Photograph of British army officer (Catalogue reference: COPY 1/454)

This is a brief guide to researching British army records for an officera senior member of staff in the armed forces who served up to 1913. These records are varied and plentiful and the vast majority are available at The National Archives.

Officer ranks include Lieutenant, Captain, Major, Colonel, Brigadier and General. The Ministry of Defence website gives more detail.

This guide will help you to find out if the information you are looking for exists, and if it does where to find it or more information about it.

  • What other resources will help me find information?

    • Published British Army Lists

      Consult the official published Army Lists to trace an officer's career in the British Army. There are annual lists (1740-1879), quarterly lists (1879-1922) and monthly lists (1798-1940) for the regular army in this period. The monthly lists include officers of colonial, militia and territorial units. All lists contain dates of birth and promotions.

      Officers on half pay can be traced in the Army Lists, which give date of commencement.

      Annual lists:

      • arranged by regiment
      • name indexed from 1766 (except engineer and artillery officers)
      • name indexed for engineer and artillery officers from 1803

      Quarterly lists:

      • list officers in order of seniority
      • include details of officers' war service from April 1881

      Monthly lists:

      • name indexed from 1867
      • provide some details of a regiment's location
    • Other books

      Some or all of the recommended publications below may be available to buy from The National Archives' Bookshop. Alternatively, search The National Archives' Library to see what is available to consult at Kew.

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

      Consult Hart's Army List by Henry George Hart (Smith, Elder & Co., 1839-1915), an unofficial alternative to the official Army List with details of officers' war service from 1839.

    • Websites

      Search the London Gazette on The Gazette website for information about British Army officers' commissions and gallantry awards.

Did you know?

Although Britain has had a regular standing army since around 1660, there are few personnel records before the early 18th century.

The British Army did not keep records of individual officersofficer - a senior member of staff in the armed forces which spanned their entire careers. You will have to look at a number of sources to piece together an officer's experiences.