Finding WWII Heroes in your Family

My grandad, Ernest Riches 1907-1980

My grandad, Ernest Riches 1907-1980

It’s never been a better time to find out about your ancestors who served during the wars. Everyone is talking about it and more records are becoming available all the time. However, Second World War records have not yet been released to the public, as there are many veterans still alive and their papers remain classified by the Ministry of Defence. Don’t give up hope, however, because there are ways to obtain more information. Here is a list of resources for researching your WWII heroes:

Army

If you are a surviving veteran, or the next-of-kin for a soldier who is now deceased, you can apply to the Army Personnel Centre for records. Proof of death is required (for next-of-kin applications, obviously!) as well as a payment of £30. The address is:

Army Personnel Centre,
Historic Disclosures,
Mail Point 400,
Kentigern House,
65 Brown Street,
Glasgow, G2 8EX.

For Coldstream Guards the address is below (although I have never received a response from my enquiry of March 2013. I am re-sending it today and will let you know how I get on):

Archives
Regimental Headquarters
The Coldstream Guards
Wellington Barracks
Birdcage Walk
London
SW1E 6HQ

Royal Air Force

RAF enquiries also need to be made by the next-of-kin, along with a payment of £30. The address for this is:

RAF Disclosures
Room 221B, Trenchard Hall
R A F Cranwell
Sleaford, Lincs.
NG34 8HB

Royal Navy

As for the RAF and Army, applications need to be made by the next-of-kin and sent to:

RN Disclosure Cell,
Room 48,
West Battery,
Whale Island,
Portsmouth, Hampshire
PO2 8DX

Merchant Navy

Merchant Navy campaign medal records are on-line at the National Archives. Searching is free, but there may be a charge to download documents. Each entry provides:

  • The seaman’s name
  • Medals
  • Ribbons and clasps issued
  • Reference to the medal papers file

Visit the National Archives to see if your ancestor’s Seaman’s Pouch survived. These documents were among the first to use photo ID and contain some very interesting information. The address is:

National Archives
Ruskin Avenue
Kew
Richmond
Surrey TW9 4DU

Other websites:

  • The UK Government’s website provides lots of useful information about requests for service records. Click here.
  • Find My Past has some WWII records including Prisoner of War lists. Subscribe here: Find My Past
  • Commonwealth War Graves Commission – A free site that gives you information about where to find graves and commemorative monuments for those who were killed during both wars.  Click here.
  • Ancestry.co.uk has a database of Naval Medal and Award Rolls as well as Navy Lists from 1888-1970. Subscribe here: Ancestry.co.uk

General Information about WWII:

  •  The Imperial War Museum, Lambeth Road, London SE1 6HZ. 020 74165000
  • MOD Medal Office, Building 250, Imjin Barracks, Gloucester, GL3 1HW. 0800 085 3600
  • National Archives, Ruskin Avenue, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU. 020 8876 3444

Discussion: Anything I’ve missed out and you’re interesting in finding out about relatives in WWII? Drop a comment here and I’ll see if I can find out for you. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Leicestershire Ancestors

    A new work colleague has just left the Coldstream Guards after 20 years! i wonder if he knows a good contact?

    • I’d be very grateful, thank you!

      • Leicestershire Ancestors

        Still waiting for him to come back on Fb, he has gone awol!