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Accessing Service records

Constituents may contact a Member of Parliament seeking advice on how to access Service records. This may be their own Service record, the record of a member of family (alive or deceased) or if they have a general interest in an individual.

Records relating to World War One

The National Archive is the repository for Service records for the estimated nine million men and women who served in the armed forces in the First World War. Unfortunately, many records were destroyed in WW2, but an estimated 2.8 million service records survived the bombing or were reconstructed from the records of the Ministry of Pensions. This means that there is a roughly 40% chance of finding the service record of a soldier who was discharged at some time between 1914 and 1920.

The National Archives website also contains advice for those seeking records of a campaign or service medal awarded to someone who fought with the British armed services prior to the Second World War: British military campaign and Service medals.

It also has a dedicated First World War Centenary site which contains a wealth of information relating to this period. 

Records from the 1920s onwards

As a rule the MOD retains Service personnel records for 100 years from the date of birth of an individual, and therefore Service records dating from approximately the mid-1920s are still retained by the Ministry of Defence. This approach has been taken due to the personal nature of the information that such records contain and the fact that many veterans from this period are still alive and any disclosure of personal information would contravene the Data Protection Act.

Service records can be accessed in a number of ways depending upon whether the individual to whom the record relates is still alive, and the status of the individual putting in the request. The guidelines on what can be accessed, and by whom, are very strict and in certain circumstances will incur a £30 search fee. The MOD has produced a useful guide on what is available and how to apply for access, including copies of the relevant application forms, at: Requests for personal data and Service records.

The gov.uk website also provides a simplified point of access for requesting Service records. 


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