Please note: due to the recent Covid-19 outbreak the Centre is currently closed, but our website is still open for business.
Unveiling the Yeomanry Memorial at Dunbar, 28 July 1902

Tracing your ancestor’s military records: research guide 4

A trooper of the LothiansDownload a pdf of this guide.

Tracing your ancestor’s military career is often a powerful experience. Through your research, you may be able to glimpse what life could have been like for an individual during a time of great upheaval and unrest. Muster rolls, service records, maps and plans all help to build a clearer picture.

This document covers the main areas you might be interested in and the resources which are available at the John Gray Centre, in the National Records of Scotland and online. Staff are happy to help with your research needs and suggest other resources which might help you.

Have a look also at our blog ‘Grandpa served in WWI – how to trace a WWI ancestor’, and search this site for “World War” for articles about East Lothian during the wars.

Scottish soldiers before 1603

Unfortunately, no lists appear to have survived from the time of the Scottish Wars of Independence 1296–1329 and the Anglo–Scottish conflicts between the 1340s and 1603.

Scottish soldiers 1603–1707

The National Records of Scotland (NRS) in Edinburgh holds muster rolls arranged by regiment and company or troop. Most of these date from after 1680, although some do exist from 1641. These list all the officers and men in a troop or company at a certain place and date. Their rank is also given. It is much easier to do this if you know the regiment which they belonged to.

If your ancestor was an officer from 1670, it should be simpler to trace them. They may be listed in the warrant books of the Secretary for Scotland, held by the NRS. These volumes are indexed and give information on name, rank, company and regiment.

Scottish soldiers in the British army after 1707

After the Act of the Union was passed in 1707 creating the United Kingdom, the army was controlled from London and many military records are held in The National Archives at Kew.

However, many of the Scottish regiments have their own museums:

The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), Hamilton
The Royal Scots, Edinburgh Castle
The King’s Own Scottish Borderers, Berwick-upon-Tweed
The Black Watch, Perth
The Highlanders, Inverness
The Royal Highland Fusiliers, Glasgow
The Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, Stirling Castle
The National War Museum is also based at Edinburgh Castle.

The General Register Office for Scotland holds the following records:

  • Army Returns (births, deaths and marriages of Scots at military stations abroad between 1881 and 1959);
  • Service Department Registers (births, deaths and marriages from 1959 which took place outside the UK for Scots serving or employed by HM Forces);
  • Marriages by army chaplains outside the UK since 1892;
  • War Registers listing the deaths of Scottish soldiers during the South African War (1899–1902); Scots serving as Warrant Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers or Men in the Army (but not officers), plus Petty Officer or Men in the Royal Navy (1914–1918) and Scots in the Armed Forces (1939–1945).

Militia records

The only large group of post-1707 military records held in Scotland are for the militia. The NRS holds many of these from mainly 1800–18. At this point, conscription was by ballot and healthy men between the ages of 18 and 30 could enlist. After 1802 however, the upper age limit was changed to 45. Apprentices and poor men with more than two children were exempt from service. Militia records are often very revealing, with details including name, profession and place of abode. Sometimes, age and birthplace are also listed.

We hold Militia and Lieutenancy records from 1797 to 1921. These include Minute Books of General Meetings of the Deputy Lieutenants, Lieutenancy Minute Books and Lieutenancy Letter Books. We also have letters relating to the volunteer militia in North Berwick.

Online resources

There are a number of excellent resources which you can access online. These include:

Related resources at the John Gray Centre

Local newspapers such as the Haddingtonshire Courier and the Musselburgh News are good resources for finding out what life was like for the residents of East Lothian during wartime. They contain articles on the fighting, efforts to raise funds and Rolls of Honour. We have them available on microfilm for you to browse and print out.

There is a ringbinder on the Local History shelves containing a photograph index of the East Lothian and Musselburgh men who fought in the Great War. This is a very useful starting point for visitors tracing their family during the First World War.

