Photograph of two WRNS operating Colossus electronic digital computer, 1943 (Catalogue reference: FO 850/234)

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?

    • Try to find out:

      • the name and rank of the person
      • a date range to help focus the search
  • 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 not available to members of the general public, but next of kin may request access to them.

  • What other resources will help me find information?

    • Books

      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).

Did you know?

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.