WO 339 - Officers' services, First World War, regular army and emergency reserve officers

This series is presented on Findmypast as transcript-only. The transcripts were created from records and correspondences related to officers in the regular army and the emergency reserve during the First World War. These records have not yet been digitised but can be viewed in their original state at The National Archives, Kew, London.

WO 374 - Officers' services, First World War, personal files

This is an index of men who served as officers in the British Army during the First World War. Original papers for these men can be viewed in their original state at The National Archives, Kew, London. You can discover your ancestor’s rank, regiment and service number.

British Army service records

Each record comprises a transcript, and most include several black and white images (ranging from 1-100) of the records of your ancestors who served as officers and other ranks in the British Army.

The amount of detail in each transcript can vary depending on when the record was created and the purpose of the record, such as whether it was created for pension purposes or new recruits. Some of the First World War service papers in series WO 363 were damaged during the Second World War; therefore, the information gathered from these forms can be limited. In the transcripts, you may find a combination of the following items:

  • First name
  • Last name
  • Birth year
  • Birth county
  • Birth country
  • Service number (i.e. regimental number)
  • Rank
  • Regiment
  • Unit/Battalion
  • Age at attestation in years and months
  • Attestation date
  • Attestation corps
  • Residence
  • Pension
  • Death date – if the individual died during service
  • Document type – attestation or discharge
  • Series – this gives you further clues to the context of the records; for example, the series WO 97 is titled Chelsea pensioners British Army service records 1760-1913, which explains that these are pension records from 1760-1913.
  • Archive and reference

Discover more about the British Army service records

Findmypast’s British Army service records is one of the most significant British Army collections available online. There are around 7.8 million records available. The collection includes a myriad of Army forms including attestation papers, medical forms, discharge documents, pension claims, and proceedings of regimental boards. The attestation form was completed when the soldier joined the regiment and was updated throughout his military career. This, together with other papers found in soldiers files can help piece together a very detailed picture of an individual. This search covers all available papers for each soldier.

Some of the medical reports found on attestation forms reveal how tough conditions could be for the men and how they reacted to these conditions. In the records, we discover that Reuben Booth (service number 29821) from the 10th Battalion suffered from trench foot and dental caries, but the doctor's notes state: ‘This man refuses dental treatment’. In addition, the doctor's notes of a medical report about a musician from Roden Hill, Marton, Buckinghamshire, claim that the man ‘walks with a marked limp which in my opinion is greatly exaggerated’.

The British Army service records include the names of both officers and other ranks. Commissioned officers include the ranks of general, brigadier, colonel, major, captain, and lieutenant. Until 1871, commissions (up to the rank of colonel) were purchased. The sale of commissions could lead to incompetent leadership, which became clear during the Crimean War and the ill-fated ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’. It was abolished soon after. Non-commissioned officers, or other ranks, include privates, lance corporals and sergeants. Knowledge of your ancestor’s rank will help you with your search for military records. Many of the records in this collection were composed by the Royal Chelsea Hospital for pensions. The hospital first opened in 1682 for retired soldiers. A pensioner is either an ‘in-pensioner’, meaning that he or she resides at Royal Chelsea Hospital, or an ‘out-pensioner’ if he or she lives in a private residence. Women were first admitted to the Royal Chelsea Hospital in 2009. In-pensioners must surrender their pension to the hospital, be aged 65 or older (this was raised from 55), be able to live independently, and not have any dependents such as a spouse or children.

The British Army did not have a central record keeping system until the First World War. Most documents prior to 1914 come from individual regiments. The records comprise soldiers' attestation and discharge papers and form part of the War Office (WO) series of records now held at The National Archives in Kew. The War Office was the precursor of today's Ministry of Defence. Thousands of British Army records, especially from the First World War, were destroyed during the Second World War in September 1940 when enemy bombs hit the War Office Record Office, located on Arnside Street. What survived was eventually moved to The National Archives and subsequently microfilmed.