The Chelsea Hospital Archive of Soldiers’ Discharge Documents 1913-1921

Until the advent of the Ministry of Pensions in 1916 and R.Record’s role in managing/storing Great War and other service records from the 1920s onwards (for a selection of pages on the Percy House Schools and Arnside, click here), the Royal Hospital Chelsea was the major repository for copies of British Army Discharge documents received from Army Record Offices.

The first extract is a report from 1913 looking at the then unweeded holdings of the Royal Hospital, the second and third extracts set out the policy instituted at the beginning of the First World War of disposing of non-pension Discharge documents (those soldiers who did not qualify for a Chelsea pension at the end of their Army service) after fifty years.

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From The National Archives (TNA) PRO 9/13 Second Report of the Royal Commission on Public Records: Volume II, Part II. p. 181

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From WO 32/17815 Disposal of War Office records: schedule for destruction. Lieutenant-Governor Royal Hospital Chelsea to The Secretary War Office (18 December 1914)

The documents in question were the Discharge documents of soldiers from 1830 to 1864, ‘Letters from applicants, relating to Prize Claims…1809 to 1870′, Prize Letter Books…1809 to 1867’ and ‘Letters and Medical Reports (Bound in Books) 1800 to 1870’.

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From Ibid. Assistant Secretary Royal Hospital Chelsea to The Secretary War Office (23 June 1921)

The Assistant Secretary’s letter confirming the continuation of the destruction of non-pensionable Discharge papers begun in 1914, means that by the end of 1939 non=pensionable Discharge papers up to and including 1888 would have been destroyed.

The change in 1914 to restricting the preservation of non-pensionable Discharge documents sent to Chelsea to fifty years can also be found in King’s Regulations, for example King’s Regulations 1923, para 1712 (click here).

A reference to the continuing process postwar of Army Record Offices sending copies of Discharge documents  to the Royal Chelsea Hospital can be found in a post on the Great War Forum. The papers submitted to Chelsea were arranged in Army number order and listed alphabetically by surname in Army Book 72 (a standard book used by the Army arranged by letters of the alphabet). More can be seen by clicking on the following link:

http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/topic/153337-destroyed-service-records/?do=findComment&comment=1477341