How to look for records of... Abbreviations in Merchant Navy records

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1. Why use this guide?

This guide provides a key to abbreviations used in Merchant Navy records from 1835 to 1972. It will help you to interpret Merchant Navy records of various kinds from this period, including registers of seamen, seamen’s pouches and medal records.

Consult the book Records of Merchant Shipping and Seamen, available from The National Archives library, for similar guidance on abbreviations in the records.

For advice on how to find the records themselves, see our other Merchant Navy guides.

2. Abbreviations for Merchant Navy ranks

Abbreviation Probable meaning Abbreviation Probable meaning
2 E or 2 Eng 2nd engineer KP Kitchen porter
2 M 2nd mate Lman Laundry man
3 E or 3 Eng 3rd engineer L/Boy or L Boy Leading boy
3 M 3rd mate LT Lamp trimmer
4 E or 4 Eng 4th engineer M Mate
4 Off 4th officer (4th mate) MAA Master at arms
5 E or 5 Eng 5th engineer Med O Medical officer
5 Off 5th officer (5th mate) Mstr Master (captain) of a vessel
A or App or Apptce Apprentice N Wman Night watchman
AB Able seamen Off Officer
Asst Assistant OS Ordinary seaman
Bkr Baker P or Psr Purser
Bos or Boatn or Bosn Boatswain (2nd mate?). Also bosun Pman Pantry man
Brkpr Barkeeper P/Boy or P Boy Pantry boy
B R Stwd Bedroom steward Plmr Plumber
Btchr Butcher Psge Wkr Passage worker
Btmn Boatman Ptlman Patrol man
C Captain (master) of a vessel or cabin QM Quarter master
C Boy or C/ Boy Cabin boy or cabin steward RO Radio officer
Cadet Company cadet (possibly an apprentice) RT Radio telegraphist
Cf M Chief mate (1st mate) S or Sman Seaman
Ch Chief S B Attendt Sick bay attendant
Ck Cook Scnman Section man
Clnr Cleaner Sig Signal man
Cptr or Cr Carpenter Sl Mr Sail maker
Ctring Catering Snr Senior
D Boy Deck Boy Srgn Surgeon
D H Deck Hand Strkpr Store keeper
Dispr Dispenser Stwrd Steward
Donkey-man or Dkyman Donkey-engine operator Swpr Sweeper
E or Eng or Engr Engineer SOS Senior ordinary seaman
EDH Efficient deck hand T or Trmr Trimmer
Electr Electrician Telgt Telegraphist
Ftr Fitter Wman Winch-man
GS General servant WO Wireless operator
Gsr Greaser Wtr Waiter
Hd Head
J Eng Junior engineer
JOS Junior ordinary seaman?

3. Port numbers for UK ports

For Merchant Navy purposes, every port in the UK has a port number. Port numbers are used on many Merchant Navy records, especially before 1858. Matching the number to the port name could help you to, for example, find a document reference for an agreement and crew list from 1835 to 1857 in series BT 98. For more information on how to find an agreement and crew list read Merchant Navy ships’ records: crew lists, musters and log books.

There is no known key for port rotation numbers (which appear in earlier merchant seamen service records). You may be able to locate which official numbers belong to which ships in series BT 336.

Port name Port number Port name Port number Port name
1 Aberdeen 50 Gweek 99 Wells
2 Aberystwyth 51 Harwich 100 Westport
3 Aldborough 52 Hull 101 Weymouth
4 Arundel 53 Ilfracombe 102 Wexford
5 Ayr 54 Inverness 103 Whitehaven
6 Baltimore 55 Ipswich 104 Whitby
7 Banff 56 Irvine 105 Wick
8 Barnstaple 57 Kirkcaldy 106 Wisbech
9 Beaumaris 58 Kirkwall 107 Woodbridge
10 Belfast 59 Lancaster 108 Yarmouth
11 Berwick 60 Leith 109 Preston
12 Bideford 61 Lerwick 110 Gainsborough
13 Borrowstounness 62 Liverpool 111 New Ross/Ross
14 Boston 63 Llanelly 112 Maryport
15 Bridgwater 64 London 113 Alloa
16 Bridlington 65 Londonderry 114 Perth
17 Bridport 66 Lyme 115 Arbroath
18 Bristol 67 Limerick 116 Carmarthen
19 Campbeltown 68 Lynn 117 Caernarvon (including Pwllheli,Portmadoc, Barmouth)
20 Cardiff 69 Maldon 118 Hartlepool
21 Cardigan 70 Milford 119 Tralee
22 Carlisle 71 Montrose 120 Runcorn
23 Chepstow 72 Newport, Monmouthshire 121 Wigtown
24 Chester 73 Newry 122 Ballina
25 Chichester 74 Newhaven 123 Folkestone
26 Cley 75 Newcastle-upon-Tyne 124 Shields
27 Colchester 76 Padstow 125 Strangemouth
28 Coleraine 77 Penzance 126 Fleetwood
29 Cork 78 Plymouth 127 Peterhead, Fraserburgh
30 Cowes 79 Poole 128 Workington
31 Dartmouth 80 Portsmouth 129 Lowestoft
32 Deal 81 Port Glasgow 130 Teignmouth
33 Dover 82 Ramsgate 131-146 probably not used
34 Drogheda 83 Rochester 147 Douglas
35 Dublin 84 Rye 148 Derbyhaven (and Castletown)
36 Dumfries 85 Scarborough 149 Peel
37 Dundalk 86 Scilly 150 Ramsey (plus other Isle of Man ports)
38 Dundee 87 St Ives 151 Guernsey
39 Exeter 88 Shoreham 152 Jersey
40 Falmouth 89 Sligo 153 Middlesbrough
41 Faversham 90 Southampton 154 Ardrossan
42 Fowey 91 Southwold 155 unknown
43 Galway 92 Sunderland 156 unknown
44 Glasgow 93 Stockton 157 Sunderland
45 Grangemouth 94 Stornoway 158 Granton (Edinburgh)
46 Gloucester 95 Stranraer 159 Newcastle-upon-Tyne
47 Goole 96 Swansea 160 Youghal (S Ireland)
48 Greenock 97 Truro 161 Barrow
49 Grimsby 98 Waterford

