Many records are only available online, sometimes on more than one site. We have listed the main sources but there may be others. Some records are free to view but others are available on either a subscription or pay per view basis (£). 

Eligibility for campaign and service medals is based on set criteria, usually being present in a particular theatre of war within given dates or carrying out a set number of operational sorties.

First World War personnel may have qualified for the 1914 Star or 1914/15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal, Territorial Force War Medal and/or if they were discharged due to wounds or sickness, the Silver War Badge. The name, rank and number of the individual will appear on the medal. The Ministry of Defence is not able to issue or replace First World War medals under any circumstances. 

  • RFC officers and airmen who served overseas before 1916 - medals were issued by the War Office. Details are on the First World War Medal Index Cards (WO 372) in The National Archives (£). Also available on Ancestry -the Medal Index Cards (free) and Rolls (£).
  • RNAS personnel awarded campaign and long service and good conduct medals - Naval Medal Rolls (ADM 171) for officers only on Find My Past and for officers and ratings Ancestry (£). Digital microfilm copies of all these rolls can be downloaded from The National Archives for free.
  • RFC personnel who first served overseas in 1916 or later or who joined after the formation of the RAF in April 1918 - there are no records for campaign medals issued by the Air Ministry. The only place you will find details about a medal entitlement will be on a service record.

Second World War RAF personnel may have qualified for the War Medal 1939 to 1945, 1939 to 1945 Star, Air Crew Europe, Africa, Atlantic, Burma, France and Germany, Italy and Pacific Stars and/or the Defence Medal: 1939 to 1945. Second World War medals are not named.

Check the official description of eligibility for each medal. The locations and dates of service recorded on an individual’s service record will indicate if they are entitled to a particular medal. 

The Ministry of Defence Medal Office can confirm if an individual is eligible to receive Second World War or post 1945 medals and issue those previously unclaimed to veterans or their next of kin.

Gallantry medals are awarded for an especially heroic deed or action. Announcements are listed in the official journal The London Gazette

For some but not all awards, there may also be a separate citation, which describes the action for which the award was made. Operational records or a published squadron/unit history might provide some details, although the individual may not be named. 

A few RAF recommendations for honours and awards between 1935 and 1990 are in WO373 - The National Archives

IWM has some published listings of medal awards for decorations such as the Victoria Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross and Distinguished Flying Medal. Search our online catalogue.

Other things to look for:

Download our guide to tracing your Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force ancestry