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Using Army Records - Part 6 - First World War Records

The records of the First World War are too numerous to be discussed in any detail, but the following outline should give you an indication of where to start in your search for your relative.

For a comprehensive outline of the records see Fowler et al., Army Service Records of the First World War.

The service records of those soldiers who survived to be discharged after 1913 are held at the PRO in two separate classes, which have been or are in the process of being microfilmed:

  • WO 364 (the `unburnt documents') contains records of many of those who were discharged for medical reasons
  • WO 363 (the `burnt documents') contains many records of those who survived the war, plus those killed in action, those who died of their wounds and those who were executed. Many of these documents were burnt completely or partially as a result of enemy bombing during the Second World War, so those that survive are too fragile to be studied by the general public. Microfilming of these documents is in progress - eventually there will be more than 20,000 reels. If your ancestor's records have not yet been filmed you can apply for them to the Ministry of Defence.

The PRO also holds a large collection of pension records including:

  • pension registers for war disabled, and for payments made to dependants of the dead and missing (PMG 9, PMG 42, PMG 11, PMG 44-47)
  • pension case files (PIN 26)

Colonial Regiments
As colonies were gradually established in far-off continents around the world during the 18th and 19th centuries, separate colonial regiments were raised when they were needed. An overall view of the colonial regiments is given in Perkins, Regiments and Corps of the British Empire and Commonwealth: a Critical Bibliography. Many other records are held in the national archives of the different former colonies.

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