How to look for records of... London Metropolitan Police

How can I view the records covered in this guide?

How many are online?

  • Some

1. Why use this guide?

This guide provides advice on how to find records (primarily staff records) of the London Metropolitan Police, including Special Branch. The National Archives has a substantial collection of Metropolitan Police staff records, but not all have survived.

The most recent staff records we hold are pension records dating up to 1993 (see section 4.1).

The Metropolitan Police Force, created in 1829, was the first modern police force in England (provincial police forces in England and Wales were not established until after the County Police Act of 1839). Its original area of jurisdiction covered a seven-mile radius from Charing Cross in central London. Today it consists of the 32 boroughs of Greater London, excluding the City of London.

2. The records: getting started

Metropolitan Police records held at The National Archives are identified by the department code MEPO (there are 46 separate record series within MEPO). You can browse the department and its composite series in our catalogue for an overview of what we hold.

For some of the records, particularly those that are not available online (see section 4), the key to finding records of an individual is the warrant number.

2.1 How to find a warrant number (up to 1958)

If you do not already know the police officer’s warrant number, you can search for it in the following records which you can download for free from our website:

  • the Metropolitan police registers of leavers 1889-1947, in MEPO 4/339-351 (arranged by date)
  • registers of joiners in MEPO 4/333-338 1830-1933 (arranged alphabetically within ranges of warrant numbers)
  • attestation ledgers in MEPO 4/352-360, 1869-1958

There is more information on these records in section 3.

2.2 Abbreviations in the records

You may find the following abbreviations in some of the records (such as registers of leavers):

  • RP – resignation permitted
  • RR – required to resign
  • CO – Commissioner’s Office

3. Online records

Significant numbers of Metropolitan Police records are available online both through our own website and those of our commercial partners. In some instances there is a fee to view and download these records but there is free access at The National Archives building in Kew. Many of the personnel records are in MEPO 4.

3.1 Metropolitan Police pension registers, 1852-1932

Search by first and last name for Metropolitan Police pension registers at (£). The original records are held in series MEPO 21, whose contents stretch all the way up to 1993 – but records from 1932-1993 are not available online (see section 4.1).

Nearly all the Metropolitan Police staff records detail:

  • name
  • rank
  • warrant number
  • division
  • dates of appointment and removal

3.2 Registers of joiners, 1830-1857 and 1878-1933

Search by name of individual or by warrant number in MEPO 4 for detailed catalogue descriptions based on the registers of leavers, 1830-1857 and 1878-1933 (which are among several sets of other records held in MEPO 4). The catalogue descriptions for each register entry contain more information than the registers themselves and in most cases include, along with the full name:

  • warrant number
  • date of joining
  • date of leaving

You can download digital microfilm images of the registers for free from MEPO 4/333-338.

3.3 Registers of leavers, 1889-1947

Search by name of individual in MEPO 4 for registers of leavers (MEPO 4/339-351), 1889-1947. The details included are:

  • warrant number
  • rank
  • dates of joining and leaving

These records are provided on digital microfilm and are free to download.

3.4 Attestation ledgers, 1869-1958

Search by name of individual in MEPO 4 for attestation ledgers (MEPO 4/352-360), 1869-1958. These very simple registers of joiners provide:

  • warrant number
  • signature of the new recruit
  • the division to which they were assigned

These records are provided on digital microfilm and are free to download.

3.5 Certificates of service, 1889-1909

Search by an individual’s name in MEPO 4 for certificates of service (MEPO 4/361-477), 1889-1909. These records provide:

  • a physical description
  • date of birth
  • trade
  • marital status
  • residence
  • number of children
  • name and place of last employer
  • previous public service
  • surgeon’s certificate
  • postings to divisions
  • dates of promotion or demotion
  • cause of removal/departure from the force

These records are provided on digital microfilm and are free to download.

3.6 Returns of deaths for Metropolitan Police personnel, 1829-1889

Consult the death returns in MEPO 4/2 to find out the cause of death of an officer.

3.7 Numerical registers of warrant numbers: dates of appointment and departure, 1829-1830

Search the numerical registers of police warrant numbers for September 1829-March 1830 in MEPO 4/31-32. These registers record:

  • dates of appointment
  • reasons for removal/departure from the force

4. Beyond online records

There are still many Metropolitan Police Force records that are not available online. Searches for these records begin in our catalogue which contains descriptions of each record with its document reference. This section of the guide provides instructions on how to target your catalogue search to specific parts of the collection so that you can locate a document reference with greater ease.

For more speculative or broader searches you can try an advanced search of our catalogue using keywords (for example, the name of an officer or a police station, or broader terms such as ‘discipline’ or ‘promotion’) and dates, ensuring that you include MEPO in the reference field.

To see these original records you will either need to visit us (£) or, where you can identify a specific record reference, order a copy (£).

4.1 Metropolitan Police pension records, 1932-1993

Browse our catalogue in MEPO 21/67-210 for records of Metropolitan Police officers’ and officers’ widows pensions after 1932, arranged by date of retirement. Records from 1957-1993 (MEPO 21/100-139) are closed and you will therefore need to submit a Freedom of Information request to have a chance of seeing them.  To submit a request, follow these instructions:

  • Step 1: Browse through MEPO 21/100-139 to the document reference that covers the year and month range you are interested in
  • Step 2: Once you have located the document reference within the list, click on ‘Details’
  • Step 3: Click on ‘Submit FOI request’ to be taken to our ‘FOI request for a closed record’ form
  • Step 4: Complete the form and click ‘Send’

4.2 Metropolitan Police entry books, 1829-1836

Browse the entry book in HO 65/26. This records is particularly useful if you do not know the officer’s warrant number. The entry books give dates of promotion or demotion.

