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 (£).
The National Archives (TNA) holds the service records for men who served up to 1922. Their service, rank and dates determine which set of records you need.
- RFC airmen who died or were discharged before 1 April 1918 - British Army service records (see our Tracing Army Family History guide) Lives Of The First World War, Find My Past, Ancestry (WO363)/Ancestry (WO364)(£)
- RNAS ratings including those who served in the Royal Navy before July 1914 - Register of Seamen's Services (ADM 188) on The National Archives, Lives Of The First World War, Find My Past, Ancestry (£)
- RAF airmen (service numbers 1 to 562875) including RFC airmen and RNAS ratings who transferred to the RAF on 1 April 1918 - RAF airmens' service records (AIR 79) on Lives Of The First World War and Find My Past (£)
- All non-officer members of the RAF on 1 April 1918 - listed in the Royal Air Force Muster Roll in numerical order - on RAF Museum (free) and on Lives Of The First World War and Find My Past (£)
- RFC officers who served between 1914 and March 1918 - RAF officers service records (AIR 76) on The National Archives, Lives Of The First World War and Find My Past (£)
- RNAS officers who served before 1918 - RNAS officers’ service records (ADM 273) on The National Archives (£)
- RAF Officers, including those who transferred from the RFC and RNAS on 1 April 1918 and served up to 1922 (most had been discharged by 1919) - RAF officers service records (AIR 76) on The National Archives, Lives Of The First World War and Find My Past (£)
- Men from the USA and Dominions who served with the British Air Forces are included in the Roll in AIR 2/219 - at The National Archives. Some nominal rolls for individual units are in AIR1 - at TNA
RAF personnel who served after 1922 and those who served during the Second World War – service records are held by the RAF 3rd Party Disclosure Team. Full records will be released to proven next of kin. Only very basic information about deceased service personnel will be released to other enquirers, with slightly more detail made available 25 years after the date of death. The fee is currently £30 and there may be a lengthy wait for this service. Download the application forms
Officers’ commissions and promotions are listed in the regular official publications. IWM holds an extensive set of these publications. The Gazette also lists commissions and promotions up to the present day.
- RFC officers - the Army List
- RNAS officers - the Navy List - Ancestry
- RAF officers (from 1918) - the Air Force List
Individuals who qualified as a pilot 1910-1950 - Aviators’ Certificates, some with photo, issued by the Royal Aero Club on Ancestry (£)
Courts martial records from 1918–1986 (AIR 21) are held at The National Archives.
Other things to look for:
Download our guide to tracing your Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force ancestry.