Photograph of battlefiled in the Boer War (Catalogue reference: COPY 1/447)

This is a brief guide to help you research British army records for a soldier who was discharged before the start of the First World War. These records are varied and plentiful, though sometimes complicated. The vast majority are available at The National Archives.

Non officer ranks include Private, Lance Corporal, Corporal, Sergeant, and Warrant Officer. The Ministry of Defence website gives more detail.

This guide will help you to find out if the information you are looking for exists, and if it does where to find it.

  • What records can I find in other archives and organisations?

    • Records held elsewhere

      Search our catalogue and refine your results using the filters.

Did you know?

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

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.

When searching for a person who was dischargeddischarge - release from service before 1913, you may find:

  • rank, age, place of birth, and age on enlistment
  • length and location of service
  • character report and details of appearance
  • trade or occupation and reason for discharge