How to look for records of... British Army nurses

How can I view the records covered in this guide?

How many are online?

  • Some

This is a brief guide to finding records of nurses who served with the British Army. Most of these records are at The National Archives but some material is also held by the Ministry of Defence and the Red Cross.

What do I need to know before I start?

Before the 1850s, British Army medical services were organised by regiment and consisted of male nurses only.

It was not until 1881 that the Army Nursing Service was established (no significant records of the Army Nursing Service have survived). In 1902 it was reorganised and became Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS); renamed the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps (QARANC) in 1949. The majority of military nurses in the First and Second World Wars worked in these services.

Online records

Nursing service records (1902–1922)

Search and download service records (WO 399) for nurses who served in the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAINMS), the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (Reserve) QAIMNS(R) and the Territorial Force Nursing Service (TFNS) from our website (£).

Campaign medal index cards (1914–1920)

Search and download from our website (£) the index cards to First World War campaign medal rolls (WO 372). These cards are more detailed than the rolls themselves (see below). Use the keywords ‘Nurse’, ‘Voluntary Aid Detachment’ or ‘Queen Alexandra’s’, as well as providing a surname to aid your search.

Campaign medal rolls (1793–1949)

Search the campaign medal and award rolls (WO 100) by name at Ancestry.co.uk (£) for listings of nurses. The entries do not usually contain biographical information and are less informative than the index cards (see above). You will need to know the campaign and the relevant nursing service to locate a record.

Registers of recipients of the Royal Red Cross (1883-1994)

Search and download entries from the registers of recipients of the Royal Red Cross (WO 145/1-3) at Findmypast.co.uk (£). The Royal Red Cross was established as an award in 1883 for women who showed special devotion while nursing the sick and wounded of the British Army and Royal Navy. It was not extended to men until 1977.

The registers provide very few biographical details but do usually include the nurse’s service number, the job title or position and sometimes the place of work or residence. The date the award was announced in the London Gazette is also usually included. These registers document around 9,000 individuals over a period of more than 110 years.

British Army casualty lists (1939–1945)

Search the daily British Army casualty lists (WO 417) on Findmypast.co.uk (£). These cover British Army officers and other ranks as well as nurses. They state the individuals’ rank, service number, date of becoming a casualty and type of casualty.

The term ‘casualty’ applies to people who were killed, wounded, went missing, or were taken as prisoners of war during conflict.

Records in other archives and organisations

Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps service records (1939–1945)

Visit the GOV.UK website for information about how to request a summary of a service record from the Ministry of Defence. An administrative fee applies.

Voluntary Aid Detachment records (1914–1920, 1939–1945)

Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs) were non-military organisations created in 1909 and based on the Japanese voluntary aid system. Members were trained by the St John Ambulance Brigade and served alongside all branches of the armed forces.

Contact the British Red Cross museum and archives for the service record of a person who served in a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) during the First World War or Second World War.

Other resources

Websites

Browse the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service website for information on British Army nurses before the First World War.

View a selection of  transcriptions of British military nurses records on Scarlet finders website.

Books

Visit the National Archives’ bookshop for a range of publications on British nurses in the First World War.