England Army Personnel Records (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course English: Occupation Records-Professions and Trades and English: Occupations-Military & Services  by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Records of all Personnel

Civil Registration Overseas Indexes

In addition to the regular birth, marriage and death registrations kept by the Registrar General there is a series of Overseas Indexes, some dating back into the 18th century. The early ones are incomplete, and some registers are still held by individual regiments, not by the General Register Office. Note that many of the army returns are for events that took place in Britain for service personnel. The charts below indicate what indexes are available and what they contain.

CHART: Overseas Military Birth Indexes

Type Dates FHL Fiche #
[Army Chaplains' Returns 1796-1880 (3)
Armey [Navy, AirForce] Returns 1881-1965 (63)
Ionian Islands-Military-Chaplains 1818-1864 (3)
Regimental Births Supplement 1761-1924
Service Departments Registers
[Army, Navy, Air Force]
1956-1965 --

An example of a listing of overseas military births:

CHART: Regimental Births 1761-1924

Year Name Place Regt Vol Page
Caroline E.
Bellary [India] 41st 1333 15
John G.
Quebec [Canada] -- 148 139
Charles E.
Exeter [England] R.A. 381 59
George H.
Sialkot [India] R.A. 441 2

CHART: Overseas Military Marriage Indexes

Type Dates FHL Fiche #
[Army] Chaplains' Returns 1796-1880 (2)
Army [Navy, Air Force] Returns 1881-1955 (39)
Army Marriages within British Lines 1914-1925 (1)
Ionian Islands-Military-Chaplains 1818-1864 (1)
Regimental Marriages
Indexes are at ONS but not for
personal searching*
1956-1924 --
Service Departments Registers
[Army, Navy, Air Force]
1956-1965 (10)

'*Apply to Overseas Section at Southport address.

An example of a listing of overseas military marriages:

CHART: Army Marriages 1881-1955

Year Dates Place Page
1883 Charles DARTNELL Bangalore [India] 323
1889 Georgian Jane
[South Africa]
1910 Henry S. DURTNALL Jersey [Channel Islands]

CHART: Overseas Military Death Indexes

Type Dates FHL Fishe #
[Army]Chaplains Returns 1796-1880 (1)
Army [Navy, Air Force] Returns 1881-1956 (21)
Army War Deaths-Officers 1914-1921 (12)
Army War Deaths-Officers 1939-1948 (3)
Army War Deaths-Other Ranks 1914-1921 (110)
Army War Deaths-Other Ranks 1939-1948 (29)
Indian Services War Deaths 1914-1921 --
Indian Services War Deaths 1939-1948 (2)
Ionian Islands-Military-Chaplains 1818-1864 (1)
Natal and South African Forces War
Deaths [Boer War]
1899-1902 (7)
Naval War Deaths 1914-1921 (12)
Naval War deaths-Officers 1939-1948 (7)
Naval War Deaths-Ratings 1939-1948 (14)
RAF War Deaths-All Ranks 1939-1948 (10)

An example of a listing of overseas military deaths:

CHART: War Deaths other Ranks 1914-1921

Name Rank* # Unit* Year Vol Page
Henry T.
A/Sgt 38630 RAMC 1918 H.6 184
l/cPL 31331 n.hANTS 1918 i.64 297
Pte S/228 RWSR 1916 I.67 4
*Rank -A/Sgt = Acting Sergeant L/Cpl =Lance Corporal Pte = Private
Unite-RAMC = Royal Army Medical Corps
N. Hants = North Hampshire Regement
RWSR = Royal West Surrey Regiment

The List of Regiments, Corps and Departments from which records of marriages, births and baptisms and deaths have been extracted can be found on FHL microfiche 6137491 (2). TNA leaflets D61 and M13 are useful for deaths.

Station Returns (a.k.a. ‘Monthly Returns’) WO 17 This contains a list of which regiments were stationed where each month. If you know a man served at a certain place you can find which regiments were there then. This information is now summarized in Forlorn Hope (Kitzmiller). To narrow down further, if you also know his nationality/county of birth you can check which of these regiments recruited from that area in Part 5 of Forlorn Hope.

Medals and Awards

Gallantry and distinguished service were recognized, as was service in specific campaigns and battles, by a large variety of medals and awards starting about 1815 for the Battle of Waterloo. These are the subject of specialized books such as Joslin, Litherland and Simpkin’s British Battles and Medals and an article by Dymond called Which Medals Did He Win? in Family Tree Magazine Vol 12 #5, page 8-10. Also see TNA leaflets M77 and M78.

Medal rolls (lists of all those who took part in campaigns) pre-WWI are in class WO 100 and 102. Campaign medal rolls for WWI are in class WO 329, with an index in WO 372 but they give little personal information except rank and regimental number. Records of awards can be found in various WO classes and lists can be found in Fowler and Spencer’s Army Records for Family Historians (pre-WWI), and Fowler, Spencer and Tamblin’s Army Service Records of the First World War. Also see TNA leaflet M 76.

