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Royal Air Force - Service Records, Airmen, WWI - (Military)

Nature of Source

Service details for airmen of the Royal Air Force (RAF) as well as the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) and the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). The service records are arranged numerically in bound volumes by the service number and not the surname of the airman. The service number can be found on any medals awarded. Failing this The National Archives holds a microfilmed name index in series AIR 78. The series of records held at The National Archives cover the first 329,000 airmen of the RAF who left the service before the end of WWI. If the airmen is within this range of service numbers and remained with the RAF after WWI then the records are retained with the RAF. Airmen with service numbers higher that 329,000 are also retained by the RAF.

The Royal Flying Corps was established in 1912 coming under the control of the War Office. The RFC included the Military Wing and Naval Wing, the latter becoming the Royal Naval Air Service in July 1914 under the control of the Admiralty. The Royal Air Force was founded on 1 April 1918 following the amalgamation of the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps coming under control of the newly created Air Ministry. The RFC and RNAS and the RAF are and were organised into squadrons (roughly equivalent of an army regiment), wings and groups, although confusingly for RNAS research a number of different squadrons and wings were assigned the same number.

During WWI, the RFC was deployed over the battlefields performing aerial reconnaissance trips and bombing missions whilst the RNAS was also deployed for home defence against enemy attack and overseas.

A muster of the entire RAF taken in April 1918 can be found in series AIR 1/819/204/4/1316 and also AIR 10/232 to AIR 10/237.

Service records for all ranks who served after 1920 remain with the Ministry of Defence with each military service maintaining its own record office. The Veterans UK web site provides contact details of where to apply for service records for each of the services.

Where Found

The National Archives (AIR 79, Airmen's Records; AIR 78, index to airmen and airwomen's service records held in AIR 79)

The name index covering series Air 79 is available at the TNA Discovery catalogue. First click on ‘Advanced search’ and then type in the name being searched. Then under ‘Search within’ select ‘Enter a reference’ and type ‘Air 79’. The index to airmen and airwomen's service records held in AIR 79 is also available free of charge at TNA Digital Microfilm which provides online access to records which were previously available on microfilm.

Royal Air Force Museum
(The collection comprises several hundred thousand objects ranging in size from aircraft to lapel badges. The Museum's library and archives collections include items such as First World War Casualty Cards, Aircrew Logbooks, fine art, medals and uniforms, film and sound, memoirs, historical studies, ephemera, technical manuals, magazines and periodicals, RAF Historical Society Journals Personal papers, casualty cards and aircraft records. The website has a number of online exhibition and information leaflets)

Period Covered

1918 - 1928

Genealogical Value

Full name, rank and occupation, units served with dates, career, next-of-kin, date of enlistment and discharge.

Further References

Bevan, Amanda. Tracing Your Ancestors in the National Archives: The National Archives, 2006

 

Chorley, W.R. Royal Air Force Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War Vols. 1-9: various publishers and dates

 

Fowler, Simon. A Guide to Military History on the Internet: Pen & Sword, 2007

 

Fowler, Simon. Tracing Your First World War Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians: Pen & Sword, 2013

 

Franks, Norman L. R. RAF Fighter Command Losses of the Second World War vol 1. Operational Losses Aircraft and Crews 1939-1941: Ian Allan Publishing, 2008

 

Franks, Norman L. R. Royal Air Force Fighter Command Losses of the Second World War: vol. 2. Operational Losses: Aircraft and Crews 1942-1943: Midland Publishing, 1998

 

Hadaway, Stuart. Tracing Your Great War Ancestors: The Egypt and Palestine Campaigns: A Guide for Family Historians: Pen and Sword Books, 2017

Halley, James J. The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force & Commonwealth, 1918-1988: Air Britain Historians, 1989

 

Hobart, Malcolm. Badges And Uniforms of The RAF: Pen and Sword Books, 2013

Hobson, Chris. Airmen Died in the Great War, 1914-18: The Roll of Honour of the British and Commonwealth Air Services of the First World War: Hayward, 1995

 

