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Service records for women and medical personnel

The scale of the British war effort between 1914 and 1918 required an unprecedented mobilisation of resources. Medical personnel were needed in large numbers to deal with the high casualty rates. To free up men for service at the front, the government introduced auxiliary military organisations for women from 1916. The National Archives houses service records for many of the individuals who supported the war effort as non-combatants.


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Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps
 

The largest of the women's organisations was the Glossary - opens new windowWomen's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC). Founded in March 1917, and renamed the Glossary - opens new windowQueen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps 11 months later, it employed 57,000 women at home and overseas (mainly in France) during the war. They worked in one of four sections: Cookery; Mechanical; Clerical; or Miscellaneous.

Although no service records for WAAC 'Officials' (officers) still exist, roughly 9,000 (or 10%) of the service records for 'Members' (other ranks) survived the fire at the War Office repository at Arnside Street in September 1940. They can be found in alphabetical order in WO 398 - see, for example, the record for PeopleAnnie Maude Ellwood.


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Women's Royal Naval Service
 

The Glossary - opens new windowWomen's Royal Naval Service (WRNS) was created in November 1917. The service records for WRNS officers who served between 1917 and 1919 are listed alphabetically in ADM 318. Additional information can be found in ADM 321, which contains two registers of appointments, promotions and resignations of WRNS officers for the same period.

Registers of Service for WRNS ratings - which contain information about an individual's service history and next of kin, as well as remarks about her character and ability - are arranged by service number in ADM 336.

WRNS officer - opens new window
WRNS

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Women's Royal Air Force
 

The Glossary - opens new windowWomen's Royal Air Force (WRAF) was founded at the same time as the RAF on 1 April 1918. Its ranks included roughly 10,000 women who had previously served in the WAAC at RFC airfields.

No service records for WRAF officers are known to survive, but a small collection of records for airwomen are filed in the AIR 80 catalogue. Arranged alphabetically by surname, they contain basic information about an individual's personal biography and WRAF career. An additional source is located in MH 106/1497, which houses a sample of medical records for WRAF airwomen. For further information, see our guide to Women’s military services in the First World War.


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Medical personnel
 

The bloody nature of the First World War meant that the British armed forces required large numbers of men and women with medical training. Many doctors, for example, were granted temporary commissions in the Glossary - opens new windowRoyal Army Medical Corps (RAMC). Unfortunately, as the RAMC (Temp) officers only served for the duration of the war, their service records were destroyed after 1920. Those for RAMC officers who received permanent commissions between 1871 and 1922, accessible via the index in WO 338/23, are listed in WO 339.

Nurses from various organisations saw service during the First World War. The records of those who served in Glossary - opens new windowVoluntary Aid Detachments (VADs) are held at the Red Cross archives in London. The National Archives holds the records of individuals who served in the two army nursing services: the Glossary - opens new windowQueen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS) and the Glossary - opens new windowTerritorial Force Nursing Service (TFNS). Formed in March 1902, the QAIMNS was the nursing service for the regular army. The TFNS was created six years later to support the newly created Glossary - opens new windowTerritorial Force.

Nurse's service record - opens new window
Nurse's service record
Transcript

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The service records for 15,972 of these 'military nurses' are located in WO 399. They are arranged alphabetically in two sections for the QAIMNS - including the reserves in QAIMNS (R) - and the TFNS respectively. Although the WO 399 series list states that the records cover the period 1914-22 only, they also include the careers of any military nurse whose service was completed before 1939.

Further information on the service of individual nurses might be found in various medal lists (Medals awarded during the First World War) and in PIN 26, which contains a small number of alphabetically indexed Ministry of Pensions files for nurses awarded disability pensions because of illnesses or injuries sustained during the war.


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