monday, November 9, 1998 Published at 10:38 GMT

War graves records go online

Tracing a war grave has often been difficult

Relatives of those who died in two world wars will be able to trace their loved ones' burial sites on a Website.

World War 1:Special Section
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is putting its massive database online on Monday.

The commission, which looks after memorials in more than 150 countries, holds information on 1.7m soldiers from Commonwealth countries and 60,000 civilian casualties.

BBC Internet Correspondent Chris Nuttall: Another way of getting new generations interested in commemorating the wars
Since World War I it has helped friends and next-of-kin locate the remains of their loved ones and fields about 50,000 requests a year.

But before recent computerisation, the records were stored in more than 3,000 drawers and cross referenced to 1,500 cemetery registers - which made tracking people down very time consuming.

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The new service, due to be unveiled by comedian Spike Milligan, will give Net users instant access to the records.

[ image: Many soldiers were buried near where they died]
Many soldiers were buried near where they died
Commission spokesman Peter Francis said: "In the past searching for a casualty without exact knowledge of a surname or a specific regiment was well-nigh impossible.

"But now anyone can search using key words and narrow down the hits with more information. This is definitely the way forward for us."

Users will be able to find out where a person is buried or commemorated, their regiment, medals hometown and in some cases a brief record of their service history and acts of bravery.

BBC Internet Correspondent Chris Nuttall: Tracing the far corner of the foreign field will now be easier
Anyone who locates a casualty's details using the Website can also print out a specially designed commemoration certificate.

There are also plans in the future for the educational aspect of the site to be developed further - with more information and facilities that will fit in with the national school curriculum.

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