You should be able to get copies of military service records for time served in the army, the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, and the RAF (from 1920).
There are several different reasons for applying, such as:
- Making a request for a copy of your own military service records. This can either be as a serving member of the armed forces or as someone who already served.
- Asking for the records of someone who is now deceased. As a rule, you would need to be eligible for this kind of request. Typical examples include the person’s immediate next of kin or for research purposes.
You should be aware that it often takes several months to process this kind of application. Even so, they do have ways of prioritising the most urgent applications.
Other Ways of Finding Military Service Records
You can also try to find someone or somewhere through several research websites that commemorate the fallen. Examples include a search through:
- The Armed Forces Memorial roll of honour.
- The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) website.
- The National Archives for service records. Their service records range from 1913 to 1920 and from before 1913.
Applying for Your Own Military Records
If you are a member of the armed forces, or have been before, you can apply to get your own service records. It would apply to members of the British Army, the Royal Navy (or Marines), and the Royal Air Force.
There is no fee to get a copy of your own military service records. You would need to download a request for your own records from the Ministry of Defence. Fill it in and then send it with any supporting documents to the address written on the form.
Note: You can use the same form even if you are acting on behalf of the person (e.g. you have lasting power of attorney).
Applying for Military Records of a Deceased Person
There may be cases where you would like to get a copy of someone else’s service records. You can apply for the service records of a deceased person if any of these apply:
- You are an immediate next of kin (e.g. a husband, wife, or parent).
- An immediate next of kin (NOK) gave you consent to get a copy of the information.
- You are someone with an interest for general research. As a rule, unless the person died more than 25 years ago, you would only get access to limited information.
You must know certain information about the person before you can apply. You will need to know their full name, their date of birth, and their service number.
The next step of the process is to fill in two separate forms. You will need to fill in the request form and a search form.
Filling in the Request Form
You should download the most appropriate request form for your particular situation:
- Request Service Details (immediate next of kin or have consent from the next of kin).
- Request Service Details (general enquiries if you are not next of kin).
Filling in the Search Form
You will also need to download the most relevant search form. Choose the one based on where the person was serving, such as:
Posting the Forms
You must send a request form and a search form for every separate application. Use the return address written on the form. Remember to add any supporting documentation (e.g. a death certificate) and the fee of £30.
There are several ways to make the payment, including a cheque or a postal order. If you are requesting a copy of military service records from overseas you can pay by banker’s draft or by international money order.
Note: In some cases, there would be no fee to pay. The subject’s spouse, civil partner, or parent if there was no spouse, at the time of the death would not need to pay.
The Kind of Information You Can Get
The records that you can get access to date from 1920. Thus, the information held on the prsonnel records of deceased service personnel may include their:
- Surname, first name, service number, rank, and regiment (or corps).
- Place of birth and their date of birth.
- Joining date and the date that they left the armed forces.
- Date of death (if they died in service).
- Good conduct medals.
- Details about their career (e.g. the units they served in). But, unless you have consent from their next of kin (NOK), you can only get these details 25 years after the date that they died.
Note: Limited information, or none at all, is available in certain cases. They may refuse a request if it could harm the security or the operations of the armed forces.
Making a Complaint to the Ministry of Defence
Are you unhappy about the way an organisation handled your request? If so, you can complain in writing to the Ministry of Defence (MOD) Information Rights team.
MOD Information Rights Team
Email: [email protected]
MOD Information Rights Team
Ground floor, zone D
What if you still feel unsatisfied about the way that the MOD responded to your complaint? In this case, you can contact the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
How to Get a Copy of Military Service Records in United Kingdom