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)




Review of
Tracing Your Service Women Ancestors – A Guide for Family Historians
By Mary Ingham
Pen and Sword (
ISBN 9781848841734
RRP GBP £14.99


This is another interesting book in the Pen and Sword series of “Tracing Your … Ancestors”. This quality volume is outstanding and it offers significant help to researchers. The history of Service Women stretches back to before the Crimean War of the 1850s. These women were the forerunners of today’s women’s services and much tribute is due to these pioneers.

This book is divided into a number of chapters that deal with the development of the multitude of branches into which women can and have now served. Initially the role of the Army Schoolmistresses and the Queen’s Army Schoolmistresses is examined. These formations were the first official bodies of women employed by the British Army.

Then the role of women in the nursing services is examined. By far this is one of the most famous roles of women and was the main avenue for them to serve in until the mass conflicts of the early twentieth century (i.e. the first and second world wars). Appropriately the book gives detailed treatment to Crimea War Nurses, the Army Nursing Service, care of the wounded during the First World War, the famous Voluntary Aid Detachments (VAD), military and naval masseuses, the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry, female medical personnel in the World War 1 armed forces, the RAF Nursing Service (RAF Nursing Service / Princess Mary’s Royal Air Force Nursing Service – PMRAFNS), the Queen Alexandra’s Military Families Nursing Service, the Naval Nursing Service and the nursing services of the British Administered Indian Army (covering the Indian Army Nursing Service [IANS] and the Queen Alexandra’s Military Nursing Service for India [QAMNSI]).

The other branches of the forces that have been open to female applicants since the First World War are the Auxiliaries. These forces trace their origins to the mass conflict of the First World War and they started with the Army Pay Department (APD) and the Women’s Legion (WL). The Women’s Forage Corps (WFC) and the Women’s Land Army (WLA) are also covered. Although the WLA was purely only an army by name its inclusion is appropriate. The main auxiliaries such as the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRENS) and the Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF) are all given very detailed and precise treatment.

If you do have female ancestors who served in the British forces or their allied organisations then this book will be exceedingly useful. It is highly recommended and it is undoubtedly the best book I have ever seen on this topic for well over a decade. Given its research leads and excellent commentary this book will significantly add value to researching your female military ancestors and a “well done” is due to the author.

August 2012