Coldstream Guards

This article looks at the Coldstream Guards during the First World War and will help you to research soldiers who served with the Regiment. This is one of a series of guides I have created to help you research soldiers who served in the British Army:

I also offer a First World War Soldier Research Service.

Coldstream Guards in the First World War

If you’d like to learn more about the battalions of the Coldstream Guards listed below I would recommend combining their war diaries (see below) with the regimental history.

1st Battalion Coldstream Guards

In August 1914, the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards was stationed at Aldershot, Hampshire and landed in Havre, France on 14 August as part of the 1st (Guards) Brigade, 1st Division. On 25 August 1915, the 1st Battalion was transferred to the 2nd Guards Brigade, Guards Division and served with the formation for the remainder of the war. The Battalion suffered 1271 dead between August 1914 and November 1918.

2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards

On the outbreak of war, the 2nd Battalion was stationed at Windsor and landed in France in August 1914 as part of the 4th (Guards) Brigade, 2nd Division. On 20 August 1915, the 2nd Battalion was transferred to the 1st Guards Brigade, Guards Division and served with this formation for the remainder of the war. The Battalion suffered 902 dead between August 1914 and November 1918.

3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards

On the outbreak of war, the 3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards was stationed at Chelsea Barracks, London and landed at Havre, France on 13 August as part of the 4th (Guards) Brigade, 2nd Division in August 1914. On 20 August 1915, the Battalion joined the 1st Guards Brigade, Guards Division. In February 1918, the Battalion joined the newly formed 4th Guards Brigade, 31st Division, before being sent to General Headquarters Reserve on 20 May 1918. The Battalion suffered 1026 dead between August 1914 and November 1918.

4th (Pioneer) Battalion Coldstream Guards

The 4th (Reserve) Battalion Coldstream Guards was formed at Windsor in August 1914. However, on the formation of the 4th (Pioneer) Battalion Coldstream Guards the Battalion was redesignated as the 5th (Reserve) Battalion.

The new 4th (Pioneer) Battalion was formed at Windsor on 17 July 1915 as the Guards Pioneer Battalion. The Guards Pioneer Battalion became the 4th (Pioneer) Battalion around 14 August. The Battalion disembarked at Havre, France on 16 August 1915. The Battalion served with the Guards Division for the duration of the war. If you would like to learn more about the role of pioneer battalions in the First World War I can recommend Pioneer Battalions in the Great War by K. W. Mitchinson. The Battalion suffered 165 dead between August 1914 and November 1918.

5th (Reserve) Battalion Coldstream Guards

This Battalion was originally designated as the 4th (Reserve) Battalion Coldstream Guards when it was formed at Windsor in August 1914. When the 4th (Pioneer) Battalion was formed on 17 July 1915 it was redesignated as the 5th (Reserve) Battalion. The Battalion remained at Windsor for the duration of the war and sent drafts to the other Coldstream Guards battalions serving on the Western Front.

Researching Soldiers who Served in the Coldstream Guards

The Coldstream Guards’ service records are mostly held at the Regiment’s archives: Coldstream Guards’ Archive. I would strongly recommend applying for a service record though there is no guarantee that they have survived to the present day. Once you know which Battalion a soldier served with I would recommend downloading the relevant war diaries (see below).

I Offer a First World War Soldier Research Service

Researching Officers: Over 400 officer service records are held at the National Archives and I offer a copying service for these documents. If an officer served past 1922, then their service record should be held at the Coldstream Guards’ Archive. However, not all service records for officers will have survived. The regimental history and appropriate war diary (see below) should be consulted as these often contain the names of officers. A newspaper search is usually fruitful for an officer of the Foot Guards especially Tatler and The Sphere for photographs.

Charles Melville Cottrell-Dormer

Charles Melville Cottrell-Dormer, 3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards who died of wounds on 8 February 1915. This photograph appeared in The Sphere which published thousands of photographs of officer casualties during the war. Cottrell-Dormer is wearing a frock coat which is what Prince Harry wore when he married Meghan Markle.

