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New Project to Digitise 360,000 First World War RAF and RFC Service Records

RAF BadgeLeading UK family history website findmypast.co.uk and The National Archives have today announced a joint project to digitise hundreds of thousands of service records of First World War Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and Royal Air Force (RAF) airmen.

The contract to digitise this record set, known as AIR 79, was awarded to findmypast.co.uk by The National Archives following a competitive tender process. It is estimated that, once digitised, the collection will comprise 360,000 transcripts and 800,000 scanned full-colour images dating back to 1912.

The handwritten records begin with the creation of the Royal Flying Corps in 1912 and continue into the inter-war period. They provide insight into the lives of the extraordinary RFC and RAF airmen who served during the First World War, including details of medals awarded, discharge dates, promotions and information on the airmen’s families. For the first time these records will be made available and fully searchable online.

Some of the incredible details include information from the Ministry of Defence of servicemen who enlisted during the First World War and continued to serve during the 1930s and even into the Second World War.

Paul Nixon, Content Licensing Manager at findmypast.co.uk said: “The AIR 79 record set includes fascinating information on many incredible RAF airmen. The documents offer great insight and contain some amazing images.

“This significant project will allow these records to become more widely available to an international audience and make it easier than ever before to find an airman’s record through the straightforward search function on findmypast.co.uk. This collection will be an exciting and very welcome addition to the1.6 billion records already on our site.” 

William Spencer, Principal Military Records Specialist at The National Archives, said: “The digitisation of AIR 79 will enable researchers to understand that the RAF was not just pilots and engineers but a multitude of different roles and skills needed to support the complex world of early military aviation.”

Once the records housed at The National Archives have been scanned and transcribed by findmypast.co.uk, they will join a growing online resource of military, armed forces and conflict records from the First and Second World Wars including Medal Rolls, Rolls of Honour and Recruitment registers from all three services at findmypast.co.uk. The records will also be made available on findmypast’s international sites as part of a World subscription.

The AIR79 contract is the latest in a number of contracts awarded to findmypast.co.uk by The National Archives dating back to 2006. Record sets previously digitised by findmypast.co.uk in association with The National Archives include Crime, Prisons and Punishment; outbound passenger lists; British Army Service records; Merchant Navy Seamen’s records; Maritime Birth, Marriage and Death indexes and the 1911 census.

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