Ingham, Mary. Tracing Your Service Women Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians: Pen and Sword Books 2012

 

McInnes, I & Webb, J. V. A Contemptible Little Flying Corps: Naval and Military Press, 2001 (Includes brief biographies of all non-commissioned airmen who joined the RFC between 1922 and 1914)

 

Philpott, Ian, The Birth of the Royal Air Force: Pen and Sword Books 2014

 

Spencer, William. Air Force Records: A Guide for Family Historians: The National Archives, 2008

 

Spencer, William. Family History in the Wars: The National Archives, 2007

 

Spencer, William. Air Force Records: The National Archives, 2008

 

Storey, Neil. Military Photographs and How to Date Them: Countryside Books, 2009

 

Tomaselli, Phil. Tracing Your Air Force Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians: Pen & Sword Books, 2014

 

Tomaselli, Phil. Air Force Lives: A Guide for Family Historians: Pen and Sword Books, 2013

 

Tracing Your Family History: Royal Air Force: Imperial War Museum, 2006

 

Usher, George. Dictionary of British Military History: A&C Black Publishers, 2006

 


TNA Research Guides

Websites

www.veterans-uk.info/service_records/service_records.html (Veterans UK)
www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/?research-category=military-and-maritime (TNA Research Guide Military and Maritime)
www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/records/looking-for-subject (TNA guide: Looking for records of a Royal Air Force squadron)
www.raf.mod.uk/organisation/squadrons.cfm (Royal Air Force Squadrons)
www.raf.mod.uk/history/historicsquadrons.cfm (Royal Air Force Historic Squadrons search)
http://archive.iwm.org.uk/server/show/nav.3240 (Imperial War Museum, Your History, Family History: Royal Air Force: Information sheets include Tracing Royal Flying Corps & Royal Air Force Ancestry, Royal Air Force Service Records, RAF Squadrons and Bases and List of Abbreviations)
www.rfc-rnas-raf-register.org.uk (David J Barnes Military & Aviation Research 1914 -1919: R.F.C., R.N.A.S.,R.A.F. Register 1914-1919. Central source of service and biographical information of all those who served in the British and Commonwealth Aerial Forces during the First World War)
www.ukmfh.org.uk (UK Military Family History Online: Links to web sites with online data and information to aid in military family history research)
www.militaryarchiveresearch.com (Military Archive Research, by Dr Stuart C Blank)
www.raf.mod.uk/history (Royal Air Force History area)
www.rafmuseum.org.uk/research/research-enquiries.aspx (Royal Air Force Museum Information Leaflets including Researching First World War personnel, Researching Royal Air Force unit records and Researching Royal Air Force stations)
www.rafmuseum.org.uk/research/history-of-aviation-timeline.aspx (Royal Air Force Museum: History of Aviation Timeline)
www.rafmuseum.org.uk/research/online-exhibitions/lest-we-forget.aspx (Royal Air Force Museum Online Exhibition: Lest We Forget)
www.raf.mod.uk/history/rafhistoricalsocietym.cfm (RAF Historical Society. The society studies the history of the RAF and the contribution it has made to global peace and security since 1918. The site includes an RAF History Timeline and other useful information)
www.genuki.org.uk/big/MilitaryRecords.html (GENUKI guide to military records)
www.waafassociation.org.uk (Women's Auxiliary Air Force Association)
www.associations.rafinfo.org.uk/acronyms.htm (Royal Air Force Acronyms/Abbreviations)
www.raf-families-federation.org.uk/policies-abbreviations.asp (Abbreviations & Acronyms)
www.lancaster-archive.com/bc_abbreviations.htm (RAF Abbreviations and Slang)
WWI
www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/pathways/firstworldwar/index.htm (TNA online WWI exhibition)
www.1914-1918.net (The Long, Long Trail - The British Army in the Great War of 1914-1918: A resource for military historians, genealogists and others with an interest in the Great War of 1914-1918 with information on the soldiers, units, regiments and battles of the British Army. The site includes a section on 'Researching a soldier')
www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/first-world-war (The First World War - The National Archives: Web portal dedicated to WWI with collections featuring letters, diaries, podcasts and videos, maps and photographs. Also discover online collections, research guides and educational resources to learn about the history behind the war)
www.operationwardiary.org
(Operation War Diary: Crowdsourcing partnership project between The National Archives, Imperial War Museums and Zooniverse which aims to unlock the details from within the WWI unit war diaries such as individual named individuals and place names)
www.bl.uk/world-war-one (World War One - The British Library: Explore over 500 historical primary sources from across Europe, together with new insights by World War One experts. Highlights include trench photographs, soldiers’ personal diaries, censored mail and propaganda posters)
www.westernfrontassociation.com
(The Western Front Association: The Association was formed with the aim of furthering interest in The Great War of 1914-1918 and to perpetuate the memory of all those on all sides who served during The Great War. The site includes a section on Research and Family History with articles providing help and guidance for your research into The Great War)
https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org (Imperial War Museum: Lives of the First World War: Digital memorial to the 8 million men and women from across Britain and the Commonwealth who made a contribution during the First World War. Each person will have their own Life Story page. Developed in Partnership with DC Thomson Family History. For the latest developments and additions see http://blog.livesofthefirstworldwar.org)
