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Family History Using Military Sources

Regimental archives have very little personal information and tend to focus on the history of the Regiment.  Researching family history using military sources involves looking in several different locations, often using the National Archives.  A list of these addresses is given at the end of this page.

Before 1914


1.  I know which Regiment he served with

Service records for both men and officers are held at the National Archives in Kew, along with other forms of information such as muster rolls and pay lists.  These are organised by Regiment. Further information on the records held at the National Archives can be found on their web site at www.nationarchives.gov.uk Link to External Website. The address is also at the end of this page. This information is also available on Findmypast available to use for free at the Local Studies Centre.

2. I don't know which Regiment he served with

If you know the approximate years in which he served, you could check the Army List and proceed as above. Army lists are held in series MR/6 in the Manchester Regiment Archive.

For the Boer War, death registers of British soldiers who died in South Africa 1899-1902 are kept by the General Register Offices and indexes are available at the National Archives. The Casualty Returns are WO 108/89-91 and 338 also at the National Archives. Published copies of Rolls of Honour are available in Local Studies at qL355.

The Soldiers’ Effects Ledgers at the National Army Museum from 1901 -1929 can be searched online with Ancestry. They give name, address, regimental number, rank, date and place of death, date of birth, date of enlistment, trade on enlistment, name of next of kin, name of legatee and record of payment of wages owed. 

It may be worth checking Probate Search as soldiers were required to make a will before going on active service.

www.findmypast.co.uk Link to External Website includes British Army Service records 1760-1915; this includes militia service records 1806-1915, various records from the Royal Hospital Chelsea (which managed the pensions of retired soldiers whether they resided at the hospital or not), and records of the Imperial Yeomanry in the South African war 1899-1902. The original records are all held as part of the War Office  records at the National Archives.

3. He served with the Manchester Regiment

The Manchester Regiment archives are held at Tameside Local Studies Library. The archives do not include much personal information on ordinary men. There is some information on officers, including lists of officers service, digests of service and a few commissions.

If your soldier enlisted before 1914, served during the First World War and survived and then stayed with the Manchester Regiment after 1919, there is a chance he may be recorded in the Enlistment Books, specifically in volume 2 or volume 4. You can check the index to the Enlistment Books in the local studies search room.

Please note that archives will not be produced within thirty minutes of closing time and that all archives must be returned fifteen minutes before closing time.

First World War


1. He Was Killed...


Service Records

Service records were the property of the Ministry of Defence and for this reason, they are not held as part of the Regimental Archives. Many service records were destroyed during WWII bombing so you may not be able to find what you are looking for. 

Officers' service records are now available at the National Archives, see series WO 388 and WO 339. Surviving service records for men and non-commissioned officers (NCOs) have been transferred to the National Archives from the Army Records Centre. These records are part of series WO 363 and are sometimes referred to as the burnt records. They relate to men and NCOs who completed their military service, were killed in action, executed or died of wounds or disease. The records include information such as the soldier's name, age, birthplace, occupation, marital status and regiment number. These records are available on www.ancestry.co.uk  Ancestry can be accessed free of charge at Tameside Local Studies and Archives, you only have to pay for printing.

There should also be some information on your ancestor on the medals card index. These records are held at the National Archives as series WO 372. These records are available for download from Documents On-Line on the National Archives webpage and also from www.ancestry.co.uk Link to External Website The medal index cards are a good first place to start as many more cards have survived than service records and they give you an indication of the battalion or battalions with which your ancestor served..

Roll of Honour

If you do not know when, or even if, he was killed, Soldiers Died in the Great War covers all Regiments and is now available on www.ancestry.co.uk Link to External Website and on CD-ROM. We have a copy of the CD Rom in the search room for reference. We can check this for you and obtain the date of death, Regiment, Battalion and service number. For service records after 1920 you will need to contact the Army Personnel Centre. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission database is also available on the internet at www.cwgc.org and this will show where he is buried or commemorated on a memorial. If you do not have access to the internet we can also search this for you. We also have the National Roll for Manchester.

