Researching a family member's military history can be a daunting task. Where do you even start? If you are a direct descendent you can apply to obtain your relative's service record officially through the British government. Another useful tool are the various family history websites, which through their subscription allow you to search their multiple databases. However these subscriptions can be costly, especially for a onetime research project.
However, there are a few things that can help you get started before you invest more time and valuable money.
The London Gazette / www.london-gazette.co.uk If your relative was an officer in the British military then it may be worth searching the London Gazette. The London Gazette is an official record, dating back to the 1600s! that lists the names of officers and their promotions, as well as military awards. Such as when they were commissioned and in which regiment or unit they served. When they were retired, mentioned in dispatches or made a CBE. Not all the names you enter into their search engine will come up but it is definitely an important place to look.
Use the "search the archives" option on the left of the webpage. You may need to experiment a little with the name that you are looking for. Try the full name, or surname with forename initials, such as, R. Cleverleyor Roger Cleverleyor Capt. R. Cleverley. You can refine the search by checking the tick box, "Publication Date" and add a parameter (eg. 01.01.1939 until 01.01.1946). If you are not satisfied with the results, try and guess the first name, or type in the rank abbreviation together with the surname, and hopefully more results should appear. You will soon see what works best to your advantage.
WWII Unit histories and Officers / www.unithistories.com The unit histories is another very useful and valuable website with a broad range of information on Officers who took part in World War 2. Whilst this is no an absolute list is does list a large number of Officers from Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Netherlands, and Germany, and indeed an interesting read.
Official Military lists. British military lists are available for the Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy. Acquiring an actual printed copy of a specific list may be difficult but you can browse through some lists from the excellent National Library of Scotland website, British Military lists - National Library of Scotland (nls.uk)
Museums and Regimental Associations. If you know which regiment your relative served in, you could try visiting the regimental museum or contacting the representing unit association. Most of these can also be contacted directly by telephone or e-mail. It is also worth typing in your relatives name into the search function of a museum's website, such as the Imperial War Museum or Australian War Memorial. This has been known to work on occasion and can add to your research or open up a news avenue to explore.
Regimental / unit histories / magazines. Acquiring an official unit history publication or war diary from your relatives regiment can not only shed light on the regiment's history during the time your relative served but you may be able to find their name listed in the list of awards or regimental Roll of Honour. Regimental magazines, such as the Worcestershire Regiment's "Firm", were published throughout the years and aside from the interesting glimpse into everyday going ons, they mention names or may include lists, also pin-pointing to a specific date.
The Commonwealth War Grave Commission / www.cwgc.org If you know that your relative passed away during their military service then you can find information regarding their regiment, service number, age and date of death from using the search option on the CWGC website. You can also discover a little about their family background.
Internet search engines. This may sound obvious, however when typing Captain Jones into a search engine you will be bombarded with results, and unless your are extremely lucky, they will probably not be the results you are looking for. Try searching again with the name in speech marks, "Captain Jones". This can be a bit hit or miss but may turn something up.
The Worcestershire Regiment green diamond hat and helmet patch, from 1900 to 2020. The use of distinctive flashes worn on helmets and hats is generally considered a practice associated with the Second World War, however it is an occurrence that dates back to before the First World War and which still continues among certain regiments. Without conducting an in-depth study it is unclear as to when precisely the use of such patches first began, but we do know that a square helmet patch with metal Worcestershire slide was worn on the left side of those helmets used by the Worcestershire Regiment during the Second Boer War, around 1900.
A look at Worcestershire Regiment green. Although dress regulations for regiments are usually quite specific in regards to colours used by a certain regiment, in practise colours could vary. This was due to a number of reasons, such as the outfitters or the fact that a flash or patch was theatre applied by the soldier. Below is a chart giving a selection of various shades of green known to have been used by the Worcestershire during World War II and before. The colours have taken from Slouch hats and FS caps.
The Mercian Brigade and the Mercian Regiment badge comparision. At first glance these two cap badges may appear identical, displaying the double headed Saxon eagle surmounted by a Saxon crown, and it is not surprising really considering that the latter is a re-design of the former. Both cap badges are made from bi-metal and display gilded metal detail over the white metal, however, look closer and you can see some details that set them apart, making identification rather less daunting.
Read more on the "proposed new" Mercian Regiment badge in this article from The Telegraph, from 2005.
The Mercian Brigade badge (1959 - 1968):
Bi-metal with gilded metal detail.
The eagle appears compact.
Gilded metal crown.
Short Saxon crown.
Detailed neck feathers.
The eagle's beak is touching the wings.
The wings are spread up high and end in-line with the crown.
Short distance between the wings and legs.
Flared tail feathers.
The Mercian Regiment badge (2007 -):
The eagle appears tall.
Gilt crown, head feathers, beak and talons.
Tall Saxon crown.
Lack of detailed neck feathers.
The eagle's beak is not touching the wings.
The wings are short and do not rise above the crown's band.
Long distance between the wings and legs.
Short compact tail feathers.
The Worcestershire Home Guard during the Second World War. Below you will find a list of battalions, together with the towns that they served, which made up the Worcestershire Home Guard.