How to look for records of... Royal Naval Air Service ratings

How can I view the records covered in this guide?

View online

How many are online?

  • None
  • Some
  • All

Order copies

We do not provide copies of online records – please download to view

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

What do I need to know before I start?

Try to find out:

  • The rating‘s full name and approximate dates of service

What records can I see online?

RAF service records (1918-1939)

Search on findmypast (£) the RAF service records (AIR 79), for RNAS ratings who transferred to the RAF when it was formed in April 1918.

RNAS service numbers were prefixed with the letter ‘F’. When they transferred into the RAF, the ‘F’ prefix was removed, the number 2 added and, if the service number contained less than six digits, noughts were added to bring its total number of digits to six. For example, F 1002 became 201002 or F 54559 became 254559.
RAF service numbers between 313001 and 316000 indicate that the airmen served with the Royal Navy before the RNAS was formed in July 1914 and that they transferred from the Royal Navy to the RNAS.

Registers of Seamen’s Services (1853-1923)

Consult the Registers of Seamen’s Services (ADM 188) for RNAS ratings who served before April 1918. You can search and download (£) them on our website. RNAS ratings have an F prefix to their Official Number.

Naval medal rolls (1793-1975)

Look in the Naval medal rolls (ADM 171) on Ancestry to consult lists of seamen awarded campaign medals, long service medals and good conduct medals. They are arranged by type of medal.

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

The significant collections of Royal Naval Air Service ratings’ records are available online – please see above.

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

What records can I find in other archives and organisations?

Records held elsewhere

Search our catalogue and refine your results using the filters.

What other resources will help me find information?


Search the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for details of men and women who died in the First and Second World Wars.

Look up an announcement of a 20th-century gallantry award in the London Gazette on The Gazette website.


Some or all of the recommended publications below may be available to buy from The National Archives’ Bookshop. Alternatively, search The National Archives’ Library to see what is available to consult at Kew.

Read Air Force Records: A guide for family historians, 2nd edition, by William Spencer (The National Archives, 2008).

Did you know?

The Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) was founded in July 1914 when the naval wing of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) was moved out of the RFC and brought under Admiralty control.

On 1 April 1918 the RNAS was merged with the Royal Flying Corps to form the Royal Air Force (RAF).

The service records of RNAS ratings who served before the foundation of the RAF were kept with the Royal Naval seamen’s service records.

If an RNAS rating continued to serve in the RAF after April 1918, the remainder of his record would be kept with the RAF service records.