Percy House Schools and Arnside Street: Documentary Evidence for R (Records) work with WW1 Service Records

Please note: all transcriptions are from National Archives images (the original images can be found by searching either Ancestry or Findmypast under name and service number). Italics have mainly been used in the transcriptions to represent handwritten additions to the printed documents (although some sentences of the original documents were also printed in italics). The transcriptions are not to scale.

Hampden Gordon in his 1935 book on the War Office mentioned most of the Army Record Office related duties of R (Records) at Arnside (and previously at the Percy House Schools Isleworth)for soldiers discharged before 8 August 1920 , including: providing replacement discharge certificates, records for pension claims and the Ministry of Pensions, information for state employers (police, the Civil Service) on military service and various conduct/military service records that ex-soldiers had lost but needed to show employers/get help from ex-servicemen’s associations (Hampden Gordon (1935) The War Office. Putnam: London. pp. 273-274). The only thing he failed to mention was the proof provided for 1914 servicemen who wanted to join the Old Contemptibles Association!



1) Letter detailing the service of 9248 Serjeant John Hawkes West Yorkshire Regiment. Copies of standard letters like this one were sent out from the Percy House Schools and Arnside appear in a number of surviving files (they also appear from time to time for sale). Many such queries were clearly answered in part using these letters and they were regularly printed in large print runs, for example this copy was part of a 10,000 print run from 5/38 and another copy from 9/31 was one of 5,000 copies. There were many similar size print runs throughout the 1920s and 1930s. The Reference Number follows the format of firstly showing the Army Record Office that the record originally came from, second the regimental number and then lastly what appears to be an enquiry reference number. These reference numbers appear on most Isleworth and Arnside correspondence to do with service records.

Arnside Letter Two

2) The standard form identity verification form sent out throughout the 1920s and 1930s before any replacement forms or certificates would be sent out (see list below). Form D 465 is often mentioned in surviving R (Records) paperwork in WW1 service files.


Arnside Letter1

The other side of Form D 465 shows the role of R (Records) as the Registrar for WW1 Service Records, with the need for a magistrate to certify the identity of the ex-soldier and an explanation of how the paperwork had been lost.

The legal aspects of R (Records) work can also be seen for example in the series of forms and letters sent out by R (Records) in 1936 in relation to the admission of desertion in 1918 by M 38660 Private Henry Gabbedey RASC. The forms and letters are again standard letters showing how the pardoning of deserters inbetween the wars was a reasonably regular piece of work for Records (a copy of the last form A.F.1. can be seen at 10) at the end of this page).

Arnside Letter2

3) By 1921 the Disposal of Records Section (which became R (Records)) at the Percy House Schools at Isleworth began looking after service records from WW1 following the dissolution of wartime created Corps and sending of their records to Isleworth.

Examples include:

  •  Machine Gun Corps records which were transferred to Isleworth by 26 February 1923 (The National Archives (TNA) WO 293/14 War Office: Army Council: Instructions 1-667: A.C.I. 62/1923).
  • The Labour Corps records in October 1922 (with so many men having served in the Army such events were reported in newspapers, for example the Labour Corps move was reported in the Evening News, in the News in Brief column for 19 September 1922). The relevant A.C.I. can be found in The National Archives (TNA) WO 293/13 War Office: Army Council: Instructions : A.C.I. 463/1922.
  • QMAAC records which were in Isleworth by November 1921 (reported in the Pension Problems column of The Diss Express And Norfolk and Suffolk Journal 25 November 1921). The relevant A.C.I. can be found in The National Archives (TNA) WO 293/12 War Office: Army Council: Instructions : A.C.I. 643/1921.

For members of the disbanded Corps who did not transfer elsewhere within the British Army and were demobilised Isleworth became their record office, before it took on that role for the rest of the soldiers who had been demobilised before 8th August 1920 in late 1926 . For more detailed information on how during the 1920s R (Records) gradually became responsible for most WW1 service records  and for the Army Council Instructions covering the moves of the WW1 service records to Isleworth and later Arnside please click here.

The form below comes from 1925 correspondence on Gaffey’s file. The format of the ex-record office reference (M.G. in this case) followed by a reference number but without the regimental/corps number inserted in the middle (see above) also appears in a number of similar references for the Labour Corps from the 1920s.

Record Office Reference Number

4) In common with medals ex-servicemen were expected to acknowledge the receipt of the legally certified documents from R (Records).