The Local History reference library also has various books on the battles which took place across East Lothian, the World Wars and guides to researching your ancestors in the military. Please feel free to browse these on the shelves and make copies of relevant pages.

Furthermore, our extensive photograph collection can be consulted for images. These have not yet been digitised so they are not available online at present.

The Archive also has some personal accounts of active service and the Volunteer Artillery:

List of available resources
Archive reference no. Title and Date
EL102 Papers of Andrew Dickson who served with the Royal Engineers during World War One (1915–1919)
EL146 John Penn’s account of his life and military career, particularly the Charge of the Light Brigade (c.1880)
EL251 Print of a sketch of the Battle of Pinkie (2011) [1547]
EL286/5/18 David Wood’s Papers including information on army service in World War One (1925–1943)
EL286/5/21 Notes for trial of Warrant Officer Longman stationed at RAF base, East Fortune (1942–1945)
EL379 Draft editions of magazines commemorating the Battle of Prestonpans (n.d.)
HAD/4/6/55 Discharges and other papers relating to composition paid by the burgesses of Haddington for remaining away from the army (1568–1579)
NB/14/33 Resolutions of a meeting of the inhabitants of North Berwick and neighbourhood for raising a Volunteer Artillery Corps (8th December 1859)
NB/14/34 Rules and regulations of the Dunbar Volunteer Artillery (c. 1860)

The archive also contains town council, parish and school records which might all give you further information on the First and Second World Wars from a different perspective.



The Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders Museum
The Castle
(01786) 475 165
Online enquiry form:

Armed Forces Memorial Roll of Honour
Armed Forces Memorial Trust
National Memorial Arboretum
Croxall Road
DE13 7AR
Online enquiry form or [email protected]

The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) Castle & Museum
Balhousie Castle
Hay Street
(01738) 638 152
Online enquiry form:

Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Online enquiry form 

General Register Office for Scotland
New Register House
3 West Register Street
(0131) 334 0380
Online enquiry form:

The Highlanders’ Museum
Fort George
Near Inverness
(01667) 460 466
[email protected]

The King’s Own Scottish Borderers Association
Regimental Museum
The Barracks
The Parade
TD15 1DG
(01289) 307 426
[email protected]

Low Parks Museum
The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) Museum
129 Muir Street
(01698) 328 232
[email protected]

Ministry of Defence

The National Archives
(020) 8876 9198
Online enquiry form:

National Records of Scotland
H.M. General Register House
2 Princes Street
Edinburgh EH1 3YY
(0131) 535 1314
[email protected]

The National War Museum
Edinburgh Castle
(0131) 225 9846 (Castle number)
No e-mail address or online enquiry form:

The Royal Highland Fusiliers Regimental Museum
518 Sauchiehall Street
G2 3LW
(0141) 332 0961
[email protected]

The Royal Scots Museum
Edinburgh Castle
EH21 2NG
(0131) 225 9846 (Castle number)
Online enquiry form:

50 thoughts on “Tracing your ancestor’s military records: research guide 4”

  1. Briana Shortt says:

    Hi, I am trying to find information on my Great-grandfather named Francis (Frank) Black, he is from Ireland, he served in the Black Watch British Army and was stationed in British Guiana in the 1950’s. I don’t know his birth date or any other information other than his name and some military history. How do I research or locate any other information on him?

    1. FrancesW says:

      Hi Brianna,
      You would be best to get in touch with the Black Watch themselves in the first instance. Check their information page here for information on where and how to access soldiers records.
      best wishes,

  2. Chree Derksen says:

    I am seeking information on sargent major William Allen who may have fought in battle of waterloo. I believe his sons name was james allen from connecticut.

  3. Jake holligan says:

    I’m trying to surprise my grandmother with some information on my late grandfather his name was Thomas holligan and I know he served in the Korean war I’m pretty sure it was the Argyll regiment (if I’ve spelt that correct) any nudge in the right direction would be greatly appreciated

    1. FrancesW says:

      Hi Jake,

      I’m afraid we do not hold any records for the Argyll regiment. They are held by the regimental museum. See for more information and contact details.

      best wishes,

  4. Steven Orange says:

    Hello, Fraser. My grandfather, Harry Macnab, joined the 5th Argylls in Egypt as Company Sgt Major, and will have served though the same campaigns as your grandmother’s brother from then onwards. What was his name? I’d be happy to help with any information I may have.

