This is a brief guide to help you with your research into airmen in the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). The records are kept in different places depending on when the airman served. 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 do I need to know before I start?
Try to find out:
- the airman‘s full name and approximate dates of service
- whether he was still in service after 1 April 1918
What records can I see online?
RAF service records (1918-1939)
Look in the RAF service records for RFC airmen who served after April 1918. Search the RAF service records (AIR 79) on findmypast (£).
If the airman went on to see service in the Second World War, his service record will still be with the RAF. If you do not know his service number, you can use the name indexes in AIR 78.
British army military records (1914-1920)
The service records of RFC airman who died or were discharged before the foundation of the RAF were kept with the British Army personnel records.
Search the surviving service records (WO 363), pension records (WO 364) and medal index cards (WO 372) for soldiers in the British army in the First World War on the Ancestry (£) website.
First World War Medal Index Cards (1914-1922)
Search the First World War Medal Index Cards (WO 372) on our website (£) to find details of campaign medal awarded to some members of the RFC and RAF (Royal Air Force). RFC airmen who served overseas in 1916 or later had their medals issued by the Air Ministry, not the War Office.
Campaign medal rolls (1914-1920)
Search by name the campaign medal rolls on Ancestry (£). You may find abbreviations on a roll entry – some of these abbreviations are explained on our army medal index card guide (see section above).
What records can I find at The National Archives at Kew?
The major collections of RFC airmen records held by The National Archives are available online (see above).
What records can I find in other archives and organisations?
Other RFC and RAF records
Find out about the aircraft record cards, personal papers and other records kept by the Royal Air Force Museum.
What other resources will help me find information?
Search the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for details of men and women who died in the First and Second World Wars.
Look up an announcement of a 20th-century gallantry award in the London Gazette on The Gazette website.
Read A Contemptible Little Flying Corps by I McInnes and JV Webb (London Stamp Exchange, 1991) to find out about airman who joined the RFC between 1912 and August 1914.
Read Air Force Records: A guide for family historians by William Spencer (The National Archives, 2008).
Did you know?
The Royal Flying Corps (RFC) was in existence from 1912 to 1918.
In July 1914 the RFC’s naval wing was detached to form the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). On 1 April 1918 the two services were merged again to form the Royal Air Force (RAF).
Over 26,000 members of the RFC and nearly 27,000 men of the RAF are listed in the campaign medal records.
The service records of RFC airmen who died or were discharged before the foundation of the RAF were kept with the British Army personnel records, of which only about 40% survive. However, RFC records may still be found with the RAF records.
If an RFC airman continued to serve in the RAF after April 1918, his record would be kept with RAF service records.