This guide contains advice on locating records of British Army regiments, as opposed to records of individual soldiers. Regimental records are varied, sometimes incomplete and held in a variety of places.
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.
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.
Records available only at The National Archives in Kew
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 (£).
Regimental muster books, pay lists and records (c.1730–1991)
Search our catalogue by regiment name, number or county for a regimental muster book or pay list between c.1730 and 1898 (WO 10, WO 11, WO 12, WO 13, WO 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.
Records 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 2,500 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.