The British Army service records image browse comprises fifteen archival series from The National Archives and two from the Scots Guards. The collection includes a myriad of Army forms including attestation papers, medical forms, discharge documents, pension claims, and proceedings of regimental boards. The attestation form was completed when the soldier joined the regiment and was updated throughout his military career. This, together with other papers found in soldiers files can help piece together a very detailed picture of an individual.
Six series are related directly to the Royal Hospital Chelsea and were created to administer pensions. The hospital, opened in 1682, is a retirement home for pensioners and administrative office for the British Army. A pensioner is either an ‘out pensioner’ if he or she resides in a private home and receives a pension or an ‘in pensioner’, also known as a Chelsea pensioner, if he or she resides at the hospital and surrenders his pension to the hospital.
Scots Guards Enlistment Registers, 1799-1939
This set has been made available by the Scots Guards. It comprises regimental enlistment records from 1799 to 1939. The attestation books record the place, date, and age of the soldier at the time of attestation. You will also find the soldier’s birth place, spouse’s name, marriage date, and trade prior to joining the army. The books also recorded if the individual received medals or was wounded during service, as well as the individual’s rank at the time of discharge.
The Scots Guards can trace its origin back to 1642 when they were known as the Marquis of Argyll’s Royal Regiment. Throughout its history, the regiment has also be known as the Scots Regiment of Foot Guards, 3rd Regiment of Foot Guards, and the Scots Fusilier Guards. Finally, in 1877, the regiment received its title as Scots Guards. The enlistment records include the names of men who served in the Seven Years War, the Napoleonic War, the Crimean War, and the two world wars.
Scots Guards Officer Enlistment Registers, 1642-1939
The officer enlistment books provide dates of promotion to officer ranks such as lieutenant, captain, major, or lieutenant colonel. The remarks column details the officer’s mobilisation dates and resignation dates, as well as whether the officer was wounded or received medals or awards. Some records will include a date of death, especially in cases where the officer was killed in action or died of wounds. These books have been made available online by the Scots Guards.
WO 22 - Royal Hospital Chelsea: returns of payment of Army and other pensions 1842-1883
In this series, you will find documents related to pensions paid by the Royal Hospital Chelsea. They will detail a soldiers’ change of residence and date of death. Furthermore, they detail the rate of pension paid and whether and when a pension was expired, reduced, renewed, or increased. The date of admission to out-pensioners will give you an indication as to when your ancestor retired from the armed forces.
WO 23 - Royal Hospital Chelsea: admission books, registers, and papers 1702-1876
This series was created to administer pensions payable by the commissioners of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, to both in-pensioners and out-pensioners. These superannuation books recorded your ancestor’s rank, department or regiment, date of commencement, rate of pension paid, and payment dates. Some of the books will have additional notes such as birth dates and whether your ancestor was an in- or out-pensioner.
WO 25 – Royal Engineers Officers’ Service Records
In this series, you will find records of service of officers in the Royal Engineers. In the documents, you can find details of their rank and dates of service. The forms also include the campaigns your ancestors served in along with information on any marriage, births of children during service and the names and address of next of kin.
WO 76 - Regimental records of officers' services 1775-1914
The records found in this series were created by individual regiments and pertain solely to officers. They do not include every regiment and the level of information for each regiment varies. In the documents, you can find your ancestor’s rank, regiment, service dates, commissioned ranks, and promotions. You may also be able to learn additional background about your ancestor prior to his joining the forces, for instance his date and place of birth and his education background, including if he could speak any foreign languages.
WO 96 - Militia service records 1806-1915
The WO96 series includes your ancestor’s attestation form, which was completed when he was recruited. The form includes marital status, occupation, details related to any previous service, residence, and next of kin. Each form recorded your ancestor’s medical examination; here you can find a physical description of your ancestor including height, hair colour, and eye colour. The forms were updated during his service and will have a full service history.
WO 97 – Chelsea: pensioners British Army service records 1760-1913
These records were collected and recorded to determine a person’s eligibility for a pension from the Royal Chelsea Hospital. They recorded an individual’s rank and regiment, service number, birth place, occupation, attestation date and service history. Some will include a statement about the person’s character and proceedings of the regimental board.
WO 121 - Chelsea: pensioners' discharge documents 1760-1887
The records found in this series are similar to WO97. This series contains some of the collections oldest records. They recorded a person’s birth place, the length of service, and why the soldier was discharged. For example, in the records we find Lieutenant Colonel Robert Able of Norwich, who was 43 years old when he was discharged, ‘Having the rheumatism and being worn out’ after serving for 20 years and 6 months.
WO 122 - Chelsea: pensioners' discharge documents, foreign regiments 1816-1817
These records are certificates of service for pensions from foreign regiments: King’s German Legion, Foreign Veteran Battalions, and the Royal Foreign Wagon Train. In this series, you will find your ancestor’s rank and regiment, home parish and length of service and regiment, as well as his physical description. Some of the documents include both portrait and landscape layouts; use the rotation feature on the left side of the image to rotate the image in order to read the document better.
WO 128 - Imperial Yeomanry, soldiers' documents, South African War 1899-1902
The soldiers featured in these records enlisted with the Imperial Yeomanry for a short period during the South African War. They are similar to other attestation records and contain the same information. The Imperial Yeomanry, a volunteer cavalry regiment, was created on 24 December 1899 by Royal Warrant because of a need for more troops in South Africa.
WO 131 - Chelsea: documents of soldiers awarded deferred pensions 1838-1896
This collection comprises 42,000 images relating to the records of 6,000 men for the period 1838-1896. You will find nominal rolls of soldiers awarded pensions as well as discharge documents of pensioners. The documents recorded a soldier’s rank and regiment, enlistment date, age at enlistment, promotions, reductions, and years of service. You may also find a statement about the soldier’s conduct and notes of distinguished service.
WO 400 - The Household Cavalry 1801-1919
The Household Cavalry is the oldest and most senior units in the British Army, dating back to 1600, and are the Queen’s official bodyguards. The Household Cavalry comprised the 1st Life Guards, 2nd Life Guards and the Royal Horse Guards. During the First World War, a fourth regiment, The Household Battalion, was also raised, and this collection contains the service records of non-commissioned officers and men who served with all four regiments. Today, The Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment is stationed at Hyde Park Barracks and provides the army’s mounted state ceremonial duties, making them the public face of the British Army. These regimental records will provide you with your ancestor’s service history.
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