  5. DAVE SIDMAN says:


    1. HanitaR says:

      Hi Mr Sidman,
      Thank you for your enquiry. You might like to try the UK’s National Archives at Kew.
      Tel: (020) 8876 9198
      Online enquiry form:
      All the best.

      1. Robert Strachan says:

        I was searching this site for information and noted your requests. Please note the link for 1)

  6. Bill Hall says:

    Hi, my Grandfather, James Playfair Welsh worked in the Labour Corps, at the Kings Park, Edinburgh during WW1, many soldiers were camped there before going abroad, my Grandfather worked in the catering section. Where can I find records of him and the Labour Corps? Thank you

    1. BillW says:

      Dear Bill. Sorry to say but we don’t hold any military records here at the John Gray Centre. The web site The Long Long Trail may give you some background information to The Labour Corp and its work. You could also try looking at The National War Museum web page and perhaps pay a visit to the museum which is located in Edinburgh Castle.

  7. Janet roy says:

    I am trying to find the date of birth of my uncle His name was William H Mackay who died in France on the 8th August 1944 He was serving with the Black Wafch

    1. HanitaR says:

      Hi Janet,
      Thank you for your enquiry. The best place to find out your uncle’s date of birth would be the National Register of Scotland in Edinburgh as they hold all the birth/marriage/death records for the whole of Scotland. You can contact them at this link: Please have as many details as possible, such as his death date and regiment information too. They will also be able to provide you with his actual birth certificate.
      All the best.

  8. Sheri-lyn Westlund-Burton says:

    My grandfather William Silver b. 1898 in Aberdeen Scotland he was in WWI. Here is a picture of him in his uniform. Can anyone tell me what regiment or any other information by looking at this photo. None of my family is around any longer to help me with this.
    Thank you,

    1. HanitaR says:

      Hi Sheri-lyn,
      Thank you for your enquiry. I’m afraid the picture has not loaded onto the page. Please email us at [email protected] and attach the photo and we will try to help. Best Wishes.

  9. Emily Davey says:

    I am trying to find out any information about my ancestor Robert McMath who was a Soldier at Blackness Castle in 1710, I have no other information about him, so it is a very tall order I know!
    Is there anyway of finding out what regiment was based at Blackness Castle at this time? This may be a line to try and find Robert?
    Many Thanks,

    1. HanitaR says:

      Hi Emily,
      Thank you for your enquiry. As Blackness Castle is in the county of West Lothian, you might like to contact West Lothian’s archives and local history department at the following link:
      All the best.

  10. Gloria Forti says:

    I am trying to trace my fathers war records, he was born in Port Said Egypt in 1917 but was a British national because his family was from Malta although he was born in Egypt.
    I found out he was in the Army as a Military policeman that was around 1944 but not sure if it was the British Army or the Egypt Army.
    I have been trying on line to get his Army records but have had no luck so far. If there is anyone who could help me with some information on where to look I would be very grateful.

    1. HanitaR says:

      Hi Gloria,
      Thank you for your enquiry.
      In this case, you might have to contact the Ministry of Defence (as listed on this webpage) to see if he was with the British Army or otherwise. You could also check with the UK National Archives at Kew website, again to determine if your father served with the British Army.
      Wishing you all the best with the rest of your research.

  11. Deborah says:

    I’m seeking information about Archibald MacNeill. He has been described (more than once) as “Prison Warder, Sergeant Royal Artillery” and was living near/in Moffat or Maddiston, Scotland between 1939 and 1944. I do not know his date of birth. He was married in 1939 in St Giles, Midlothian, Edinburgh, Scotland. Four children were born to him and his wife during the time he was a “Prison Warder”.

