This article looks at The Bond of Sacrifice: A Biographical record of British officers who Fell in the Great War which is an important source to consult if you are looking at a British officer who died between August 1914 and June 1915. I have also written other guides to help you research those who served in the British or Indian Armies:
- Guides to Researching Soldiers who Served in the British Army
- Guides to Researching Soldiers who Served in the Indian Army
I offer a First World War Research Service.
The Bond of Sacrifice
The Bond of Sacrifice consists of two volumes which contain portraits and short biographies of British officers who died between August 1914 and June 1915. The books were the brainchild of Colonel Lewis Augustus Clutterbuck who wrote them with the assistance of Colonel William Toke Dooner and Commander The Honourable C. A. Denison (Naval Editor). Rudyard Kipling was responsible for the title. Dooner’s son Captain Alfred Edwin Claud Toek Dooner appears in the first volume, having been killed in action with the 1st Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers on 30 October 1914. In consequence of the overwhelming officer casualties, only two volumes were ever produced. In the preface to the first volume of The Bond of Sacrifice, the authors explain their vision:
The publication will be issued in volumes, each covering a period of, as nearly as possible, six months, and including the names of all Officers who lost their lives within that period from causes directly attributable to active service in the Great War.
When doubt exists regarding the fate of an Officer, his name is not included until authentic confirmation of his death has been received. Special volumes are in course of preparation for the Royal Navy and for the Overseas Forces respectively, which it is intended to publish to publish after the conclusion of the war.
The first volume published covered the period between August and December 1914 and the second between January and June 1915. The majority of entries in the books are for officers who died serving with the British Army but there also British Indian Army officers, officers of the West African Frontier Force and King’s African Rifles in both volumes. In addition, the second volumes also contained officers of the Australian, Canadian, New Zealand and South African armies. The book was compiled from official sources, as well as relatives of the fallen who were asked to communicate to Colonel Clutterbuck.
How to Find The Bond of Sacrifice
The first volume of Bond of Sacrifice has been digitized and is available to download for free by clicking below. I haven’t been able to find Volume 2 online.
FindmyPast the subscription genealogy site has the books with a helpful search function enabling you to quickly find your officer. Clicking on the banner below will take you to the site. They are also available to search on Ancestry.
How to Search The Bond of Sacrifice
The Bond of Sacrifice is easy to search as each volume is alphabetical. Those officers ” with composite surnames will be found under the initial letter of the last name”. For example, Major Chenevix-Trench is found under T not C. At the start of the volumes are lists of officers divided up by regiment/corps which makes it a lot easier if you’re researching a specific unit.
What Information does The Bond of Sacrifice Contain
The information contained in each entry varies considerably but will contain a mixture of the following:
- Biographical information, including relatives in the armed forces
- Often a photograph of the officer
- Units they served with
- Promotion dates
- Former military service
- Honours and awards
- How they were killed
- Sporting prowess and achievements
- If they were a member of a club e.g. Army and Navy
Below are two typical examples which show the variety of information recorded in an entry:
Lieutenant Alec Crichton Maitland-Addison, 1st Battalion. The Cheshire Regiment, born at Brighton in 1886, was the son of Major A. Maitland-Addison, late 71st Highlanders: he was a great grandson of Charles Bisset, 42nd Highlanders (mentioned in “Lives of Eminent Scotchmen”) and closely connected with the family of the poet Joseph Addison.
He was educated privately, and was gazetted to the Cheshire Regiment in September, 1914, as Second Lieutenant. Joining the Royal Flying Corps, he landed in France in August, 1914, and served continuously till the time of his death, having been promoted for distinguished service in the Field. He was wounded at Ypres on the 25th October, 1914, and died at Boulogne on the 27th October, 1914. Lieutenant Maitland-Addison was a fine man – 6 feet 3 inches in height, and broad in proportion – extremely powerful, and without fear.
Lieutenant Villiers Chernocke Downes, 3rd (attd. 1st) Battn, The Bedfordshire Regiment, was the son of the late Lieutenant-Colonel C. Villiers Downes and Mrs. C. Villiers Downes, of Aspley House, Aspley Guise, Bedfordshire, and was born there on the 5th March, 1891. He was educated at Winchester and Trinity College, Oxford. After leaving Oxford Lieutenant Downes was for a time at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, where he studied farming and agriculture. In September, 1911, he was gazetted to the 3rd Battalion of his regiment as 2nd Lieutenant, and became Lieutenant in July, 1913.
Lieutenant Downes joined the 1st Battalion of his regiment from the 3rd Battalion on the 5th August, the day of the public announcement of a state of war between this country and Germany, and proceeded to the front soon after. He was with this battalion in the retirement from Mons. In the fighting near Ypres he succeeded in saving three Maxim guns, was wounded there later on, and died of his wounds in hospital at St. Omer on the 18th October, 1914.
The benefits of using The Bond of Sacrifice are that a lot of important information is found in one place, a photograph is often included and the biographies usually contain information that is difficult and sometimes impossible to find elsewhere. However, care must be taken when using The Bond of Sacrifice as the information isn’t always correct. Try to cross-reference as much as possible with other sources, my articles on The London Gazette and Hart’s Army List will help.
A fairly frequent error which is often encountered in the books concerns the date of an officer’s death. There was a great deal of confusion early in the war and correct information wasn’t always available regarding when an officer died. Check the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and also the unit’s war diary. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission database has a lot of errors itself, so never regard its information as gospel. Above is an error in the date of death for Captain Frederick George Brown, 101st Grenadiers. Brown was actually killed on 4 November 1914 during the disastrous attack on the German port of Tanga.