Royal Navy

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National Archives Guide How to look for records of... Births, marriages and deaths in the armed forces Includes Royal Navy. Also see Chaplains Returns which includes some (limited) references to Naval records.
For a list of abbreviations used in service records, refer External links below.
"British Royal Navy & Royal Marines Service and Pension Records, 1704-1919" and "British Royal Navy & Royal Marines Service and Pension Records Browse, 1704-1919". These include records from the National Archives series ADM 29 / 1-32, 34-131 – Admiralty: Royal Navy, Royal Marines, coastguard and related services: Officers’ and Ratings’ Service Records (Series II) 1802-1919.
  • findmypast datasets "British Armed Forces and Overseas Births, Marriages, Deaths", three separate Index databases (located within BMD), contain at least some naval records, (but perhaps limited); check the findmypast record pages for details of the coverage. For more details about these databases, see Chaplains Returns.
  • findmypast includes the following databases located in Armed forces & conflict/First World War
    • "Royal Naval Division Service Records 1914-1920"
    The RND transferred from the authority of the Admiralty to the War Office on 29 April 1916.
  • "WW1 Naval Casualties". Source unknown. Transcripts, no images. (A possibility (as there is an equivalent source for airmen) is Naval & Military Press transcriptions from Admiralty: Naval Casualties ADM 242 which are available as a DVD-ROM Sailors Died In The Great War. Royal Naval Other Ranks Deaths 1914-19. [1])
  • "WW1 Ships Lost At Sea, 1914-1919" sourced from the National Archives WW1 Ship Casualties Card Index series ADM 242/6.
  • Royal Navy: First World War - Lives at Sea A Royal Museums Greenwich website. A free resource derived mainly from transcriptions by volunteers of service records of Royal Navy officers and ratings who served during the First World War, from TNA records in the series ADM 196 and ADM 188. The database does not include details of those who served in the Royal Naval Reserve, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve or Royal Naval Air Service. As the project progresses more records will be added on a regular basis up to 2021.
  • 1911 Census is available on findmypast and Ancestry, both pay websites, and perhaps on other similar sites. For a helpful finding aid, based on the Ancestry databases, which includes census information for Royal Navy personnel overseas and in England and Wales, see Stations of British Army troops in India - 1911 England and Wales Census.
  • Ancestry (pay website) includes a database "UK, British Army and Navy Birth, Marriage and Death Records, 1730-1960"[2] (located in BMD records). This database consists mainly of Naval records, sourced from the National Archives, Kew.
  • Ancestry (pay website) includes a database "Great Britain, Royal Naval Division Casualties of The Great War, 1914-1924"[3], (Ancestry location Birth, Marriage & Death). These are death records researched by Jack Marshall.
  • Ancestry released 3 October 2018, the first stage of records in the database "UK, WWI Pension Ledgers and Index Cards, 1914-1923",[4] (located in Military), which are index records, with the images available on the Ancestry owned pay website fold3,[5] (which requires an Ancestry All Access subscription, or a separate fold3 subscription). The first released records relate to Naval and Mercantile Marine explained in the WFA article "Release of Naval and Mercantile Marine Pension Records by Ancestry" October 2018.
  • See Chaplains Returns - External links for details of the website "deceased online" which has some naval records from the UK under the title "UK and overseas garrisons; Registers of burials".
  • Royal Navy & Royal Marines Service Records held at the Fleet Air Arm Museum. The FAA Museum, part of the National Museum of the Royal Navy, is located at the Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton, Somerset (also known as HMS Heron). The FAA Museum generally does not hold records of service for those who enlisted after about 1925, which are still held in the custody of the Ministry of Defence.
Update December 2018. The Archive & Research Centre is closed, as its staff are working elsewhere. This means records cannot currently be requested. This could be the situation until perhaps the end of 2020.
The Cross Of Sacrifice. Vol. 2: Officers Who Died in the Service of the Royal Navy, RNR, RNVR, RM, RNAS and RAF, 1914-1919. Available at the British Library UIN: BLL01008822978 (Reprint edition.[7])
The Cross Of Sacrifice Vol 4: Non-commissioned Officers and Men of the Royal Navy, Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force 1914-1921. Including the Commonwealth Navies and Air Forces. Sample pages, Google Books. Available at the British Library UIN: BLL01006747946 . (Reprint edition.[8])
The Cross Of Sacrifice Vol. 5: The Officers, men and women of the Merchant Navy and Mercantile Fleet Auxiliary 1914–1919. This volume additionally contains a 14 page addendum to Volume 4 which is not available separately. Sample pages, Google Books. Available at the British Library UIN: BLL01007836149 . (Reprint edition.[9])
The three books are available at The National Archives Library catalogue entry.

