Military Records in the National Archives

Most Military Records are available at the National Archives. This section of my site has details about some of those.

Army Military Records

If you find your ancestor was a member of the Armed Forces, the Army List will be of use. This can help you to obtain the broad outline of an Army Officer’s career.

The National Archives holds Manuscript Army Lists from 1702 to 1752.  They also hold the Official Army List first published in 1740.  They were then published annually from 1754 to 1879 and quarterly from 1879 to 1922.  These Lists can confirm the officer's service, his army regiment and any previous regiments he may have served in. 

Should you have a relative who was a member of the armed forces, but who was not an officer, it is prudent to consult his discharge papers and/or pension record. The Public Record Office has discharge papers from 1760 to 1913 and pensions from 1702 to 1913. The papers are arranged alphabetically from 1883.

It is more difficult to trace personnel in discharge papers before this date as the names were then arranged by regiment so you are required to know the regiment they served in.

The papers can give a lot of detail listing soldiers' place of birth, age on enlistment, their next of kin and details of their appearance. A service schedule before 1883 is usually only for a man who received a pension on discharge.

Muster Rolls and Regimental Pay Lists can also be a good source of information as they list those present at regimental musters. They also list their careers, any absences, enlistment and/or departure dates.

The date and place of the muster is also recorded so you can trace an army career in more detail. You can view the period between 1730 and 1898 at the National Archives.

Harold Bevis Watts and Mabel Florence Dunkley

My grandaunt Mabel Florence Watts (nee Dunkley) and her husband Harold Bevis Watts on 21 November 1916. Harold was unfortunately killed in action on 1 May 1917 and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial.

Should you have an ancestor who was killed in the First or Second World War, you can search for the person using the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's Casualty Database.

If there is a possibility your ancestor was awarded a medal, you might find the research guide Medals, British armed services: campaign medals and other service medals helpful.

Please also view my guide to campaign medals that may have been awarded to your ancestor.  I have also prepared lists of World War One and World War Two Medals.

Many First World War Service Papers were unfortunately destroyed in 1940.

RAF Military Records

To begin the search for an airman/woman in an RAF service record, you need to know his/her year of entry and/or discharge. The National Archives has details of airmen or airwomen’s service in AIR 78 and AIR 79

If the airman/woman you are looking for was discharged after 1922 his/her service schedule will still be with the RAF. Veterans UK may be able to help you in your quest to obtain his/her service schedule.

If you want to find out more about a RAF airman’s/woman’s career after 1913 then the in-depth research guide, RAF, RFC and RNAS personnel after 1913 might be useful.

It is prudent to visit the RAF's Website as this site has information about the histories of specific squadrons.

Military Records - Merchant Navy Record

If you have a relative who served in the Merchant Navy, you may find the following research guides helpful:

Royal Navy Military Records

If a relative served in the Royal Navy as an officer or a rating, you may find the in-depth research guides entitled Royal Navy commissioned and warrant officers: further research and Royal Navy: ratings helpful.