Peter Barton was commissioned to carry out research into the identities of World War I casualties discovered in a mass grave at Fromelles in France.
He was given access to the basement of the Red Cross headquarters in Geneva.
There, he was allowed to examine records that have lain virtually untouched since 1918.
He estimates that there could be 20 million sets of details, carefully entered on card indexes, or written into ledgers.
It is hoped that the records kept in Geneva will be online by 2014.
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