Merchant Navy

  • Also see Births, marriages and deaths at sea.
  • findmypast includes the following databases located in Education & work/Merchant navy & maritime
    • Britain, Merchant Seamen, 1918-1941. National Archives records BT 348, BT 349, BT 350 and BT 364. Images. Some records include photographs
    • England & Wales Merchant Navy Crew Lists 1861-1913. Transcripts and some images. Includes Lascars
    • Ireland Merchant Navy Crew Lists 1863-1921. Images of the original records from the National Archives of Ireland. Crew members were not only from Ireland but also from around the world.
  • CLIP - the Crew List Index Project. A not-for-profit volunteer project, with databases of British seafarers and ships records, set up to assist research into the records of British merchant seafarers of the late 19th and early 20th century.
  • Research guide C1: The Merchant Navy : Tracing people – crew lists, agreements and official logs At the bottom of the page other guides to the Merchant Navy are listed including
Research guide C9: The Merchant Navy Find out about merchant ships involved in the First World War. Includes researching crew members, with links to additional guides. Royal Museums Greenwich.
  • Tracing Seafaring Ancestors In The Merchant Navy National Museums Liverpool, Archive Centre Maritime Museum Information Sheet 43, from the page Liverpool Museums/Merseyside Maritime Museum/About/Archives Centre/Information Sheets/Tracing your Ancestors.
  • See above, under Records, the book The Cross Of Sacrifice Vol. 5: The Officers, men and women of the Merchant Navy and Mercantile Fleet Auxiliary 1914–1919.
  • The book Lloyd's War Losses : the First World War : casualties to shipping through enemy causes, 1914-1918 is available at the British Library UIN: BLL01011394103. This is a 1990 facsimile reprint of the original held at Guildhall Library, City of London, now the London Metropolitan Archives.

Navy List

  • National Archives Series ADM 177 1914-1945 Admiralty: Navy Lists, Confidential Edition. During the First and Second World Wars there were two separate editions of the Navy List, one of which was for official use only, the other being an expurgated version available to the public.
  • All the online editions which follow are likely to be the editions available to the public during the First and Second World Wars.
  • For links to a selection from 1782 -1945 searchable online see the Fibiwiki page Military Periodicals online- Navy Lists. The early editions have the title Steel's Original and Correct list of the Royal Navy.
  • Online Navy Lists are also available on the website of the National Library of Scotland, NLS, with transcriptions available, together with a Search facility, as Navy Lists: 1913 to 1944
  • The pay website Ancestry has a broken range of editions of the Navy List from 1888 to 1970. These are searchable by name and linked to relevant page images. The same dataset is also available on the Ancestry owned pay website fold3.
  • For editions not available online, The Navy List is available at the British Library, UIN: BLL01012418229, from 1815, and also in the Library of the National Archives, from November 1814. For the First and Second World Wars, there were two versions, with the confidential versions available in ADM 177, as Archive records, see above, rather than in the TNA Library.
The earlier Steel's Original and Correct list of the Royal Navy is available at the British Library, UIN: BLL01001116981 (classified as a Journal) with editions to 1816, with additional catalogue entries classified as a Book). The National Archives has a catalogue entry 18th Century Royal Navy Lists 1782, 1790-1799 [Steel's Royal Navy Lists] QLIB 3. National Archives Library. The Lists were published monthly during war and quarterly during peace, and include details of ships of the Honourable East-India Company. Previously it was stated that all years were available as a pay download, however this wording does not currently appear (2019/11).
The British Library has published a guide: "Service Lists for the Army, Navy and Air Force", including Lists of Ships, from the mid 1600s.

Mercantile (Merchant) Navy List

  • The Mercantile Navy List and Maritime Directory for 1894 Compiled from Official and Other Sources by J Clark Hall, Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen. Published for the Committee of Lloyd's. At the head of the title By Authority.
  • Mercantile Navy list and Maritime directory Collection from Memorial University of Newfoundland. Broken range from 1868 to 1973. Click on Browse Collection, or use Search
  • Vaughan Evans Digital Library Australian National Maritime Museum. Select Registers of Shipping/ The Mercantile Navy List. 15 volumes from 1862 to 1920.
  • For editions not available online, variant titles of The Mercantile Navy List are available at the British Library 1850-1855 UIN: BLL01001109334; 1857-64 UIN: BLL01001109335; 1865-1957 UIN: BLL01001109336; 1958-1976 UIN: BLL01012919140. Later volumes were published by H.M.S.O.

