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.
Check which First World War campaign medals an individual may have qualified for: the 1914 Star or 1914/15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal or Territorial Force War Medal.
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.
- Officers and other ranks who served overseas 1914-1918: More than 4 million index cards, created in various formats by the Army records office in the 1920’s to record medal entitlement, provide the most complete listing of those who served with the British army during the First World War. However, those who served on the Home Front or officers who did not apply for their medals are not included. In addition to name, rank, unit, medals and service number (other ranks), some cards show the first date of entry to a Theatre of War (if pre-1916), or casualty information. Medal Index Cards (WO372) on The National Archivesand Lives of the First World War (£) and both the front and reverse of the cards on Ancestry(free)
- The cards are an index to almost 3,000 ledgers organised by regiment with a separate series for each medal. Occasionally they contain further information such as the dates of service with a unit - The Medal Rolls on Ancestry and Naval & Military Press (£).
Personnel who served in the British Army prior to or after the First World War or immediately after the Second World War may have been awarded other campaign medals. Digital microfilm copies of Campaign Medals Award Rolls 1793-1949 (WO 100) can be downloaded from The National Archives for free and searched on Ancestry (£)
Second World War personnel may have qualified for the War Medal 1939 to 1945, 1939 to 1945 Star, 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.
Warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and other ranks awarded Long Service and Good Conduct Medals up to 1975 (not related to active service) – Long Service and Good Conduct Registers (WO 102). Digital microfilm copies of these rolls up to 1953 can be downloaded from The National Archives.
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. There are no citations for awards of the Military Medal or Mentions in Despatches. Operational records or a published regimental/unit history might provide some details, although the individual may not be named. Newspapers may also include an account of the action although for security reasons key details such as locations and unit names are usually removed.
- Recommendations for some honours and awards between 1935 and 1990 (WO 373) – Digital microfilm copies of all these rolls can be downloaded from The National Archives
- Officers and other ranks who served with the Royal Artillery 1886-2013 - Honours & Awards on Find My Past (£)
- Distinguished Conduct Medal citations on Lives of the First World War, Find My Past, Ancestry, Naval & Military Press (£)
- Victoria Cross citations on Lives of the First World War, Find My Past, Ancestry and Naval & Military Press (£)
- Michael Maton’s series of ‘Honour’ books (Token Publishing) - listing military recipients, including those of Mentions in Despatches in the First and Second World Wars and foreign awards from 1914-1968 at IWM
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Other things to look for:
- Army service records
- Casualty Records
- Unit and operational histories
- Other Sources
- Contact addresses
Download a copy of our guide to tracing your British Army ancestry