There were three principal awards for WWI, but only for those who served in a theatre of war:

  • 1914 (or 1914-1915) Star
  • British War Medal
  • Victory Medal

Those who served at home in WWI received decorative certificates such as the one described and illustrated by Harris

For WWII those who served at home bases as well as those fighting overseas received the Second World War Defence Medal. Awards for WWII are in class WO 373. For records of other campaign medal rolls since 1918 contact The Army Medal Office; next of kin can claim unissued medals from the same office.

Casualty Returns WO 25, 32, 108, and 334
These regimentally arranged army records include not only wounding but also other reasons for absence from a regiment, including desertion, discharge and authorized absences. Details of the officer or ordinary soldier, what the casualty was, and next of kin are noted, and occasionally there appears a will or list of possessions. Casualty returns are a good place to look if you know the regiment but cannot find a discharge document. They can be found in WO 25 (for example FHL film 1483394 for New South Wales), WO 32, WO 108, and WO 334 including many indexes, and cover the period 1809 to 1910. There are also records of payments made to next of kin and these are arranged alphabetically so the name of the regiment is not needed.

War Dead WO 25 and WO 32
Special rolls of those who died in conflicts were kept by each regiment, and these can be found in WO 25 and WO 32 for all the major campaigns of the Victorian era (1837-1901). In addition civil registration recorded deaths of military personnel thus from 1837 these soldiers are relatively easy to trace by means of death certificates. See also TNA leaflet M13. It should be noted that from 1881 returns relating to Scottish and Irish persons in the army were returned to their own General Register Offices, not that for England and Wales as they were before this date.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission maintains the worldwide graves of men who died in action in British and Commonwealth forces (Francis 2001-1, 2002-1). They have a wonderful website containing the Debt of Honour Registers that records the war dead and missing from the two World Wars. They also initiated a Civilian Roll of Honour for non-military personnel killed during wartime, and this is kept at Westminster Abbey (Francis 2001-2, 2002-2.)

Soldiers Died in the Great War andOfficers Died in the Great War produced as a series of books by the Imperial War Museum are now available on CD-ROM and list place of birth and enlistment, whether died in action or of wounds (if known), and where, date of death and any medals received for gallantry. The officers’ list is less detailed and probably superceded by Jarvis and Jarvis’ Officers Who Died in the Service of British, Indian and East African Regiments and Corps 1914-1919.

The National Roll of the Great War is a less well known series of 14 volumes and gives more details, particularly the regiment and sometimes the battalion, not always given in Soldiers Died. Civilians, including many women, are also listed asspecial war workers whatever their occupations. The FamilySearch Catalog only has volume 11 for Manchester on FHL film 0924147 item 1, but the Society of Genealogists has eight of the 14 volumes, some of which have more than one part. A descriptive article was provided by Pigott (The National Roll of the Great War 1914-1918. Family Tree Magazine Vol 16 #11, page 4-6).

The National Army Museum has 16 tons of records of monies owed by the Army to soldiers who died between 1901 and 1960. It is called Deceased Soldiers’ Effects and covers soldiers who died 1901-21 and officers 1901-1929, including names of those who received monies (Foster). The TNA holds an earlier series of Deceased Soldiers’ Effects covering 1862-1881 in WO 25/3475-3501.

There are approximately 54,000 War Memorials on village greens, in grand town centres, local churches, businesses, schools and many other places. Local and family history societies can help you find them and their inscriptions. There is also a UK National Inventory of War Memorials which details the monuments and their locations but not the names thereon (Hewitt.)

Courts Martial WO 71, 86, 89, 90, 92 and 93 Officers could only be tried by general courts martial but ordinary soldiers could be tried in any of the three types:

  • General regimental (pre-1829) in WO 89
  • District (post 1829) in WO 86
  • General in WO 93

Only records of officers’ trials 1688-1850 survive in WO 71, since those for 1850-1914 were destroyed by bombing during WWII. For those records less than 75 years old only summaries are open for view. As an example there are three films FHL film 1483402-4 covering the years 1796-1900 for WO 86, 89, 90 (those confirmed abroad), and 92 (South Africa). See also TNA leaflets M22 and M75, as well as M16 for WWI conscientious objectors, and M27 for WWII war crimes.

War Diaries and Trench Maps WO 95 Official regimental war diaries, also known as Intelligence Summaries, were kept by battalions as well as by larger and more specialized units to record their daily activities. They often include trench maps, especially for WWI, and can be of intense interest to the family historian. They have mostly survived, and may be found listed by battalion or unit mainly in WO 95, and also in appropriate county and local record offices. The Imperial War Museum Trench Map CD-ROM was reviewed by Hook (The Imperial War Museum Trench Map Archive. [Review of CD-ROM]. Family Tree Magazine. Vol 17 #11, page 39-40). See also TNA leaflet M11.


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online courses English: Occupation Records-Professions and Trades and English: Occupations-Military and Services offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at wiki@genealogicalstudies.com

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.