Record of Henry W Allingham (Reference AIR 79/1873).

17 July 2012

The service records of the first 320,000 airmen to serve with the Royal Air Force (RAF) and its forebears are now searchable by name following the conclusion of a successful cataloguing project.

Staff and volunteers at The National Archives have added full names to the service numbers listed in the AIR 79 series, containing the records of airmen who served in the First World War.

Previously, it was only possible to search the index of airmen on microfilm in the reading rooms at Kew.

The Royal Air Force was formed in April 1918 but the records include men who had previously served with its predecessors, the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service, as well as those recruited directly into the new RAF.

The records themselves, which are orderable at Kew, are rich in detail and contain everything from hair colour to marital status, as well as details of service. The cataloguing of the series is a vital step towards any future digitisation.

Among the men featured in the series are gunner ace Leslie Simpson Court, credited with eight aerial victories, and Henry Allingham (see the document image above), who was the oldest surviving British First World War veteran when he died in 2009.

William Spencer, Principal Military Records Specialist at The National Archives, said: 'These records are a key source for tracing information about your First World War airmen ancestors and this two-year cataloguing project has made them much easier to search and identify. These pioneers were founding members of the third armed service at a time when aviation was still in its infancy.'

Search the records on Discovery, our catalogue.

You can also read more about the work which went into the cataloguing project on The National Archives' Blog.