At the National Archives, Kew, I search military records for the whole country:
Further details below.
WW1 & WW2 sources:
WW1 & WW2 casualties (all ranks, all services):
WW2 army service: I can access some WW2 material, including WW2 war diaries, but WW2 service records remain with the relevant service (see contact details at the foot of this page);
World War 1 army service and pension records can be searched on-line via various pay-per-view/subscription websites (note that only 40% of WW1 soldiers' service records survive). Too many possibilities? To try to establish a soldier's service number, I can search Absent Voters' Lists if you have the family's address or location. If the service record doesn't survive, I can build up a picture of a soldier's army service from other records.
WW1 war diaries: I can search for war diary entries relating to specific events, locations or units.
I can search for records relating to WW1 casualties, WW1 medals and awards, WW1 Officers' service records, other ranks' service and pension records.
I can search local newspapers for items relating to WW1 casualties.
Illustrated London News First World War editions 1914-1918 now on-line.
Find WW1 soldiers' wills: search on-line for the will of a soldier who died in service during WW1 at https://www.gov.uk/probate-search .
All enquiries welcome .
At the National Archives I can also search records relating to:
Army Surgeons, Assistant Surgeons & Medical Officers;
Army & Royal Navy nursing services (QAIMNS, FANYs etc);
Land Girls; Women's Land Army - index to service records (index gives some details, but all service records were destroyed);
Royal Military Asylum, Chelsea
19thC army service: I can search discharge documents, medal rolls, musters rolls and pay lists, description books, attestation ledgers, also marriage rolls, registers of effects, regimental registers of births; army chaplains' returns.
Boer War: I search for Officers' service records, plus additional material to add further detail.
Soldiers' wills: search on-line for the will of a soldier who died in service between 1850-1913.
Local militia: Some muster rolls and militia attestation papers survive; please enquire .
At the British Library I can search additional records relating to the British army in India, including ecclesiastical returns of baptisms, marriages and burials in India; cemeteries and monumental inscriptions in India; wills, administrations and inventories; directories. However, the majority of records relating to British army service in India are at the National Archives, Kew.
Air: Royal Air Force & Royal Flying Corps
(special interest in WW2 RAF)
At the National Archives I can search RAF WW2 squadron diaries, combat records and operation logs and for information regarding WW2 bases and airfields in England and WW2 aircrew - some photos survive.
Feedback reproduced with client's kind permission following a search at TNA to shed light on grandfather's WW2 service, to add meaning and detail to his service record obtained from RAF Disclosures Section:
"My mother loved her gift, she got very emotional and said she would treasure it forever. Thank you again for all your assistance."
JG, Manchester, UK (Nov 2013)
Feedback reproduced with clients' kind permission following a search to trace the family of an air-gunner, one of the crew of a Lancaster of 83 Pathfinder Squadron shot down over the Netherlands during WW2, so that his photo and details could be added to a memorial:
“It is 12 o'clock in the night and I read your email. What do you think what happened to me!!
I was completely out of my mind. That you found relatives of Frank. How wonderful!!
I am hoping that I can sleep receiving this news!
You made us very happy, finding relatives of Frank and that a picture will become available. Near the monument and on the cemetery are information boards and the picture of Frank is the only missing one. With this picture the crew will be complete!
It will be of great interest who will be on the crew picture you wrote about.”
(then after receiving photos: scans and photographs e-mailed from originals supplied by the air-gunner’s family):
“Thank you so much for these pictures, wonderful. We started in 1998 our first search.
In short time we received pictures from 4 of the crew. In 2010 we could contact the pilot’s
family and received pictures and other information.
Tracing the navigator’s family took several years, but we found relatives (a son).
But the mid-upper air gunner, no way! In a local paper an article was placed, many times,
but no reactions. And now you Patricia, you found a relative, WONDERFUL, thank you
so much. I have informed the other committee members. They told me to thank you
so much too. You have done such wonderful work.
Lovely what you did for us.”
(Wilhelm Arents of The Friends of the Lancaster Monument in Anreep, Netherlands, May 2016)
New installation panels were unveiled at the monument by the local mayor in October 2016.
WW2 Prisoners of Wars (POWs); escapees and evaders - escape and evasion reports, liberation questionnaires. Please enquire .
Feedback reproduced with client's kind permission:
“Once again I cannot thank you enough for all you have done. The work you have done was truly amazing and to see all the time you spent trawling through records, translated into the expression on my mother's face when she saw …………………………’s photograph was just wonderful. She recognized him instantly as the evader her family had sheltered and then we phoned his daughter. They had a very nice and sometimes emotional conversation.
What a lovely lady and what an amazing father, who it appears was a serial escapee. I still find it incredible how she described how each time he escaped he went back to fight again. We had a long chat and have agreed that she is going to try to get as many documents and photos together as she can and we will then meet up.
None of this would have been possible without your efforts for which I am immensely grateful.
Thank you again, and if you would like to use this as a reference for further clients I would be delighted.”
