Official Sources of Information

Official Sources of Information

The National Archives

The National Archives in Kew, London, is the official repository for all documents generated by government departments, including the MOD, which have been selected for permanent preservation under the Public Records Acts. The documents in the National Archives open collections are accessible to members of the public and may be studied by any interested individual. The National Archives does hold some documents, which, for a variety of reasons, are not yet open to the public. Members of the public may visit the National Archives in person or request a private researcher to undertake work for them. A fee will be charged for this service. The National Archives Catalogue is online and can be searched from their website. The website also gives access to the National Archives guides to searching their records, opening times, and other useful information.


The National Archives has produced a publication “AIR FORCE RECORDS a Guide for family historians” 2nd Edition by William Spencer. Details of the book can be found here.

National Archive RAF related holdings

The National Archives holdings are divided into various ‘classes’ of information. These usually have the prefix of the department of origin – thus, AIR relates to RAF material, WO relates to War Office (Army) material, CAB to Cabinet Office, etc.

Operations Records Books

The major source for information on RAF units and formations is THE OPERATIONS RECORD BOOK of the unit or formation. The TNA holds all those over 30 years old and their TNA collection of RAF Operations Record Books is a primary source of RAF Information. All RAF units keep an Operations Record Book (known also as RAF Form 540) but the quality of their content varies. RAF Operations Record Books document the activities of the unit and should include details of operational sorties flown by Service personnel with listings of the aircraft and crews involved. The Operations Record Books are held in the following classes:

  • RAF Commands - AIR24
  • RAF Groups - AIR25
  • RAF Wings - AIR26
  • RAF Squadrons - AIR27
  • RAF Stations - AIR28
  • RAF Miscellaneous Units - AIR29

Further examples of RAF related material in the National Archives:

RAF Miscellaneous Records:

  • Flying Logbooks - AIR4
  • Chief of the Air Staff Papers - AIR8
  • Air Publications - AIR10
  • Unregistered Papers - AIR20
  • AHB Narratives and Monographs - AIR41
  • Combat Reports - AIR50

Documents Originating With RAF Commands

  • Balloon Command - AIR13
  • Bomber Command - AIR14
  • Coastal Command - AIR15
  • Fighter Command - AIR16
  • Maintenance Command - AIR17
  • Overseas Command - AIR23
  • Training Command - AIR32
  • Ferry & Transport Command - AIR38
  • Army Co-operation Command - AIR39

AVIA & BT classes

The TNA also holds other information relating to aviation subjects in the AVIA and BT classes. This is material which has been deposited by the Ministry of Aviation and Board of Trade but does include some information on RAF aircraft accidents, RAF sites, the Royal Aircraft Establishments, the Ministry of Aircraft Production, the Air Transport Auxiliary etc.

War Office (Army) Classes

Information relating to the RAF can also be found in War Office material. Some of these sources are as follows:

  • War Crimes Papers - WO235
  • War Crimes Files - WO309
  • Interrogation Questionnaires (Liberated POW’s) - WO344
  • Japanese Index Cards of Allied POW’s & Internees 1939-45 - WO345
  • War Crimes South East Asia - WO356

Ministry of Defence Lands or Former Sites

The National Archives has a collection of maps and plans, some of which relate to former military sites and property, as well as an Ordnance Survey collection including a set for the UK based on the 2nd World War II military OS system. The National Archives also holds a variety of other documents that may be of assistance in clarifying details regarding former military sites. Two examples are:

  • Estates Branch: Maps & Plans and Papers (Civil/Military Airfields) - AVIA62
  • Graves and Cemeteries - CM4

Other Repositories of Official Material

The RAF Museum

The RAF Museum at Hendon has a large archive of RAF related material including RAFaircraft records and photographs. The address of the RAF Museum is:

The Royal Air Force Museum
Grahame Park Way

Tel: 020 8205 2266

Web :

The Imperial War Museum

The Imperial War Museum's main site is in Lambeth, London where there is a considerable archive containing official material. The Imperial War Museum is the official repository for imagery generated by the Ministry of Defence and its predecessors. The photographic archive contains both still and moving imagery. The address of the Imperial War Museum is:

The Imperial War Museum
Lambeth Road

Tel: 020 7416 5000


The Imperial War Museum also has a site dedicated to aviation on the former RAF Duxford near Cambridge.

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