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Service records (WO 363)

During an air raid in September 1940, a German incendiary bomb landed on the War Office Record Store in Arnside Street, London. The subsequent fire swept through the record stores and devastated approximately two thirds of the 6.5 million soldiers’ documents covering World War 1. The majority of the surviving records were badly damaged. They became known as the ‘Burnt Documents’.

Pension records (WO 364)

These cover non-commissioned officers and other ranks who were discharged from the army and claimed disability pensions for war service between 1914 and 1920. They were in the custody of the Ministry of Pensions during the Second World War, thus escaping the Arnside Street bombing.

WO 363 and WO 364

Whilst examining the 35 million images in these two series, we identified lists of soldiers tucked away within individual service papers and indexed these as well, adding a further 584,000 names. Findmypast now offers the most complete and the most accurate index of these records.

Each record comprises a transcript, plus between one and 100 black and white images per individual. A record typically includes information such as birthplace, appearance, service details, and correspondence in some cases. The WO 363 series also includes deceased servicemen, plus details of surviving family in some cases.

WO 363 and WO 364 provide a fascinating insight into the lives of men who served in the ranks of the British Army during the First World War. You can also find service records of men who fought in the Boer War, and earlier still.