This is the main series of service documents of soldiers (but not officers) who either became in- or out-pensioners of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. The attestation and discharge documents in this series constitute the most detailed record of a soldier's service. The early part of the series also occasionally contains records of men who bought themselves out of their regiment or who applied unsuccessfully for a pension.
The records usually give particulars of age, birthplace, service (including any decorations), information about physical description, previous occupation on enlistment and the reason given for discharge to pension. Documents after 1883 usually contain fuller particulars, such as next of kin and details of marriage and children.
The series generally does not contain the records of soldiers who died in service or who took an early discharge and never received a pension. These service records would not have survived because they were not required for pension purposes.
The types of document that have most commonly survived are :
- discharge forms, which were issued when a soldier left the regiment;
- attestation forms, which are the documents signed by the new recruit;
- the proceedings of a regimental board and record of service, which was a later variety of discharge form;
- a variety of supporting correspondence;
- questionnaires of past service, which an applicant for an in-pension completed if others documents had not survived;
- affidavits, which out-pensioners outside London made every quarter to state that they were not drawing on other public funds.
PLEASE NOTE: WO 97 Piece numbers 1 to 6383 inclusive: Electronic images of these records can be searched online through our partner website.