Searching British War Records from World War II – FamilySearch December 20, 2019

I saw this last night on FamilySearch – Searching British War Records from World War II – FamilySearch December 20, 2019: A lot more information in the link.

December 20, 2019  – by  Amie Tennant

On September 3, 1939, Britain declared war on Germany. By the end of the war, 2.9 million men and women had fought for the British forces. If you have recent British roots, you may have a British World War II soldier or two in your family tree. Understanding British war records can help you find out more information about these family members.

To identify your ancestor in British war records from World War II, a good place to start might be the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) website. The cemetery database at CWGC contains information about cemeteries and memorials in 23,000 locations and in more than 150 countries.

The CWGC honors the 1.7 million men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died in the First and Second World Wars.

Conscription Records

A conscription is a “compulsory enrollment for service in a country’s armed forces.” Prior to World War II, Great Britain had a small, professional army, but by the end of 1939, more than 1.5 million men had been conscripted to join the British armed forces. About 1.1 million of those conscripted went into the army, and the rest were split between the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force.


In Great Britain, the Military Training Act of 1939 required all men between the ages of 20 and 21 to register. In September 1939, parliament passed another act, which extended the registration requirement to include all fit men between 20 and 23 years of age. Later, the conscription included all fit men between the ages of 18 and 41.

By 1942, all British males between 18 and 51 years old and all unmarried females 20 to 30 years old were liable to be called up, with some exemptions. Some exemptions included, but were not limited to, the following:

  • Students
  • Clergy
  • Police and medical workers
  • Women who had one or more children 14 years old or younger living with them

Conscription records may include the following types of information:

  • Name
  • Birth date
  • Date of conscription and date military service began

You will find conscription records within a service record file.

Service Records

The National Archives at Kew in the London area is where you will find the majority of British military records. However, for soldiers who served after the 1920s, the records can be found at the Ministry of Defense.

Service records are available for researchers for a fee. Access restrictions are in place for those persons who died less than 25 years ago.


You can apply for a deceased service member’s records in the following circumstances:

  • You are the immediate next of kin (spouse or parent).
  • You have consent from the immediate next of kin.
  • You have a general research interest.

You will need some important information about the deceased service member such as the full name, date of birth, and service number.

To obtain a copy of a service record, fill out a request form and a search form, both of which can be located at the Ministry of Defense website. There is a £30 fee for each separate record and any supporting documents. There is no fee if you were the person’s spouse or civil partner at the time of death or if you were a parent and there was no spouse.



About Wichita Genealogist

Originally from Gulfport, Mississippi. Live in Wichita, Kansas now. I suffer Bipolar I, ultra-ultra rapid cycling, mixed episodes. Blog on a variety of topics - genealogy, DNA, mental health, among others. Let's
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