This article will help you to find and order the service record of a British officer or warrant officer who served in the Indian Army during the Second World War. If you are researching an officer who served with the British Army you will need to follow the steps in this guide: How to order a British Army WW2 Service Record.
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British Indian Army Officer’s WW2 Service Records
The service records of British officers and warrant officers who served in the Indian Army during the Second World War are kept at the British Library in London. They are held in the L/MIL/14/239 Indian Army Records of Service series and can be searched using the British Library’s Explore Archives and Manuscripts search engine.
However, not all files have been made publicly available due to the Data Protection Act. Currently, only the service records of those officers who joined the armed forces over 85 years ago are available and can be searched online. As of 2017, only soldiers who joined the armed services prior to 1932 are available. In theory, each year should see a new batch of officer’s files become available and added to the online catalogue.
If you don’t know the exact date an officer joined the Indian Army then you can look at an Indian Army List or search the London Gazette. I’ve written guides to using both sources:
If you know an officer entered military service over 85 years ago then you can search the British Library’s Explore Archives and Manuscripts catalogue. Don’t search the main catalogue as the India Office records aren’t included. Click the link below to be taken to the search page:
The majority of officers have their full name including any middle names recorded. If you are searching for an unusual name I would recommend just searching the surname. However, for the more common surnames, I’d start off by searching the officer’s full name. If you don’t get a result then search by first initial, surname and the following “L/MIL/14”. So if you wanted John Smith you’d search “J SMITH L/MIL/14”.
Once you click on a search result it should also record the officer’s date of commission, highest rank and unit they served with. A lot of this information will be in the form of acronyms and I’ve written a guide to help you unravel the results: Indian Army Abbreviations and Acronyms.
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Officers who enlisted less than 85 years ago
The first thing to do is find out if a service record is held and you’ll need to email the India Office Records Department at the British Library. Their contact information can be found at the bottom of this link: India Office Records Contact and you should get a reply within a few days.
However, not everyone can access the files due to the Data Protection Act. If the soldier in question is still alive then you must have their permission. If the soldier was born over 100 years ago or is deceased (you may have to provide a death certificate) then you should be able to access the file. However, certain information may be kept back if it is of a sensitive nature and relates to another person who could still be living. The staff at the India Office will advise you on what you will need to provide when you apply for a file.
Next Steps after you have a Service Record
The first thing you will need to do is to decipher the military jargon and I’ve written a guide on WW2 Abbreviations and Acronyms to help you. Then, you’ll want to see if there are any war diaries for the unit’s the officer served with during the Second World War. I’ve written another guide explaining what a war diary is, how to find them and what they contain here: Guide to World War 2 War Diaries.