Source Information

Ancestry.com. UK, Royal Hospital Chelsea Pensioner Soldier Service Records, 1760-1920 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.
Original data: WO 97, Pieces 1278-4287 (various pieces within range). The National Archives of the UK, Kew, Surrey, England.

About UK, Royal Hospital Chelsea Pensioner Soldier Service Records, 1760-1920

This Collection

This collection comprises service documents of soldiers (but not officers) who either became in- or out-pensioners of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. The Royal Hospital Chelsea was the administrative office for the British army and has been responsible for distributing pension payments to British soldiers since the 1680s. While some pensioners surrendered their pension to the hospital and lived within the premises (“in-pensioners”), many more lived outside the confines and received their pensions elsewhere (“out-pensioners”). By 1815, there were already 36,757 out-pensioners and they remained under military discipline to some extent; they formed a reserve pool to be called on in case of wartime emergency or domestic crisis.

Documents after 1883 usually contain fuller particulars, such as next of kin and details of marriage and children. The attestation and discharge documents constitute the most detailed record of a soldier's service. These records usually give particulars of age, birthplace, service (including any decorations), information about physical description, previous occupation on enlistment and the reason given for discharge to pension. After 1883, most soldiers will appear in these records if they survived their service.

Arrangement of the records

  • For the period 1760-1872, the documents are arranged alphabetically by name within regiment, including militia to 1854.
  • For the period 1873-1882, the documents are arranged alphabetically under cavalry, artillery, infantry and corps.
  • For the period 1883-1913, there are two alphabetical sequences for the entire army for discharge papers arranged by range of surname.

Note:This collection contains an index to records transcribed from the service documents. To view images of the documents on Fold3.com, you will need an Ancestry All Access subscription.