www.illustratedfirstworldwar.com
(Illustrated First World War: Online access to the First World War pages of The Illustrated London News and the wartime years of The Sphere, The Sketch, The Tatler, The Bystander, The Graphic and The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News)
www.cwgc.org/discover1418 (The Discover 14-18 microsite is designed to enable the public to visit the CWGC memorial sites more easily and enhance their understanding of the historical context of the cemeteries and memorials. The site features a timeline and events calendar for WW1 and content themed around major battles and the different roles of the Army, Navy and Air Force)
http://maps.nls.uk/ww1/trenches
(British First World War Trench Maps, 1915-1918 - National Library of Scotland. Maps of the Western Front in the Great War depicting British and German trenches. Users can browse individual sheets using a zoomable map or view zoomable overlays of each map on a modern Google or Bing map)
www.historypin.org/en/explore/first-world-war-centenary (Historypin: First World War Centenary Hub: A home for local community groups running First World War commemorative activities and projects in the United Kingdom and from around the world)
www.redcross.org.uk/About-us/Who-we-are/History-and-origin/First-World-War (British Red Cross: First World War Volunteers: Search over 90,000 people who volunteered for the British Red Cross at home and overseas during the war. Groups of volunteers were organised into Voluntary Aid Detachments)
www.everymanremembered.org (Every Man Remembered: The Royal British Legion initiative allows members of the public to commemorate with a personal dedication every individual man and woman from across the Commonwealth who fell in the First World War)
www.findmypast.co.uk (Welsh Guards 1914-1918. These records contain 4,060 names of officers who served with the Welsh Guards, and nominal rolls of Warrant Officers and NCOs)
www.military-researcher.com (Guide to WW1 research including causes of discharge)
http://media.nationalarchives.gov.uk (TNA podcast: Tracing battalions or regiments of the British Army during the Great War)
www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit/gwa (The Great War Archive: WWI digital photographs, audio, film, documents, and stories submitted by the general public. The initiative was run by Oxford University between the 3rd March and the 30th June 2008. Users can now share First World War objects on the The Great War Archive Flickr Group)
www.europeana.eu/portal/en/collections/world-war-I (Europeana 1914-1918. Explore the untold stories and official histories of World War I in items from across Europe including postcards, letters, diaries, images and other memorabilia)
www.pals.org.uk/research.htm (Guide to researching service records)
http://ww1-lost-photos.livejournal.com (Blog covering the WWI photographs of the unknown soldiers)
www.ww1photos.com
(World War One Photos: Thousands of identified photos & obituaries of First World War officers, soldiers, sailors, nurses, airmen and civilian workers)
www.flickr.com/photos/imperialwarmuseum/sets/72157627910530369/with/6279131985 (IWM Collections: Faces of the First World War)
www.1914.org (First World War Centenary: The site highlights centenary events and resources from across the globe with details of projects and events. The project is led by led by Imperial War Museums [IMW])
http://cymru1914.org
(Cymru 1914. The Welsh Experience of the First World War. Online access to digitised primary sources relating to the First World War from the Libraries, Special Collections and Archives of Wales)
www.inflandersfields.be/en (In Flanders Fields Museum. The museum presents the story of the First World War in the West Flanders front region and is located in the famous Cloth Hall in the centre of Ypres)
www.inflandersfields.be/en/namelist (Flanders Fields Museum: The Name List: The project aims to assemble all fatalities of the Great War who died or were mortally wounded in Belgium, both civilian and military, and whatever their nationality. The Name List will be launched on 4 August 2014 and includes the digitised Ireland’s Memorial Records which commemorates the memory of the thousands of Irishmen who died during the war)
www.inflandersfields.be/en/knowledge-center/casualty-database/introduction (Flanders Fields Museum: Casualty Database: The databases from the official war grave committees can be searched individually or across all databases. The individual databases include Belgian, French, Commonwealth, German and American soldiers, Belgian civilians and Ireland’s Memorial Records)
www.whodoyouthinkyouaremagazine.com/britain-remembers (Britain Remembers: The First World War Project Map: The aim of the Britain Remembers map is to showcase First World War projects run principally by volunteers)
www.stepshort.co.uk (Step Short: Folkestone Harbour Canteen Visitors' Books: Online collection of 42,000 names of soldiers, nurses and other individuals who passed through the town of Folkestone on their way to the Western Front between 1914 and 1919)
www.ljmu.ac.uk/merseyside-at-war (Merseyside at War 1914-1918: Memories and memorabilia of people from Merseyside who lived, worked or fought during the World War 1 period. Items include letters, photographs, birth certificates and records, posters and medals)
www.findmypast.ie (Ireland's Memorial Record: World War 1: 1914-1918: Online access to transcribed  volumes of Ireland's Memorial Records, created to preserve and commemorate the memory of the thousands of Irishmen who died during the war)

