Royal Flying Corps & Royal Air Force Research

As well as record searches for individuals who served in RFC, RNAS and RAF for the First World War period additional research may be possible once you have the service record. Available are squadron operational reports showing daily in diary form aircraft and aircrew taking-of with some details. Pilots and Observers submitted “Combat in the Air” reports which details instances where they were attacked or where they have attacked enemy aircraft.

Additionally there are records for squadrons, RAF Regiment, Training units and Bases available to circa 1980.

Please give details on the enquiry form and we can advise if records for the unit and period of interest are available.

Also included in the fee is included a search for campaign medals awarded for First World War service. In most cases these are available.

Commissioned Officers

Royal Flying Corps - As part of the British Army RFC most officers will have a correspondence file available. These vary a great deal in content but generally include application for commission, service record for any service in the ranks, Birth/Baptism certificate, details of education, details of wounds received in action or sickness, posting to units together with dates of service with them. If made a Prisoner of War there is usually a statement written by the officer giving the circumstances of his capture. If killed or died details of how his estate was settled. Claims for pension due to wounds or sickness. These are some of the more usual documents. They vary a great variety from file to file.

Royal Naval Air Service – First World War RNAS officer’s records are available. These show personal details, commission, promotions, squadrons etc. Also shown are flying hours, type of aircraft flown and reports on the officer. They are often noted with details of Air Combats and instances of good conduct.

Royal Air Force – For those officers serving in the RFC & RNAS at the formation of the RAF on 1st April 1918 a further record is usually available if service did not continue after c1920. The records have full personal details, promotions, postings and squadrons as well as types of aircraft flown if a pilot. They also details any wounds received and awards granted. This obviously covers new officers entering service after formation.

Other Ranks

Royal Flying Corps – If discharged prior to the formation of the RAF a mans record may be amongst these. Many actual service records for other ranks were destroyed in the London Blitz during Second World War. There is approximately a 35% chance of any one mans record being available. This is to a discharge date of 1920. The records that survive do vary but generally disclose all service, units, wounds, service dates overseas, family information and can include a vast variety of different forms and correspondence.

Royal Naval Air Service – These records follow the same format as Royal Navy ratings records. All records show Date and place of birth, trade on enlistment, postings with dates of service, promotions etc.

Royal Air Force – As with commissioned officers other ranks from the RFC and ratings from the RNAS were transferred to the RAF on formation. A further record covering RAF service is usually available along with those who joined after formation. The records cover service to the late 1920’s. However they do include in some cases details of service during the Second World War if recalled. They include records to service number of 329000. Most show birth details, address, next of kin, physical description, marriage and birth details of children. Records detail units, postings, trade, dates of service overseas and medals. Also if from the RFC or RNAS original enlistment date is shown and sometimes further details of service if from the army.

Later service – all ranks

The records of those not covered above are still held by the Ministry of Defence. Veterans or deceased Veterans Next of Kin can apply for a copy of a service records via the Veterans Agency website at

Whether or not you have an individuals service record the following research can be undertaken

WW2 Squadron Operational record books – These were compiled by each squadron, usually in two parts – Diary and Operations. The diary gives day by day information including losses and posting in and out. The operational part in most cases lists each aircraft taking off and landing, target or type of sortie, incidents, bomb load, losses etc. Most list aircraft type, number and names of crew. If looking for details of aircrew these records are very useful. A date of service with a squadron is required for this search. If a casualty this will be available in most cases along with those who were decorated. If you obtain his service record this will give full details of squadrons.

Prisoners of War WW2 – Firstly for both prisoners of the Germans and Japanese there are Interrogation Questionnaires dating from 1945 -46. About 140’000 of these are available so there will not be one for every POW.

They include name, rank, number, unit, home address, date of birth, date and place of capture, camps held, and work camps. Any serious illnesses suffered during imprisonment and treatment received. Any interrogation after capture, escape attempts, sabotage etc.

In addition if a prisoner of the Japanese the original Japanese POW card is often available. This is part in English and part Japanese. These show name, unit, rank, service number, date of birth, date & place of capture (in Japanese), name and address of next of kin, camps held in (in Japanese)

If neither of these items are available for an individual there are also lists of POW’s published at various times which can be searched. These generally give camp held but no unit details and date of capture.

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