What was the Imperial War Service Gratuity?

The following Roots to the Past column appeared in print in November 2016.

What was the Imperial War Service Gratuity?

Diane Lynn Tibert

An ancestor’s experience is often lost to history. The release of new records by Library and Archives Canada (LAC) and other organisations help researchers uncover this experience. When the Soldiers of the First World War records were released, I searched for individuals with surnames connected to my family and to my surprise, I found dozens. Many were previously known to me, but some were not. So not only did the records add interesting details to people already in my family tree, it added people to my tree.

LAC recently announced Imperial Gratuity records were added to the Personnel Records of the First World War collection on their website. But what was the Imperial War Service Gratuity and what information will we find in the files?

According LAC, individuals within these records were Canadians who served with the British Imperial Forces during the First World War. These files are in their possession and found in the Department of Militia and Defence fonds (RG9 II F10).

According to The War Gratuity of WW1 website, the “war gratuity was introduced in December 1918 as a payment to be made to those men who had served in WW1 for a period of 6 months or more home service or for any length of service if a man had served overseas”. The families of those who died during the war and women who served as nurses also received money.

Men who received service gratuity under the Royal Pay Warrant agreement during the war did not receive full payment of war gratuity. The amount was adjusted according monies already received. A spreadsheet-calculator to determine the amount is found on the War Gratuity website.

The government had two war gratuity systems in place, one for ‘other ranks’ and one for ‘non-regular officers’. Field-Marshals received the largest payout of £720 while a 2nd Lieutenant received only £35.

The War Gratuity site contains the Army Council’s Instructions for deciding who received the money and how much. The key to receiving the money was, the person had to prove they were a Canadian resident when the war started on August 4, 1914, and be a resident of Canada when they applied for the gratuity.

At the moment, the online database is limited to indexed files. Search results give only the name and regimental, reference and item numbers. One complete file is available for viewing to give researchers an idea of what documents a file may contain. The sample is for Corporal Frank Archibald Waller of Victoria, BC. This file contains eleven pages but on average, files will contain between 20 and 50 pages. The first page is the Statement of War Service Gratuity which states Waller’s address and outlines the monies entitled to him. The money was paid in four installments and totalled $150.00. Details of the adjustments made to the total are provided.

Other information found in the documents include when and from where he embarked for overseas, on which ship he sailed, where he disembarked, where and when he served, rank, when he returned to Canada and on which ship. The document of Statutory Declaration “Wife” gives details of his marriage, including the wedding date.

When the full online Imperial War Service Gratuity database, complete with digital images for all who received this money, will come online is unknown.

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