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November 27, 2018

How to Obtain Canadian WW2 Military Service Files

My Father in WW2
World War 2 Canadian records are restricted. But they can be accessed and they can include documentation about enlistment, discharge, military units served with, and may also include other documents concerning medical history, medals awarded, personal evaluation reports and dental charts.

Library and Archives Canada holds military service files for those who served after 1918. Their website explanation of who can access what files and how to obtain them is a bit confusing, so I'll share  with you what I did to send for the military records of my father's brother, Clarence E. McGinnis. I knew Uncle Clare had been in WW2 as I have several photos of him in uniform. But I never knew where he served, what unit he was in, or what he did during the War.

I wrote a one page letter requesting the complete military service files for [individual's name] who was born [individual's full birth date or estimated year] in [name of city/town plus county and province in Ontario] to parents [names of father and mother].
Uncle Clare in WW2
I included my uncle's death date and a photograph of his tombstone as proof of death. Interestingly enough they actually returned the photo to me!

That was it. I mailed the letter and photo to

ATIP and Personnel Records Division
Library and Archives Canada
395 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0N4

You can also fax your request to them at this number: 613-947-8456

Your request can be written as a letter or you can print off a blank copy of the Application for Military Service Information form [PDF 663 KB]  which should be filled in, signed and sent by mail or fax. 

Using the ATIP Online Request service is another way to submit requests.

After a wait of about 5 months a very large package arrived with Uncle Clare's complete military file. I estimate there are about 80 or more pages.  The wait was not unexpected as it is made clear on the Library & Archives Canada website that they are backlogged and requests can take up to 6 months to fill.
There was a lot of interesting information in the military file for Uncle Clare - such as details of his work history prior to enlisting. It include what he was paid! I wish my dad's files had been as complete.


I am really pleased to have some more details to add to my knowledge of my uncle. I knew him quite well but he never spoke of his military service or his early years. I suppose I was too young for him to think I'd be interested.
Plus he was quite old-fashioned regarding males vs females and since I was a female he'd be less likely to talk to me about what he would consider "man stuff"  

But I'm really enjoying reading through his files to find out where he went during the war (to England and France) and what he saw and did during that difficult time.

For WW1 personnel files you will be able to view these online very soon. Library and Archives Canada is busy scanning and uploading the full files to the online CEF Searchable database.


Marian B. Wood said...

Thank you for the details on how to obtain these important files! My husband has ancestors whose files I'd like to see.

RonNasty said...

Did you need to include any proof that you were related? Also, was this free? My grandfather and his brothers served in WW2, so I'd like to find out more about this time in their lives. I'd also like to confirm that my great uncle was not a spy, and was pulling my mom's leg when he told her that!

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...


I did not have to provide proof of relationship because of how long ago my uncle died. If you click through in the article to download the Application for Military Service Information form you will find full details there as to what the requirements are.

LAC can charge if they want, but often they do not.