How to look for records of... Royal Marines other ranks

How can I view the records covered in this guide?

View online

How many are online?

  • None
  • Some
  • All

Order copies

We can either copy our records onto paper or deliver them to you digitally

Pay for research

Use our paid search service or find an independent researcher

Visit us

Visit us in Kew to see original documents or view online records for free

This is a brief guide to help you with your research into noncommissioned ranks. Royal Marines records are kept in different places depending on when the Marine served. This guide will help you to find out if the information you are looking for exists and, if it does, where to find it.

What do I need to know before I start?

Try to find out:

  • full name of the Marine
  • the division he served in (Chatham, Plymouth, Portsmouth or Woolwich)
  • date range of his service

What records can I see online?

Royal Marines’ service records (1842-1926)

Search online by name and download (£) Royal Marines’ service records (ADM 159) from Discovery, our catalogue.

Royal Marine medal rolls (1914-1920)

Search the First World War campaign medal rolls (ADM 171) for the Royal Marines on (£). This database provides a complete listing of all Royal Marines who served in the First World War and also has service details for a large number of men.

Recommendations for honours and awards (1935-1990)

Search online by name and download (£) Recommendations for Honours and Awards (WO 373) from our catalogue. These are mainly British army awards but do include some for the Royal Marines.

Selected births, marriages and deaths (1830-1920)

Search by name selected registers of marriages for marines who served in the Chatham Division (ADM 183/114-120) and Portsmouth Division (ADM 184/43-54) on (£). These can include the birth details, and sometimes death details, of children of the marriages.

Wills (1786-1909)

Search by name for Royal Marines’ wills (ADM 48) from 1786 to 1882 on our website.

You can also browse the Registers of seamen’s wills (ADM 142) which may refer to Royal Marines on digital microfilm. For more information on what information you may find, read the catalogue description of these records.

Please be aware that these are very large files and only suitable for download on a fast and unlimited broadband connection.

What records can I find at The National Archives at Kew?

Attestation and discharge forms (1790-1925)

Search our catalogue for an attestation form in ADM 157. These were compiled for each Marine on enlistment and show birthplace, previous occupation, physical description and often a record of service.

Please note, this is a search across the entire catalogue description of each record, not just the name. A search for someone called Barnes, for example, may give some results for people born in Barnes.

Narrow your search by using quotation marks to find a person’s full name, such as “John Williams”

Index to attestation forms (1914-1925)

Consult index ADM 313/1-26 if you cannot find an individual’s attestation paper. Failing this, browse ADM 157 and choose the relevant file.

Description books (1750-1940)

Consult description books in ADM 158. These volumes summarise the information given in attestation forms. However they may fill in gaps where the attestation no longer exists and will give a reason and date of discharge.

They are arranged largely by division and then by last name.

To access these records you will either need to visit us, pay for research (£) or, where you can identify a specific record reference, order a copy (£).

What records can I find in other archives and organisations?

Service records (1927 to date)

Look on the GOV.UK website to find out how to obtain service records from the Royal Navy for Royal Marines who enlisted after 1926.

Short and continuous service records

Consult the ‘Research’ pages of the Fleet Air Arm Museum website to see a list of the service records they hold.

What other resources will help me find information?


Browse the collection of research documents which are available to download from the Royal Marines Museum website.


Use our library catalogue to find a recommended book list.

The books are all available in The National Archives’ reference library. You may also be able to find them in a local library. You can buy from a wide range of history titles in our bookshop.

Did you know?

The Royal Marines were established in 1664 under Charles II. They were called ‘the Duke of York and Albany’s Maritime Regiment of Foot’.

In 1755 a corps of 5,000 Marines was established and grouped into 50 companies under 3 divisions; Chatham, Plymouth and Portsmouth.

The Marines were designated ‘Royal’ by an order of King George III in 1802.

In 1855 the Royal Marine Light Infantry (RMLI, or Red Marines) was formed, followed by the Royal Marine Artillery (RMA, or Blue Marines) in 1859.

The RMLI and RMA merged in 1923 to form a single Royal Marine Corps.