Tuesday 5 April 2022

National Archives UK opens military personnel collection WO 420

The first tranche of a previously closed military service record collection has been catalogued and made available for viewing at The National Archives (TNA), Kew, London. The collection (in W0 420) holds some 9.7million records. The remainder will be transferred from the British Ministry of Defence to TNA over a six-year period.

Capturing the service of almost 10m individuals, this record-set holds the military story of about 500,000 individuals with First World War service – a high proportion will have been Irishmen – but the vast majority of the records will relate to those who saw WW2 service when you would expect men from Northern Ireland to make up significant numbers.

Within this first release are 56,262 records relating to soldiers (but not officers) who served in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers regiment from 1942 to immediately after and were discharged as 'over age' before their time expired.

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Today's first instalment consists of the 56,261 service records of soldiers (but not officers) who served in the Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) during the Second World War and immediately after, and who were discharged from the armed forces as 'over age' before their time expired.

Service records are a record of an individual’s time in the military. The information contained in the record typically consists of personal information and interactions between the individual and the part of the armed forces they served with such as record of service, disciplinary and conduct sheets, service postings and information captured when they first signed up. In addition, they may include discharge forms and a variety of supporting correspondence.

The closure period for the records in this vast collection has been set at 115 years from an individual's date of birth.

The documents can currently be viewed only in person at TNA and have to be ordered with a minimum of four days' notice. A Reader's Ticket is required. (TNA is presently undertaking a procurement exercise to appoint a digitisation partner.)

You can download TNA's free guide to this collection and how to access it here.