How to look for records of... British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force disability and dependents’ pensions from the First World War

How can I view the records covered in this guide?

How many are online?

  • None

1. Why use this guide?

Use this guide for advice on finding records documenting pension awards and payments granted to:

  • servicemen who sustained disabling injuries during the First World War
  • the widows of servicemen who died in the First World War
  • the children of servicemen who died in the First World War

Pensions were granted for servicemen who served in the First World War and relatives were able to claim even if the serviceman died from a war related injury many years after the end of the war.

Most of the records covered are for people who served with the British Army, where the majority of casualties were borne, but some cover Royal Navy and Royal Air Force personnel as well as merchant seamen and military nurses and their families.

2. Where have these records come from?

As with all documents held at The National Archives, these records are historical records from UK central government departments. In this case, the departments behind these records were:

3. Where and how to get started

These records cannot be viewed online and to see them or even to simply search for them you may need to visit The National Archives at Kew. However, in most cases you can at least make a start online by searching for document references in our catalogue. If you find references you can pay for copies of the records to be sent to you but you will not be able to view the records beforehand unless you visit us.

To find references, click on the record series links in this guide and follow the search instructions provided. In some instances the only way to search is to browse through the records one by one.

Further information on browsing is available on our search help page.

4. Records covering all branches of the military

4.1 Two percent sample of pension case files, 1920-1989

Pension case files contain papers submitted to support an application for, and the administration of, a pension. Just a 2% sample of pension case files for pensions awarded (or refused) to First World War service personnel has been kept. Case files can be rich in detail, some covering many decades, sometimes because claims were raised thirty or forty years after the end of the war. They can include medical but also social information and they include disability pensions and pensions to widows/dependents. Some files include documents from before 1920.

The sample is held in record series PIN 26 and amounts to over 22,000 files on people from all the military services.

Search in PIN 26 by name or, if that fails, by the name of the disability (not all the record descriptions in PIN 26 include the name of the person). In some instances, the medical terminology used is unfamiliar and you might need to check more than one category. Some abbreviations have been used to describe different types of disabilities so use these, if applicable, when searching:

  • CSOM – Chronic Supperative Otitis Media
  • DAH – Disease of action of the heart
  • GP – Gun-powder injury
  • GSW – Gun-shot wound
  • ICT – Inflammation of Connective Tissue
  • POW – Prisoner of War
  • PNO PUO PVO – Pyrexia of unknown origin
  • TB – Tuberculosis
  • VDH – Valvular disease of heart

PIN 26 has been divided into subseries according to categories such as ‘widows’ and ‘Navy’ and you can target any one of these by viewing the PIN 26 by hierarchy, clicking on the subseries title and then browsing through the records one by one.

Some records mention a ‘selection code’. A key to these is in the printed, paper version of the catalogue available in the reading rooms at Kew – find the PIN 26 binder.

4.2 Two percent sample of widows’ and dependents’ pension case files

Only a 2% sample of pensions awarded to widows or dependents of First World War servicemen, from all branches of the military, have been kept. These are in PIN 82 and the dates of the records themselves cover 1910-1932.

Use the search box contained within PIN 82 to search by name.

Each file contains forms arranged in alphabetical order of servicemen’s name, with his regiment or ship, and cause of death. Read the series description for PIN 82 for full details of what they can contain.

4.3 Pensions awarded to the relatives of deceased officers

These records, of pensions awarded to the relatives (including widows) of deceased officers from all branches of the military are not searchable by name in the catalogue but most contain the original indexes used to locate entries within them. Select the file between PMG 44/1 and PMG 44/7 which matches your search criteria and use its original index, once you have the file in front of you, to find individual entries.

The records generally contain:

  • name and address of claimant/recipient
  • officer’s name and rank
  • date of payment
  • officer’s date of birth in some cases

4.4 Temporary disability pensions paid to officers and nurses

Records of temporary pensions paid to officers and nurses in the British Army, Royal Navy and RAF are in series PMG 42.

These records are catalogued by surname ranges according to the first letter of the surname. Browse through PMG 42 to pick out the range that applies to your search. The records contain the following details:

  • rank
  • officer’s name and address
  • date of warrant
  • amount paid

5. Records covering only British Army personnel

5.1 Pensions to dependents of deceased officers, 1916-1920

Records of pensions awarded to the widows, children and other dependents of officers killed or missing in action are held in various PMG series and generally contain:

  • name and address of claimant/recipient
  • officer’s name and rank
  • date of payment
  • officer’s date of birth in some cases

You cannot search these series online by name. Instead you need to select a file from our online catalogue based either on the year or the range of surnames that it covers, then view it in our reading rooms at Kew, using the original name index within each file to find an entry for an individual. Click on the links below to pick out a file based on year or surname range:

  • Pensions granted to the relatives of missing British Army officers in PMG 47/1-3 (each entry describes the claimant’s relationship to the missing officer).
  • Pension allowances granted to the children of British Army officers killed in the war in PMG 46/1-4 (the records contain details of the officer’s regiment and who collected the money).
  • Pensions paid to the widows of British Army officers in PMG 45/1-6.
  • Special grants and supplementary allowances paid to widows and dependants of British Army officers in PMG 43/2.

5.2 Pensions to disabled or invalid officers and men before 1921

For disability pensions before 1921 browse the following series. They are rich in detail but you cannot search them by name.

Browse by date:

  • British Army half pay records in PMG 4. For later years records are subdivided by surname initial
  • British Army registers of pension payments in PMG 9. For the war period, records are subdivided by an entry/reference number. There is no index so you cannot identify who the numbers relate to

6. Further reading

William Spencer, Family History in the Wars (Kew, 2007)