How to look for records of... Women’s Royal Naval Service personnel

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

Visit us in Kew

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

Pay for research

This is a brief guide to researching records of the Women’s Royal Naval Service, also known as the Wrens.

While some relevant documents are available online or held at The National Archives, the majority of records are held by the Ministry of Defence.

What do I need to know before I start?

The Women’s Royal Naval Service was formed in 1917 as a branch of the Royal Navy. It disbanded in 1919 and then reformed in 1939. The service was disbanded fully in 1993 when women were allowed to join the Royal Navy. Initially Wrens undertook domestic duties like cleaning and cooking. This was later expanded to a greater variety of roles such as wireless telegraphists and electricians. Most Wrens were based in the United Kingdom.

Try to find out:

  • the name and rank of the person
  • a date range to help focus the search

What records can I see online?

Registers of Women’s Royal Naval Service officers (1917-1919)

Consult the registers of appointments of WRNS officers (ADM 321) and the service record cards and files (ADM 340) for registers of appointments, promotions and resignations of WRNS officers.

Details of service during the First World War (if an officer served in the Second World War) are also included.

Service records (1917-1919)

Search the Women’s Royal Naval Service records online (£) for a person who served as either an officer (ADM 318) or a rating (ADM 336).

Naval medal records (1914-1920)

Consult the Roll of Naval War medals in ADM 171/133 to find a person who received a decoration during the First World War.

What records can I find in other archives and organisations?

Service records (1939-present)

Visit the GOV.UK website for information about how to request a summary of a service record from the Ministry of Defence. These are available to next of kin and members of the general public on request to the MOD, provided the subject is no longer living. An administrative fee applies.

What other resources will help me find information?


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 Tracing Your Naval Ancestors by Bruno Pappalardo (The National Archives, 2003).