Searching for the Service Files of Soldiers of the First World War

Database

You can find references to the service files of soldiers who served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in our database Soldiers of the First World War: 1914–1918.

However, it is sometimes difficult to find a soldier for several reasons:

  • His given name or surname may be written in a variety of ways
    The information in the indexes is what was written in the archival records, which were often written by hand. There may also be an error in the database. The database search engine may find words with the same root. For example, “Worth*” will lead to a search for “Worth”, “Worthing” and “Worthington.”
  • Several soldiers had the same name
    To identify your soldier, you need to check the attestation papers (enlistment forms) because they contain personal information about him.
  • He gave an incorrect date of birth
    To be able to enlist in the army during the First World War, a recruit had to be between the ages of 18 and 45.

Digitization of the files

For updates on this project, consult Digitization of Canadian Expeditionary Force Service Files.

When a record is digitized, you can access it free of charge by clicking on the link “Digitized Service File—PDF format”, which is included when you go into the database. If you do not see the PDF link, the file has not yet been digitized.

How to order a copy of the file

If the file has not yet been digitized, you can obtain a copy of it. Information explaining how to obtain copies is provided on our website under the heading Price List and Service Standards—Regular Copies.

To order reproductions, you need to include the complete reference indicated in the database. For example:

Name: MACDONALD, JOHN
Service number: 105564
Date of birth: 31/05/1881
Reference: RG 150, Accession 1992–93/166, Box 6736—5
Item number: 147430

To better understand the service files

The following links provide details of the important documents that can be found in the service files:

War diaries

The service files indicate the locations of postings in England, but do not provide similar information for France or Belgium, or the battles in which the individual participated. The files provide the names and numbers of the units to which a person was posted. Therefore, you need to have a copy of the service file before consulting the war diaries. Read our page War Diaries of the First World War on the subject.

Medals

You can consult our database on Military Medals, Honours and Awards, 1812-1969.

For information on members who served in the air force or navy, or for any other information, consult our page on the First World War.

If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact us!

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