4. Port numbers for colonial ports

The following table provides the port numbers for colonial ports.

Port number Port name Port number Port name
200 Halifax, Nova Scotia 255-256
201 Liverpool, Nova Scotia 257 Bombay
202 Pictou, Nova Scotia 258 Calcutta
203 Yarmouth, Nova Scotia 259 Cape Town
204 – 206 260 Cochin, India
207 Sydney, New South Wales 261 unknown
208 Hobart Town 262 Madras
209 – 210 263 Melbourne
211 Launceston, Van Diemen’s Land 264-270 unknown
212 Sydney, Cape Breton Island 271 Gasp, New Brunswick
213 – 216 272 Windsor, Nova Scotia
217 Kingston, Jamaica 273 St Stephen, NB
218 St Lucia (see 223, 231) 274 Digby, Nova Scotia
219 Montego Bay, Jamaica 275 Hong Kong
220 – 221 276 New Glasgow (Pictou), NS
223 St Lucia (see 218, 231) 277 Moulmein, Burma
224 Malta (plus Gibraltar ?) 278 Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
225 Louis, Mauritius 279 Parrsboro, Nova Scotia
226 – 227 unknown 280 unknown
228 Miramichi Bay, New Brunswick 281 Grand Island, Cape Breton Island
229 Prince Edward Island 282 Weymouth, Nova Scotia
230 St John, NB (see 243) 283 – 286 unknown
231 St John’s, Nfld (see 244) 287 Antigua
St Lucia (see 218, 223) 288 Cape of Good Hope
232 Kingstown, St Vincent, WI 289 Medway, Nova Scotia
233 – 235 unknown 290 Port Wallace, Nova Scotia
236 Bathurst, New Brunswick 291 (Ganpboro??), Nova Scotia
237 Sierra Leone 292 unknown
238 – 241 unknown 293 Richibucto, New Brunswick
242 St Andrews, Newfoundland 294 Geelong
243 St John, NB (see 230) 295 St Mary’s, Newfoundland
244 St John’s, Nfld (see 231) 296 Stanley, Falkland Islands
245 St Johns, Antigua 297 – 299 unknown
246 – 249 unknown
250 Bermuda Abbreviations:
251 Arichat, Cape Breton Island NB = New Brunswick
252 Montreal Nfld = Newfoundland
253 Quebec NS = Nova Scotia
254 Demerara, Guiana WI = Windward Islands

5. Abbreviations for destinations

Use the below list to find out which abbreviations refer to which destination(s) of merchant ships.

Letter Country
A West coast of Africa and adjacent islands
Aust Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand
B Baltic, Norway, White Sea, Gulf of Finland and Kattegat
C China, Japan and oriental archipelago
Cp Cape colonies, Ascension, St Helena, Natal, Algoa Bay
Ct Coasting trade, including the Netherlands, Belgium, France, from River Elbe to Brest
EI East Indies, Burma, Mauritius, Red Sea
FPS France, (South of Brest), Portugal, Spain (outside Straits of Gibraltar, Azores
M Mediterranean, Black Sea, Sea of Azoff, Adriatic
NA British North America, Greenland, Iceland
NP North Pacific and West coast of North America
NS West coast of Denmark
SA Brazils, River Plate
SP South Pacific and West coast of South America
US United States (East coast and Gulf ports)
WI West Indies and Gulf of Mexico
For Foreign (not further identified)

6. Central Records Section (CRS) forms and their codes

The table below contains the form codes for many of the forms used by the Merchant Navy to record information. Some of these forms were issued to merchant seamen and references to form codes are found in many Merchant Navy records.

