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November 11, 2020

Access Canadian WW2 Military Service Files in a Few Easy Steps

Uncle Clare
A few years ago I sent 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. 

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 may be confusing, so I'll share  with you what I did. It was simple.

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].

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] also available in Rich Text Format [RTF 44,516 KB], which should be filled in, signed and sent by mail or fax.

Huge envelope arrives
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.

Lots of pages to read!
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.

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 more information on finding ancestors who were in the Canadian Military during other years you might want to check out The Canadian Military Project

For WW1 personnel files you can view these online. Library and Archives Canada has scanned and uploaded the full files to the online CEF Searchable database.


Anonymous said...

While you have accurately described the application process for WW2 military service files, the wait time is currently very long. I applied in May 2020 and at that time, they were still processing requests from 2018. I sent a request for an update after six months (in early November) and have not received a reply. Perhaps a phone call might at least give me an idea about how long this could take.

Unknown said...

I filled out the application on-line 2 years ago for 2 uncles and 1 aunt. Still nothing. The previous year I requested 2 other uncles and received them in 10 months.

Amber said...

Yes, the wait time when I ordered my great-uncle's records earlier this year was given as more like 18 months. So it is slow but they are still processing them. Definitely some interesting information in my Dad's file even though he didn't get past basic training because the war had ended.

eastcoaster said...

I read just today on another page (Genealogy a la carte) that the current wait for files is about 28 months as of November 2020. I expect this will only increase based on current work conditions regarding Covid etc.

eastcoaster said...

I just read on another page (Genealogy a la Carte) that the wait time to receive military files is 28 months (and growing). Based on current covid conditions I only expect this to grow.