Military Archive Research
by Dr. Stuart C Blank
Member of the Orders and Medals Research Society (OMRS)
Member of the Royal Air Force Historical Society (RAFHS)
Member of the Naval Historical Collectors and Research Association (NHCRA)
Member of the Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS)
Member of the International Bank Note Society (IBNS)
Member of the International Bond and Share Society (IBSS)




Royal Air Force Service Records

The Royal Air Force (RAF) was created on 1st April 1918. It was the product of the amalgamation of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). Officers and men from both of these organisations were transferred to the new service and the were joined by new entrants. Service records for these personnel fall into:

(1) Officers of the RAF, RFC, RNAS
(2) Airmen of the RAF, RFC, RNAS
(3) Second World War (1939-45)

(1) Officers of the RAF, RFC, RNAS

Records of RFC officers (1914 - March 1918) were forwarded to the RAF whilst those for the RNAS form 1914 to March 1918 stayed with the Admiralty. Records of RNAS officers after March 1918 are with the RAF's records. RAF Officers who were discharged before 1920 are available at the National Archives and the careers of RAF officers post March 1919 can be traced in the Air Force List. There are also details of invalided officers (1917-1920), pensions paid to the relatives of deceased officers (1916-1920) and supplementary payments to officers and their dependents (1916-1920).

(2) Airmen of the RAF, RFC, RNAS

If the airman was in the RFC and died or was discharged before April 1918 his details will be with Army records. If he served after 1st April 1918, his papers would have been forwarded to the fledgling RAF. There were similar arrangements regarding the RNAS. However RNAS service numbers on transfer to the RAF were modified to bring them into line with those used by the RFC. The records for the first 329,000 men who served with the RFC before 1st April 1918, and in the RAF (previously RFC / RNAS) are available for public inspection. The records from the first 329,000 men who went on to serve during the Second World War are still kept by the RAF and are closed to the public.

(3) Second World War (1939-45)

The National Archives is not the place for Second World War Service Records (see Post 1921 Service). However, the National Archives can yield data on individuals via:

a) Rolls of Honour
b) Entries in the Air Force List for Officers
c) Citations for gallantry awards
d) Operational Record Books (ORBs) - essentially a diary kept by each unit. They may include nominal rolls, lists of officers, promotional details, transfers and awards etc.,
e) Squadron Combat Reports,
f) Aircrews' Flying Log Books,
g) accidents (operational) in Squadron ORBs,
h) Details of those who crashed overseas e.g. Allied airmen buried in Denmark,
i) Known Prisoners of War (POWs) from the RAF,
j) Courts Martial records.