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Royal Air Force/Royal Flying Corps - Medal Rolls, including WWI - (Military)

Nature of Source

Royal Air Force (RAF) and Royal Flying Corp (RFC) service men and women were eligible for the same WWI campaign and gallantry medals as the army. The medal rolls provide details of the medals together with details of those awarded a campaign medal whether officer or other rank. The details of an award were recorded on rolls and from the rolls a summary index card was created for each person by the Army Medal Office. The medal rolls covering WWI include most of those who saw active service overseas. RFC airmen who served overseas in 1916 or later had their medals issued by the Air Ministry and not the War Office. No separate roll was created for those serving in the newly formed RAF, so a person's medal entitlement after 1st April 1918 will be found in the unit's records or the service record.

There were three types medals awarded to those serving, namely: Campaign, Gallantry or for Good Conduct or Long Service.

Four gallantry medals were created in June 1918 for the air services:

Distinguished Flying Cross (Established in 1918 and awarded to officers and warrant officer for 'an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy')
Distinguished Flying Medal (Established in 1918 for 'other ranks' as an equivalent award to the Distinguished Flying Cross)
Air Force Cross (Established in 1918 and awarded to officers and warrant officer for acts of gallantry while flying on non-active operations)
Air Force Medal (Established in 1918 for 'other ranks' as an equivalent award to the Air Force Cross)

Recommendations for WWI honours and awards can be found in AIR 1 and for 1918-1938, in AIR 2. Almost all gallantry awards were cited in the London Gazette. Almost all awards were published in the official London Gazette. The National Archives holds some quarterly indexes to the Gazette with gallantry medal name indexes. The Gazette entry only occasionally provides the citation which describes the reasons for the award. Citations are more likely to be found in The National Archives files. Post 1919 and WWII medal records are held at the MOD Medals Office.

WWI medals are inscribed around the rim with the soldier's surname with first name or initial, rank, regiment and service number. Medals from WWII and campaigns from the 19th century such as the Crimean war are not inscribed with this information.

Check local and national newspapers for reports of a gallantry medal award. For WWI also consult editions of publications such as The War Illustrated, The War Budget and The Illustrated War News for reports of gallantry awards. Some editions are freely available online. WWI unit war diaries can mention an individual’s medal award and are mainly held at TNA in series WO 95 with copies kept by regimental museums. Some diaries have been digitised and can be searched by regiment, battalion, brigade or division number at the TNA’s online catalogue Discovery and then downloaded for a fee. First click on ‘Advanced search’ and then type in the search term. Then under ‘Search within’ select ‘Enter a reference’ and type WO 95. Alternatively search direct from the TNA First World War portal. Also consult the TNA’s Operation War Diary website for details about unlocking the information such as individual persons and place names contained within the diaries. A collection of WWI and WWII war diaries are available to read free online at Forces War Records.

For details of army campaign medals awarded to RAF servicemen see Army - Medal Rolls, Campaign, Other Ranks & Officers.

For details of army gallantry medals awarded to RAF servicemen see Army - Medal Rolls, Gallantry, Other Ranks & Officers.

The Long Service and Good Conduct Medal was instituted in 1833 and issued to other ranks and NCOs for long service with irreproachable character and conduct. The rolls are held at The National Archives in series WO 102 which is also available as part of the Digital Microfilm project. The Meritorious Service Medal (MSM) was awarded to long serving NCOs from 1845. Between 1916 and 1928, the MSM was awarded to warrant officers (sergeant majors), NCOs, and other ranks from the army, Royal Navy, Royal Flying Corp and the Royal Air Force. The rolls up to 1919 can be found at TNA in series WO 101 and were announced in the London Gazette mostly without citation. Records of later awards are kept with the MOD Medals Office. For background information on the history of the Meritorious Service Medal and a list of those awarded the Medal with the London Gazette reference, see Sainsbury, J.D. For Gallantry in the Performance of Military Duty: Samson Books, 1980.

See also
Army - Medal Rolls, Campaign, Other Ranks & Officers, including WWI
Army - Medal Rolls, Gallantry, Other Ranks & Officers, including WWI
Royal Navy/Royal Marines/Royal Naval Air Service - Medal Rolls, Ratings & Officers

Where Found

The National Archives (AIR 1 & AIR 2, Unit's own records including squadron histories and operation narratives; AIR 30, Submissions to the Sovereign including submissions to the sovereign for royal approval of appointments, promotions, awards and regulations)
The National Archives (WO 389/9, Name index on microfilm for those who were awarded the Distinguished Service Order and Military Cross between 1914 and 1939)
The National Archives (Indexes covering Victoria Cross, Distinguished Service Order, Military Cross and Mentions in Despatches)
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

1914 - Onwards

Genealogical Value

Name, rank, regiment or unit, service number and theatre of war.

