Selecting Military Service Files

It is now easier to participate in Lest We Forget as an increasing number of high-quality digital copies of military service files are available online for the First and Second World Wars.

First World War (1914-1918)

The military service files of the First World War include:

  • An attestation paper signed on joining the military or being conscripted
  • A record of service indicating the units to which they were attached
  • A casualty form indicating any medical conditions or wounds
  • Other medical documents
  • Discharge documentation
  • A medal card for honours and awards received
  • And, in some cases telegrams notifying families of injuries, wounds and deaths, or other communications between the military authorities and families.

Note that, at that time, the administration and command of the Canadian Armed Force was conducted almost entirely in English, and, therefore, you will encounter very few forms or documents in French. You will also find many abbreviations on these forms; to find out what they mean, consult Military Abbreviations used in Service Files.

To select a digitized file, consult our Soldiers of the First World War: 1914-1918 database.  You can do a search by given name(s), surname and regimental number of a soldier.  By clicking on Hide/Show Advanced Search Options, you will also be able to search by his place of birth, his address at time of enlistment or his unit.  If you want to browse the service files that are already digitized, select yes in the dropdown box beside the label Digitized File.

The digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) service files is underway and a substantial number of digitized files have been added to our website as part of the Government of Canada First World War commemoration activities.

We will add new files every two weeks, as the CEF digitization initiative is a priority for us. LAC will ensure that Canadians have access to the files throughout the digitization process, scheduled to be completed by the end of 2018.

Every month, we publish a progress report on the blog.

Please check the database regularly for new additions. If you still have questions after having checked the database, you may contact us at 1-866-578-7777 (option 8).

Making these records available in digital format will ensure:

  • Clients can easily and quickly download high-quality digital copies of these service files, free of charge.
  • The long-term preservation of these unique and fragile paper documents.

For more information on this initiative, please consult the Fact Sheet: Digitization of Canadian Expeditionary Force Service Files.

Second World War (1939-1945)

Only the files for those who died in service between 1939 and 1947 are open to the public.  The file can be for someone killed in action, who subsequently died of injuries related to service or someone who died as a result of accident or illness while in service.

The digitized military service files of the Second World War include:

  • A record of service documenting the units with which the individual served
  • Information on the cause of death
  • Information provided to the family on death of their son, daughter, brother, sister, husband or father
  • And, in many cases, correspondence between the families and military authorities, as well as information on honours and awards.

During the Second World War the three armed services (Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force) did produce more forms in French, although the working language was predominantly English.  Correspondence with the families was in either French or English, depending on the language used by the soldier.  You will also find many abbreviations on these forms; to find out what they mean, consult Military Abbreviations used in Service Files.

To select a digitized file, consult our Service Files of the Second World War – War Dead 1939-1947 database.  You can do a search by given name(s), surname and service number of a soldier.  By clicking on Hide/Show Advanced Search Options, you will also be able to search by his place of birth, his address at time of enlistment, his rank or his unit.  If you want to browse the service files that are already digitized, select "yes" in the dropdown box beside the label "Digitized File".

For information on how to consult or obtain copies of these Second World War – War Dead 1939 - 1947 files, please see How to obtain copies or consult a file.

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