29 January 2018

Getting a copy of Military Service records

A few weeks ago I decided to apply for my dad's military records.

I thought his records may help to "flesh out" his World War 2 history, while at the same time
confirming a few dates concerning postings, training and promotion.

The process is quite straightforward, and starts by visiting the website: https://www.gov.uk/get-copy-military-service-records

You need at least the following minimum info: a copy of the persons Death Certificate, their full name & date of birth (although this would not have been enough for my dad, as his year of birth was wrong on his military records! Fortunately I had my dad's Service Number).

Any additional info will help narrow down the search (e.g. "He was a rear gunner on Lancaster bombers during WW2").

It will cost you £30, even if the search is not successful, unless you are the spouse of the person in question.

the package

Since requests for information from the 3 services (British Army, Royal Navy, & Royal Air Force) are handled by different organisations, I guess what you get back within your package of information will vary.

In my case I had the following:-

  • Useful Abbreviations: this is a list of over 750 common military abbreviations. You would think that the military would need to be more precise than to simply trust in abbreviations. Obviously there are one or two duplicates, and my favourite is probably: DCM (which can either mean "Distinguished Conduct Medal" or District Court Martial").
  • Army Form E501: this covers the Attestation (declaration) of my dad when he joined the Territorial Army on the 26th April 1939. This is where the year of birth is recorded incorrectly as 1922, but the "Apparent Age" is correct. It also includes a paragraph entitled "Certificate of Primary Examination" where my dad is declared "...FIT for service..."
  • Army Form B200 - "Statement of Services": is a dated statement of Units/Regiments he was attached to, Education/training, Ranks & Promotions. This needs to be read in association with B103.
  • Army Form B103 - "Service & Casualty Form": these are probably the most interesting 5 pages in my case. There are 30-40 individually dated comments including promotion, training, transfers to other regiments, leave granted, date of marriage & so on.
  • Notification of Release/Impending Release: these last two photocopied sheets were intriguing. The original page numbers were 3 & 6, so I wondered where the other pages had gone! Then I remembered I had seen something in a similar style, and realised they may have been part of the Soldier's Release Book.

I now need to find some time to study this stuff in detail, and then make any appropriate changes to my dad's history. A remaining problem is that many of the abbreviations in his records are not covered in the "Useful Abbreviation" document.

For example; I know L/Bdr means Lance Bombardier, but what does: U/A/L/Bdr mean?