Archives Held at Home Headquarters - A guide to researching military records:
Home Headquarters require, at the very least, the Battalion and era of a mans service, without these we will be unable to provide any information at all, as the Regiment raised many Battalions for both World Wars, each with its own particular history.... we do not hold ANY personnel records in the museum! (see below on how to obtain these). We are very unlikely to be able to offer any more than what a mans Battalion was doing at a particular time, finding a man mentioned by name is rare.
We hold copies of most of the HLI Battalions Diary's from WWI (These were usually written by the Adjutant in the trenches they are written in long hand and can be difficult to decypher).
The RSF are much less well documented due to the fire in the museum in 1985, which was started in the Library, (a thief broke in and set fire to it after finding no money to steal) unfortunately it was in the RSF section he started the fire and a good portion of those archives went up in smoke.
As well as Battalion History's we hold Regimental History's, which gives a larger overview of what the Regiment was doing at a particular time, but rarely mention a man by name.
We hold the following :
- HLI Chronicles from the late 1880's till the amalgamation in 1959 (HLI's in-house magazine)
- RSF Journals from the mid 30's till the amalgamation in 1959 (RSF's in-house magazine)(was not produced during the war)
- RHF Journals from the amalgamation in 1959 till the present day
- The Outpost (The 17th Battalion HLI's in house magazine produced during WWI)
- The Bomb & Bugle from different eras (RHF magazine when the Battalion was deployed)
- A very few Piobroch's pre WWI (the in-house magazine for the Glasgow Highlanders)
- These magazines are a brilliant source of information on the day to day life of the Regiment, but its a very time consuming task to find anyone as we have to page by page each book to find any information, it's a good idea to come into the Museum yourself, if possible, as the best we can offer is a very cursory search!
This is the link to the Research and Enquiry forms for submission to the Museum Research Form
ONCE A PAYMENT FOR RESEARCH IS MADE IT IS NOT REFUNDABLE, WHETHER A SEARCH IS SUCCESSFUL OR NOT!
DUE DO TO MANPOWER CONSTRAINTS REQUESTS CAN TAKE A FEW WEEKS TO ANSWER.
Information on other agencies you can use are listed below:
Army service records are held by Service Number, Rank, Full Name and Date of Birth. It is important that as much of this information as possible is provided, together with the Regiment or Corps if known, to assist in locating the correct record.
Certificate of Kinship
Information from the personal record of a deceased Ex-serviceman/woman can be released only with the consent of the official Next of Kin. The Certificate of Kinship form aims to identify whose consent is required and the data you provide will be used only in connection with your enquiry. This form is retained for 2 years should you have subsequent queries.
There is no charge for enquiries from widows or widowers about their late spouse's service but for all other customers the charge is £30.00. A cheque, bank draft or postal order made payable to 'MOD Accounting Officer' should be included with the completed Certificate of Kinship and Search Document. No other form of payment can be accepted.
To download the Certificate of Kinship form, please click here.
Army Personnel Records and Family Interest Enquiries - Historical Disclosures
The Ministry of Defence (MOD) keeps the records of former members of our Armed Forces for administrative use after their discharge. For more information, click here.
A Subject Access Requests (SAR) form needs to be completed in order to access records.
Records for all ranks in the Army that served after 1920.
The following address should be used for ex-soldiers wishing to access their personal records
Army Personnel Centre,
Mail Point 515,
65 Brown Street,
Tel: 0845 600 9663
The following address should be used for family members wishing to access records of deceased soldiers
Army Personnel Centre,
Mail Point 555,
65 Brown Street,
The following personnel Service records have been transferred to the National Archive (formerly the Public Record Office) and are available for public access.
Army Officers and Other Ranks that enlisted prior to 1920
Service records which pre-date those held by the MOD have been transferred to the National Archive and are freely available for public access. However the National Archives is not resourced to carry out searches. Enquirers are instead welcome to visit, or hire an independent researcher - see the National Archive website for further details. National Archives
British Army - Other ranks 1914-20 (Killed in the war or demobilised after the war):
If he was killed in the war or demobilised after the war, there is only about a 25% chance of finding his service record, as most records were destroyed by bombing in 1940. For further information about this, check our research guides.
How to contact The National Archives:
Online: One of the best ways to get in touch with us, please use the contact form Contact
By post: The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 4DU.
For our opening times or further information please see our visit us section.
By phone: +44 (0) 20 8876 3444
Our lines are open as follows:
Monday 09:00 - 17:00, Tuesday 10:00 - 19:00, Wednesday 09:00 - 17:00, Thursday 09:00 - 19:00, Friday 09:00 - 17:00, Saturday 09:30 - 17:00, Sunday Closed.
Pre 1914 records
The records of soldiers who served before the First World War should be held at The National Archives. Soldiers’ records can be found in record class WO 97 while officers’ records are held in WO 25.
