Researching military service records

Please note that the Ministry of Defence does not normally release information from a service record to persons other than the individual concerned or their next of kin until 25 years after the date of death. There is a search fee for third party genealogical enquiries which currently stands at £30.

Army service records

The sources for these records depend on when the individual served.

  • For serving officers and soldiers and those whose regular or reserve service ended after 1997: Army Personnel Centre, MS Support Division, Parliamentary & Disclosure Branch, Disclosure 1, Mailpoint 520, Kentigern House, 65 Brown Street, Glasgow, G2 8EX. Tel: 0845 600 9663
  • For officers and soldiers whose regular or reserve service ended between 1921 and 1997: Army Personnel Centre Secretariat, Disclosure 2, Mail Point 555, Kentigern House, 65 Brown Street, Glasgow G2 8EX. Tel: 0845 600 9663
  • Ex-soldiers wishing to access their personal records should write to: Army Personnel Centre, Disclosure 2, Mail Point 515, Kentigern House, 65 Brown Street, Glasgow G2 8EX

Officers and soldiers pre 1921

As a result of bomb damage in 1940 only about 25% to 30% of soldiers' records from the period 1914-1920 have survived. The surviving records can be found at The National Archives in WO363 (The Burnt Documents) which are supplemented by WO364. These can now be consulted on, which is available free of charge to members in Surrey Libraries and at Surrey History Centre. The main series of soldiers discharge papers 1760-1913 are in WO96 for the militia and volunteers and WO97 for the regular army. Officers' service records can be found in WO25 and WO76 with the bare bones being found in the Army Lists. For the First World War, officers' papers are in either WO339 or WO374, with an index held in WO338.

If you are trying to trace a former comrade, placing an advertisement in one of the following may be useful:

You could also try contacting the Regimental Association, or request the branch which deals with army service records to forward a letter to the last known address.

Royal Navy service records

Prior to 1972 all RN personnel were given their service record when they were discharged. For pension purposes the RN retained pay details. Therefore the only information held on RN personnel who served prior to 1972 are their service details (number, rank, name) and a list of dates and ships and shore bases.

Commissioned officers and Non-Commissioned ranks who entered or enlisted into the service during or before 1924:

Commissioned Officers and Non-Commissioned ranks service records from the introduction of Continuous Service (CS) in 1853 until 1872 are in ADM139 and continued from 1873 to 1923 in ADM188. These records are held by The National Archives in Kew.

See The National Archives online records for Roval Navy service records which can now be searched online.

Commissioned officers and Non-commissioned ranks who enlisted as Regular Service entrants or National Servicemen after 1924:

Royal Navy & Royal Marines, Royal Naval Disclosure Cell MP 1.3, Leach Building, Whale Island, Portsmouth PO2 8DY. Tel: 02392 628667 or 628670.

Records of commissioned officers and non-commissioned ranks who entered the service before 1930, approximately, are held at The National Archives.

The records of commissioned officers and non-commissioned ranks who entered the service during or after 1930, approximately, are held by the MOD.

Royal Marines service records

Royal Marine enquiries should be sent to the same address as for the Royal Navy (see above). This also applies to commissioned officers who are currently serving, or are retired, and service records from 1939 onwards.

The MOD will normally only release the information given in service records of the Royal Navy and the Marines to the subjects of those records, or to their next of kin; and it may charge a search fee, which cannot be refunded.

Royal Air Force service records

Royal Air Force personnel records are held at RAF Cranwell. If service number and details are known, please quote it in correspondence.

Cranwell will only divulge information to the person to whom it refers or, if he or she has died, to his or her immediate next of kin. Anyone else must obtain written permission from the person about whom they are enquiring, or from his or her next of kin, before any information will be given to them. There is a charge made for any information they provide. The only people exempt from charges are the person to whom the records refer or their widow or widower.

You should write to: RAF Disclosures, Room 221b, Trenchard Hall, RAF Cranwell, Sleaford, Lincs NG34 8HB

Records for the precursors of the RAF (the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) are held at The National Archives, as are RAF records for service during the First World War. These cover service records of RAF officers that served prior to 1922 (AIR76) and airmen that served prior to 1924 (AIR79).

Records of RFC officers, 1914-March 1918, were forwarded to the RAF and are in AIR76. If the airman died or was discharged from the RFC before April 1918, look in WO363 or WO364. Records of the first 329,000 men who served in the RFC before 1 April 1918, and in the RAF (formerly RFC and RNAS) from 1 April 1918 are in AIR79. Records of those men within the service number range 1-329000 who went on to see service in the Second World War and records of men whose service number was 329001 or higher, are still maintained by the RAF.

Records of RNAS officers, 1914-March 1918, are in ADM273, after March 1918, look in AIR76. For airman who served in the RNAS before April 1918, his record of service up to 31 March 1918 will be found in ADM188. If he served after April 1918, his record was kept from then on by the RAF.

See The National Archives online records for Royal Air Force service records which can now be searched online.

Information about casualties is deemed to be personal and only enquiries in writing from or on behalf of next of kin can normally be considered. Casualty enquiries are dealt with by:

  • Service Personnel & Veterans Agency (SPVA), Joint Casualty & Compassionate Centre, Building 182, RAF Innsworth, Gloucester GL3 1HW
  • Air Historical Branch (RAF), Building 266, RAF Bentley Priory, Stanmore, Middlesex HA7 3HH

Air Historical Branch (RAF) also maintain historical records relating to individual aircraft.

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