The National Archives
Search The National Archives
Advanced search

British army World War One service and pension records go online

Return to latest news

British Army World War One service and pension records go online

23 February 2007 launches British Army World War One service and pension records, the second most viewed collections at The National Archives:

Service records including those of soldiers discharged on account of sickness or injuries sustained during the War (catalogue reference WO 364) are now available to download from

Updated - Service records of soldiers who were killed, died or who survived the war (catalogue reference WO 363) are also being made available on The records are being released in batches, and the project is due to be completed by the end of 2008 - please check the website for latest availability.

Medical, service, conduct and death records for British soldiers.

Detailed case studies available. in partnership with The National Archives today launched online the first phase of the War Office (WO) service and pension records collections for approximately 2.5 million British soldiers who served from 1914 through to 1920.

Known as the WO 363 British Army Service Records and WO 364 British Army Pension Records, the collections will be released in a number of phases from today, starting with the early pension records. The online resource will provide vital details for family history researchers, military enthusiasts and family members wishing to learn more about the military service and experience of their ancestors.

'Burnt documents'

Although five million soldiers from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales fought in World War One, around 60 per cent of the service records for these soldiers were destroyed during a German bombing raid on the War Office in London in September 1940.

The originals for all surviving records, many badly damaged during the bombing raid, have been conserved by The National Archives and comprise the two collections to be made available online for the first time by, fully indexed and including original images.

Searching the name index will be free and pages from the original files available for viewing by subscribed members or with Pay per View.  

Case studies

Although the collections vary in detail, users will be able to discover key information in both, including physical description, regimental number, service history, locations served, date and place of birth, former occupation, next of kin and promotions.

The pension records, which relate to soldiers discharged on account of sickness or injuries sustained during the War, include the medical records relating to the disability for which a pension was granted.

The service records describe the careers of soldiers who completed their service, were killed in action, executed or died of their wounds or disease, and provide full details of their service, and where recorded, death.

Case Study One: Gerald Gordon Gay, No: RND/7614*
Gay from London joined the British Army in 1914 at the age of 27. He fought in both Gallipoli and the Somme, where he suffered serious gassing injuries which affected his health for the remainder of his life. He lived until 1956.

Case Study Two: John William Ballinger, No:RND/1445*
Ballinger from Manchester joined the army in 1908 at the age of 19. He served in India, Mesopotamia, Egypt and France, recording his horrific war experiences in a series of detailed diaries. He lived until 1981. Managing Director Simon Harper comments:

 "These historic War Office records provide a unique and rich account of the military service of millions of British soldiers, many under age, who served between 1914 and 1920.

"With a recent survey finding that almost one in three people do not know if family members had served in either of the World Wars*, now more than ever it is important for us to remember those who fought for our country."

William Spencer, senior military specialist at The National Archives, comments:

"There are over 2.5 million records of British Army service men and other ranks who saw service in the First World War."

"The work of will finally enable researchers from the worlds of family and military history to see what has survived, and perhaps just as importantly what has not, and will enable users to see what part an individual played in the First World War."

Go to find out more

Return to latest news