How do I obtain Service records for WW1 personnel?
Surviving Service records from the First World War are kept at the National Archives in Kew.
Unfortunately, more than half of their Service records were destroyed in September 1940, when a German bombing raid struck the War Office repository. However, an estimated 2.8 million Service records survived the bombing or were reconstructed from war pension records. This means that there is a roughly 40% chance of finding the Service record of a soldier who was discharged at some time between 1914 and 1920.
What records are left is now on film, but much is difficult to read, either from water damage or because the documents are mostly handwritten and some are very faint. In addition there are four separate sets of records: those on pension; those not on pension; those noticed as being in the wrong place in both of these; and re-recorded. To search them is very time consuming and more often than not, fruitless. This does not apply to officers as their files seem to have been held elsewhere. Much can be gleaned from the Army Lists which are all at Kew, as are Navy, Air Force and Home Guard Lists for officers.
They do not carry out research for members of the public but you are encouraged to visit and obtain a reader's ticket (proof of identity required). This allows access to the archives. If a visit is not possible, a list of researchers is available on the National Archives website, who will search the archives for a fee.
How do I obtain Service records for WW2 personnel?
Widows, widowers and legal next of kin (if both the ex-Service person and their spouse are deceased) who are enquiring about the Service details of their deceased spouse/relative will be asked to provide proof of death and confirmation that they are next of kin. All others enquirers must be able to provide a letter of consent from either the person the record belongs to or, if that person is deceased, from their next of kin.
To access a record, the Service Records Offices require the following information, or as much as possible: Service number, rank, full name, date of birth and period served (dates from and to). For queries to the Army, it is necessary to state the regiment or corps in addition to the above information.
All enquiries regarding Service records must be made in writing only. Veterans and widows can obtain service records without charge. For other enquiries a fee maybe charged.
For those who served from 1922 to the present
Army Personnel Centre
Historic Disclosures, Mailpoint 555, Kentigern House, 65 Brown Street, Glasgow G2 8EX
Tel: 0845 600 9663 Email: email@example.com
Royal Air Force Records
For all since 1918.
RAF Disclosures Section
Room 221b, Trenchard Hall, RAF Cranwell, Sleaford, Lincs NG34 8HB
Tel: 01400 261201 Ext 6711
PMA (Personnel Management Agency, (SP IN 1b)
Room 5, Building 248a, RAF Innesworth, Gloucester GL3 1EZ
Tel: 0128 322 7913
Polish Records are now at RAF Northolt Tel: 020 8833 8603
Royal Naval / Marines Records
From 1924 onwards, contact:
TNT Archive Services
Tetron Point, William Nadin Way, Swadlingcote, Derbyshire DE11 0BB
Tel: 0128 322 7913
For those serving during and after World War II, contact:
Director Naval Personnel
Mailpoint G2, Room 48, West Battery, Whale Island, Portsmouth PO2 8DX
The Veterans UK website has further information concerning Service records and includes official search forms.