Photograph of women working in a munitions factory (Catalogue reference: MUN 4/185)

This is a brief guide to researching British government and military records of the First World War. First World War records are wide-ranging and are kept in a variety of archives. This guide will help you gain a general overview of the main sources of the information that exists, and where to find it. 

  • What records can I find at The National Archives at Kew?

    • British Army unit war diaries (1914-1922)

      Search WO 95 in our catalogue for war diaries from the First World War. These diaries were daily accounts of operations. To search, enter the battalion number and the regiment with the word AND (in capitals) between them.

    • Diaries and papers of top rank officers in the British Army

      Browse the diaries of Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig in WO 256, the papers of Field Marshall Lord Kitchener in WO 159 and PRO 30/57, the papers of General Earl Cavan in WO 79 and the papers of General Sir A J Murray, also in WO 79.

    • War Cabinet records (1916-1919)

      Search or browse the following record series to find papers created by the War Cabinet, which took over the wartime role of the permanent Cabinet between December 1916 and October 1919:

    • War Office intelligence

      Use our catalogue to search for papers of the Directorate of Military Operations and Intelligence in WO 106 and WO 208, and related papers in WO 160, searching by keyword and restricting the date range. Browse the intelligence reports in WO 157 and the maps and plans in WO 78 by place.

    • General records

      Search, browse and consult the following departmentsdepartment - The highest level in our records hierarchy, usually corresponding to the government department of origin to gain an overview of the First World War from various government and military records:

      • War Office (WO), Admiralty (ADM) and Air Force (AIR) - this is where most armed forces and general war records will be found
      • Foreign Office (FO) - correspondence, policy and negotiation with other states
      • Prime Minister's Office (PREM) - mainly correspondence to and from the Prime Minister's office
      • Home Office (HO) - this series focuses on domestic and internal affairs
  • What records can I find in other archives and organisations?

    • Wartime diaries and personal papers (1914-1918)

      Visit the Imperial War Museum website for information on how to access records in their document archive and on the various collections held by the museum relevant to the First World War.

Did you know?

There are many records covering conflicts and wars at The National Archives. Try searching our catalogue with a specific term, name or subject to help focus your search.

The most popular records on the subject of the First World War at The National Archives are within departments WO, HO, PREM and FO.

There is likely to be some overlap between separate departmentsdepartment - The highest level in our records hierarchy, usually corresponding to the government department of origin on any given subject. For example, a decision made during the First World War may have been informed by the Foreign Office (FO), discussed by the Cabinet (CAB) and Prime Minister (PREM) and then carried out by the Army (WO) and Navy (ADM).