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 individuals’ rank, regiment and dates of service determine which set of records you need. If an individual was commissioned from the ranks, moved from the Household Cavalry or Guards to another regiment or served more than once, you may find service records in more than one set of files.
- Other ranks who were killed in action, died or left the British army before 1920 (including the British West Indies Regiment, the West India Regiment and European non-commissioned officers of the West African Field Force, but not those of Commonwealth armies such as Canada). Approximately half the records were destroyed during the Second World War. British Army service (WO363) and pension (WO364) records on Find My Past , Ancestry (WO363) and Ancestry (WO364) (£)
- Non-commissioned officers and other ranks who were discharged from the Life Guards, Royal Horse Guards and Household Battalion between 1799 and 1920 - Household Cavalry Service records (WO 400) on The National Archives (£)
- British Army officers who served up to 1922. Many files were destroyed during the Second World War. Officers did not have service numbers. Commissioned officers service records 1914-1922 (WO 339 and 374) at The National Archives
- Other ranks who served after 1920, officers who served after 1922 including those who served during the Second World War and members of the Home Guard (except Durham) – service records are held by the Army Personnel Centre. 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
- Service records from the Brigade of Guards (The Grenadier, Coldstream, Irish and Welsh Guards) have now transferred to the Army Personnel Centre, including First World War records (see above). Scots Guards records are currently held by the Scots Guards Archives. Fees and restrictions apply.
- Other ranks who served with the Royal Artillery 1893-1942 – Royal Artillery Attestation records on Find My Past (£)
- Other ranks who served with the Royal Tank Corps 1919-1934 - Royal Tank Corps Enlistment Records on Find My Past (£)
- Records for over 80,000 members of the County Durham Home Guard (WO409) (Files for those born less than 100 years ago cannot be downloaded) on The National Archives (£)
- The careers of Army officers can be traced through their commissions and promotions listed in the regular official Army List. IWM holds an extensive set of these publications from 1914. The London Gazette also lists commissions and promotions up to the present day.
- Staff records and information on officer cadets at the Royal Military College Sandhurst (up to 1946) and Royal Military Academy Woolwich (up to 1939) on The Sandhurst Collection (£)
- Various courts martial records are held at The National Archives
Other things to look for:
Download a copy of our guide to tracing your British Army ancestry