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Guide reference: Military Records Information 72
Last updated: 19 January 2009

1. Why use this guide?

Use this guide to discover how to find records of people serving in the Territorial Army and its predecessors, from the late 18th century until the mid-20th century.

Records from the Second World War and later are held by the Ministry of Defence.

For information about the Militia or the Special Reserve, see our Militia research guide.  

2. What is the Territorial Army?

The Territorial Army is an army of volunteers which supports the British Army.
Volunteer units have existed for centuries, but in 1908 they were merged to form the Territorial Force.

Members of the Territorial Force were mobilised in the First World War and served alongside the regular army.

In 1920 the Territorial Force units were formed into the Territorial Army. The Territorial Army was mobilised again in the Second World War.

Find out more on the British Army website and the Long, Long Trail website.

3. Finding records - general tips

Comprehensive collections of records relating to the Territorial Army and its predecessors have not survived. Therefore it might be difficult to trace a particular person.

Many records are in local archives. Search the Find an archive directory for local archives or regimental museums.

There are various types of Territorial and volunteer records at The National Archives, including personnel service records. However, many of these records are not searchable by personal name. Search Discovery, our catalogue using keywords such as:

  • territorial
  • volunteers
  • yeomanry
  • other unit names

Refine your search by department - most relevant records are in the War Office collection (WO).

4. How to find Territorial Army service records for the First and Second World Wars

You can find members of the Territorial Force amongst the British Army service records for the First World War.

Search military records (£There may be a charge for accessing this information. Searching indexes may be free.) of non-commissioned officers and other ranks on Ancestry.co.uk.

Search and download (£There may be a charge for accessing this information. Searching indexes may be free.) British Army medal index cards in Discovery, our catalogue to find records of men awarded the Territorial Force Efficiency Medal.

Find a Territorial officer's service record by searching for his name within WO 374.

Second World War service records are still held by the Ministry of Defence. Visit the GOV.UK website for information about requesting access to a summary of a person's record.

5. How to find other records of the Territorial Army

Most records of the Territorials are in local archives and regimental museums. Search for local archives and regimental museums using Find an archive.

The National Archives has very few records of the Territorials. For example:

  • administrative records in WO 70, including muster books of some London and Middlesex volunteer and Territorial units
  • records of the organisation of the Territorials in WO 32

6. Which volunteer units existed before the Territorial Army was created?

There were various types of volunteer units before 1908 including:

  • the Volunteers (1794-1813, revived as the Rifle Volunteers in 1859)
  • the Yeomanry (1804 onwards)
  • the Imperial Yeomanry (1899-1902)

In 1908 all of the above units were consolidated as the Territorial Force.

The Militia (created by the Militia Act of 1757) was also a volunteer force, but it remained separate from the Territorials. In 1908 it became the Special Reserve. See our Militia research guide for more information.

7. How to find records of the Volunteers

Use the printed Army Lists (available in some research libraries) to trace the career of a Volunteer officer. Look up officers' commissions in the London Gazette using The Gazette website.

The National Archives has some records of the Volunteers up to 1859, though coverage is patchy. Consult:

  • muster books and pay lists in WO 13/4160-4621
  • muster rolls of some London and Middlesex regiments in WO 70
  • lists of officers' commissions in HO 51
  • pension records in PMG 13 and WO 23

After 1859 records of the Rifle Volunteers are very rare and are mostly held in local archives or private collections. Search for archives using Find an archive.

 However, you can find some records at The National Archives:

8. How to find records of the Yeomanry

The Yeomanry were mounted on horseback and served at home only. Most surviving records are in private hands or regimental museums. Search Find an archive to find local record offices and regimental museums that may contain relevant records. 

The National Archives has a few records of the Yeomanry including: muster rolls in

9. How to find records of the Imperial Yeomanry

The Imperial Yeomanry was raised in 1899 for the South African (Second Boer) War.

9.1 Officers

Officers' records have not survived, but you can use the printed Army Lists (available in some research libraries) to get an outline of service.

Look up details of officers' commissions in the London Gazette using The Gazette website. 
 

9.2 Other ranks

You can find records of some other ranks who left the Imperial Yeomanry to join the regular army in the Royal Hospital Chelsea pension records (WO 97) on findmypast.co.uk (£There may be a charge for accessing this information. Searching indexes may be free.).

Search by name in the campaign medal rolls (WO 100) on ancestry.co.uk (£There may be a charge for accessing this information. Searching indexes may be free.).

Search the British Medals database to find the names, ranks, numbers and units of around 40,000 men who served with the Imperial Yeomanry.

If you know the service number of another rank in the Imperial Yeomanry, browse WO 128 (arranged by service number) to find his attestation and discharge papers.

If you do not know the service number, you can:

Once you have located the service number you can find out the document reference number of his papers in WO 128. Consult the original papers at The National Archives at Kew.

9.3 Other

The National Archives also has Imperial Yeomanry administrative records in WO 108 and casualty books in WO 129.

The City of London Yeomanry, also known as the City Imperial Volunteers, was raised at the same time as the Imperial Yeomanry. No attestation papers have survived, but you can find some records at the Guildhall Library.

10. Further reading

Read Records of the Militia & Volunteer Forces 1757-1945 by William Spencer (Public Record Office,1997)

Guide reference: Military Records Information 72

Discovery

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