RN, Cumbria, UK (Mar 2016)
Royal Navy service 18thC-20thC: At the National Archives I can search ships' pay books, ships' musters, ships' logs, Letters of Marque, registers of seamen's services, allotment registers (which record payments to next of kin), records relating to Royal Naval Chaplains, Royal Naval Surgeons, some medical journals up to 1945 (some including details of WW1 and WW2 ship survivors and casualties). I can search for 20thC ships' photographs pre-WW1 to WW2.
Ships' photographs online (select initial letter of the ship's name, then browse the list by ship name and number).
Merchant Navy service: 19th-20thC merchant seamen and merchant navy apprentices.
I can research the war-time experiences of any merchant seaman who served during WW2. I can search seamen's service records , ships' logs, crew lists and records relating to convoys and ships lost due to enemy action, to build up a detailed picture of a seaman's WW2 experiences. Please enquire .
At the National Archives I search Merchant Navy sources including records relating to WW2 merchant seamen and their experiences, Seamen's Registers (1835-1857 & 1918-1972), Seamen's Tickets, seamen's pouches; merchant navy ships' logs and crew lists and agreements* (up to 1972); records relating to merchant navy apprentices. Also Certificates of Competency and Certificates Service (CS) for Masters, Mates, Engineers, Cooks, also Skippers and Mates of fishing vessels and Pilot records.
At London Metropolitan Archives I can search original volumes of Lloyd's Captains' Registers; only the original volumes have the clarity and coloured ink which enable the entries to be fully deciphered. Guildhall Library holds other Lloyd's Marine Collection items, including Lloyd's List.
(* All surviving WW2 ships' logs and crew lists and agreements are held at the National Archives, Kew. For other periods, some Merchant Navy ships' logs and crew lists and agreements are held at the National Archives (Kew), some are held at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, and others are held at the Maritime History Archive, Canada. Crew lists and agreements held at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, can be viewed by researchers only up to 1954; those held at the National Archives are available up to the late 1960s/early 1970s. If you are trying to trace a ship's log or crew list for a particular year, please enquire . Use the form at the top of the page if you prefer.)
Feedback reproduced with client's kind permission:
“Thanks so much for the detailed report. I can’t believe you accomplished so much in such a small time. I’m amazed and blown away by the results” (of a search for grandfather’s Merchant Navy WW2 service and experiences)
DB, Norfolk, UK (Dec 2018)
See also Ships' photographs online .
During the early 19thC, many seamen moved between merchant and Royal Navy vessels, so may appear in records relating to either.
Research at the Caird Library, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, by arrangement (special visit required). Please enquire . Should you need only a couple of hours' research at the National Maritime Museum, your details can be added to the waiting list for my next visit, in order to split the charge for a special visit between two or more clients. Records of the charity the Marine Society are also held at the Caird Library, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.
For research relating to the East India Company's Mercantile Marine service, please see the British Library page.
WW2 SERVICE RECORDS
WW2 Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force personal service records remain with the relevant service. However, WW2 Army war diaries are available at the National Archives. WW2 Royal Air Force operation logs and combat reports survive for squadrons and training units and are available for consultation at the National Archives. WW2 Merchant Navy records are deposited at the National Archives: I can search seamen's service records and records relating to ships, convoys and ships lost or sunk to build up a detailed picture of a seaman's war-time experiences.
WW2 Army, Royal Navy & Royal Air Force service records are generally released only to the serviceman/woman or, if deceased, to their next-of-kin on production of proof of
death. If you are a relative, but not the next-of-kin, you need to have the written permission of the next-of-kin as well as proof of death of the serviceman/woman in order to apply for the
service record. For further information, contact:
Army Personnel Centre, Historic Disclosures, Mailpoint 555, Kentigern House, 65 Brown Street, Glasgow G2 8EX
(0845 600 9663)
RN Disclosures, Room 48, West Battery, Whale Island, Portsmouth, Hampshire PO2 8DX
(02392 628779 / 02392 628781)
RAF Disclosures Section, Room 221b, Trenchard Hall, RAF Cranwell, Sleaford, Lincolnshire NG34 8HB
PMA 1M 1B RAF, Room 5, Building 248A, RAF Personnel Management Agency, RAF Innsworth, Gloucester GL3 1EZ
ISSUING OF WW2 NATIONAL IDENTITY CARDS
Immediately after the United Kingdom declared war on Germany, the UK government made arrangements for a National Registration Day to be held on the night of 29 September 1939. Information gathered that night enabled each person recorded to be issued with an Identity Card. Millions of identity cards were issued and many still survive within family papers, photos and memorabilia.
The 1939 National Register survives and is now available on-line via subscription or pay-per-view vouchers. Details have been withheld where the age of an individual in the register indicates that they are still under 100 years of age, or where it has been established that such an individual died after 1991. This may be the reason why some family members cannot be found.
The register was taken on 29 September 1939 and the information recorded includes:
Any members of the armed forces previously living at the address who had already been called up will not be recorded. Those awaiting call-up, or in the reserve or auxiliary forces, were recorded if they were still at the address, as were those involved with civil defence, e.g. air-raid wardens and firewatchers.
When an individual had already been called up for military service and is not recorded on the National Register of 1939, it is sometimes possible to find him listed as an absent voter in electoral registers (if they survive for the district). No electoral registers were prepared during WW2, but electoral registers for the years immediately following continue to record voters usually resident at an address who were still away on military service.