How to look for records of... Deaths in the First and Second World Wars

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This is an introductory guide to records of deaths of British and Commonwealth servicemen and women in the First and Second World Wars. It may also be useful in researching civilian casualties.

More than one million British military personnel died during the First and Second World Wars, with the First World War alone accounting for 886,000 fatalities. Nearly 70,000 British civilians also lost their lives, the great majority during the Second World War.

Please bear in mind that The National Archives does not hold death certificates.

What do I need to know before I start?

Try to find out:

  • the name of the person
  • the approximate date of death
  • the branch of the armed forces and the unit, if applicable

What records can I see online?

Army Roll of Honour (1939-1945)

Search the Army Roll of Honour for details of British Army casualties in the Second World War (WO 304) on findmypast (£).

Shipping and Seamen Rolls of Honour (1914-1918 and 1939-1945)

Search the Shipping and Seamen Rolls of Honour for details of people who died or were declared ‘missing presumed dead’ in the service of the merchant marine fleets during the First and Second World Wars (BT 339) on (£).

Indexes to deaths in the armed forces (1796-2005)

Search indexes to registers of deaths in the armed forces on findmypast (£). The death certificates themselves can be obtained from the General Register Office.

French and Belgian death certificates for British military personnel (1914-1919)

Search for French and Belgian death certificates for British and Commonwealth soldiers and airmen who died outside the immediate war zone (RG 35/45-69) on BMD Registers (£). They are written in French or Flemish and not all records have survived.

Maritime war deaths (1794-1964)

Search selected maritime war deaths (£) on by name. The online collection includes records series BT 334 which cover First and Second World war and ADM 242, ADM 184/43-54 and CUST 67/74 which cover the First World War period.

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

Registers of naval personnel killed and wounded (1914-1929)

Consult the registers of Royal Navy personnel killed and wounded 1914-1929 in ADM 104/145-149. Indexes are available on microfilm in ADM 104/140-143.

Lists of air casualties (1918)

Look in the lists of air casualties and related correspondence in AIR 1/860/204/5/423.

Lists and registers of deaths in the Royal Navy and Royal Marines (1914-1920)

Consult the war graves rolls in ADM 242/7-10 for officers and ratings who died during the First World War. Details include the ship’s name, the cause of death and next of kin.

Enquiries into missing naval personnel (1939-1945)

Search by name, or ship name, the Admiralty Casualty Branch’s enquiries into missing personnel during the Second World War (ADM 358).

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Army casualty lists (1939-1945)

Browse by date the daily army casualty lists in WO 417 – these cover British Army officers, other ranks and nurses. They state the individual’s rank, service number, date of becoming a casualty and type of casualty. It sometimes gives the unit/battalion number – you can use this to locate a unit war diary.

The term ‘casualty’ covers anyone in the British Army who was killed, wounded, missing, or was a prisoner of war.

What records can I find in other archives and organisations?

Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service casualty cards

Visit the RAF Museum for incomplete records of casualties mainly from Britain or the Western Front. Details include the cause of death or injury, type of aircraft involved, and sometimes next of kin.

Records held locally

Search our catalogue and refine your results using the filters.

What other resources will help me find information?


Read Cross of sacrifice by S and B Jarvis (1993) for an alphabetical record of officers who died serving in British, Commonwealth and colonial regiments and corps, in all services.


The Commonwealth War Graves Commission was set up in 1917 to commemorate Commonwealth losses in the First World War; its remit later expanded to include the Second World War. Search the Debt of Honour Register (1914-1921 and 1939-1947) on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for a record of civilian and armed services’ war dead.

Consult Soldiers Died in the Great War (1914-1919) on findmypast (£) for records of officers and other ranks killed in the First World War.

Search Marquis de Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour (1914-1918) for biographies of Army, Air Force and Navy personnel killed in the First World War on findmypast (£).

Search for the will of a soldier who died while serving in the British armed forces between 1850 and 1986 on