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

Table of contents

Introduction

During the Second World War, approximately 1,159,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders served.

The number of deaths totalled 44,090.

  • 24,525 of the 709,000 who served in the Canadian Army
  • 17,397 of the 250,000 who served in the Royal Canadian Air Force
  • 2,168 of the 200,000 who served in the Royal Canadian Navy

The records

Second World War service 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
  • evaluation reports
  • medal entitlements
  • cause of death, burial details and estate records

Army: Sample documents from file of Elmer Brant, B37150 [PDF 3.52 MB]

Navy: Sample documents from file of William Roy Smith, V69625 [PDF 3.19 MB]

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

What files are included in this database?

Only the files for those who died in service are open to the public and are grouped as a collection within the Department of National Defence Fonds (Record Group 24 and R112). In order to be included in this collection, the person's name must appear in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database and The Books of Remembrance.

This database includes 44,090 references to the files of the following individuals who died between 1939 and 1947:

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

What records and files are not included?

The files do not indicate the locations of overseas postings or list battles in which an individual may have participated. That information can be found 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. See also Published sources on our Second World War page.

This database does not include references to the service files of those who survived the war. Restrictions apply to all those records. See Requests for Military Service Files to find out how to submit an application form for restricted service files after 1919.

Search tips

  • 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.
  • Try the * wildcard character, for example, Fran* for Frank, Francis, François.
  • 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.
  • Only a small number of the database entries include place of birth and address at time of enlistment (locality, province, country). Abbreviations were used for Canadian provinces and territories and American states based on the ones used by the postal services.

How to obtain copies or consult a file

Are all the files digitized?

  • Only a small number of files are digitized in this database. Those database references include a link to the pdf images.
  • Genealogy packages are digitized for all files on Ancestry.
  • See the options below for more information about how to access the records.

What is a "genealogy package"?

A selection of the most relevant documents from a file, which highlight/summarize the individual's service, including enlistment, units served with, family details, medal entitlements, circumstances of death, etc.

  • Option 1 - View digitized files on Ancestry

    A genealogy package for each file has been digitized by our partners at Ancestry.ca and are available to view for free.

    Follow these steps to see the digitized genealogy packages on Ancestry:

    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 - View digitized files on our website

    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.

    If the file is not digitized in our database, see the other options.

  • Option 3 - Visit LAC and consult the files on site

    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 and pre-order the material in advance, as explained on our page about Retrievals and Consultation.

  • Option 4 - Order a copy of a complete file

    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 - Hire a researcher to view the file for you

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

Other resources

For other research sources at Library and Archives Canada and at other institutions and websites, please visit our Second World War: 1939 -1945 page.

Many books have been written that tell the history and activities of specific regiments during the war. You can search for a particular title, subject or regiment using Library Search. See also Published sources.

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