• Military Research

    This page will give you guidance as to where you can look for the service records of your ancestors.

    While military records are increasingly being made available online and some have been filmed by the LDS, the major repository for the majority of records remains the National Archives.

    Their research guides provide an overview of the availability of records for all services. Books, websites and museums can provide more detail. The following describes the main sources for research but is not exhaustive.







    British Army Research

    DocumentsOnline ~ Army

    Research Guide ~ Army

    FTF Guide: The British Army



    Before 1914

    Surviving discharge papers for other ranks are held at National Archives (ref WO97) and those discharged to pension up to 1854 are name indexed on the National Archives online catalogue. There is a 3-year project of digitisation for these records.

    For discharge papers from 1855-1882 it is essential to have some details on a man’s regiment which might be found on the census or on certificates.

    Other records available at the National Archives include Muster Rolls, Medal Records and Pension records.

    For officers of this period, records can be found at the National Archives in references WO 25 and WO76. An outline of an officer’s career can be obtained from the Army List.

    Source: Wikimedia Commons
    Muster rolls and service records for the Militia and Volunteers may be found at the National Archives and Local Record Offices.

    For all periods of Army service, other useful sources include the London Gazette which is searchable online, for announcements of promotions and awards of certain medals and Regimental Museums, for an overview of the campaigns the regiment was involved in, but not usually for personal records.

    The Findmypast website has indexes to Regimental births, marriages and deaths, although these are incomplete.

    1914-1918

    Service records for other ranks (non officers) are gradually being made available on the Ancestry website although a significant number were destroyed.

    Medal cards are available on both the DocumentsOnline and Ancestry websites.

    Medal Rolls, only available at the National Archives should provide a man’s battalion.

    Service records for Officers are available at the National Archives and are name searchable on their online catalogue (Refs WO339 and WO374). Again, not all survive. The Army List will provide an outline of an Officer’s career.

    War Diaries for this period are available at the National Archives (£).
    They are also available on Ancestry (£)




    Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) service records can be seen at DocumentsOnline.

    1921 to present

    For service records see Veterans-UK for procedure and cost.

    War Diaries for World War 2 are available at the National Archives.

    Recommendations for Honours and Awards for 1935-1990 are available on the DocumentsOnline website.

    The Ancestry website has the Army Roll of Honour 1939-1945.

    Prisoner of War records for WW1 and 2 are available at the National Archives, with incomplete lists being held by the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva. Some P.O.W. records are held on the Ancestry website.

    Deaths during both World Wars for all services can be found on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website and, for the Army, in Soldiers Died in the Great War, available on CD ROM, at some libraries and on the Findmypast and Ancestry websites.

    Both the Ancestry and Findmypast websites have the National Roll of the Great War.

    The Long Long Trail website is an excellent resource for WW1.


    Royal Navy Research

    DocumentsOnline ~ Royal Navy

    Research Guide ~ Royal Navy

    FTF Guide: The Royal Navy


    Before 1928

    Service records are held at the National Archives and are increasingly being made available online. Registers of seamen’s services for ratings joining between 1873 and 1923 are available on the DocumentsOnline website. Some Continuous Service Engagement books for those ratings enlisting between 1853 and 1872 are also available on this site, along with Royal Naval Officers’ Service records 1756-1917 and Wills of Royal Naval Seamen 1786-1882.

    The Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS) records are held at the National Archives and service records for World War 1 are available at the DocumentsOnline website.

    Royal Naval Reserve (RNR) records are held at the National Archives. Service records for officers are available from 1862-1920 and for ratings, for 1860-1913 and for the First World War.

    Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) and Royal Naval Division (RND) records are also at the National Archives. World War One service records for the RND are available on the DocumentsOnline website and Ancestry and Findmypast have Casualties of the Great War. Some RND records are held at the Fleet Air Arm Museum.

    The National Archives holds an immense amount of material on the Royal Navy, but it can be difficult to search. Useful records for all periods include Musters in various ADM series, Certificates of Service in ADM 29, Medal records in ADM 171, Ships Logs in ADM 53 and pension records in various series of the ADM reference. For officers, the Navy List can provide an outline of a man’s career and the London Gazette details of medals and promotions.

    Other useful repositories for Royal Navy research are Lloyds of London records, held at the Guildhall Library, including Lloyds Register which gives detailed information on each ship, Lloyds List, recording ships’ arrivals and departures and ships’ losses and enquiries, and Lloyds Captains Registers, listing the holders of masters certificates, along with personal and service details.

    The Royal Naval Museum holds a wide variety of relevant material, as does the National Maritime Museum.

    1928-1971

    For service records (with limited information), see Veterans-UK for procedure and cost.

    Royal Marines



    Royal Marines service records for those enlisting 1842-1936 are available on the DocumentsOnline website.


    Merchant Navy Research

    Research Guide ~ Merchant Navy

    FTF Guide: Maritime History


    Records for Merchant Seamen for 1835-1972 are available at the National Archives, and there is a 3-year project to digitise the earlier records. Crew lists, musters and Ships Logs are also held at the National Archives.

    Medals to Merchant Seamen in WW2 and Merchant Shipping Movement Cards for WW2 are on the DocumentsOnline website.

    Other records may be found at the Guildhall Library, the National Maritime Museum, Southampton Archives, some local Record Offices and the Maritime History Archive in Newfoundland.

    Medal records for World War 2 are available at the DocumentsOnline site.


    Royal Air Force Research

    DocumentsOnline ~ Royal Air Force

    Research Guide ~ Royal Air Force

    FTF Guide: The Royal Air Force


    The RAF was formed in 1918 by the amalgamation of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS).

    Service records for RFC and RNAS officers are at the National Archives and service records for officers who ended their service before 1920 are in AIR 76. The RAF List will provide an outline of an officer’s career.

    Service records for airmen are gradually being made available online at the Ancestry website.
    Medal records are online at both the Ancestry and DocumentsOnline websites, and Operational Records are held at National Archives.

    Post WW1 (see the National Archives Research Guide for exact details).

    For service records see Veterans-UK for procedure and cost.

    Operational records Books are available at the National Archives.

    World War 2 Combat Reports 1939-1945 are available on the DocumentsOnline website.

    Royal Aero Club Aviators Certificates for 1910-1950 are available on the Ancestry website and Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF) service records can be found on the DocumentsOnline website.


    Indian Army



    Records are held at the British Library and the Families In British India Society website holds some relevant data.
    annswabey October 2009



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