Genealogy: Military research

Presentation: 27 March 2012

Obtaining service records
Records for personnel who have served in the forces from 1921 to the present day are held by the Ministry of Defence. Copies are available free of charge to the person who served or their surviving spouse. If the person has died an application can be made by the next of kin for which a charge of £30 is made. Application form and details of how to apply - see Veterans UK website.

There are some records available online for military service prior to 1921. The following list gives a brief description of the type of record available for downloading from The National Archives and the 4 main genealogy subscription sites, namely Ancestry, Findmypast, The Genealogist and Family Relatives.

The National Archives

  • WW1 Campaign Medals
  • WW2 Seamen's Medals
  • Registers of Seamen's Services
  • Royal Marines Register of Service
  • WW1 Merchant Seamen Medal Cards
  • RN Officer's Service Records
  • Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve: Records of Service, WW1
  • Royal Naval Reserve Records of Service
  • Naval Officers' Service Record Cards and Files
  • Combat Reports, Second World War / War Diaries
  • RAF officers' service records 1918 - 1919
  • WW1 Airwomen's Records
  • Women's Army Auxiliary Corps
  • WW1 Women's Royal Naval Service
  • Nursing Service Records, First World War


  • WW1 Pension and Service records
  • British Army Prisoners of War, 1939-1945
  • UK, Casualties of the Boer War, 1899-1902
  • Army Roll of Honour 1939-1945.
  • Royal Naval Division Casualties of The Great War, 1914-1924
  • About Commissioned Sea Officers of the Royal Navy, 1660-1815
  • British Army WW1 Medal Rolls
  • Waterloo Medal Roll, 1815
  • Military Campaign Medal and Award Rolls, 1793-1949
  • Naval Medal and Award Rolls, 1793-1972


  • Armed forces BMDs
  • Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902
  • Army Deserters 1828-1840
  • British Army Service Records 1760-1915
  • Distinguished Conduct Medal Citations 1914-1920
  • Military Nurses 1856-1940
  • Napoleonic War Records 1775-1817
  • Royal Artillery Honours & Awards 1939-1946
  • Royal Artillery Military Medals 1916-1993
  • Royal Marine Medal Roll 1914-1920
  • Royal Naval Officers Medal Roll 1914-1920
  • Waterloo Medal Roll 1815
  • WWII Escapers & Evaders
  • WWII Prisoners of War

The Genealogist

  • Army Lists 1661-1940 (68 in total)
  • Navy List 1689-1944 (24 in total)
  • Armed forces BMDs
  • Registers Abroad and on British & Foreign Ships, 1831-1969
  • Regimental records

Family Relatives

  • Armed Forces BMDs
  • Commissioned Sea Officers of the Royal Navy 1660-1815
  • Waterloo Roll Call
  • British Naval Biographical Dictionary, 1849
  • Royal Air Force List – 1920-1929 (3)
  • Indian Army List 1939
  • Peninsula Medal Roll 1793-1814
  • Army Lists 1798 – 1888 (19)

A very comprehensive guide to Military Research can be found in the reference library of the Family Tree Forum website - click here. Available guides include: Military Research, Maritime History, The British Army, The Royal Navy, The Royal Air Force, WW1 and WW2. Each section provides a list of links to external websites which may be of help in your research.

A list of some of the websites we looked at:

Timeline of Wars goldstar-2.jpg

British Battles
Details of major British battles up to the end of the 20th century.

History of War
Military history encyclopaedia

Commonwealth War Graves Commission goldstar-2.jpg
Records of all Commonwealth war dead from WW1 and WW2.

The War Graves Photographic Project goldstar-2.jpg
The original aim of The War Graves Photographic Project was to photograph every war grave, individual memorial, Ministry of Defence grave, and family memorial of serving military personnel from WWI to the present day. However, due to its popularity the remit has been extended to cover all nationalities and military conflicts and make these available within a searchable database. Now working as a joint venture with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and assisting the Office of Australian War Graves, Canadian Veterans Affairs and the New Zealand Ministry of Heritage and Culture this will enable families and researchers to obtain, via the CWGC or TWGPP websites, a copy of the photograph of a grave or memorial which for many is impossible to visit due to the location.

Scottish War Graves project
This forms part of the Scottish Military Research website.

National Army Museum
Contains a growing number of short Regimental Histories and guides relating to military research.

The Ogilby Trust
Information relating to Corps and Regimental Museums in the UK, including website and contact details.

The London Gazette
Government publication – includes appointments and promotions of army officers and medal awards.

Long, Long Trail goldstar-2.jpg
WW1 research – also the Great War Forum

Royal Navy Battleships & Cruisers goldstar-2.jpg
History of the Royal Navy 1860 - present day

Napoleonic Wars

Boer War

Crimea War

The Western Front Association

Gallipoli Campaign

Battlefields of the Second World War

Home Guard

Great War Forum goldstar-2.jpg

Victorian War Forum goldstar-2.jpg

Research forum for Special Air Service 1941-1945

Military forum

Anglo Boer War forum

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