Royal Navy First World War Lives at Sea

The National Archives, The National Maritime Museum and the Crew List Index Project team – building on their successful collaboration with the Merchant 1915 Crew List Index project – have joined together again with the help of a team of e-volunteers from all over the world to create a free to search database resource relating to all the Royal Navy officers and ratings that served in the First World War based principally on service records held by The National Archives.

How do I search the records?

You can start your search on the project’s website here.

Why is this project important?

This unique resource marks and commemorates the Royal Navy’s contribution to the First World War effort through the lives of those officers and ratings who served.

Our hope is that it will allow and promote a wide and diverse variety of research into the composition and operations of the Royal Navy during the war. This could be specifically in relation to individual officers and ratings through their  personal and service histories, to wider studies; such as where men were recruited from and from which trades, and to enable the creation of crew lists for ships and submarines for given dates.

Such lists do not survive for the First World War and so for the first time researchers will be able to place officers and ratings in naval battles of the war.

In addition, the information derived from the database can be used as a platform for accessing other Royal Navy records including ships’ logs (ADM 53), ships’ photographs (ADM 176) and wider naval First World War operational records in (ADM 1, ADM 116, ADM 137) all at The National Archives, and First World War logs and journals (JOD), ship plans (SP) and photographs (HP) all at the National Maritime Museum.

The website resource is now live, with just over 3500 service records currently searchable, but aims to be fully completed by November 2018.

What the database contains

The database holds personal and service details for every officer and rating who served in the First World War including:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Next of kin
  • Service number
  • Town/city of birth
  • County of birth
  • Country of birth
  • Occupation
  • Name of every ship/submarine/shore establishment served in (including from and to dates)
  • Rank or rating held on every ship/submarine/shore establishment served in
  • Which battle served in during the First World War
  • Cause and date of discharge
  • Where buried and commemorated
  • Medals awarded

What is not included in the database?

The database does not include details of those who served in the Royal Naval Reserve, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve or Royal Naval Air Service.

Is it still worthwhile looking at the service records?

Yes it is – for this project much information is being extracted from the Royal Navy Officer’ and ratings’ service records held by The National Archives in the series ADM 196 and ADM 188. However, information such as physical descriptions, disciplinary offences, qualifications etc are not being captured and so may be of interest to researchers. Digital scans of the service records can be downloaded for a fee from The National Archives’ website

Some records show [….] – what does this mean?

The symbol […] is used in instances when writing in the documents cannot be deciphered.

Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the contents of this database. However, if you should spot an error please let us know by contacting crewlists@nationalarchives.gsi.gov.uk