How to look for records of... Crimean War – an overview
How can I view the records covered in this guide?
How many are online?
This guide provides a brief overview of Crimean War records held at The National Archives. These are the records of central government, including all branches of the military. You’ll get a sense of the sort of records we hold, and links to guides with more details and advice on how to find the records in our collection, including whether records are available online.
How the records are arranged
The original records are arranged at The National Archives by the government departments that created them. Each department’s collection of records is identified by a department code. Three of the most significant for Crimean War research are:
- The War Office, which administered the British Army – department code WO
- The Admiralty, which administered the Royal Navy – department code ADM
- The Foreign Office, for international relations – department code FO
Other government departments may have transferred Crimean War records to The National Archives. You will find details for some of them in the guides which we provide links to below.
How to search for records
Before you begin a search you should see if there is a guide to the specific type of records you are looking for – this guide is designed to help you to do that. Each guide listed below contains the links and advice you will need to search a specific set of records.
Each guide will indicate whether records have been made available online (charges usually apply). The online copies are accessed either directly from our website or from the websites of our licensed partners, including Ancestry and Findmypast (£).
Some records have no online version and to see these you will need to consult them at our building in Kew or pay for copies to be made and sent to you. The search for records held at Kew begins by using keywords and dates to search our online catalogue. The catalogue contains short descriptions of the records and a document reference for each – you will need the document reference to see the record itself or to request copies.
For more guidance on searching or browsing our catalogue, visit our Discovery help pages.
Records of individuals
The service record of an individual will usually provide more detail on them than any other single record. Military service records are held separately for each branch of the military and records of officers are held separately from other ranks. The records themselves vary in the detail they contain, from a full service history, to attestation or discharge papers, or entries in a list or register. This is explained in more detail in the research guides. There are guides for each:
- Royal Navy ratings, commissioned officers
- Royal Marines other ranks and officers
- British army soldiers and officers
Our guide to Muster rolls and pay lists has information on tracing an individual’s service using entries in regimental records, including those for the British Foreign Legion, Swiss and German nationals (records of the Italian legion no longer survive) recruited specifically for the war.
Consult our guide to Military nurses to find information on army nurses in the Crimean war.
To find records of prisoners of war, see our guide to British prisoners of war or try searching our catalogue.
To find records of Army hospitals, search our catalogue with the search terms hospital and Crimea or nurse.
Royal Navy Surgeon’s journals are found in the series ADM 101, search using terms Crimea, Therapia, Black Sea.
Royal Navy hospital musters are in series ADM 102, search using terms Therapia, Malta, Lewes (prisoners of war), Belle Isle.
In-letters of the Admiralty Sick and Hurt Board are in the series ADM 97, with registers in ADM 132 and indexes and digests in ADM 133.
Operational records and maps
Operational records are the orders and correspondence of the War Office and Admiralty directing and recording the conduct of the war. Other records include private papers of officials or senior officers, maps, log books of ships or surgeon’s journals.
See our guides to Royal Navy operations and correspondence and Royal Navy ships’ logs for advice on researching the Royal Navy’s role in the war.
Consult our guide to British army operations up to 1913, which includes a section on Private papers, for advice on finding records of the army.
Search in the series WO 28 Records of Military Headquarters using the search term Crimea, or browse the section on Crimea for headquarters’ papers relating to the war.
Browse our catalogue for commanders’ dispatches from Crimea during the war from WO 1/368 to WO 1/384. These are arranged chronologically.
Use our guides to Maps and plans, Overseas maps and plans and Sea charts for advice on finding the maps in use at the time.
Government policy and strategy, international relations and the aftermath of the war
Foreign Office general correspondence: France, Russia and Ottoman Empire (1781–1905)
Browse our catalogue for general correspondence relating to the French, Russian and Ottoman Empires before 1906 in FO 27, FO 65 and FO 78 respectively. You will need to use the registers and indexes in FO 605 to access these series. For further guidance see our guide to Foreign Office correspondence 1782-1890.
Search in our catalogue to find other records relating to the war using the advanced search, a variety of search terms and restricting the date range, such as in the example below:
Records in other organisations and other resources
Search Hansard for Parliamentary debates on the Crimean War.
Explore The National Archives’ British Battles online exhibition on The Crimean War for an interactive history of the conflict.
Search The Times Archive and the Guardian and Observer Digital Archive to view articles (£) about the Crimean War.
Read ‘The Crimean War, British Grand Strategy Against Russia, 1853–1856′ by Andrew D Lambert (Manchester University Press Manchester, 1991).
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