Medal Rolls

Free downloads of the Naval Medal Rolls are available from the National Archives website, or the same information is available on the pay website Ancestry. See the page Medal Rolls for details.

Also see

External links

During WWI the Journal was published, but circulation may have been restricted, and information was collected and published after the War. “In World War II there was no censorship, and the regular “Notes on the War at Sea” and "Diary of the War at Sea" are important records of naval events during World War II.“ The website Naval-History.Net, refer above, contains an index of articles relating to WW1.
Based on library catalogues, Oxford University Library appears to have an extensive set of volumes, (but lacking 1914-1921); Imperial War Museums (LBY E. 5 / 229) some, but missing WW2; British Library UIN: BLL01012090056 ("stock incomplete"); National Library of Scotland catalogue indicates an almost complete set.
  • Navy Records Society. The Navy Records Society publishes in print and online rare and original documents on naval history. A subscription gives access to Digital volumes. Select Books, for details of the publications, including The Naval Brigades in the Indian Mutiny, 1857-58 (1947) (available online, see below) and The Second China War, 1856-1860 (1954). Some sample pages from Volume 158 (2011), The Mediterranean Fleet, 1919–1929 edited by Paul Halpern. Google Books. Some of the earlier publications are available online, refer below.
  • Obituary of John Winton [naval author], 1931-2001, pen name of Lieutenant-Commander John Pratt. 03 May 2001 The Telegraph. He wrote many books, both non fiction and fiction, relating to the Royal Navy. John Winton Wikipedia. Contains a list of his books.
  • Service Record Abbreviations. Common abbreviations and phrases found in Royal Navy and Royal Marines Service Records from various periods. The National Museum of the Royal Navy.
  • Naval Shore Establishments The National Museum of the Royal Navy. Includes India, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Singapore. Note: "This list is NOT comprehensive".
In addition, HMS Highfligher was the Royal Naval Base at Trincomalee in Ceylon, commissioned on 1 July 1943.[10]

Historical books online

Also see Military periodicals online for details of Navy Lists, also see above, and publications such as Army and Navy Gazette, Illustrated Naval and Military Magazine and Naval & Military Gazette.


