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First World War home page Service records for the First World War
Service records of soldiers in the British army
Service records of officers in the British army
Naval service records
Air force service records
Service records for women and medical personnel
Medals awards during the Frist World War
Court martials during the First World War
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Air force service records

At the start of the First World War, the Glossary - opens new windowRoyal Flying Corps (RFC) - founded as a British army corps in May 1912 - numbered just 1,900 men. By the end of the conflict, 293,522 individuals had seen service in the RFC and its successor, the Glossary - opens new windowRoyal Air Force (RAF), which was created on 1 April 1918 as an amalgamation of the RFC and its naval equivalent, the Glossary - opens new windowRoyal Naval Air Service (RNAS).

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Royal Flying Corps

The service records of RFC airmen who either died or were discharged before the creation of the RAF in April 1918 are listed along with those of other soldiers in WO 363 and WO 364 (Service records of soldiers in the British army). If an individual remained in service after that date, his record was transferred to the RAF.

The service records of RFC officers during the war can be found in either WO 339 and WO 374 (the main holdings for service records of British army officers) or AIR 76. Arranged alphabetically by surname, AIR 76 contains the records of those officers (both RFC and RAF) who left the RAF by early 1920. For further information, see our guide to RAF, RFC and RNAS personnel after 1913.


RFC airman's service record - opens new window
RFC: airman's
service record
Royal Naval Air Service

Most of the service records for RNAS officers and airmen, who were all enlisted in the Royal Navy, can be found in The National Archives' Admiralty records. Records for RNAS officers who served between August 1914 and March 1918 are in the ADM 273 series. AIR 76 contains the records of those who continued to serve after that date in the RAF.

RNAS airmen who served before April 1918 can be found in ADM 188, the chief repository for ratings' service records (Naval service records) during the war. If an individual remained in service after that date, his record - like those of his RFC counterparts - was transferred to the RAF.

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Royal Air Force

The RAF airmen's service records available at The National Archives in the AIR 79 series concern the first 329,000 individuals who served in the RAF from 1 April 1918 onwards. These were either men serving in the RFC when it became part of the RAF or men who joined the RAF directly after its creation (for an example, see People Indra Lal Roy: RFC and RAF officer). Their records are arranged in service number order, an index for which is available in AIR 78, and contain information about an individual's personal biography and military career. For further information, link to RAF, RFC and RNAS personnel after 1913. The records of men whose service number was 329,001 or higher - as well as those in the range 1-329,000 who also served in the Second World War - are still held by the RAF.

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RAF muster roll - opens new window
RAF muster roll

Service records for RAF officers at The National Archives (in AIR 76) cover only those officers who left the RAF by early 1920. They contain brief information about an individual's biography and the units in which he served. RAF officers who continued in service after March 1919 can be traced using the Air Force Lists available at The National Archives. The holdings of the Postmaster General's Office, also at The National Archives, contain information about pension payments made between 1916 and 1920 to invalided RAF officers and their dependants and to relatives of deceased RAF officers (PMG 42-44). Further basic information can be found in the complete Glossary - opens new windowmuster roll that was compiled by the RAF in April 1918, copies of which are available in AIR 1/819/204/4/1316 and AIR 10/232-237.

There are also the various lists for medals and awards (Medals awarded during the First World War) given to airmen in the RFC, the RNAS and the RAF during the war, as well as the operational records for individual squadrons, contained in AIR 1, ADM 137 and WO 157.

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