(NB: At the bottom of this page are links to some sites which proivide on-line lists of RN Officers for different years in the 19th Century)

By Martin Evans

The records of British RN personnel are held at 3 different locations,

depending primarily on the time when a person entered or served in the

Navy or an auxiliary service.

1. MoD. Ministry of Defence,


Bourne Avenue,


Middlesex UB3 1RF,


2. Centurion. Naval Pay & Pensions (Accounts),

Centurion Building,

Grange Road,


Hampshire PO13 9XA


In both of the above archives, only written enquiries from next-of-kin

are accepted, and a search fee is charged. There is an ongoing process

of moving selected records from these locations to:

3. PRO. The Public Record Office,



Surrey TW9 4DU


Tel: +44 (0)181 876 3444

It is not possible to search PRO documents online, and the PRO does not

undertake research on behalf of individuals. To access the documents

held at the PRO one must either go there in person and obtain an

entrance ticket, or employ a professional researcher to do the work for

you. For more information on this, start at:


RN Officers. Pre-1914 at PRO, First and Second World Wars at MoD,

post-WW2 at HMS Centurion.

RN Ratings. Ratings who served in WW1 or before are at PRO, unless they

continued in service beyond 1929. The latter, plus those who entered

between 1924-1930 at MoD. Those who entered after these periods at HMS


Royal Naval Reserves (RNR). World War 1 records at MoD. Earlier records

at PRO, later ones at HMS Centurion.

Royal Naval Volunteer Reserves (RNVR). WW1 records are being transferred

from MoD to PRO. World War 2 records at MoD. Later records at HMS

Centurion (RNVR amalgamated with the RNR in 1958).

Royal Naval Division (RND). First World War (1914-16) records at MoD.

Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS). First World War records at PRO.

Records of women who entered between 1939-1955 at MoD. Later records at

HMS Centurion.

Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service (QARNNS). First World War

records at PRO, WW2 records at MoD, later records at HMS Centurion.

This information about personnel records is based on data provided by

MoD, November 1998. Because some records are to be transferred from MoD

to PRO, the detailed situation is subject to change.


A few rare medals are known to have been issued to senior Naval

commanders to commemorate special events in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The regular awarding of medals began with the Naval General Service

Medal. The 1793-1840 series was issued retrospectively in 1849 to

surviving qualified personnel in connection with Naval actions I this

period. This medal was again issued in 1915 and subsequently. There is

useful general information about Naval (and other) medals in:"British

Battles and Medals" by Major L.L. Gordon (Spink; London; 1947 and later


For information on medals awarded to RN personnel in recent years (1939

to the present time) write to

RN Medal Office,

Room 3105,

Centurion Building,

Grange Road,


Hampshire PO13 9XA


For information on medals awarded to all who entered the RN between

1924-1938 (inclusive), write to the Records Office at the MoD address

(see above).

The records for earlier periods (generally before 1924; the cut-off date

varies with the class of medal) are archived at the PRO, mainly in the

EV Series under ADM 171/xxx. Refer to Rodger (see below) for further


This information on medals is based on data provided by the Armed Forces

Personnel Administration Agency, June 1999.


For personnel whose records are still held at the MoD and HMS Centurion,

enquiries must be sent in writing to the appropriate address, as given

above. In both cases, it is stated that they only accept enquiries from

next-of-kin or first generation descendants and these record archives

charge a search fee.

In the case of records held at the Public Record Office, the PRO will

not undertake to search for records. For serious research, they have

recently published a detailed guide to their records, to the ranks and

ratings in the RN at different periods, and to the various reserves and

auxiliary services in:

Naval Records for Genealogists, by N.A.M. Rodger. Public Record Office

Handbook No. 22 PRO Publications, Kew, 1998. ISBN 1 873 162 58 8

On-line help is also available from the PRO's own website. The PRO's

Records Information Leaflet No. 2 (Admiralty Records as Sources for

Biography and Genealogy) is accessible on-line. Go via:

Other leaflets about records of Royal Marines, Prisoners-of-War, Nurses,

Medals and Naval matters in general are listed at:

The Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts maintains a Register of

Archives. For a list of archives related to the armed services of

Britain, including Royal Navy archives, go to:


The Navy List is held at most large reference libraries, including the

National Maritime Museum's Library at Greenwich and the new Admiralty

Library section at the RN Museum at Portsmouth. It is a good way of

tracing an officer's career as each volume lists all officers' ranks and

ships. It has been published regularly since 1814.

The RN Museum at Portsmouth also holds in its archives the personal

papers of some individual officers and seamen.

Other multi-volume lists of RN officers include:

John Charnock: "Biographia Navalis", published in London 1794-98. This

early work only includes post-captains and higher ranks.

John Marshall: "Royal Naval Biography", published in London 1823-35.

"Memoirs of the services of all the flag-officers, superannuated

rear-admirals, retired-captains, post-captains and commanders, whose

names appeared on the Admiralty list of sea officers ..."

William R O'Byrne: "A Naval Biographical Dictionary", published in

London in 1849 and again in 1861. This included all the RN officers

discoverable by him, and his extensive working notes are archived at the

British Library.

C G Pitcairn Jones: "The Commissioned Sea Officers of the Royal Navy

1660-1815" published by the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, 1979.

The NMM holds an annotated 12 volume set, with much unpublished data.

There are earlier works with this title, published at various times

since the 1950s, in collaboration with the Admiralty Library, in 1 or 3

volume sets with no author's name, but they are less comprehensive. The

collection of manuscript archives at the NMM occupies over 4 miles of


Contacting old shipmates: the monthly magazine "Navy News" regularly

publishes a page for Reunions, "Calling Old Shipmates" and other

requests for information. Write to:

The Editor, Navy News, Leviathan Block, HMS NELSON, Portsmouth,

Hampshire PO1 3HH, England. Tel: +44 (0)1705-294228.


Click here for an index to Royal Navy Officers 1827

Click here for an index to Royal Navy Flag Officers 1840 Part 1

Click here for an index to Royal Navy Flag Officers 1840 Part 2

Click here for an index to Royal Navy Officers 1894

For details of the Royal Navy ships of 1894 Click Here