Search all military records 1656 - 2005
The Military Collection
A simple search allows you to access over 38 military and service record datasets, spanning a period from 1656 to 2005 - the most comprehensive set of British military records available online. It covers the two world wars, as well conflicts such as Waterloo, Trafalgar and the Boer war, and peacetime army lists. You’ll find officers and soldiers of all ranks, and other servicemen such as RAF, Navy, Marines, and support personnel. Listed below is a selection of highlights from the military records which can provide detailed information about your ancestors.
The Chelsea Pensioners' British Army Service Records 1760-1913 are brought to you online in association with The National Archives (TNA). The TNA record series number is 'WO97': WO indicates that the records were created by the War Office, the precursor of today's Ministry of Defence. These records are of men pensioned out of the British Army 1760-1913. The connection with 'Chelsea Pensioners' is that the pensions were administered through The Royal Hospital at Chelsea. The great majority of pensioned soldiers were out-pensioners and did not reside at the Hospital itself.
The Militia Service Records 1806-1915 are brought to you online in association with The National Archives (TNA). The TNA record series number is 'WO96': WO indicates that the records were created by the War Office, the precursor of today's Ministry of Defence. The Militia was a voluntary county-based part-time force for home defence and many of its soldiers went on to join the regular army. As well as fighting in the militia, its men held down regular jobs so these records are very useful for finding out how your ancestors were employed. There is also detailed information about any achievements made while in the service and the physical appearance of the soldiers.
Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-19 was originally published by His Majesty’s Stationery Office (HMSO) in 1921. It was published in 80 parts. Most parts covered a single regiment, subdivided into its various battalions. However, some parts covered groups of credits such as the cavalry, smaller infantry regiments or other corps. 'Soldiers Died' covers deaths within the period from 4th August 1914 (the declaration of war) to 11th November 1918 (Armistice Day) and, in some but not all cases, up to 25th March 1921. The names of 661,960 other ranks are included within 'Soldiers Died'.
One of the most sought-after sets of reference books of the First World War is the National Roll of the Great War. The National Publishing Company attempted, shortly after hostilities ceased, to compile a brief biography of as many participants in the War as possible. The vast majority of entries refer to combatants who survived the Great War and the National Roll is often the only source of information available. Fourteen volumes were completed on a regional basis; this index database now allows simple searching of this unique reference source.
Cross Database Searching
- This area of our website enables you to search across all the datasets in our military collection at the same time.
- The contents of the military collection are shown after the search form below "Within This Section": you can click on each dataset to find out more about it.
- If you do not wish to use the military cross-database search but want to search an individual dataset, simply click on the link to the dataset which you wish to look at.
- Surname is compulsory: you must fill this in
- Forename or initial is optional: you can add this if you like
- If you search for, say, the forename John, you will automatically receive all the results where the first forename is John – so, as well as John, you would receive John Arthur, John William Charles and so on
- You can use initial rather than forename, if you wish. If you search using initial A in the forename or initial field, you will receive results for the names Alfred, Arthur etc plus anyone shown in the records as, for example, A or A W (some of the datasets give initials rather than forenames).
- Use an asterisk (*) for wild card searches. The wildcard asterisk replaces 1, 2 or more letters. For instance, if you search for surname Clark*, you will receive results for the names Clark, Clarke, Clarkson and so on. If you search for Co*ton, you will receive results for Compton, Cotton and Covington.
- The military cross-database search automatically searches all records within the maximum year range (which is currently 1656 to 1994). If you like, you can change this by overtyping either or both of the years, so long as the From year is earlier than the To year. There are of course no records earlier than 1656 or later than 1994 at this time.
- Alternatively, if you are interested in searching just the records for WW1, you can click on the WW1 radio button. This changes the dates to 1914-1918. In fact, this will cover records which extend up to 1921 in some cases.
- Similarly, if you are interested in searching just the records for WW2, you can click on the WW2 radio button. This changes the dates to 1939-1945.
- If you click on the clear button, the date range returns to 1656 to 1994
If you are still having trouble finding certain WW1 military records, keep in mind names and date of birth may not always be recorded accurately.
Aliases – men appear under the names they enlisted under and were known to the army. Many men signed up under an alias, for various reasons, such as:
- pre-War regulars re-joining the army having previously deserted
- rejected volunteers when volunteering again at a different recruiting centre
- men who wanted not to be traced by family (e.g. parents) or others
- men who simply wanted to leave behind their past and begin anew
Abraham Bevistein volunteered as Abraham Harris in 1914. Why not under his real name?
- he was a non-naturalised immigrant born in Warsaw and therefore an alien not entitled to serve in British Army "Bevistein"; sounded too German... not ideal in 1914
- he was under-age (born April 1898, attested aged 16 in Sept 1914) and therefore the truth was less traceable if he signed up under an assumed name (“fraudulent enlistment” was a crime).
Place of Birth
Not every man knew where he was born or, if he did, gave it correctly.
Case study: Arthur John Allen
Aged 38 at death on 31 July 1917(= born circa 1878/79), son of John Allen.
Research shows: he was actually born circa 1878/79 on Guernsey to parents John Allen and Mary Ann Allen nee Toohill. The family moved to Whitstable shortly after 1881 and presumably Arthur believed he was born there.
Age at death
Men’s age at death is based upon two sources:
- the information given by family to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Information from family often rounded up, e.g. a 16-year old might be rounded up to 17 due to being “in his 17th year”, or possibly as a result of slight confusion given the delay between death and the CWGC seeking the information.
- the information the soldier gave when enlisting;
Many men gave a false age on enlisting, because they were either below or above service age at various points in the war.
Most under-age soldiers gave date of birth adding 1, 2 or 3 years so as to reach 18 or 19 years upon enlistment. In one battalion, 21% of all volunteers were purportedly aged 19, only 1% aged 18 – i.e. many had added years! An estimated 250,000 British teenage boy soldiers enlisted under-age in 1914 to 1915, which is 10% - 15% of total volunteers. An estimated 120,000 of these were killed (although of course many of those who survived long enough came of age during the war).
In summary: be prepared to consider soldiers shown as up to aged 22 years at death as having been younger by 1 to 5 years.