    1. HanitaR says:

      Hi Deborah,
      Thank you for your enquiry. You could look up his birth info in his marriage certificate by contacting the ScotlandsPeople website facilitated by the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh. That would be a good starting point. You can then follow up by contacting the relevant sources that are listed on this web page.
      Wishing you all the best with the rest of your research.

  12. Jana C. says:

    Hi, I’m trying to find out more about my great-grandfather, Hugh Andrews Noble. He was from Glasgow and served for 2 1/2 years stationed in Germany. Born March 18th, 1932. He was 20 – I believe- when he enlisted.

    1. HanitaR says:

      Hi Jana,
      Thank you for your enquiry. It would help if you knew which regiment your grandfather was in. Then you could try contacting the National Archives at Kew and enquire about Ministry of Defence service records relating to postings in Germany in the early 1950s.
      All the best.

  13. Jennifer Finister says:

    My Dad fought in ww2 for the KSLI but spent sometime in a hospital at Fort William Scotland. Can anyone tell me which hospital that would have been please

    1. HanitaR says:

      Hi Jennifer,
      Thank you for your enquiry. You might like to contact the Highland Archives with this question. Hopefully they will be able to provide more local history info relating to your enquiry too. Their website link is as follows:
      All the best.

  14. Merrilyn Davey says:

    Hi I am wondering whether I could find any further information regarding mygggrandfather.John LIndsay. I have found that he enlisted in the 5th Battalion of the royal Regiment of Artillery aged 11. Which seems to be extremely young. He was discharged in 1814. It says aged 18 years. It also says he was from Annan Parish however I can find no record of him prior to 1815 when he married. Could you advise whether any further information cold be found in any Army reords. Thank you

    1. HanitaR says:

      Hi Merrilyn,
      Thank you for your enquiry. For the Royal Artillery Regiment archives, you might like to contact the UK National Archives at Kew through the following link:
      You could also try and trace him with all the details you have (if you have not already) via the ScotlandsPeople website or through the Dumfries & Galloway Council archives because of his link with Annan.
      Hope this info helps. All the best!

  15. Vija Tate says:

    Hi…I have been trying to find information on my husband’s grandfather, and I have exhausted all searches…from what we have been told, he was with Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 5th Batallion (Egypt)…his name was James (Jim) Fraser Nicolson McLeod, and he was born Apr 21, 1898, in Greenock, Scotland…he was also shot in the leg, but survived…any help/guidance would be most appreciated…thanks so very much!

    1. HanitaR says:

      Hi Vija,
      You might like to contact the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders Museum at Stirling Castle (see above/webpage) and/or The UK national Archives at Kew (website address also on this webpage). You can search for medal card info and even diary entries. Hopefully, someone can locate a record to match his date of birth.
      He may have been in a different regiment too as some soldiers were in more than one regiment, and therefore had more than one service numbers assigned to them.
      Wishing you all the best with the rest of your research.

    2. Fraser Middleton says:

      Hi, Vija,

      Hope you have been able to find out the info you wanted. Your post caught my eye because my grandmother’s brother served in the same unit, going from Gallipoli to Egypt and Palestine, before joining the Western Front forces and, alas, being killed at the Battle of the Soissonais four months before hostilities ended. This is the list of the unit’s movements during WWI.

      Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders
      1/5th (Renfrewshire) Battalion Territorial Force – World War I
      4 August 1914: Stationed at Greenock as part of the Black Watch Brigade on the Scottish Coast Defences.
      24 April1915: Moved to Dunfermline and transferred to the Highland Light Infantry Brigade of the Lowland Division.
      11 May 1915: The formation became the 157th Brigade of the 52nd Division.
      1 June 1915: Embarked for Gallipoli from Devonport, Plymouth, via Alexandria.
      1 July 1915: Arrived at Mudros.
      3 July 1915: Landed at Cape Helles and engaged in various actions against the Turkish Army, including attacks at Gully Ravine, Achi Baba Nullah, Krithia Nullahs and the evacuation of Helles.
      8 January 1916: Evacuated from Gallipoli to Mudros, due to severe casualties from combat, disease and harsh weather.
      February 1916: Deployed to Egypt, to take over the Suez Canal defences.
      11 April 1918: Embarked for France from Alexandria, arriving at Marseilles on 17 April 1918.
      28 June 1918: Transferred to the 103rd Brigade of the 34th Division and engaged in various actions on the Western Front, including the Battle of the Soissonais and the Battle of Ourcq, the capture of Baigneux Ridge, the Battle of Ypres, the Battle of Courtrai, the action of Ooteghem and the action of Tieghem.
      11 November 1918: Ended the war at Halluin, France.