Volume III 1898. Covers the period 1714-1792. Index entry East India
Volume IV 1899. Includes "Major Operations of the Royal Navy 1793-1802" page 196
Volume V 1900. Includes "Major Operations of the Royal Navy 1803-1815" page 44
Volume VI 1901. Includes "Military History of the Royal Navy 1816-1856" page 222
Volume VII 1903. Includes "Military History of the Royal Navy 1857-1900" page 91
The King's Regulations and Admiralty Instructions for the Government of His Majesty's Naval Service. 1906 HathiTrust Digital Library.
The King's Regulations and Admiralty Instructions for the Government of His Majesty's Naval Service, Volume I HMSO 1913, reprinted 1916.
Vol. I 1916 reprint, HathiTrust, Vol. I 1919 reprint, HathiTrust with rotatable pages.
Kings Regulations & Admiralty Instructions - Part II 1913 Transcribed version, not all sections available. version, archived version
The website "Naval Social History - Circa 1793 - 1920+", (2 versions) refer External links above, also contains extracts of additional Admiralty Instructions.
  • Admiralty Fleet Orders ADM 182 Catalogue description, The National Archives, Kew. "Printed routine orders issued to ships and establishments for information, guidance and action. The orders cover matters of general interest or requiring wide circulation, including technical, administrative and disciplinary regulations, and official instructions and information."
Digitised Admiralty Fleet Orders 1910-1945 (incomplete series). Website of Australian Navy/History & Research /Reference Material/Historic Publications.
The same website also contains [Australian] Commonwealth Naval Orders 1900s to 1970s.
When the archives were freely available, and probably the current situation, you could browse the Contents page for each issue, or there was an Index of articles 1913-1976. Pdf downloads. Many of the articles appear without authors, which appear in "Author List for the Naval Review 1913-1930" by James Goldrick, which is an Index of all articles to 1930.[11]
Examples of articles:
  • "A Naval Brigade In Burma in 1858" (scroll down) by W. B. R. The Naval Review May 1938 Vol XXVI no 2, pages 283-288. The destination was the frontier post and Fort at Meaday, on the Irrawaddy. Available as an archived webpage.
  • "The Tigris Above Baghdad" by Lieut-Comr. A S Elwell-Sutton RN. Scroll to item 15 page 153 The Naval Review February 1923 Vol. XI No. I, produced by The Naval Society. Details of the Caddisfly, one of the 'Fly' class gunboats. Available as an archived webpage.
  • "The First Commission of HMS Firefly" by Staff Surgeon FG Hitch RN JRNMS Volume 4, 1918 One of the 'Fly' class gunboats. Also details of other craft on the river Tigris.
  • Fifty Years in the Royal Navy by Admiral Sir Percy Scott 1919. Includes Naval gunnery, the Boxer Rising, the China Station and WW1.
  • The Mediterranean Naval Situation, 1908-1914 by Paul G. Halpern Books to Borrow/Lending Library. Paul G. Halpern Wikipedia. Halpern's later books include publications of the Navy Records Society, (refer External links above) The Royal Navy in the Mediterranean, 1915-1918 (Volume 126, 1987), and The Mediterranean Fleet, 1919-1929 (Volume 158, 2011). These latter books are available online to NRS members, and also available at the British Library UIN: BLL01010066046 and UIN: BLL01015816949 .
  • History of the Great War based on Official Documents: Naval Operations.Volumes I-III by Sir Julian Stafford Corbett, Volumes IV-V by Henry Newbolt. Published 1920-1931. and Hathi Trust (Vol. V): Volume I, includes Cameroons and the Far East; Volume II, includes Gallipoli; Volume III includes Gallipoli and Mesopotamia; Volume IV , includes Mesopotamia; Volume V. has transcribed editions which additionally contain maps from a separate case for Volumes II and III.
Revised second editions were published: Volume 1 1938, revised by Edward Yorke Daniel and C. V. Owen in two volumes, Text and Maps, of which at least one volume is available at the British Library UIN: BLL01000784025 ; Volume 2 1929, with maps in pocket UIN: BLL01015219377 ; Volume 3 1940, whose dustjacket cover states "Important revisions" including in respect of the Dardanelles and Mesopotamia.[12] Facsimile reprints of the 2nd editions of Volume 1 and 3 were reprinted by Imperial War Museum/Battery Press in 1997 and 1995 (Volume 3 UIN: BLL01011725482). The reprints available from Naval & Military Press, which are in turn available on the Ancestry owned pay website fold3 contain the revised editions, (at least for Volume 1 and 3, Volume 2 unknown) but not the separate map boxes of the originals. [13] For those with suitable University access, revised Vols. 1 and 3 are available on HathiTrust Digital Library.
History of the Great War based on Official Documents: The Merchant Navy by Archibald Hurd 1921-1929. Volume I, Volume II Volume III is available as a transcribed edition on
Badges and their meaning : a companion to "Rank at a Glance" : Army & Navy, the R.N.A.S., R.N.D., R.N.R., R.N.V.R., the Royal Marines, Forces of the Overseas Dominions, British Red Cross Society, miscellaneous badges, etc., etc., with descriptive notes. Published by George Philip. Catalogued 1916.
  • First World War books by E. Keble Chatterton, late Lieutenant-Commander RNVR include
Dardanelles Dilemma: The Story of the Naval Operations by E. Keble Chatterton 1935 Hathi Trust Digital Library. Also available version, Public Library of India Collection.
Seas of Adventures: the Story of the Naval Operations in the Mediterranean, Adriatic, and Aegean [1914-1918] 1936 Hathi Trust Digital Library.
"Severn's" Saga by E. Keble Chatterton 1938 Hathi Trust Digital Library. HMS Severn in East Africa.
Includes Volume 2 East Africa to July 1915; Cameroons, 1914; Volume 4: Mesopotamia and the Persian Gulf; Volume 5 including China Squadron, 1914 (including Emden Hunt), and East Indies Squadron, 1914 [14]
"With a Royal Marine Battalion in France" by Temporary Surgeon J N MacBean Ross, Medical Officer, 2nd Battalion, Royal Marine Light Infantry. Journal of the Royal Naval Medical Service, Vol 3 1917, page 465. Commentary on “With a Royal Marine Battalion in France” Surg Lt Cdr JG Penn-Barwell J Royal Naval Medical Service 2014, Vol 100.2
The four volumes are available in reprint editions,[15] which in turn are available on the Ancestry owned pay website as The War at Sea, located in International/Military Books/ Britain/Scroll to letter T.
BR 1886 (C.B. 4273 (52) H.M. Ships Damaged or Sunk by Enemy Action 3 Sep 1939 - 2 Sep 1945 Based on reports held in the Admiralty at the time of its publication in 1952. A publication in the Navy Department: Reference Books (BR Series). Website of the Royal Australian Navy.