4.3 Metropolitan Police pension records, 1829-1890

Before 1890, pensions were granted on a discretionary basis.

Use the search box below to search for records of Metropolitan Police pensioners who retired or resigned between 1852 and 1890 and who received a police pension. It is a search in series MEPO 21 (the records occupy piece numbers MEPO 21/1-19). Please note, this is a search across the entire catalogue description of each record, not just the name. A search for someone called Barnes, for example, may give some results for people born in Barnes. You can narrow your search by using quotation marks to find a person’s full name, such as “John Williams”.

You can also browse correspondence and papers in MEPO 5/1-90 (1829-1859) for:

  • personnel who had a right to a pension after 25 years’ service
  • those deemed medically unfit for service

4.4 Selected police files of distinguished officers in the Metropolitan Police Force, 1858-1933

Locate joining papers of a number of distinguished officers in MEPO 3/2883-2921. The covering dates are for dates of service. These personal files are subject to closure for at least 75 years.

4.5 Kings Police Medal records, 1909-1951

The King’s Police Medal was awarded to officers for gallantry or distinguished service. It was introduced in 1909 and replaced by the King’s Police and Fire Services Medal in 1940, itself replaced by the Queen’s Police Medal in 1954.

There is a register of officers under consideration for the King’s Police Medal in MEPO 22/2 and files relating to the award of the medal in HO 45 (search HO 45 with the term “King’s Police Medal”).

See also MEPO 2/1300 and MEPO 7 for mentions of officers who received the medal.

The London Gazette published notifications of awards of the King’s Police Medal – search The Gazette website.

4.6 Metropolitan Police orders, 1829-1989

Browse our catalogue in MEPO 7 for police orders.

Items included are:

  • staff news
  • promotions
  • awards
  • retirements
  • dismissals

Note that the records are closed for 50 years. If you already know the date of a particular event these might give you more information.

4.7 Nominal role of special constables, 1875

There is a nominal roll of special constables from 1875 in MEPO 2/143.

5. Special Branch records

The Metropolitan Police Special Branch was formed in 1883. Its remit included intelligence work, anti-terrorism and personal protection of prominent and public figures. It merged with the Metropolitan Police Anti-Terrorist Branch in 2006 to form Counter Terrorism Command.

Records from Special Branch are held in series MEPO 38. You can search the series for records using keywords connected to specific topics, such as ‘extremism’, ‘fascists’, ‘communism’, ‘Irish Republicanism’ and ‘protection’.

6. Records in other archives

Metropolitan Police

The Metropolitan Police has a collection of personnel records including records of service and a name database. Contact the Metropolitan Police,, for advice on the organisational history on the force as well as information on the Metropolitan Police’s own archives, which include records of individual officers.

Metropolitan Police Heritage Centre

The Metropolitan Police Heritage Centre has an incomplete set of divisional records for A, B, E, F, G, H, K, L, M, N, R and Y. Contact by email:

Women police officers

The Metropolitan Women Police Association holds a database of names of all women police officers from warrant No 1, issued in 1919, to warrant No 7474, issued in 1986. Use their online contact form to find out more about how to locate records of service.

Women police patrols

Consult records of service and photographs of the women police patrols employed from 1919 at the Metropolitan Historical Collection.

Friends of the Metropolitan Police Historical Collection

The Friends of the Metropolitan Police Historical Collection offer a records of service and a name database, as well as advice on tracing police ancestors.

Divisional and station records

The Open University has some online images of divisional and station records including some occurrence and charge books. The Wapping Police Station Museum holds Thames Division ledgers.

Police Roll of Honour Trust

Contact the Police Roll of Honour Trust which maintains the Police Roll of Honour and includes a section for the Metropolitan Police

7. Further reading

Use our library catalogue to find a recommended book list.

The books are all available in The National Archives’ reference library. You may also be able to find them in a local library. You can buy from a wide range of history titles in our bookshop.

Appendix 1: The London Metropolitan Police district

The area policed by the London Metropolitan Police has changed over the years:

  • The Metropolitan Police Act 1829 defined the Metropolitan Police District as an area about seven miles radius from Charing Cross, London
  • The second Act in 1839 extended this to about a 15-mile radius from Charing Cross and included all of Middlesex
  • In 1869 this area was divided into four districts, each of which had a number of divisions (see below)
  • From 1860 to 1934 the Metropolitan Police also had responsibility for the police of the Royal Dockyards and military stations Portsmouth, Chatham, Devonport, Pembroke and Woolwich
  • From 1914 to 1926 they also had responsibility for Rosyth in Scotland
  • Today it consists of the 32 boroughs of Greater London, excluding the City of London

Appendix 2: London Metropolitan Police divisions

If you know the division an officer worked in, you can extend your research to include looking at divisional records. Where records mention an officer’s division they often use the following letter codes:

  • No. 1 District: G – Finsbury; H – Whitechapel; K – Stepney; N – Islington; and Thames Division
  • No. 2 District: D – Marylebone; E – Holborn; S – Hampstead; X – Paddington; Y – Highgate
  • No. 3 District: A – Whitehall; B – Westminster; C – St James’s; T – Kensington; V – Wandsworth
  • No. 4 District: L – Lambeth; M – Southwark; P – Camberwell; R – Greenwich; W – Clapham
  • F Division – Covent Garden
  • J Division – Bethnal Green – added in 1886
  • Z Division – Croydon – was formed in 1921. Croydon had previously been included in W Division
  • Q Division – Wembley – was formed in 1965. Wembley was previously X Division
  • Division letter codes I, O and U were never used

Maps of the districts and their changing boundaries can be found in record series MEPO 15.