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.
British Indian Army Officers’ 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.
Due to the Date Protection Act, you’ll only find officers in the Indian Army Records of Service series who joined over 85 years ago. In theory, each year, the catalogue entries should be updated with more officers added. However, I’m not sure whether this actually occurs so don’t be surprised if there’s no entry for an officer who joined the Indian Army in 1933 or 1934. Even if an officer joined the Indian Army within the last 85 years, you can usually still order their service record. You’ll have to contact the British Library to see if a service record is held and this is discussed further down the page.
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’d 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.
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. You can contact them by clicking on “Asian & African Studies Reference Team” found on the following page India Office Records Contact. Often, you’ll receive 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 alive.
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 Second World War 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: Second World War Unit War Diaries.