How to look for records of... British Army soldiers up to 1913

How can I view the records covered in this guide?

View online

How many are online?

  • None
  • Some
  • All

Order copies

We can either copy our records onto paper or deliver them to you digitally

Pay for research

Use our paid search service or find an independent researcher

Visit us

Visit us in Kew to see original documents or view online records for free

This short guide will help you to search for British Army records for soldiers who were discharged before the start of the First World War. It applies to non-commissioned officer ranks, which include Private, Lance Corporal, Corporal, Sergeant, and Warrant Officer. The Ministry of Defence website gives more detail on British Army ranks.

What do I need to know before I start?

Although Britain has had a regular standing army since around 1660, there are few personnel records before the early 18th century.

It will help you with your research if you can find out the regiment, rank, and date of discharge of the person whose records you are searching for.

What records can I see online?

Royal Hospital Chelsea pension records (1760-1913)

Search by name and download digitised Royal Hospital Chelsea pension records for soldiers discharged between 1760 and 1913 (WO 97) on (£).

The Royal Hospital Chelsea administered the payments of pensions to British Army pensioners wherever they lived. Before 1822, some pensions were also administered by Kilmainham Hospital.

Royal Hospital Chelsea regimental registers of pensioners who served in Canada 1713-1882

Search the Royal Hospital Chelsea regimental registers of pensioners who served in Canada between 1713 and 1882 on Ancestry (£).

Campaign medals (1793-1949)

Search by name online in the campaign medal and award rolls (WO 100) using if you know a person was awarded a specific medal (£). The medal rolls do not usually contain biographical information. You can also search these records on microfilm at The National Archives at Kew, but you will need to know the campaign and the relevant regiment to use these records.

Imperial Yeomanry in the Boer War

Search and download attestation and discharge papers (£) from for men serving in the Imperial Yeomanry during the South African War (WO 128).

What records can I find at The National Archives at Kew?

To access these records you will either need to visit us, pay for research (£) or, where you can identify a specific record reference, order a copy (£).

Regimental muster rolls and pay lists (1732-1898)

Refer to the British Army muster rolls and pay lists c.1730-1898 research guide to find out which series to consult for the period 1732 to 1878. For 1878 to 1898, browse WO 16 to find the relevant regiment or regimental district.

Royal Artillery records of service and papers (1755-1917)

Search by name of a non-commissioned officer or soldier in our catalogue within WO 69 for records of the Royal Artillery which include:

  • description books
  • records of service, including original attestation papers
  • registers of marriages and baptisms
  • registers of deceased soldiers
  • some records of transfer of men to the Army Reserve
  • pension registers
  • description book of the Royal Irish Artillery (1756-1774)
  • miscellaneous correspondence

Second Boer War personnel records (1899-1902)

The British forces in South Africa during this conflict consisted of units of the regular army, militia units, the Imperial Yeomanry (a volunteer mounted infantry regiment set up largely for service in South Africa) and forces recruited locally in South Africa itself.

Use the advanced search in our catalogue to search by unit for enrolment forms of local armed forces in WO 126, nominal rolls in WO 127 and for registers and casualty books of the Imperial Yeomanry by service number in WO 129.

What records can I find in other archives and organisations?

Records held elsewhere

Search our catalogue and refine your results using the filters.

What other resources will help me find information?


Search The National Archives’ bookshop to see whether any of the publications below may be available to buy. Alternatively, look in The National Archives’ library catalogue to see what is available to consult at Kew.

William Spencer, Army Records  (The National Archives, 2008)