The National Archives Logo
Guide reference: Military Records Information 15
Last updated: 26 January 2008

1. Why use this guide?

This guide will help you find disability and dependents' pension records for British military personnel, merchant seamen and nurses who served in the First World War.

Most of the records mentioned though are for people who served with the British Army, as the majority of casualties were borne by the Army.

This guide covers personnel records only and not policy records.

2. Pensions to dependants of deceased officers

Pensions were granted for service in the First World War, and relatives were able to claim even if their husbands had died from a war related injury many years after 1918.

The records are split between the Office of the Paymaster General (PMG) and the Ministry of Pensions (PIN). Where you start looking depends upon the date but there is overlap between their coverage so it is worth checking both.

For pensions granted before 1920 browse The Office of the Paymaster General (PMG) records. Although originally responsible for all service pensions their records mainly relate to officers.

For pensions granted after 1920 consult the Ministry of Pension records (PIN). Established in 1916 it administered war pension and allowance schemes in the UK and overseas for all the services and ranks.

To view these records you will need to visit The National Archives at Kew or pay for research.

3. Using Discovery, our catalogue

You will need to browse many of the records.

Use our catalogue to 'browse by reference' the suggested record seriesa grouping of records held by The National Archives, based on common function or subject.  Identify relevant document references by:

  • date
  • documents descriptions

Further information on browsing is available on our search help page.

4. Pension case files (1920-1989)

PIN 26 contains over 22,000 personal files on people awarded (or refused) pensions, from all services.  

This is only 2% of all the pensions awarded, and includes disability pensions and pensions to widows/dependents. Some files include documents from before 1920.

The files can contain fascinating material, some medical, some social, and can cover many years, with claims being raised four decades or more after the end of the war.

Use advanced search to search within PIN 26 by name or by medical complaint. Please note that:

  • record descriptions don't always show personal details so you might need to see the original document to make sure it relates to the right person
  • the catalogue description of PIN 26 includes an explanation of some medical abbreviations used
  • medical terminology used can be obscure so you might need to check more than one category
  • you can get an overview of pension categories by browsing PIN 26 by hierarchy
  • some records mention a selection code. A key to these is in the PIN 26 paper catalogue available in the reading rooms, Kew. 

5. Widows' and dependants' pension case files: (1910-1932)

Only a 2% sample of widows' and dependents' pensions for all services has been kept. These are in PIN 82.

Use advanced search to search by name within PIN 82.

Each file contains forms arranged in alphabetical order of servicemen's name, with his regiment or ship, and cause of death. Read the series description for PIN 82 for full details of what they can contain.

6. Pensions to dependants of deceased officers (1916-1920)

Before 1920 you can find pensions records of deceased and missing in action officers within PMG 43-46.

The records provide:

  • name and address of claimant/recipient
  • officer's name and rank
  • date of payment
  • some contain the officer's date of birth

You cannot search these by name. Instead you need to browse the records by date. Some records do contain name indexes which will help you once you have ordered the document.

Try browsing the following:

  • deceased officers: pensions to relatives (including widows) in PMG 44/1-7. Some volumes are indexed
  • missing officers: pensions to relatives in PMG 47/1-3. Also contains claimant's relationship to missing officer.
  • officers' children: allowances in PMG 46/1-4. Also contains regiment of father and who collected the money.
  • officers' widows' pensions in PMG 45/1-6

Also see PMG 43/2 for special grants and supplementary allowances to officers' widows and dependants. This volume is indexed.

7. Pensions to disabled or invalid officers and men (before 1921)

For disability pensions before 1921 browse the following series. They are rich in detail but you cannot search them by name. 

Browse by date: 

  • the half pay records in PMG 4. For later years records are subdivided by surname initial.
  • registers of pension payments in PMG 9. For the war period, records are subdivided by an entry/reference number. There is no index so you cannot identify who the numbers relate to.
  • temporary disability pensions for officers and nurses in  PMG 42. Browse by date and surname initial.

PMG 42 records cover all services and contain the following details:

  • rank
  • officer's name and address
  • date of warrant
  • amount paid   

8. Further reading

William Spencer, Family History in the Wars (Kew, 2007)

Guide reference: Military Records Information 15

Our catalogue

Search descriptions of 20 million documents from the UK central government, law courts and other national bodies.

  • Download this guide as a PDF