The coverage of the Imperial War Museum only begins in 1914 and so they will not be able to help with pre-First World War enquiries. The National Army Museum is the institution that has coverage of this earlier period:
National Army Museum
Royal Hospital Road
Website: National Army Museum
Every soldier who served in WWI was entitled to at least one campaign medal, these can be searched for here: Search
For Soldiers KIA can be found here: Contact
Telephone 0845 603 7788
Records for the Household Cavalry and Guards Regiments were held separately, and although some of the latter were also destroyed by enemy bombing, all the former have survived. Records of the Household Cavalry can be found in WO 400. Microfiche copies of these are held at:
Household Cavalry Museum
Please note that records for the Household Battalion are not included - these can be found at The National Archives.
First World War records for soldiers who served with the Guards Regiments can be applied for from the relevant regimental headquarters. All records still held by the Ministry of Defence. They will only be released to proven next of kin and a £25 fee will be payable. The address to write to is:
Grenadier Guards/Coldstream Guards/
Scots Guards/Irish Guards/Welsh Guards
Army Number system between 1920 - 1942
Between 1920 - 1942 army numbers were issued in numerical batches, so if you only have a Regimental Number but with no knowledge of the Regiment the person served in then this chart may help:
| Black Watch
| Seaforth Highlanders
| Gordon Highlanders
| Cameron Highlanders
| Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders
| Royal Scots
| Royal Scots Fusiliers
| KIng's Own Scottish Borderers
| Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
| Highland Light Infantry
A guide about Regimental/Service Numbers for other regiments can be found here North East Medals the site also contains other useful information.
First World War records – Officers
The National Archives has records of British Army Officers who served until 31 March 1922. If your relative served after that date his record will still be held with the Ministry of Defence. There are two record sequences for First World War Officers’ records:
- WO 339 – This holds almost 140,000 records for Regular Army Officers, Special Reserve Officers and those with a Temporary Commission in the Regular Army. These are arranged in ‘Long Number’ order, but WO 338 does provide an index for this.
- WO 374 – Has over 75,000 records for Territorial Force Officers and those with a temporary commission.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission looks after the graves of those who died between the dates 4 August 1914-31 August 1921 (First World War) and 3 September 1939-31 December 1947 (Second World War). The Commission maintains an online database called The Debt of Honour Register which lists nearly two million men and women who died during the two world wars. Click here to search the 'Debt of Honour' database.
Armed Forces and Merchant Navy:
The online database will give you details of where your relative is buried (or commemorated if there is no individual grave or no known grave, as in the case of many who died at sea) as well as providing the date of death and details of the unit they served with. Knowing this information will enable you to find out more about their service.
The 'Debt of Honour' register can also be searched for details of the 67,000 Commonwealth civilians who died as a result of enemy action in the Second World War.
Orders of Battle
Orders of Battle show where individual units fit into the command structure. For example, three or four infantry battalions (an infantry regiment is in fact usually only an administrative formation – it is a battalion that goes on active service, and there can be several different battalions of a regiment all serving in totally different places), will form part of an infantry brigade. Usually three brigades would form a division. Divisions would usually serve under a Corps (some units also have the term ‘Corps’ in their title, such as the Royal Army Medical Corps or the Royal Army Service Corps – units of these formations can also be found in divisions and they provide important support to the front line fighting men, but they are quite different to the Corps of the Command Structure). A Corps would serve under an Army (these would be numbered). During the Second World War the Army Group came into being.
An easy to use Order of Battle for the First World War can be found at 1914-1918.net (look under Army Organisation). You will already need to have a clear idea of what type of soldier your relative was, as you go into this by different categories – Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery, Engineers, Machine Gunners, Transport and Supply, etc.
This information can also be found in published form in the following items:
- British Regiments 1914-1918 by Brigadier E.A. James (London: Samson Books, 1978)
- Order of Battle of Divisions: Parts 1-4 compiled by Major A.F. Becke by direction of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence (London: HMSO, 1935-1945)
- British Battalions in France and Belgium, 1914 by Ray Westlake (London: Leo Cooper, 1997)
- British Regiments at Gallipoli by Ray Westlake (London: Leo Cooper, 1996)
The Second World War is not as comprehensively covered. The following books will be useful:
- Orders of Battle: United Kingdom and Colonial Formations and Units in the Second World War, 1939-1945 prepared for the Historical Section of the Cabinet Office by Lieutenant-Colonel H.F. Joslen (London: HMSO, 1960)
- British Army Orders of Battle, 1939-1945: a Finding List – Supplement to Joslen by Kenneth W. Butler and Robert W. Lockerby (Portland, Oregon: Tualatin Plains Press, 1995)
Most published official history volumes feature Orders of Battle as an appendix.
This is the link to the Research Enquiry Form for submission to the Museum Research Form
Recent Unsolicted Feedback:
Hi Sandy - can you please pass on my thanks to your researcher Vince Hay for continuing to send me information about my granfather. I am so impressed that although he has completed my rearch he finds time to send on more photographs to me.
I cannot easily express the emotion when opening up the letters he sends on to me - looking at a picture I've never seen before, and from 1929!!!
It is not often that people go beyond what is asked of them but I would just like to say how much I appreciate Vince's unique research.
Best wishes to you both & again thanks so much!
PS I will eventually get a chance to visit your museum in Glasgow
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