This is a brief guide to researching records of nurses who served with the Royal Air Force. While some records can be found at The National Archives, most material is currently held by the Ministry of Defence and the Red Cross.
What do I need to know before I start?
The Royal Air Force Nursing Service was established in 1918 and renamed Princess Mary’s Royal Air Force Nursing Service in 1923. It was a women-only service until 1980.
Campaign medal records (1914-1920)
Search and download (£) the index cards to First World War campaign medals awarded to nurses (WO 372) on our website. Use the keywords “Nurse” or “Voluntary Aid Detachment”, as well as providing a surname to help your search.
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 (£).
Campaign medals (1793-1949)
Search by name online in the campaign medal and award rolls (WO 100) using Ancestry.co.uk (£). You will need to know the campaign and the relevant nursing service to use these records. These do not usually contain biographical information.
Recipients of the Royal Red Cross (1883-1994)
Consult the registers of the recipients of the Royal Red Cross in WO 145 to find a person who received this award.
Records in other archives and organisations
Royal Air Force Nursing Service service records (1918-present)
Visit the GOV.UK website for information about how to request a summary of a service record from the Ministry of Defence. These are not available to members of the general public, though next of kin may request access to them.
Voluntary Aid Detachment records (1914-1920, 1939-1945)
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 or Second World War.
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 Royal Air Force Museum for information on personal papers of a wide range of individuals involved with the RAF.