How to look for records of... Army regiments

How can I view the records covered in this guide?

View online

How many are online?

  • None
  • Some
  • All

Order copies

We can either copy our records onto paper or deliver them to you digitally

Pay for research

Use our paid search service or find an independent researcher

Visit us

Visit us in Kew to see original documents or view online records for free

This is a brief guide to researching records of British army regiments. Regimental records are varied, sometimes incomplete and held in a variety of places. This guide is for people interested in finding the records of regiments themselves as opposed to those interested in finding a specific person.

What do I need to know before I start?

Many regiments have changed their identities, some merging with other regiments, over the course of their history. These name changes and amalgamations mean it can sometimes be complicated tracing a regiment and its records.

Each regiment has its own place in the British Army hierarchy – known as the ‘regimental order of precedence’ – which can affect how its records are organised in relation to those of other regiments.

Local archives and regimental museums hold a wealth of information on specific army regiments. You can find the correct repository through the Find an archive database.

What records can I see online?

First World War unit war diaries (1914-1923)

Search Discovery, our catalogue, for selected unit war diaries (WO 95) for a British or colonial regiment which served in the First World War. You may need to try several different keywords or an asterisk when searching, for example, ‘Bucks’ may produce different results to ‘Buckinghamshire’.

Access the rest of the unit war diaries at The National Archives at Kew. Unit war diaries do not generally contain biographical information.

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

Regimental muster books, pay lists and records (c1730-1991)

Search our catalogue by regiment name, number or county for a regimental muster book or pay list between c1730 and 1898 (WO 10, WO 11, WO 12, WO 13WO 14, WO 16, WO 68, WO 69) or for other regimental records between 1737 and 1991 (WO 379 and WO 380). These are arranged by unit type, regiment and date. They are also incomplete.

Second World War unit war diaries (1938-1947)

Refer to section 5 in the research guide  British Army operations in the Second World War for a list of series containing unit war diaries for the Second World War. Unit war diaries do not generally contain biographical information.

To access these records you will either need to visit us, pay for research (£) or, where you can identify a specific record reference, order a copy (£).

What records can I find in other archives and organisations?

The National Army Museum

Visit the National Army Museum’s website for more information on what records they hold on British army regiments.

Regimental museums and other records held locally

The National Archives’ catalogue has details of collections held by over 2500 archives across the UK. Search our catalogue using keywords to find records held in regimental museums and local archives. You may need to refine your results using the filters.

What other resources will help me find information?

Websites

Browse the British Army, the Army Museums Ogilby Trust and The Long, Long Trail websites for regimental histories, including name changes for British, Empire, Indian and Commonwealth land forces.

Books

Read Army Records by William Spencer (The National Archives, 2008).