Service Files of the Second World War - War Dead, 1939-1947

The Records

During the Second World War, approximately 709,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders served in the Canadian Army, 200,000 in the Royal Canadian Navy and 250,000 in the Royal Canadian Air Force for a total of over 1,159,000 men and women. Some 55,000 were wounded. A further 44,090 lost their lives: 24,525 served in the Army, 17,397 in the Air Force and 2,168 in the Navy.

Only the files for those who died in service during the Second World War are open to the public and are grouped as a collection within the Department of National Defence Fonds (Record Group 24). In order to be included in this collection, the individual's name must appear in the:

This collection includes the service files for the following individuals who died between 1939 and 1947:

  • those killed in action;
  • those who subsequently died of injuries related to service; and
  • those who died as a result of accident or illness while in service

The files contain documents relating to:

  • enlistment;
  • military units with which they served (Canadian Army);
  • names of ships on which they served (Royal Canadian Navy);
  • squadrons with which they served (Royal Canadian Air Force);
  • medical records;
  • dental charts;
  • evaluation reports;
  • medal entitlements;
  • cause of death, burial details and estate records.

Army: Sample Documents from Elmer Brant, B37150 [PDF 3.52 MB]

Navy: Sample Documents from William Roy Smith, V69625 [PDF 3.19 MB]

Air Force: Sample Documents from Lois Alphonse Léon Renaud, J25372 [PDF 3.17 MB]

The files do not indicate the locations of overseas postings nor list battles in which an individual may have participated. That information can be gleaned by researching relevant unit war diaries, squadron operations record books or ship logs. For instructions, please consult our web page on War Diaries, Ship Logs and Operations Record Books. Published sources may also be of interest.

The Database

This database provides access to 44,090 references on the files of those who died in service during the Second World War. Restrictions apply to all other Second World War service files. Please consult our Second World War: 1939–1945 page and How to Send an Inquiry Concerning Your Own or Another Individual’s Records

Search Screen

The search screen enables you to search by:

  • Surname
  • Given name(s)
  • Service number

Should you wish to view only digitized files, select "yes" in the dropdown box.

By clicking on Hide/Show Advanced Search Options, you will also be able to search by:

  • Rank
  • Unit
  • Keyword
  • Place of Birth - Locality
  • Place of Birth - Province or State
  • Place of Birth - Country
  • Address at time of enlistment - Locality
  • Address at time of enlistment - Province or State
  • Address at time of enlistment - Country

Use keyword to find those who died during the battles of Hong Kong and Dieppe or information about next of kin.

A search by Place of Birth and Address at time of enlistment is specially designed for participants of the Lest We Forget: Cenotaph Research as it enables to rapidly find digitized files based on these specific search criteria. Abbreviations were used for Canadian provinces and territories and American states based on the ones used by the postal services. Enter the corresponding abbreviations in the relevant fields.

Note that some entries include only an initial for the given names. Try searching by surname only. Names can also be written different ways. The entries reflect the spelling of names as they appear in the files.

If you do not find a relevant reference, try searching with only one given name instead of all given names.

You can also search the Canadian Virtual War Memorial to identify a service number or confirm a name.

Army officers did not have service numbers. They were identified by their name and rank only.

When you have entered your search terms, click on "Search". The number of hits found will be shown at the top of the results screen.

How to Interpret the Results

Your search results will be posted as a results summary list from which you will be able to obtain an item description.

Search Results Page

The search results page displays the following fields:

  • Item Number
  • Surname
  • Given Name(s)
  • Date of Birth
  • Date of Death
  • Service Number

Click on the underlined Item Number of a record to access the Item page, which contains additional information specific to that record.

