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old military photographs

How to find secrets in old military photographs

Picture of Niall Cullen - Senior Content Strategist
Niall Cullen
3 February 2020

Findmypast's in-house military expert, Paul Nixon shows you how to turn detective on your old military photographs.

In this exclusive video masterclass, Findmypast's in-house military expert Paul Nixon explains how to uncover clues in your old military photographs, which in turn can help you further your family research.

Using resources from both our military records and newspapers, Paul explains how you can piece together the remarkable stories of your British Army ancestors.

Can't watch right now?

No problem. We've summarised Paul's three top tips below, so you can start deciphering your vintage military photographs at your leisure.

1. Learn what to look out for

There are several identifying features in old army photos that can help you make sense of it. Look closely at collar, cloth and cap badges, accoutrements, jacket and trouser pattern. Don't forget to check the back of the photograph for more information and make a note of the photographer and location as old military pictures were usually branded. All of these unique signs could help you understand which army regiment a soldier served in and what rank they were.

Old army photographs

2. Medal clues

Examine the photograph in detail to see if you can identify the medals (if any) in it. If you can successfully recognise a medal, it will tell you what conflict the solider served in and what award they won.

Old army medals

Indian Army Temperance Association Medals.

3. Other clues

You need to scour the photograph in its entirety to see if there are any other features that will reveal more details about it. Is there a newspaper or poster in the picture that has a date on it? Maybe the photo was taken near a clearly identifiable landmark or includes some other clue that can help you pinpoint it to a specific date range or place.

Start with these basic steps but for expert insights, make sure you get a chance to watch Paul's video masterclass in full. He will have you turning super sleuth on your old military photographs before you know it.