General Register Office Index

If you are sure he was killed but cannot find him through either means, he may have died of related injuries such as gassing after being discharged. In which case, he would not be recorded as an official war death. You will need to consult the General Register Office Death Index on Ancestry or Findmypast.   Once you have obtained the index number the certificate can be ordered from the General Register Office at Certificate Ordering.  Alternatively a certificate can be ordered from the local register office where the death was registered.

Courts Martial and Executions

If he is not listed in the Roll of Honour, or on the local War Memorial, he may have been shot for desertion. We have a copy of death sentences passed by military courts of the British Army 1914-1924, by Gerard Oram at qL355.1. This is index of death sentences passed between 1914 and 1924. It is split into two lists, one arranged alphabetically by name and one arranged in chronological order. It includes name, unit, rank, date of sentence, offence, final sentence and theatre of war. It also includes a reference to the records held at the National Archives if you want to find out more.

 The National Archives hold records of Courts Martial at WO 71. These records are subject to a 30 year closure period unless otherwise stated. We have an index of some of these Courts Martial dating between 1914-1921 on microfiche which we can check for you but the originals have to be consulted at the National Archives.


Local newspapers usually had quite comprehensive obituaries. If he was from Tameside we have local newspapers on microfilm, and you will need to book a microfilm reader to view them. Otherwise, we can give you the address of the relevant local studies library.

Manchester Regiment Archives

If an Officer was killed, he would usually be mentioned by name in the War Diary or in some of the Battalion histories. It is therefore important to know which Battalion your ancestor served with, as the Battalions did not fight together. Men and NCOs would not usually be mentioned by name. However, if we have the War Diary or history for that Battalion, we can give you information on where they served and what happened on the day he was killed. The War Diaries should otherwise be held at the National Archives.

2. He Survived the War

Generally speaking, it is more difficult to trace men who survived the war than those who were killed. You can check the medal index cards (as mentioned above) for information such as service number and campaign medals. You can also use the war diaries and published histories relating to your ancestor's battalion to find out more about the theatre of war in which he served. We also have the Manchester City Battalions book which lists everyone who enlisted in the service or "Pals" Battalions after 1915.

Pension records can be viewed on Ancestry and cover soldiers who were discharged through sickness and injury during the war. The pension records should include the medical records relating to the disability for which a pension was granted, along with information such as the soldier's name, age, birthplace, occupation, marital status and regiment number.

3. He Received a Medal

Service Medals

All men who entered a theatre of war on duty or rendered approved service overseas during the First World War received medals for this service. The Service Records and Awards Rolls for the First World War are held as series WO 329 by the National Archives. The index to these medal cards can be searched and downloaded. The index to these medal cards can be searched on both Ancestry and Findmypast. Searching for a man's medal card is a very good way to find his service number and begin your research.

Gallantry Medals

There are several sources for the award of gallantry medals. We have a medal roll for the Manchester Regiment by Lieutenant Colonel James in two slim volumes on the oversize section in the reading room at qL355.1. This gives the date the award was listed in the London Gazette. He may also be mentioned by name in the Battalion history if we have one.

London Gazette

This lists medal awards and, except for the Military Medal, usually gives the citation. Manchester Archives+ has the London Gazette and it also has a searchable webpage available via www.london-gazette.co.uk. If you know why he was awarded a medal, we can check the Battalion history to see if he is mentioned. If he did not serve with the Manchester Regiment, we can give you the address of the relevant military museum.

Local Newspaper

The local newspapers usually had articles on local boys who received medals. If he was from one of the Tameside towns you can check our newspapers. You will need to book a microfilm reader to do this. Otherwise, you can consult the newspaper at the relevant local studies library, such as Oldham for one of the Oldham Pals or Manchester for a man from Ardwick.

There is an online database which might help with information about soldiers from Dukinfield - WW1 Kenyon letters

4. Was he a Prisoner of War?

The National Archives and the Red Cross have some information on POWs from both sides. see below for addresses.

Inter War Period

 A useful source for this period is the series of Enlistment Books held as part of the Manchester Regiment Archive. These books start at the end of the First World War at the time when the Army was reorganised and all soldiers, whether new recruits or continuing their service, were re-issued with new, seven digit numbers. A index to the books is available in the search room, please ask staff for more details. The Enlistment Books are available for consultation on microfilm.

