skip to content

Royal Flying Corps - Airmen Service Records - (Military)

Nature of Source

Service records of airmen attached to the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), established 1912, who served in WWI and/or survived to receive a pension. The records comprise of attestation papers, discharge papers, medical records and casualty forms as well as pension claims.

The RFC was a corps of the British Army, therefore the service records form part of the Army records. For RFC airmen service records see:

Army - Soldier's Documents (Pension & Service Records) - Other Ranks before 1914
Army - Soldiers' (Service) Documents ('Burnt Documents'), Other Ranks WWI
Army - Soldiers' Documents (Service Records) from Pension Claims ('Unburnt Collection'), Other Ranks, WWI

For records of airmen who served with the Royal Air Force after 1918 see:

Royal Air Force - Service Records, Airmen

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 (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.

Where Found

The National Archives
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

1912 - 1918

Genealogical Value

Name and dates of service. Address (place) and age at time of enlistment. Military career/occupation and reasons for discharge. Date and place of birth. Physical description.

Further References

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


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


Cooksley, Peter G. The Royal Flying Corps 1914-1918: The History Press, 2014  Buy Now on Amazon

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


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 (TNA Guide: Looking for records of an airman in the Royal Flying Corps) (Wikipedia: Royal Flying Corps) (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) (Royal Flying Corps & Royal Air Force Research) (Spartacus Educational: Royal Flying Corps) (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) (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)

Online Databases (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)
See also:
Army - Soldier's Documents (Pension & Service Records) - Other Ranks before 1914
Army - Soldiers' (Service) Documents ('Burnt Documents'), Other Ranks WWI
Army - Soldiers' Documents (Service Records) from Pension Claims ('Unburnt Collection'), Other Ranks, WWI
Royal Air Force - Service Records, Airmen

CD Roms

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)
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)