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The National Archives is the official national repository for all surviving British Military Records. These records include Muster and Pay Records, Discharge Records, Pre-1914 Service Records, Indexes to the Army Registers of Births, Deaths and Marriage, the Chaplain's Returns for Baptisms, Marriages and Burials Overseas, War Diaries and War Office papers.
The Imperial War Museum also holds a large archive of 20th and 21st century material - particularly military art, photograhy and film.
The National Army Museum is currently closed to the public but it does have an excellent reading room. It is expected to reopen late in 2016.
Regimental Museums do not hold copies of Service Records.
For all personal Military records for soldiers discharged prior to 1914, you will need to visit the National Archives in person. Their website has detailed guides to their collections. They have an ongoing digitisation project in conunction with commerical genealogy sites and their website will advise you any collections that can be viewed online. Please note that at some periods, records were destroyed when a man was discharged from the Army.
Commissioned Officers - Service records for Commissioned Officer are held at the National Archives in record classes WO339 for Regular Army and WO374 for Territorial Army. Survivial rate is very low. The records are not available online but there is a surname index on the National Archives website.
Other Ranks - Nearly 70% of Service Records and 65% of Discharge Papers for Warrant Officers, Non Commissioned Officers and Privates were destroyed in bombing in World War II. The Service Records that survived were badly damaged and are known as 'The Burnt Records'.
Both sets of records have been filmed in a joint project between the National Archives and the LDS Church, and these filmed are indexed alphabetically by surname. You can view the films in person at the National Archives.
World War I Pensions Records along with the surviving Discharge and Service Records are available to download on a pay-per-view basis from Ancestry and Find My Past.
The National Archives is in the process of digitising their collection of War Diaries which can be downloaded from their website for less than £4. Many diaries relevant to our Regiments have already been scanned and this is a marvellous resource.
All records for soldiers discharged from the British Army from 1st April 1920 onwards are still held by the Army Personnel Centre and subject to Data Protection Law. They can only be released to the individuals themselves, to the next of kin or to someone acting with the consent of the next of kin. The same applies to records for Officers discharged after 31st March 1922.
Please visit the Veterans UK website for application forms.
If applying for the records of a deceased serviceman you will need to supply the soldier's unique Army Number (7 figures or more and issued after 1920) and a copy of his death certificate. If the soldier has been deceased for less than 25 years then the consent of the next of kin is required. There is a fee of £30 which must accompany your application.. Please make sure you fill all information as fully as possible as the fee cannot be refunded if no record is found. The fee is waived for widows or widowers of the personnel concerned. This office can get very busy so there can be delays in obtaining copies of these records.
You need to visit the National Archives for Medal Rolls up until 1924 - but do check the list of rolls that we hold in The Keep.
World War I Campaign Medal records can be downloaded from the National Archives . There is a free index and a small fee to download the cards. These cards are also available from Commercial Genealogy sites such as Ancestry who have also digitized the actuel medal Rolls.
Medal Rolls for 1924 onwards are held by Ministry of Defence. Please visit Veterans UK for advice on how to apply for unclaimed, lost or stolen medals.
Please note that it is not possible to replace World War I Medals.
We recommend that you try the National Archives and London Gazette for Citations where they exist. We do hold some in our collection - these have either been donated to us by families or transcribed by volunteers.
Please note that the majority of World War 1 Military Medals did not have individual Citations. Mentioned in Despatches do not have individual Citations either.
We suggest you look at The Long Long Trail website for an excellent guide to researching Gallantry medals as well as being a major resource for World War 1 research.
We have given all our Devon Militia Records to the Devon Record Office on permanent loan.
World War 1 Prisoner of War records are available through the International Red Cross
The National Archives holds records of British PoWs held in Germany, Italy and Japan in World War II and also records of British PoWs held in Korea 1951-1953.
General Military Information About Devon and Dorset
There have been many Regiments stationed in Devonshire and Dorset over the years but we hold no records for these Regiments. Please contact the appropriate Regimental Museum for further information. The Royal Artillery and the Royal Engineers have enjoyed had long relationships with both counties and there were a large number of different Regiments stationed in both Devon and Dorset during the two World Wars. The Tank Regiment and the Royal Signals Regiment both have Museums in Dorset. The Nothe Fort in Weymouth, the Dorset County Museum, Dorchester, the Royal Albert Memoiral Museum in Exeter, The Museum of North Devon in Barnstaple and local history Museums throughout both counties may also hold more wide ranging collections.
We hold no information about military installations or activities in Dorset, or about the American soldiers stationed in Dorset during World War II.
The National Archives also hold the Chaplains Returns for births, deaths and marriages of soldiers stationed overseas.
County Archives and History Centres hold a wide variety of records and should be your first port of call for general family and local history research. Family History Societies and voluntary online projects also provide advice and resources to aid your research.