Second World War


1. Was he Killed?


Roll of Honour

We have a Roll of Honour for the Manchester Regiment in the archives. If he did not serve in the Manchester Regiment you may also find him through the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Service Records

Service records for men and officers are at the Army Personnel Centre, the address for which is at the end of this page.

Manchester Regiment Archives

We hold a few World War 1 diaries and an extensive collection of battalion history, personal letters and diaries. Please note that the National Archives hold most trench maps and war diaries.

2. He survived the War

Again, the best source of information are service records.

3. He was a Prisoner of War

The National Archives and the Red Cross have some information on POWs from both sides. see below for addresses.


The Imperial War Museum has a wide range of photographs and documents for both World Wars which researchers may find useful.

The Manchester Regiment archives contain a wide range of photographs and photograph albums. Most photographs of individuals are of officers or have been donated by members of the public - in which case they are often identified. The group photographs are usually of platoons or sports teams, and unfortunately individuals are usually unidentified. There is a very good selection for the Boer War.

Many of the loose photographs have been digitised and can be searched on the Manchester Regiment Image Archive www.manchester-regiment.org.uk/

Manchester Regiment Archives

Useful Terms



Each Regiment is divided into Battalions. In the late nineteenth century the army was reorganised to ensure that each Regiment had two regular battalions - at any point one would be at home and the other serving abroad. Each Regiment also had volunteer Battalions, which became Territorial Battalions in the early twentieth century.

During WWI the Territorial Battalions became full as men began to volunteer. At this point the Battalions were spilt into sections e.g. 1/5th. 2/5th, 3/5th. The 3rd section was usually a home Battalion, for men who were injured or in training.

Service Battalions were also created to accommodate new volunteers. These were also known as "Pals" Battalions.


Each Battalion served with a Brigade, which was part of a Division within the British Army. The Manchester Regiment Battalions did not all fight together, but served with Battalions from other Regiments within a Division. This is why you need to know which Battalion your ancestor served with to find out more about where he fought. We have a breakdown of the WWI Divisions with which the battalions of the Regiment served in the appendices of the Manchester regiment archive catalogue. Even if we do not have a Battalion history, we can still find out where he fought.

Useful Addresses


Ministry of Defence
Postal AddressArmy Personnel Centre, Disclosures 4 (Historical), Mailpoint 555, Kentigern House, 65 Brown Street, Glasgow G2 8EX
Telephone Number0845 600 9663

All army personnel records of a soldier serving in or after 1920 and Officers serving in or after 1923. Service records are free to the serviceman in question but there is a charge for enquiries from next-of-kin and you will be required to complete a Certificate of Kinship, available with an information sheet from the above address. 

Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Postal Address2 Marlow Road
www.cwgc.org Link to External Website

Information about place of burial or commemoration of servicemen killed in WWI and WWII.

Imperial War Museum
Postal AddressLambeth Road
www.iwm.org.uk Link to External Website

Rolls of Honour, published histories, photographs and document collections as well as general military history.

Army Medal Office
Postal AddressMinistry of Defence Medal Office,
Building 250, Imjin Barracks,
Gloucester GL3 1HW
Phone 0800 085 3600/ 0141 224 3600
Email DBS-medals@mod.gov.uk

Enquirers will need to give the service number and Regiment. The Army Medal Office also holds all Home Guard records.

National Archives
Postal AddressRuskin Avenue

All service records for soldiers serving in or before 1919 and Officers serving before 1922. There are also pension records and information about next of kin and war diaries and trench maps.

Manchester Central Library
Postal AddressSt. Peter's Square
M2 5PD

London Gazette 1665 to date. Includes citations for some DSOs and MCs and all DCMs awarded during 1914-1918.

British Red Cross
Postal AddressUK Office
44 Moorfields
London EC2Y 9AL
Telephone Number0344 871 11 11
www.redcross.org.uk Link to External Website

Important: Please include your name and postal address when you send us a message as this will help us provide a full response to your enquiry.

April 21

Contact information

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0161 342 4242
Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre
Cotton Street East
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