How to order a British Army WW2 Service Record

This guide is intended to help make the process of ordering a WW2 Service Record for a soldier who served in the British Army as simple as possible. I have written this guide as I often get emails from clients asking for help in ordering a service record, usually their father’s. This article is divided into four sections:

  • Where are World War 2 Service Records held?
  • What Information do World War 2 Service Records contain?
  • A Guide to Ordering a WW2 Service Record if you are the next-of-kin or can receive their permission.
  • A Guide to Ordering a WW2 Service Record if you are not related to a soldier but would like to find out more about their service.

I have written a separate guide if you are looking for the service record of a British officer or warrant officer who served in the Indian Army during the Second World War: WW2 Service Records held at the British Library.


Where are British Army WW2 Service Records Held?

All Second World War service records for service personnel who served in the British Army are held by the Ministry of Defence (MOD). Except for those who served in the Coldstream and Scots Guards which are held at their respective archives. The MOD not only keeps the service records of Second World War soldiers but of:

  • All British Army officers who served past April 1922.
  • All British Army soldiers who served past January 1921.

These service records are held by the Army Personnel Centre – Historical Disclosures Section at Glasgow and you can learn how to order them below. I have also created guides on my other website Researching WW1 if you are looking for a soldier’s service record who served in the First World War. Click on the blue links below to find out more:


What Information do British Army WW2 Service Records Contain?

A WW2 service record will contain a wealth of information relating to a person’s service during the Second World War. They are vital records which will enable you to research a soldier in greater depth. The exact contents of a service record will vary from soldier to soldier depending on when they joined and the nature of their service. The information below is usually found in a service record:

  • Biographical information: when they were born, next-of-kin, address etc.
  • Description: Height, weight etc.
  • The units they served with and the dates they were with them.
  • Where they served: Home, Middle East etc.
  • WW2 Campaign medal entitlement.
  • The MOD will not release any documents containing medical or disciplinary information.

World War 2 service records are full of military jargon which is often in the form of abbreviations and acronyms, so I’ve written two guides to help you:

Once you’ve interpreted your service record, the next step will be to find the relevant war diaries which will add a lot more of information regarding a soldier’s service. War diaries are the most important documents to consult after a service record and I have written a guide on how to find them here:


Applying for WW2 Service Records as the Next-of-Kin or with their Consent

This section is relevant if you are the next-of-kin or have received the next-of-kin’s permission to apply for a service record. The next-of-kin will be the first living person in the MOD’s list below:

  • Spouse/Civil Partner
  • Son/Daughter
  • Grandchild
  • Father/Mother
  • Brother/Sister
  • Nephew/Niece
  • Grandparent
  • Other (Specify)

To apply for a service record you will need:

  • Their full name
  • Service Number or Date of Birth
  • Death certificate unless the date of birth is over 116 years ago (i.e they were born before 1911) as the MOD presumes death.

For most people, especially next-of-kin, it is easier to provide a date of birth than a service number. But I have written the following guides to help you find all three pieces of information:

  • How to find and order a Birth Certificate
  • How to find a WW2 Service Number (Army Number)
  • How to find and order a Death Certificate

Once you have the required information, you will need to complete two forms and send them off to The Army Personnel Centre along with a cheque for £30. The address needed and name for the cheque can be found on the forms. The two forms you will need can be found by clicking the link below which will take you to the government’s website:

Forms Needed to Apply for a WW2 Service Record

The first form you will need is the ”next-of-kin’s records” form and then the British Army search form. Both forms are very straightforward and it won’t take you long to fill out. Once you have sent off the forms with a cheque and photocopy of a death certificate (if needed) you should get a reply within a month. I find the service does take longer in the weeks around Remembrance Sunday.

I offer a WW2 Research Service and have helped my clients order a WW2 service record and birth and death certificates if needed. To find out more about my research service, click on the link below:

WW2 Research Service


Applying for WW2 Service Records if you are not the Next-of-Kin

Applying for a service record if you are not the next-of-kin or do not have permission follows the same steps as if you are. However, depending on when the person you are researching died you may only be given limited information. To apply for a service record you will need:

  • Their full name
  • Service Number or Date of Birth
  • Death certificate unless the date of birth is over 116 years ago (i.e they were born before 1902) as the MOD presumes death.

I have written the following guides to help you:

  • How to find and order a Birth Certificate
  • How to find a WW2 Service Number (Army Number)
  • How to find and order a Death Certificate

If a soldier died within the last 25 years you’ll only receive limited information:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Regiment/Corps (but not the exact units)
  • Service number
  • Period served
  • If they received the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal

If a soldier died more than 25 years ago you’ll receive the above information and:

  • The units they served in and duration (this is the most important information)
  • Their ranks
  • Information regarding campaign medals they qualified for

Once you have either a service number or date of birth and a death certificate (if applicable), you will need to fill out two forms which can be printed off by clicking the link below. The first is labelled ”not next-of-kin’s records in the link below. You will also need to fill out a British Army search form which records the details of the person you are searching for.

Forms Needed to Apply for a WW2 Service Record

Once you have completed the forms, you will need to send them off with a cheque for £30 and a copy of a death certificate to the Army Personnel Centre. The address and name for the cheque can be found on the forms. You will usually receive a reply within a month.

I offer a WW2 Research Service and have helped my clients order a WW2 service record and birth and death certificates if needed. I also provide a copying service for WW2 war diaries which are the most important documents to view after a service record. Click on the link below to find out more:

WW2 Research Service