Civilians in the First World War

  • A Captive on a German Raider by F G Trayes 1918. The author, who was retiring from Siam, was a passenger on a Japanese ship "Hitachi Maru" which was captured by the "Wolf" (see next section) on 26 September 1917, two days after leaving Colombo.

German Navy

Other online volumes :
  • Der Krieg zur See 1914-1918: Der Krieg in der Nordsee Volume 1, Volume 3, Volume 4 (of seven volumes). German language. National Library of Estonia - English webpage option available.
  • Der Krieg zur See 1914-1918: Der Krieg in der Ostsee Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3. German language.


  • The Devils Wind by Maj. Gen. G.L. Verney 1956., Public Library of India Collection. An account of the actions of the Naval Brigade of H.M.S. Shannon,which participated in the Relief of Lucknow, during the Indian Mutiny of 1857 told through the eyes of a very young sailor.
  • Yangtze Skipper, by Thomas Woodrooffe 1937. HathiTrust Digital Library. Set in 1919 Shanghai, Toby Warren is First Lieutenant on the "Beetle", a (fictious) Royal Navy river gunboat. The author had served in this period on HMS Scarab a river gunboat.
Note, this appears to be the American title. Appears to be the same book as River of Golden Sand by Thomas Woodrooffe, first published 1936. A review of River of Golden Sand [16]
Naval Odyssey by Thomas Woodrooffe 1938, first published 1936. HathiTrust Digital Library. Toby Warren, on the (fictitious) British cruiser HMS "Cassiopeia", participates in the events in Turkey during the 1920s, and the Royal Navy's involvement in the crises there. A publisher's note about the book and the author, says "After the war he saw service …in the Mediterranean…is thus eminently qualified to write a book about things actually seen and experienced while in the Navy".[17]
Thomas Bovius Ralph Woodrooffe was in the Royal Navy from 1917 and became Lieutenant-Commander in 1929, retired/was dismissed in 1933 and then served in WW2. In Good Company, published 1947 is a memoir about his WW2 service as a Naval Observer. He also wrote a number of other books on naval matters. His navy service is here scroll down to his entry.


  1. Sailors Died In The Great War. Royal Naval Other Ranks Deaths 1914-19 Naval & Military Press.
  2. UK, British Army and Navy Birth, Marriage and Death Records, 1730-1960 Ancestry (located in BMD records)
  3. Great Britain, Royal Naval Division Casualties of The Great War, 1914-1924 Ancestry
  4. "UK, WWI Pension Ledgers and Index Cards, 1914-1923" Ancestry.
  5. "UK, WWI Pension Ledgers, 1914-1923" fold3.
  6. Some entries are listed in Maritime cemetery entries from National Maritime Museum website Rootsweb India Mailing List 5 January 2014, now archived. The correct Notes and Queries reference for the Karachi burials mentioned is either Vol 170/171 1936 or Vol 176 1939.
  7. Cross Of Sacrifice. Vol. 2: Officers Who Died in the Service of the Royal Navy, RNR, RNVR, RM, RNAS and RAF, 1914-1919 Naval & Military Press
  8. Cross Of Sacrifice Vol. 4: Non-commissioned Officers and Men of the Royal Navy, Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force 1914-1919 (as catalogued) Book cover states 1921. Naval & Military Press
  9. Cross Of Sacrifice Vol. 5: The Officers, men and women of the Merchant Navy and Mercantile Fleet Auxiliary 1914–1919 Naval & Military Press
  10. HMS Highflyer – History
  11. "Author List for the Naval Review 1913-1930" by James Goldrick Appendix C, page 341 Mahan is not enough : the proceedings of a conference on the works of Sir Julian Corbett and Admiral Sir Herbert Richmond 1993
  12. MartH. Rarest book? post 869, page 35 Great War Forum 12 December 2019. Retrieved 14 December 2019.
  13. Gibbo. Rarest book? post 894, page 36 Great War Forum 23 December 2019. Retrieved 23 December 2019.
  14. gwyrosydd Naval Staff Monographs online Great War Forum 16 March 2015. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  15. The War at Sea 1939-1945 in four volumes Naval & Military Press
  16. Books of the Week: Morning Tribune, 28 January 1937, Page 16
  17. "Publisher's Note" [about Naval Odyssey] Morning Tribune, 27 April 1936, Page 15.