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This is a brief guide to researching records of the Royal Naval Reserve. These records are incomplete and whilst many records are available at The National Archives, some service recordsservice record - a document recording the career of an individual in the armed forces are currently held by the Ministry of Defence.

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:

      • the name and rank of the person
      • the date range and service number to help focus search
  • What other resources will help me find information?

    • Books

      Consult the published Navy Lists to follow a Royal Naval Reserve officer's career. RNR officers have been included since 1862. Confidential Navy Lists (ADM 177) contain information omitted during the world wars.

      For RNR officers the Navy List gives name, rank, date of commission and seniority. It should also indicate names of ships served on.

      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?

Only a small sample of service recordsservice record - a document recording the career of an individual in the armed forces for Royal Naval Reserve ratingsRating - a seaman ranking lower than an officer. These are the most junior class of seamen in the Royal Navy. survive for the period 1864 to 1908.

The Royal Naval Reserve was established in 1859 and was made up of experienced officersofficer - a senior member of staff in the armed forces and seamen from deep-sea merchant ships.

A rating is the most junior class of seaman in the Royal Navy - these are below officersofficer - a senior member of staff in the armed forces in seniority.

From 1914-1916 a number of RNR officers and ratings served ashore in Flanders as infantry and formed the Royal Naval Division. In 1916 the Division was transferred to the army as the 63rd (Royal Naval) Division.

Service records for Royal Naval Reserve officers after 1920, and for ratings after 1955, are held by the Ministry of Defence. Only the subject of the record, or next of kin, may request access to them.