Catalogue description War Office: Soldiers' Documents from Pension Claims, First World War (Microfilm Copies and Medical Cards)

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Details of WO 364
Reference: WO 364
Title: War Office: Soldiers' Documents from Pension Claims, First World War (Microfilm Copies and Medical Cards)

This series consists of microfilm copies of service records of non-commissioned officers and other ranks who were discharged from the Army and claimed disability pensions for war service between 1914 and 1920 and did not re-enlist prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. The records are unlikely to contain information on individuals who did not claim a war pension. In addition, there are paper cards containing medical information of specific individuals.

The microfilms were produced by volunteers of the Genealogical Society of Utah under an agreement with the Ministry of Defence.

Electronic images of the microfilm can be searched online through our partner website.

The provenance of these records is important in understanding that they are unlikely to contain any papers for men who were either killed in action and had no dependants or who were discharged as part of the demobilisation at the end of the war and did not claim a pension. For this reason, readers should be aware that there is a substantial possibility that the records of service they seek do not survive in this series.

If readers cannot locate a soldier's record, it may also be because it has not been stored or filmed in the correct alphabetical order. Files discovered out of order after their letter series had been processed were filmed and placed at the end of the series (WO 364/4913-4915). Alternatively, a file may have been out of order when filmed due to either a misspelling or misreading of a soldier's surname; for example, the record for a soldier of the first or second name Stanley may have been filed and subsequently filmed with soldiers of that surname, whilst a file with the surname Allan may been stored with the surname Allen, similarly if the surname was double barrelled and misread and so on.

In addition, some soldiers did not record their first name on their service forms and instead used an initial, or a diminutive such as Bob or Bill. In the absence of a comprehensive nominal index, readers will need to think of possible alternatives if they are unsuccessful in their first attempt to locate a soldier's record, however, they should also bear in mind that there is a strong possibility that the record of service may not survive in this series.

Readers should note that files for surnames beginning with the prefixes Mc and Mac have been arranged together at the start of the letter M in alphabetical order of the next letter; e.g. McSwiggan will be found next to MacSwiggan. However, surnames beginning with the prefix O' have been filmed and listed in alphabetical order amongst other surnames beginning with the letter O; e.g. O'Dell can be found next to Odell.

During the filming, a number of boxes of files were filmed out of sequence and where this has occurred (letters R, S, T and W) the surname range for both boxes filmed on a reel has been listed.

WO 364/5000-5804 form a separate collection formerly known as the 'Third Collation' (the other two collations being in WO 363 and that material already in WO 364). The collection consists of records similar to those already in WO 364, namely material relating to soldiers who claimed a disability pension for First World War service.

WO 364/5805-7197 consist of medical cards that were located in 2012. These cards had been part of the series that was damaged or destroyed in 1940 - however they had been refiled for administrative purposes prior to the war and had either survived the fire or were located in another storage facility that was not bombed.

Note: For WO 364 the series, including 'missorts', runs to 7197 pieces/film. However, numbers 4916-4999 were not used; therefore, the total pieces/film in the series is 7113 including 'missorts'. Scanned images of the microfilm are available online (see content) - there are no plans to digitise the medical cards.
Date: 1900-1994

The records in the series are arranged in four distinct alphabetical sections (A-Z), and a seperate section of paper records:

  • pieces 1-4912
  • pieces 4913-4915 (4916-4999 are numbers not used)
  • 5000-5802
  • 5803-5804.
  • 5805-7197 (medical cards)

The films are organised by the alphabetical order of the surname of a soldier and each reel of microfilm has a GS number which was allocated as part of the filming process and does not relate to the original files.

Work on providing a surname index to the mis-sorts in both WO 363 and WO 364 is being initiated. The pieces affected in WO 363 are WO 363/MISS 1 - MISS 159 and in WO 364; WO 364/4913-4915 and WO 364/5803-5804.

Related material:

Records of soldiers and non-commissioned officers discharged from the five Footguards Regiments (Grenadiers, Coldstream, Scots, Irish, Welsh) are in the custody of their respective Regimental Headquarters at Wellington Barracks, Birdcage Walk, London SW1E 6HQ.

For soldiers' service records pre-1914 see WO 97

Main collection of World War 1 soldiers' records WO 363

For soldiers in The Household Cavalry see WO 400

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English
Physical description: 7197 files and microform
Access conditions: Open unless otherwise stated
Immediate source of acquisition:

Ministry of Defence

Custodial history: The original records were held by the Ministry of Pensions for the assessment of disability pension claims for the First World War. They were returned to the War Office following a fire in 1940 which severely damaged those service records held at the War Office record store, Arnside Street, South London.Some paper records had been refiled onto other files which survived the fire and which were discovered in 2012. These paper records were incorporated into WO 364 in 2017.
Selection and destruction information: The 'Third Collation' (WO 364/5000-5804) was compiled by extracting service record material from Ministry of Pensions files for pensions which were still in payment after 1938 (material from pensions which had ceased payment by 1938 or which were refused are in WO 364/1-4915). When the Ministry of Pension files were due for destruction, the service record material was returned to the Ministry of Defence and subsequently microfilmed.
Administrative / biographical background:

About six and a half million men served as soldiers in the British Army during the First World War and, after demobilisation, provided that they did not re-enlist prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, copies of their records of service were stored centrally in the War Office Record Store in Arnside Street, Walworth, London SE17. During the night of 7/8th September 1940, there was a heavy German air raid on London and the repository was hit by incendiary bombs, destroying the greater part of the 1,400 tons of War Office records which were held there in the subsequent fire. Approximately two thirds of the soldiers' service records were completely destroyed and those which survived were partly charred or water damaged when the fire was extinguished; the surviving records became known as the 'burnt documents or burnt collation'.

In order to supplement the surviving records, non-active files from the Ministry of Pensions at Blackpool relating to Army disability pensions for the First World War were passed to the new War Record Office at Droitwich in 1943. These files concerned pensioners who had since died or claims which had been refused and they were intended to be pulped for paper salvage. These records, which were kept separate from the 'burnt collation' were known as the '1914-1920 collation'.

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