Researching Other Ranks: You should apply for a service record from the Coldstream Guards’ Archive. The application form records that many records were lost during World War 2, so you may not receive a file but I would strongly recommend applying. Check medal records, especially the medal rolls of the soldier so you can download the correct battalion war diaries (see below). Casualty Lists and newspaper searches are a must due to the high casualties the Coldstream Guards suffered during the war. If you’re researching a soldier who served in the 4th Battalion download its war diary as many other ranks are recorded along with their regimental number.Jansz Coldstream Guards WW1

The headstone of 22367 Guardsman Maurice Donald Jansz, Coldstream Guards who was born at Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and died on 5 February 1918. Jansz is buried in the Brigade of Guards plot in Brompton Cemetery, London. Maurice’s unit was recorded as the 5th (Reserve) Battalion by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. There are no medal records for Jansz so he didn’t serve outside of Britain or Ireland during the war and probably died of disease or in an accident.

While you wait for a reply from the Coldstream Guards’ Archive, I’d recommend searching the records on FindmyPast. They have a free trial period and they have an extensive collection, though you will also need to search Ancestry and both have different record sets. Ancestry has the Regiment’s medal records and you need to make sure you get both the Medal Index Card and corresponding Medal Roll entries.

War Diaries of the Coldstream Guards

All the war diaries of the Coldstream Guards have been digitized by the National Archives and can be downloaded for a small fee. To download the war diaries click on the blue links below. Make sure you download the correct battalion war diaries for the soldier you’re researching. This will be recorded in their service record and for other ranks will also be recorded on their Medal Roll if they served overseas.

1st Battalion Coldstream Guards

  • Date: 13 August 1914 -31 July 1915
  • 1st Brigade, 1st Division
  • Reference: WO95/1263/1
  • Notes: Overall a good war diary with a wide variety of appendices though some months have sparse entries.
  • Date: 01 August 1915 – January 1919
  • 2nd Guards Brigade, Guards Division
  • Reference: WO95/1219/2
  • Notes: A good war diary.

2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards

  • Date: August 1914 – July 1915
  • 4th (Guards) Brigade, 2nd Division
  • Reference: WO95/1342/2
  • Notes:
  • Date: 01 August 1915 – 31 January 1919
  • 1st (Guards) Brigade, Guards Division
  • Reference: WO95/1215/2
  • Notes: Overall a good war diary though it’s patchy in parts with a variety of appendices.

3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards

  • Date: 12 August 1914 – 31 July 1915
  • 4th (Guards) Brigade, 2nd Division
  • Reference: WO95/1342/3
  • Notes: A good war diary for 1914 especially if you’re looking for officers with a lot of detailed entries but these become a lot shorter in 1915
  • Date: 01 August 1915 – 31 January 1918
  • 1st (Guards) Brigade, Guards Division
  • Reference: WO95/1215/3
  • Notes: A poor war diary considering the period it covers which lacks detailed entries.
  • Date: 01 February – 31 October 1918
  • 4th (Guards) Brigade, Guards Division
  • Reference: WO95/1226/1
  • Notes: Another poor war diary with short entries.
  • Date: 01 November 1918 – 28 February 1919
  • 1st (Guards) Brigade, Guards Division
  • Reference: WO95/1215/4
  • Notes: Only four pages in length.

4th (Pioneer) Battalion Coldstream Guards

  • Date: 17 July 1915 – 01 March 1919
  • Divisional Troops, Guards Division
  • Reference: WO95/1206/2
  • Notes: A good war diary which is over 400 pages in length with a lot of officers and other ranks (with regimental numbers recorded).

Regimental History of the Coldstream Guards

Coldstream Guards 1914-1918 by Ross of Bladensburg. This two-volume 1000+ pages work covers all the battalions of the Coldstream Guards and has been reprinted by the Naval and Military Press.

Further Sources for the Coldstream Guards

The Imperial War Museum contains a collection of private papers written by officers and men of the Regiment during the war: Imperial War Museum Coldstream Guards Private Papers Collection. The first search is set to private papers only, this search shows the entire Coldstream Guards’ collection: Coldstream Guards Collection.

The two-volume History of the Guards Division in the Great War 1915-1918 by Cuthbert Headlam is useful for putting the activities of the Coldstream Guards in context with their higher formations. The history contains useful maps showing both the Brigades’ and Division’s boundaries for the major attacks along with their objectives or the position reached.