Copious records exist of those who served in the army, going back as far as the Civil War. In order to trace an individual it is vital to know whether he served as a commissioned officer or as an ordinary soldier (the latter category includes sergeants, corporals etc). The type of records that were kept and their arrangement is entirely different for these two categories of individual.
Records of service of those who served in the army after the First World War are not yet available to the public. Where an individual served both during and after (i.e. from 1921 onwards) the First World War, it is highly unlikely that any part of his service record will be at The National Archives. Enquiries from the individual concerned or, if deceased, from the next-of-kin should be directed to the Ministry of Defence.
Records related to those who served in the Indian Army are not at The National Archives, but are held with the Oriental and India Office Collections at the British Library. The records of those who served with the British army in India may be found at The National Archives amongst the material described below.
Some information about any officer, from 1754 onwards, should be available from the published Army Lists.
Mention of the activities of officers during both the First and Second World Wars may often be found amongst the war diaries of their units. To locate these, it is essential to know the name and number of the unit (battalion as well as regiment needs to be known) and, for the Second World War, the theatre of operations. Read the guide for information relevant to the First World War; read the guide for information relevant to the Second World War.
The activities of ordinary soldiers during both the First and Second World Wars are not often mentioned in the war diaries of their units, but interesting background details of the unit's activities will usually be given. To locate the war diaries, it is essential to know the name and number of the unit (battalion as well as regiment needs to be known) and, for the Second World War, the theatre of operations. Read the guide for information relevant to the First World War and Second World War.
Only some records of those who served in the militia have come to The National Archives.