      1. Steven Orange says:

        Hello, Fraser. My grandfather, Harry Macnab, joined the 5th Argylls in Egypt as Company Sgt Major, and will have served though the same campaigns as your grandmother’s brother from then onwards. What was his name?

    3. Steven Orange says:

      Hello, Vija. My grandfather, Harry Macnab, served as Company Sergeant Major with the 5th Argylls in Egypt until the end of the war, so he would have served at the same time as your husband’s grandfather. If you are still interested I could give you more information about the Battalion, and some suggestions about further enquiries you might be able to make, if you can tell me where you have looked up till now.

  16. geoffrey luke says:

    I am looking for any information about the uniform of the enclosed photo, and what regiment he belongs to.

    1. HanitaR says:

      Hi Mr Luke,
      We think, based on the badge on his cap, the service personnel in the image is from The Royal Regiment of Artillery, commonly referred to as the Royal Artillery (RA).

      Hope this information helps.

  17. lynne robertson says:

    I am trying to find information on my father, Brian Robertson, born around May, 1915. He served in the Royal Air Force and was in the Korean War. I believe he was an officer and he died of polio in 1952. I an attaching his picture but can’t determine what the badge is on his hat. I can’t seem to trace him, he was born in Scotland, not sure where.

  18. Suasn wadforth says:

    Good evening, we’ve been trying to find a Mr. Fred kitchen who served in the kings own royal regiment, as a Lance Corporal, and served in India, during 1938-1947. I’m his great grand daughter.

    Thank You,
    Susan Wadforth.

    1. KateM says:

      Hi Susan,

      Thanks for your query. The King’s Own Royal Regiment is English and their museum is based in Lancaster so we do not hold the information you are looking for. You could try getting in touch with the King’s Own museum. Their contact info his here:
      Best of luck with your enquiries.


  19. jude china says:

    Can anyone verify from this Picture what armed forces this Man was in? Served in Borneo between 1964 and 1967

  20. BillW says:

    Dear Mr. O’Donoghue

    The only thing that we could find which may help you with your search is the web site link which is below.

    I hope this is of some help.


  21. Seamus O'Donoghue says:


    Would anybody know where Glaswegian Soldiers might have been posted in 1891?
    I’m trying to trace a William Duncan (b.1867), but can’t find him on the usual 1891 census.


  22. Ian Allan says:

    Do you keep any archives of the 1st Lothians and Border Yeomanry who were captured at St Valery in 1940. My father was amongst them and I have various photographs of pre-war and POW life, and also his memoir of that episode. I feel they should be deposited in an archive and may help others in their family quests. Would your museum be interested?
    Ian Allan

    1. FrancesW says:

      Thanks for your enquiry.

      The only record we hold that would be of interest is a book entitled ‘A short account of the 1st Lothians and Border Yeomanry in the campaigns of 1940 and 1944-45’ by WA Woolward. The National Archives in Kew have the regiment’s campaign diary which records their involvement at St Valery in 1940 – reference WO 167/455

      You may also find our page on The Lothians and Border Horse quite interesting in tracing the history (and name changes!) of the regiment.

      The archives would be very interested in offering a home to any material you would be willing to give us – the items you mention sound fascinating.


