Focus On... Women in Uniform
* Women in World War II - Sources  
Nurses in the Crimea
Nurses in the British Army
Almeric Paget Military Massage Corps
Scottish Women's Hospitals
Women's Royal Naval Service
Women in WWII

1. Introduction

2. Profile

3. Sources

4. Further Reading

Women Commissioners gen. corresponence; reports. May - July 1917. Departure of women volunteers for war Women in Engineering Part 1, Flight Gang 1942
Catalogue reference: LAB44/252National Archives' Catalogue

General Information

The sources for information about women who served in the Second World War are numerous and can easily be found using internet search engines such as google. The Imperial War Museum and the National Army Museum are two excellent sources for general research.

Access to closed files

Service records for serving women are difficult to obtain. They fall within the 30 year closure rule and are therefore not available to the public unless certain criteria is met.

  • British Library

    The British Library Oriental and India Office Collection only relate to the Indian Army. Please see below under Ministry of Defence for British Army records.

    In order to safeguard confidential information on the subjects of the files, who may still be living, the closure period for these files has been set at 75 years from the date of entry of the serviceman/woman into the service. The files are opened on an annual basis, i.e. on 1 January 1999, files for persons joining the service in 1923 were opened. On 1 January 2000, files relating to persons joining the service in 1924 were opened and so on.

    For files of persons who joined the service less than 75 years ago, access can only be granted to:

    • The subject of the file (still living)
    • The (official, i.e. legal) next of kin of the subject, if the subject is dead
    • Other persons, who have the signed, written permission of either the subject, or if the subject is dead, then from the official next of kin
  • Ministry of Defence

    Service records can be disclosed to:

    • The ex-Serviceman/woman the information belongs to.
    • The widow/widower of a deceased ex-Serviceman/women.
    • The legal next of kin, if both the ex-Service person and their spouse is deceased.

    All other enquirers must be able to provide a letter of consent for the information to be disclosed from either the person the record belongs to or, if that person is deceased, from their next of kin. The MoD will require proof of death and kinship for all requests made for information about a deceased ex-Serviceman/woman. A fee may be charged unless the request is made by the ex-Serviceman/woman the record belongs to or their widow/widower.

    To access a record the following information (or as much as possible) is required:

    • Service Number, Rank, Full Name, Date of Birth and period served (dates from and to). For queries to the Army also state the Regiment or Corps in addition to the above information.
    • A full copy of the record can be requested however, original documents, discharge papers/books cannot be replaced. The MoD will also provide extracts from service records.

    More Information on how to obtain access to service records held by the Ministry of Defence can be found at

    Service records which pre-date those held by the MOD have been transferred to The National Archives and are freely available for public access.

Poster appeal for both Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) and Women’s’ Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) volunteers.  Catalogue: INF 3/119 Poster appeal for both Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) and Women’s’ Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) volunteers.
Catalogue: INF 3/119 National Archives' Catalogue

Other Sources

Imperial War Museum
From 15 October 2003 until 18 April 2004 the Imperial War Museum in London are staging a major exhibition on the role of women in wartime. "Women and War" is the most ambitious exhibition of its kind ever mounted on this theme, telling the story of servicewomen, nurses, land girls, factory workers, secret agents, pilots and peacekeepers from the First World War to the present day. For more information about the "Women and War" exhibtion see our Imperial War Museum partners page.

National Army Museum
Photograph of Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck inspecting members of the Women's Auxiliary Corps (India), 1947 has been used with the kind permission of the National Army Museum. The National Army Museum is the British Army's own museum. It is the only museum to tell the story of the Army as a whole from Agincourt in the Fifteenth Century to peace-keeping in the Twenty-first Century.

We Were There
The Ministry of Defence has an internet version of the 'We Were There' Exhibition. It forms a tribute to the contribution made to British defence by military and civilian personnel from what was then the British Empire and later the Commonwealth and whose descendants now form part of the richly diverse ethnic population in the United Kingdom.

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