British Army prisoners of war, Brandenburg 1917
British prisoners of war, Brandenburg 1917

Please note, I no longer offer a research service, but the following information may be useful.

In addition to this British Army Ancestors website I maintain the Army Service Numbers 1881-1918 blog which offers lots of useful tips on understanding regimental numbers and when these were issued.

Depending on when your ancestor served in the British Army there are different places to look for information. Remember though, there is no single nominal roll, archive collection or database of soldiers who served in the British Army. The data on this British Army Ancestors website has been compiled from many sources, mostly from records housed in The National Archives, but there are still significant gaps.

The good news is that despite these gaps it is still usually possible to fill in some details about British soldiers. Clicking on the blue buttons (below) that you’ll see against every record on this site will lead you to some information, although you’ll normally need to pay to view that information on paid websites like Findmypast or The National Archives.  

Research

Pre-First World War records of British soldiers are held mostly in WO 96 and WO 97 at The National Archives and you will find links to those records on this website. However, before these papers ever reached the National Archives, they had been ruthlessly weeded. If a soldier died on active service, his record was destroyed. If news reached the Ministry of Pensions that a soldier had died after he left the army, his record was also destroyed.

First World War records are held in WO 363 and WO 364 at The National Archives but around 60% of the records now housed in WO 363 were destroyed in bombing during the Second World War. Records for men who were still in the army in 1920 or enlisted in 1920 or later are in the process of being transfered from the Ministry of Defence to The National Archives. You can still request copies of records held by the MoD but you may find it easier to wait until theese have been digitised and published by Ancestry (in partnership with TNA) between 2024 and 2029.

Remember too that whilst millions of records have been published online over the years, there are millions of other records that are still housed in regimental, county or national archives. Muster rolls and pay lists, for example, thousands of them, are all housed at The National Archives in Kew and provide valuable information on Victorian soldiers for whom no service record may survive.

There are currently 106425 photos of British Army soldiers published on this website