  23. Ian MacLennan says:

    I am trying to trace my grandfather’s military service records but seemed to have hit a brick wall. His name was David William Munro MacLennan and served in the 1st Battalion Cameron Highlanders during WW1 into the 1920s. I have tried the Highlanders museum but without a service number they can’t help. Any help would be most appreciated.

    1. HanitaR says:

      Thank you for your enquiry.

      We do not hold any military records and it is indeed tricky to search without a service number. And the unfortunate thing is also that if a soldier survived the Great War, it gets tougher find info about him unless he is a prominent figure in some way.

      However, could you please furnish us with his date of birth and any other bits of information, and let us know if he is from East Lothian. We could then look him up in the 1901 census or see if he is mentioned in any of our newspaper entries.

  24. mike husband says:

    I am trying to trace my grandfather William Patrick logie-Robertson who was a corporal
    in the home guard during ww2 .He lived at 4 Drylaw Terrace East Linton the house was called The Hollow Tree. If anyone has any information please contact me

  25. Davide Benini says:

    1st of all so sorry for my bad english.

    i am italian near to 70th, italian, and feeling old.
    typeing something on google serch, i dropped here
    i saw your fairness in replying!
    oh well, mind if i ask you?

    my dad was a scottish sergeant in Forlì, italy, i born 25th august 1945

    i have only my mother path, and misser my father path.
    mom, never married waiting for hi.

    can you help me to get the two paths togheter?

    at least try?

    [Email Redacted]

    hopeing to read you soon…

    (lots of door in years were not opened, lots were shut in front)

  26. David says:

    Hello Elaine

    The list of ‘Dallimores’ on is short (I had a quick look on our free access here). There’s only one Duncan (and no Arthur Duncan, or combinations of these names or initials). That Duncan was a sergeant in the Cameronians. But that doesn’t match your photograph in rank or uniform details: there are two clues to the regiment in the photo – his buckle and sporran. They’re enough to rule out Cameronians.

    But, if you get the best detail you can of the sporran badge and the belt buckle and then search on the web for comparable images that should give you the regiment; double check then if they were kilted and their headdress style (remembering that Territorial units often differed from their regular comrades in details).

    For awards for valour check the Gazette:

  27. Elaine Hill says:

    We are trying to find Arthur Duncan Dallimore born 14 July 1891 to Arthur Righton Dallimore and Ann Cameron. He served in the Scottish Army in WW1 and was awarded several medals. One was for Gallantry – family lore. We don’t have any idea of his Army record or why he was awarded the medal for Gallantry if that is true. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

  28. David says:

    Hello Helen

    The National Archives at Kew has recently published the 1915 War Diary of A Squadron L&BH: from my copy, Robert wasn’t listed with the 130 men attached who went overseas; that’s not to say that he didn’t get posted to them later – but I doubt that information will be findable. We have an incomplete list of men associated with the Lothians in WW1: he’s not there, so far. has the surviving medal index cards – but there’s no luck there either. However, I think ‘groom’ may refer to a role as a trooper serving as an ‘officer’s batman’ of which there were six or seven in each squadron – one per junior officer, two for the major commanding. Your reference to the place ‘Greenhouse’ doesn’t turn up any leads – perhaps you have more information?

    It would really help your search if you could turn up a service number or a photograph of him in uniform. In their absence, the 1901 and 1911 census records should give you a lead on his parents; with his mother’s maiden surname a Scotlandspeople search will lead to his death certificate (if he died in Scotland).

    Good luck, David

  29. Helen May says:

    I am trying to trace my grandfather. His name was Robert Whitelaw born 26/6/1892 in Hutton. I believe he served as a groom with Lothian & Border Horse Regiment A Sqn?
    and was stationed at Greenhouse (B/DIAL?) Haddington. His wife died in 1922 when my mother was 3 months old and he took his daughter to his sister-in-law in Dunfermline and asked her to bring her up up as her own. He never came back. We have no idea if he was killed or died of natural causes. He may have had a son to a previous wife, he would have been about 8 or 9 in 1922 but I don’t know his name. If anyone can give me any information I would be so grateful.

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