Trace Slip 4

5) Copies of these slips for the extraction of files appear in a number of surviving files. The registered number of the enquiry is probably the third number in the sequence as above (so 3130 in the last example). 150,000 of this slip were printed in December 1928.

Trace slip Three

6) Another acknowledgement slip follows. Using a sample of around 30 numbers it has not proven possible to see a sequence for the third ‘reference’ number (6263 below) when arranged variously in order of record office, service number, year or regimental number. The reference numbers do not follow in a clear number order as would be expected if the enquiries were strictly numbered according to ex-record office or chronological receipt either within the record office reference or when all references were run together in purely numerical or chronological order (regardless of the original record office). Although the importance of the record office reference together with evidence (see here) indicates that the records were received from Army Record Offices in regimental/corps number order and presumably were stored at Isleworth/Arnside in record office/regimental number order the R (Records) reference number needs further study. Does the reference number  purely indicate an enquiry reference, perhaps grouped by type of enquiry or does it have another meaning? Apart from the possible discovery of a new document that gives an accidental direct insight into how the number works we need to gather a far bigger sample of these references to see if a wider pattern can be established.

The R (Records) reference number is often written on the first page of attestations, normally ringed in a circle and can sometimes be found written on attestations where the Isleworth or Arnside paperwork accompanying the query has not survived. An example where both the writing of the enquiry number on the attestation and the Isleworth documents have survived can be found in the file of 850849 Frank Hazell, where the R (Records) reference is RA/850849/8512 and the reference RA 8512 can be found written and ringed on the attestation.

Trace Slip Two

7) Another extraction slip, with a Army Form D 465 reference (a transcription of this type of form can be seen at 2)). The 9241 reference is obscure. H.B. Raynes and A.T. Taylor are listed as Higher Clerical Officers (H.C.O.) in the 1930 War Office List, second only to J.R. Nelson (Staff Clerk), long time head of R. Records . By the 1931 War Office List A.T. Taylor is no longer listed and had been replaced as H.C.O. the author of the well known list of files and records lost at Arnside (see The National Archives (TNA) WO 32/21769 Records Destroyed at Arnside Street: Records Destroyed At Arnside Street (list)), W.H. Davison. The need for the approval of senior clerks in R (Records) to agree to the issue of these documents further illustrates the legal importance that was attached to this work.

Trace Slip One

8) Another type of slip, in this case from 1935. The entries on the slip show that the AB 358 had not been consulted for the man’s character reference and that his B120 Regimental Conduct Sheet had only one entry. Gabriel was rated as Very Good and the slip shows how often the need for documentation was related to employment, with employers wanting to see via the ex-servicemen the character grade that they were given at the end of their Army service. Mr Bovenizer can also be seen to have signed in 1934 Army Forms B108D Discharge Certificate and B 108E Character Certificate (curiously after application the replacement forms could not be delivered and were returned to Arnside) in the file of Private 40678 James Gaffney of the Royal Scots.

Trace 8

9) Another form of slip, with an enquiry related to a Discharge Certificate and medals (for War Office division AG4 Medals). The slip was printed in large numbers (250,000) sometime before 1937 and notes that the man’s character was according to an entry in the relevant AB 358 very good. The reference to Z could either indicate his demobilisation forms or his ending his Army engagement in the Z class reserve.

Trace Slip 5

10) The most developed of the R (Records) service record relatedsheets, the action sheet in this example printed in 1936 shows both the importance of filling in paperwork related to pensions (Form 12 for Chelsea or the Ministry of Pensions) and the supply of replacement Discharge and other certificates. In this case it notes the issue of a statement of service (using the standard letter, see 1)) and a Discharge Certificate B. 108D.

Trace Sheet 7


11) The following example is a transcription of some of the standard forms and letters used by Arnside to deal with those who years after the end of the War wanted to officially end their status as having deserted from the British Army. Presumably Arnside was only involved with those cases where the men’s papers had been transferred to them (before the change to Army Numbers after 8 August 1920). Some of the surviving documentation in this example had not been completed. The need for sworn statements in front of a J.P. and in this case people in other trusted positions continues the legal theme of so much of Arnside’s work with service records. Interestingly Gabbedey is listed on both Ancestry and Find My Past as Gabbeday, a mistake originally made on the file jacket provided by the War Office presumably during the document sorting process in the years after the Arnside fire.




Arnside Desertion1

Arnside Desertion2

Arnside Desertion B1


Arnside Desertion B2