How to look for records of... Soldiers in African forces under British control

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



What do I need to know before I start?

Try to find out:

  • the name and rank of the person
  • where they served
  • a date range to help focus the search

What records can I see online?

Campaign and award medals (1877-1953)

Look in the regimental medal rolls (WO 100) for a person in the African forces who received a medal using Ancestry.co.uk (£).

Browse the long service and good conduct award registers (WO 102) in Discovery, our catalogue.

Medal index cards (1914-1920)

Search the First World War army medal index cards (WO 372) for a soldier serving in African force who received a campaign medal or gallantry award.

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

South African War (1899-1902)

Browse our catalogue for service records and attestation papers for men who joined the Imperial Yeomanry, a British regiment raised specifically for the Boer War, in WO 128. The records are arranged by regimental number. There are indexes to these records in WO 129.

Look in WO 126 and WO 127 for records of units raised in South Africa which include details of men who enrolled. These are arranged alphabetically by unit name.

King’s African Rifles (1897-1953)

Browse the registers of correspondence relating to the formation and affairs of the King’s African Rifles in CO 581, CO 582, CO 623, CO 624, and CO 820.

Royal West African Frontier Force (1900-1912)

Browse correspondence relating to the formation and affairs of the Royal West African Frontier Force in CO 442 and CO 820.

Royal African Corps (1800-1819 and 1822-1840)

Browse the general muster books and pay lists of the Royal African Corps and Royal African Colonial Corps in WO 12.

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?

Records held abroad

Many service and operational records for African forces are held by the national archive of the relevant nation. For further information, please refer to Veterans UK.

What other resources will help me find information?

Websites

Find the service number of a man in the Imperial Yeomanry, Lovats Scouts and Scottish Horse in the Boer War, 1899-1902 on the BritishMedals website.

Books

Search The National Archives’ bookshop to see whether any of the publications below may be available to buy. Alternatively, look in The National Archives’ library catalogue to see what is available to consult at Kew.

William Spencer, Army Records (The National Archives, 2008)

South African Field Force Casualty List, 1899-1902 (London, 1972)

Did you know?

When former British colonies gained independence from the United Kingdom, their governments assumed full responsibility for all records relating to their armed forces, with a few exceptions.

The Imperial Yeomanry was raised in  the UK in 1899 specifically for the Second Boer War.

The King’s African Rifles was formed from various East African forces in 1902 and was based in Kenya.

The Royal West African Frontier Force was formed from various West African forces in 1900.

The Royal African Corps was formed in 1800 under Colonel John Fraser.

Video guides