Online Databases

www.findmypast.co.uk (British Royal Air Force, Airmen's Service Records 1912-1939 Discover your ancestors who served as Warrant Officers, noncommissioned officers, or airmen in the Royal Air Force between 1912 and 1939. Each record comprises a transcript and black and white images of the original register, from The National Archives AIR 79 series)
www.ancestry.co.uk (Royal Air Force Airmen Records, 1918-1940. This collection comprises records of Airmen serving in the Royal Air Force taken from TNA series AIR 79)
www.rafmuseumstoryvault.org.uk
(Royal Air Force Museum Storyvault: Muster Roll: The Muster Roll was compiled in 1918, and lists the men who transferred into the ranks of the Royal Air Force from the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service. It is arranged by their service number, but can also be searched by name)
www.forces-war-records.co.uk (Military Genealogy Forces War Records: Military records of over two million British Armed Forces personnel cross matched with over 4000 Regiments including Rolls of Honour, Crimean and Boer War Databases, Medal Rolls and Casualties Lists. The site also has a facility to access information on specific units or bases including regiments, ships, airfields)
www.findmypast.co.uk (Royal Air Force Muster Roll 1918: Nominal roll of more than 181,000 Royal Air Force servicemen who were with the service when it was formed on 1 April 1918)
www.britishmedals.us/kevin/raf1918.html (RAF's formation list in 1918 compiled by Ted Beard)
www.forcesreunited.org.uk
(Forces Reunited: British Armed Forces community reunion site searchable by individual name or by unit. The site also has forums, military news, photo gallery and many other great sections)

CD Roms

Manchester and Lancashire FHS (Oldham Chronicle Index of Service Personnel 1914-1919: Details of service personnel mentioned in the Saturday editions of the Oldham Chronicle1914 to the end of December 1919)
Surrey History Trust (Surrey Recruitment Register, 1908-1933. details of about 85,000 men who signed up for service in Surrey between 1908 and 1933, including volunteers and conscripts in World War I)