Military history

Whether you’re looking for an ancestor in the military or interested in historic conflicts, experts from The National Archives and elsewhere offer an authoritative take on military matters.

  • Audio contentSikh sepoys, non-commissioned and Indian Officers in uniform and mufti (catalogue reference CN 4/8)

    India in the First World War

    The National Archives’ principal military specialist William Spencer is joined by Brigadier Brian McCall, defence advisor in the British High Commission in New Delhi, Squadron Leader Rana Chhina, with the United Service Institution of India in New Delhi, Dr Santanu […]

  • Audio contentFootballers (catalogue reference COPY 1/260 (32))

    A game for Christmas: Football on the Western Front, December 1914?

    Any mention of football and the First World War will evoke the Christmas Truce of 1914 and the football match played in No Man’s Land. At the time many denied that a truce had occurred, let alone a football match […]

  • Audio contentChesham War Memorial, Buckinghamshire

    Putting it all together: using archives to discover your community’s involvement in the First World War

    The names of the First World War dead are there for all to see, on war memorials all over the country. Many individuals and groups are researching the stories behind the names, but what about delving even deeper? There is […]

  • Audio contentWar Diary page 11th Battalion Leicestershire Regiment, March 1918 (catalogue reference

    Webinar: Tracing British battalions or regiments during the First World War

    Unit war diaries, trench maps and photographs are just some of the sources held in The National Archives. This webinar looks at how to find these records and how to use them. David Langrish graduated in War Studies from the […]

  • Audio contentCrimean War: Major Stokes and group of Anglo-Turkish soldiers (catalogue reference WO 78/1078)

    Webinar: Army musters – more than just accounts

    This webinar looks at how the army accounted for the money it spent on its personnel and what you can discover in the records in addition to financial costs. William Spencer is The National Archives’ Principal Records Specialist in military […]

  • Audio contentAir Ministry letter concerning West Indian recruits (catalogue reference AIR 2/8278)

    The untold story of the RAF’s black Second World War fliers over Europe

    While the United States could boast the black fliers of Tuskegee, few people are aware of the important contribution made by 500 RAF aircrew recruited from the Caribbean and West Africa. Overcoming the legacy of the official British Colour Bar […]

  • Audio contentcn-11-6

    Operation Unthinkable: Churchill’s plan for World War Three

    Churchill’s top secret plan to attack the Soviet Empire was scheduled for 1 July 1945. British, US, Polish and German forces were to attempt to liberate East Germany and Poland and bring Stalin back to the conference table. If they […]

  • Audio contentTroops travelling to Manchester for review by Lord Kitchener

    Digitising MH 47 the Middlesex military service appeal tribunal

    On the introduction of conscription in 1916, Military Service Tribunals were set up to hear applications and appeals for exemption. Surviving material is fragmented but two complete sets of tribunal papers were retained, including those for the Middlesex Appeal Tribunal. […]

  • Audio contentAIR 1/169/15/160/5 24

    Britain’s air forces in the First World War

    This talk covers the record sources for those who served in the air forces, their formations and machines. It also explores a case study of a famous airman to illustrate some of the inventions and developments that led to final […]

  • Audio contentbattle-of-flodden-e101-56-27

    The Battle of Flodden

    500 years ago, English and Scottish armies fought a massive battle near Flodden on the border. The Scottish king, James IV was killed along with many of his nobles. The English king, Henry VIII was fighting in France with most […]

  • Audio contentbs0026502

    Tracing your merchant seamen ancestors through crew lists and agreements

    The Merchant Navy Crew Lists and Agreements are one of the greatest sources we have for family, maritime, social and economic history. They are a continuous record of Britain’s maritime trade activity during the 19th and 20th centuries as well […]

  • Audio contentTuring notes on Enigma page 3 (catalogue reference: HW 25/3)

    The secret listeners

    Before Bletchley Park could break the German war machine’s codes, the enemy’s radio traffic and communications were monitored around the clock by the Listening Service – a team of young men and women based in every theatre of war who […]

  • Audio contentinf-13-19-2-army-recruitment-1975

    Join up and see the world! British military recruitment after national service

    In the First and Second World Wars, men had come forward to join the colours willingly, or had been compelled by conscription. But after the end of National Service, and the demobilisation of the last conscripts in 1963, Britain’s military […]

  • Audio contentsc1-30-80r

    William Wallace’s rising and execution, and Edward I’s conquest of Scotland

    The period of crisis in Scotland following the death of Alexander III, and leading to the eventual conquest by Edward I, still excites controversy and discussion, not least about the role of William Wallace. During work on an AHRC-funded project […]

  • Audio contentJourney's End

    The Journey’s End Battalion: The 9th East Surrey and RC Sherriff in the Great War

    Journey’s End is a well-known play about the Great War. The author, RC Sherriff, saw all his front line service with 9th Battalion East Surrey Regiment. The podcast explores in particular Sherriff’s experiences with the battalion and his reactions to […]

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