Service records on our web site

We have various sources on our web site but do not hold service records. The two main sources we hold are Enlistment Books (all are on the web site) and Tracer Cards (of which only a very few have been digitised). Both Enlistment Books and Tracer cards record some aspects of the service record of an individual serviceman. To see if we hold any information relevant to your search, please use "Search > People", which you will find on the top toolbar.

Enlistment books record attestation, which is the process of joining a Regiment. From 1830 onwards, a new recruit into the British Army was allocated a number on joining. The numbering systems in use have evolved over time ....

  • 1830-1920 : Each regiment issued their own Regimental Numbers which were unique only within that regiment, so the same number could be issued many times in different regiments. When a serviceman moved, he would be given a new regimental number by his new regiment. Commissioned officers did not have regimental numbers.
  • 1820-1950 : The modern system of Army Numbers was introduced by Army Order 338 in August 1920. In this system, Commissioned Officers did have an Army Number which remained the same when the officer transferred to another regiment. Similarly, a serviceman had a permanent Army Number, unless he gained a commission, in which case a new Army Number was issued.  Army Numbers were initially a maximum of seven digits, and later (around the beginning of WW2) groups of numbers up to eight digits were added.
  • 1950 onwards: Soldiers in the British Army are currently given an eight-digit Service Number. All Army Numbers were scrapped from March 1950 and replaced by the new Service Numbers, which are allocated sequentially, starting at 2000000.

The enlistment books here date from 1920 onwards, and generally record Army Numbers, although there are references to earlier numbers (we assume Regimental Numbers) and also a few references to the later Service Numbers.

Generally the Army Numbers did not have prefixes but the Royal Army Service Corps was an exception. RASC numbers were prefixed S (Supplies), T (Transport), M (Mechanical Transport) or R (Remounts). In our index we have ignored the prefixes for RASC.

On enlistment, an attestation form was completed for each soldier. These have mostly been lost, but a summary of their contents was recorded in a series of volumes of Army Book 358, in accordance with the Army Order 338. These volumes were used as a reference source to record an abbreviated service record by serviceman - and it is these that we have digitised.  There are also a few volumes recording Transfers which record servicemen transferred into the Corps, and confusingly this could include servicemen who originally enlisted in the Royal Army Service Corps, transferred to another regiment and then back to the Corps.  In this case there will be may be 2 or more references to an individual serviceman.

It appears that Army Book 358 was in use before August 1920, as there a number of enlistment books held at The RLC Museum which record details in a slightly different format to those used for the "Army Number" post August 1920. These appear to record attestations prior to August 1920. In many cases, servicemen recorded in these books were allocated a permanent Army Number, but for some this does not appear to have happened - often for the obvious reason that they were discharged prior to August 1920. This series of volumes is not complete.  We believe that they were only in use after the end of World War 1 up to August 1920 - so they will not necessarily record the regimental number that a servicemen held during the active service in WW1.

When search results are returned, against each name there may be the Army Number issued after 1920, a Service Number issued after 1950 and/or Regimental Numbers found in the enlistment books issued before 1920. If there is no Army Number but there is a Regimental Number, this means that the serviceman was either discharged, or transferred to another regiment prior to August 1920. If there is more than one entry then this indicates that the serviceman originally enlisted into the Royal Army Service Corps or The Royal Army Ordnance Corps, but later transferred to another regiment and then back to the Corps.

The earlier entries from 1920 to 1929 give a good level of detail. Information is recorded under the following headings:

  • Regimental number
  • Full name
  • Date of attestation
  • Age on attestation
  • Place of attestation
  • Whether transferred to or from another corps and in such cases, the date of transfer
  • Trade on enlistment
  • Parish, town and county of birth
  • Next of kin (parents’ details to be written in pencil, wife’s details to be written in ink)
  • Place and date of marriage
  • Place and date of birth of each child
  • Campaigns, wounds, medals or rewards of any kind
  • Date, place and cause of discharge
  • Rank and character on discharge
  • Address on discharge
  • Remarks

Whilst the attestations in these books date from the 1900s, the earliest attestation noted where former service is indicated, dates back to 1888. The smaller attestation books which were in general use from 1929 give a lot less information, namely:

  • Army number
  • Full name/s
  • Details of transfer to other Corps or cause of becoming non-effective (including date)

The RLC Museum holds several hundred thousand tracer cards. These were used maintain a record of servicemen in the Forming Corps of the RLC, and cover the period from 1939 onwards. Each card contains the name and Army Number (or later Service Number) of the serviceman and a note of his service record. We would like to digitise these records but having conducted a trial have established that we do not currently have enough resource to do so.

During the trial we scanned and indexed around 2,500 cards for servicemen from the RASC who served in WW2 or shortly afterwards. The cards are organised alphabetically and the surnames on the cards we scanned fall between the surnames Purves and Quy. You can search for these cards using "Search > People" from the top toolbar.

Please note that these cards are stored in a different location to the Museum so are not accessible to the public. Further, we are unable to accept enquiries at this current time.


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