April 12, 2011

WW1 RAF Service Records Online at National Archives UK

The Royal Air Force (RAF) was the world's first independent military air arm and by the end of the First World War it had become the largest.

Now you can search and download First World War service records of RAF officers. This database is of interest to Canadians whose ancestor may have enlisted in WW1 as a pilot. Canada did not have its own Air Force and any individual wishing to join the Air Force had to join the RAF. Approximately one-quarter of the aircrew in British Royal Air Force (RAF) squadrons were Canadian. A large RAF training establishment operated in Canada to produce new aircrew.

The collection contains records for over 99,000 individuals and is searchable by first name, last name and date of birth.

Searching the indexes is free but to obtain full details a small fee is charged by the National Archives UK. I tried this database earlier this morning with a generic search for my PEER ancestors. Because I search for all PEER individuals in North America, it's always of interest to me to see if one of them can be found in any new database online.

My search gave me two results for PEER. In order to view the scans of their service records I saw that it would cost me 3.50L for each man (that converts to $11.00 Canadian) The website stated each man's records consisted of 3 pages. I added both to my Shopping Cart and then made the purchase. This is what I love about ordering from the National Archives UK website - after entering my Credit Card details, I was given an immediate link to download the service records. The link is good for 28 days.

As is common with Military Service Records you never know what you're going to get. Some are full of information, others are not.

The Service Record I downloaded for Walter James Peer gave his name, date of birth, next-of-kin in Canada, address in Canada and place of employment. There wasn't much recorded in the section for his whereabouts throughout the War.


The second record for Harold Emerson Peer had a full page of entries for his movements throughout his time in the RAF but no date of birth, no next of kin and no location in Canada. For me that $11.00 was well worth it as I pursue my genealogy with the goal of obtaining as much detail as possible about every individual in my database.

One caveat - when the National Archives UK website states there are x number of pages in a set of records, be aware that the first page is a Title Page with no information on the person involved.

I'll explain how to read and understand these Service Records in a separate blog post. Please watch for it here! 

2 comments:

Rosemary said...

The Australian Archives have digitised the service records of the Australian Forces in WWI. You'll find them at http://www.naa.gov.au then use RecordSearch to search by name.

Anonymous said...

I just downloaded a file for a Canadian RAF WWI pilot. Please contact me if you would be willing to help me interpret it. It is only 6 pages with most of it blank. I can be emailed at elucidater2 at aol.com
Thanks