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Royal Air Force - Casualty Records, WWI - (Military)

Nature of Source

Records of those wounded or killed in action. For details of an airman's death consult the 'Soldiers Died in the Great War' publication. First published in 1921, the 81 volumes lists approximately 635,000 Soldiers and 37,000 Officers who died in WWI. The records also deal with Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force casualties. The publication may contain additional information to that on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Debt of Honour Register. The entire collection is published by The Naval & Military Press on CD-Rom and also available online (See below). The paper and CD versions are available at The National Archives, Imperial War Museum, Society of Genealogists and specialist and local reference libraries. Also consult the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Debt of Honour Register for details of a death and also consider looking through local newspapers which often carried obituaries for those killed in action.

The Royal Flying Corps (RFC) 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 (RNAS) 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.

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.

See also
War Memorials, Graves & Rolls of Honour

Where Found

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, fine art, medals and uniforms, film and sound, memoirs, historical studies, ephemera, technical manuals, magazines and periodicals, RAF Historical Society Journals Personal papers, aircrew logbooks, casualty cards and aircraft records. The website has a number of online exhibition and information leaflets)
General Register Office for England and Wales (Overseas births, marriages and deaths indexes including deaths that occurred in the Boer War and both World Wars. The national indexes can be viewed at various centres across England)

Period Covered

1914 - 1918

Genealogical Value

Name, death date, career of airman.

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


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 (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') (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) (TNA Research Guide: War dead: First and Second World Wars) (Records for the War Dead of WW1) (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 (Veterans UK) (TNA Research Guide Military and Maritime) (TNA guide: Looking for records of a Royal Air Force squadron) (Royal Air Force Squadrons) (Royal Air Force Historic Squadrons search) (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) (UK Military Family History Online: Links to web sites with online data and information to aid in military family history research) (Military Archive Research, by Dr Stuart C Blank) (Royal Air Force History area) (Royal Air Force Museum Information Leaflets including Researching First World War personnel, Researching Royal Air Force unit records and Researching Royal Air Force stations) (Royal Air Force Museum: History of Aviation Timeline) (Royal Air Force Museum Online Exhibition: Lest We Forget) (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) (GENUKI guide to military records) (Women's Auxiliary Air Force Association) (Royal Air Force Acronyms/Abbreviations) (Abbreviations & Acronyms) (RAF Abbreviations and Slang) (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) (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) (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)

Online Databases

Debt of Honour Register - Commonwealth War Graves Commission (Armed forces & conflict records, including Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919 and War deaths from the Boer War, WWI and WW2) (Over 1.3 million records from daily and weekly First World War casualty lists from British and Commonwealth forces covering soldiers, sailors and airmen from all ranks. The collection covers both those who died of their wounds and those who recovered and returned to the front) (Military Genealogy: World War 1 Records including Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919) (Military Records including Soldiers who died in the Great War 1914-1918) (WW1 death Records including Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-1919) (WWI British Army Service Records including Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919)
(Royal Air Force Museum Storyvault: Casualty Cards: The Royal Flying Corps and from April 1918 the Royal Air Force kept detailed records of men who were killed, wounded or reported missing. The collection of casualty cards seems to start around 1915 and runs into the 1920s. They deal primarily with officers, although there are some cards for Non-Commissioned Officers and Men) (RAF's formation list in 1918 compiled by Ted Beard) (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)

CD Roms

Naval & Military Press (Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-1919)