Paul Wilkins, family historian, explains how Royal Air Force records can help you trace your family tree.

The RAF is the newest of the armed services.

It formed on April 1, 1918 after the merger of the Army’s Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Navy’s Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS).

There are a lot of records online and you can visit the National Archives website to download them at

Records include RAF personnel in the collection of First World War Medal Index Cards.

You can also search and download the service records of officers who served in the Royal Air Force (RAF) during the First World War.

This collection comprises the records of over 99,000 individuals.

Officer records can be traced in the Air Force List, which started in April 1918.

If you are looking for the records of someone who served before 1918 in the RFC, you will need to look at Army records. For the RNAS, you will need to access Navy records at The National Archives at Kew.

The Royal Aero Club Aviators Certificates, from 1910-1950, are also available online on, (which is accessible for free in all Birmingham Libraries).

The database contains over 28,000 records and, quite amazingly, 13,000 photographs of men and women who were issued with their flying licences, and who then qualified as pilots.

This is quite an important record in that it includes the first military and naval service personnel to become pilots.

The collection is searchable by name, date of birth, nationality, rank or profession and other information.

Service records of RAF officers that served prior to 1922 and airmen that served prior to 1924 are held at the National Archives, at Kew.

Service records for officers and airmen that served after these dates are with the RAF.

In order to look at these records, you need to apply for them.

It will help your search if you know the service number, rank and full name.

Enquiries about RAF records should be addressed as follows: RAF Disclosures Section, Room 221b, Trenchard Hall, RAF Cranwell, Sleaford, Lincs NG34 8HB.

* Paul Wilkins is a family historian and founder of Family History Detectives. e-mail your queries to him at