Further References


Adler, Michael. British Jewry Book Of Honour 1914-1918 (Two volumes), Naval & Military Press, 2007


Bishop, Richard, Hayward, John & Birch, Diana. British Battles and Medals: Spink & Sons, 2006


Duckers, Peter. British Campaign Medals, 1914-2005: Shire Books, 2006


Duckers, Peter. British Campaign Medals, 1815-1914: Shire Books, 2004


Duckers, Peter. British Gallantry Awards, 1855-2000: Shire Books, 2005


Duckers, Peter. British Military Medals: A Guide For Family Historians: Pen and Sword Books, 2009


Duckers, Peter. British Military Medals: A Guide for the Collector and Family Historian: Pen and Sword Books, 2013


Hearns, Douglas. Companions of the Distinguished Service Order 1920-2006: Air Awards: Naval & Military Press, 2014 Buy Now on Amazon

McInnes, Ian. Meritorious Service Medal: The Immediate Awards: Naval & Military Press, 2001 (Listing of those awarded the medal serving with the RFC, RAF and RNAS from 1916 to 1928)

Mackay, James and Mussell, Philip. Medal Yearbook: Token Publishing


Mullen, A.L.T. Military General Service Medal Roll 1793-1814: Naval & Military Press, 2001


Norman, Charles Boswell. Battle Honours of the British Army: London, 1911


Purves, Alec A. The Medals, Decorations & Orders of the Great War 1914-1918: Hayward, 1989


Purves, Alec A. Collecting Medals and Decorations: Spink & Son, 1978


Purves, Alec A. Orders and Decorations: Hamlyn, 1972


Sainsbury, J.D. For Gallantry in the Performance of Military Duty: Samson Books, 1980 (The book includes a list of those awarded the Meritorious Service Medal with the London Gazette reference together with background information on the history of the medal)


Seedie's List of Fleet Air Arm Awards, 1939-69: Ripley Registers, 1990 (List of Fleet Air Arm Medals complied from the Admiralty card index)

Spencer, William. Medals: The Researcher's Guide: PRO Publications, 2006


What Grandad Won in the War, DVD, Token Publishing

TNA Research Guide: British military campaign and service medals



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


Cooksley, Peter G. & Batchelor, Peter F. VCs of the First World War The Air VCs: The History Press, 2014


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


Lee, Arthur Gould. Open Cockpit: Grub Street, 2012


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


Levine, Joshua. Fighter Heroes of WWI: The Extraordinary Story of the Pioneering Airmen of the Great War: Collins, 2011


McConnell, James. Recollections of the Great War in the Air: Pen & Sword Aviation, 2013


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)


Mackersey, Ian. No Empty Chairs: The Short and Heroic Lives of the Young Aviators Who Fought and Died in the First World War: Phoenix, 2013


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


Yeates, V.M. Winged Victory: Grub Street, 2004


TNA Research Guides

Websites (Ministry of Defence Medal Office: Medals: campaigns, descriptions and eligibility) (Ministry of Defence Medal Office: Details of medal qualifying criteria and applying for medals) (Information on the Medal Rolls Index Cards) (TNA Guide: Looking for records of medals and decorations) (Interpreting campaign medal index cards) (Campaign medal records) (Site includes a forum, guide to medals and an interactive medal identifier) (UK Medals - Campaign - The First World War) (Gallantry medals awarded during WWI and WWII) (Information and transcriptions from medal rolls) (Imperial War Museum Your History Guide to campaign medals) (A Guide to British Campaign Medals of WW1) (WWI gallantry medals) (A Guide to British Awards for Gallantry or Meritorious Service in WW1) (British Gallantry, Orders, Decorations, and Campaign ribbons) (Ministry of Defence Medal Office: Medals: campaigns, descriptions and eligibility) (TNA 'Your Archives' Military General Service Medal)
(Military Archive Research, by Dr Stuart C Blank) (Royal Air Force History area) (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) (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) (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

Online Databases (Royal Navy Officers Medal Roll 1914-1920: records of those awarded the 1914 Star, the Clasp to the 1914 Star, the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal) (British Royal Air Force, Gallantry Awards 1914-1919. Index of RAF members who were awarded gallantry medals during WWI. Each records includes a transcript created by Graham Clitheroe using information found in the archives and the London Gazette)
Black Sheep Index (Details from news reports including photos) (Royal Aero Club Aviators' Certificates, 1910-1950) (London, Edinburgh and Belfast Gazettes: Search and browse military and civilian gallantry awards published in the official government newspaper) (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) (The Asplin Military History Resources: Medal roll transcriptions and information that may be of interest to the Victorian military historian and researcher)

Many awards have been published.