Item Page

The item page may have digitized images in PDF format of a "genealogy package" that includes selected documents from the file that highlight/summarize the individual's service, including enlistment, units served, family details, etc.. The item page contains the following fields:

  • Surname
  • Given Name(s)
  • Age
  • Date of Birth
  • Place of Birth - Locality
  • Place of Birth - Province or State
  • Place of Birth - Country
  • Date of Death
  • Rank
  • Unit
  • Force
  • Service Number
  • Address at time of enlistment - Locality
  • Address at time of enlistment - Province or State
  • Address at time of enlistment - Country
  • Reference
  • Volume
  • Extra Information
  • Notes
  • Item Number

To suggest a correction, click on the Suggest a Correction link to access an electronic form.

To return to the Search Results page, click on the Back button of your browser in the upper left corner of your screen.

How to obtain copies or consult a file

Option #1

Selected documents from each file have been digitized by our partners at and are available to view for free. These selected documents are known as “genealogy packages.” Each package includes a selection of the most relevant documents from the file, which highlight/summarize the individual’s service, including enlistment, units served with, family details, medal entitlements, circumstances of death, etc. Please see The Records section on this page to find out what is not included in the files.

Follow these steps to see the digitized genealogy packages:

  1. Search our database to identify the file (name, service number, reference, volume).

  2. Go to the database on Ancestry called Canada, WWII Service Files of War Dead, 1939–1947 to see the search screen. Enter a name and click on Search.

  3. A screen will open instructing you to “Create a Free Account,” which you can do by entering your name and an email address. This is not the same as a free trial subscription. Ancestry requires an email address for this free account, but not financial information (e.g., credit card information is not requested). 

  4. Once you have your free account, you can browse through the images. The files are arranged in alphabetical order within each volume.

If you have your own subscription to Ancestry or if you use it at a public library, you can search for a file in their database by name. Please note, if you can’t find the file by name, go to the section on the right-hand side called Browse this Collection. From the drop-down box, choose the volume number range, then the specific volume number.

Research Tip: When searching by name in Ancestry, note that the link goes to the attestation (enlistment) paper.  Be sure to use the backward and forward arrows to see all the digitized documents.

Option #2

You can view a few of the files online in our database. Approximately 1,500 files or parts of files were previously digitized and added to the database as a part of other projects. Those digitized images are indicated in the database entries with a pdf link.

Option #3

You can visit Library and Archives Canada (LAC) in Ottawa to consult the complete paper file on site. Note that the files are stored off site, so you must obtain a user card number and pre-order the material in advance, as explained on our page about Consulting and Borrowing Material.

Option #4

After you have seen the “genealogy package” documents online, you may also be interested in ordering copies of the remaining documents in the file that were not digitized, which are mostly administrative records, and possibly medical records and correspondence. To do this, you must order copies from LAC using our online Order Form for Reproductions.

Information about how to order copies of documents (price list, method of payment, rush service, etc.) can be found under Price List and Service Standards -- Regular Copies.

Because we receive such a large volume of requests, we cannot do pre-order page counts. These portions of the files can contain as many as 200 or more pages. 

Important notes about ordering copies:

On the order form, under Title/Description, enter KIA Second World War service file.

Under Reference Number, enter the name, service number or rank (for officers), reference and volume number from the database entry. For example: Claude Eustace Bellsmith, A3241, RG24, volume 25431, or Kathleen Dorcas Kronbauer, W314953, R112, volume 30673.

Under Additional Information, please enter the following:

“I have viewed the digitized portion of the file on Ancestry. I wish to order a copy of the portion of the file that is not digitized online.”

Option #5

You can hire a local freelance researcher to visit LAC to consult the file and obtain copies of documents on your behalf.

External Links to Other Websites

Many books have been written that tell the history and activities of specific regiments during the war. You can search for a particular title using the online catalogue AMICUS.

On the search screen, select Entire AMICUS database.

Select Title Keyword rather than Title Browse, then enter the regiment name in quotation marks, e.g. "Loyal Edmonton", "Régiment de la Chaudière". A list of titles will be generated. Click on Locations to see which libraries hold copies of those publications.

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