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Leading from the front: researchers reveal the UK's bravest professions, and teachers top the class.

Teachers may spend their days being the butt of classroom jokes, but they have been found to be the bravest on the battlefield.

Window cleaners and cotton workers also ranked highly in a study, carried out by Ancestry.co.uk.

Researchers from the website, an online family history resource, looked through British Army WWI Service Records, which contain a thorough account of each soldier's time 'in the field', to reveal the results.

The Service Records show how ordinary men, with common professions and barely any military training, risked their lives alongside Army veterans on the front lines during the First World War.

The pre-war jobs of the hundreds of servicemen who received the Distinguished Conduct Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Victoria Cross and the Military Cross were then cross-referenced with information from the 1911 Census.

Overall, the majority of medal recipients were miners or labourers. But comparing the distribution of military honours to the number of people employed in each profession showed that teachers were more likely to earn recognition for their bravey.

A picture of Tom Hanks and Matt Damon from the film 'Saving Private Ryan', in which a war hero was a pre-war teacher …


Fishermen and doctors came in at numbers four and five, whilst servants ranked at number six. Barbers and merchants also made the list, followed by policemen and bankers.

Frederick Youens, a second lieutenant in the 13th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry, received his Victoria Cross whilst trying to protect a machine gun team from a bomb attack. Unfortunately, the student teacher was fatally injured, and received his medal posthumously.

Another fearless Victoria Cross recipient was Joseph Watt, who after being shot, rescued a number of his colleagues whose ships had been sunk. Before the war, Watt worked as a fisherman in Aberdeenshire.

Miriam Silverman, Senior Content Manager at Ancestry.co.uk said: ’While teachers, doctors or policemen may have had skills or leadership qualities that could have prepared them better for the frontline, what this data really tells us is that it was the ordinary men with everyday professions that made some of the most extraordinary heroes.’

The full list of Great Britain’s top 10 bravest pre-war professions:

1.      Teacher

2.      Window cleaner

3.      Cotton mill worker

4.      Fisherman

5.      Doctor

6.      Servant

7.      Barber

8.      Merchant

9.      Policeman

10.     Banker

Marine Joe Townsend, 25, who lost both legs after stepping on an IED just five and a half months into his tour of Afghanistan. He now competes in triathalons and has his sights set on the 2016 Rio ... more 
Marine Joe Townsend, 25, who lost both legs after stepping on an IED just five and a half months into his tour of Afghanistan. He now competes in triathalons and has his sights set on the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games. (Bryan Adams Photography/REX) less 
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Rex Features
Tue, Nov 12, 2013 14:00 GMT