CRS Description
CRS 1 Merchant Navy personnel, seamen discharged and immediately re-engaged on articles for further service in the same ship
CRS 2 Transfer from ship to leave and reserve pool
CRS 3 Seaman remaining in the employ of the same management
CRS 4 Entry form to merchant navy reserve pool when not direct from sea-going employment
CRS 5 Advice to manager of employment exchange that a seaman has been instructed to report to his office
CRS 6 Absentee report
CRS 7 Cancelling absentee report
CRS 8 Certificate of discharge from merchant navy service
CRS 8A Right of seamen to appeal against discharge from reserve pool
CRS 9 Instructing a seaman to report for employment in a certain ship
CRS 10 Seaman’s history sheet
CRS 11 Registrar General Shipping forwarding cards, ED350 to merchant navy reserve pool
CRS 12 Merchant navy reserve pool forwarding cards ED350 to Superintendent MMO
CRS 13 Superintendent, MMO forwarding cards ED350 to Ministry of Labour, and subsequent action
CRS 13a TE For action under MIL Circular No 121/
CRS 13a E For action under M/L Circular No 23/53
CRS 13aEA(2) For action under M/L Circular No 23/60
CRS 13a SC Training of youths for merchant navy, M/L Circ 6/94
CRS 14 Release from merchant navy obligations. Asking applicant for personal particulars
CRS 15 Release from merchant navy obligations. Advising applicant of his liability to register under the Registration for Employment Order, 1941
CRS 16 Forwarding to the merchant navy reserve pool application for release from merchant navy obligations
CRS 17 Informing applicant of the result of his request for release from merchant navy obligations
CRS 18 Certifying that a former seaman is not now required for service in the merchant navy
CRS 19 Forwarding to merchant navy reserve pool central office an application from a man who desires to be released from the armed forces in order to return to the merchant navy
CRS 20 Acknowledging a request for release from the armed forces and informing application what action he should take if the request is granted
CRS 21 Refusing an application for permission to transfer from the armed forces to the merchant navy
CRS 22 Letter to Admiralty, War Office and Air Ministry asking for a man to be transferred from the forces to an unpaid reserve for service in the merchant navy
CRS 23 Telling local pool that a man has been released from the forces and will report to them shortly
CRS 24 Application to return to seagoing employment. No indication that writer is subject to the Registration for Employment Order. Referring applicant to local pool
CRS 25 Telling applicant who has had no sea service that his application for employment in the merchant navy has been referred to pool
CRS 26 Telling applicant that we are unable to assist him to obtain shore. Directing him to Ministry of Labour employment
CRS 27 Applicant has not been to sea since 31st December 1935. Referring him to Ministry of Labour (ED 10 procedure)
CRS 28 Asking for particulars of a seaman’s age, occupation and last discharge
CRS 29 Telling an ED350 registered man that the Pool have been told of his willingness to return to Merchant Navy at once
CRS 30 Medical Certificate
CRS 31 Asking applicant to produce evidence of acceptability as pilot or observer
CRS 32 Tells Air Ministry (or Admiralty) of a seaman’s release for duty as pilot or observer
CRS 33 Special certificate of release as pilot or observer only
CRS 34 Telling applicant that release has been granted for entry into RAF (or FAA) as pilot or observer
CRS 35 Telling local pool that a release to train a s pilot or observer has not been granted
CRS 36 Telling central pool that a seaman desires release to train as pilot or and asking for their observations observer
CRS 37 Release from armed forces to serve in the merchant navy
CRS 38 Questioning released armed forces man, returning, or still required for the merchant navy
CRS 39 British seaman authorised to serve in a non-British ship
CRS 40 British Seaman discharged from a non-British ship
CRS 41 Application for entry into reserve pool
CRS 42 Failure to notify Registrar General Shipping & Seamen of a seaman serving in a ship or previous evidence of service in merchant navy
CRS 43 Information received of seaman serving in a ship. No CRS form of engagement received
CRS 44 Instructions to report after discharge
CRS 45 Application to return to employment in merchant navy
CRS 46 Return to unit of a released man
CRS 47 Confirming telephone message regarding discharge of seaman, giving reasons
CRS 48 Granting discharge from merchant navy. Advising seaman that CRS 8 will be issued by Registrar General Shipping under certain conditions (and enclosure)
CRS 49 Forwarding to seaman CRS 8 issued by Registrar General Shipping
CRS 50 A certificate of temporary release from pool due to medical unfitness
CRS 51 Loan of seaman from pool for service in a ship to which the Essential Work Order (Merchant Navy) 1942 does not apply
CRS 52 (Tally card; to be attached to NR 110). Slip for attachment to alien seamen’s documents
CRS 52A Revised “Notice” for NR l 10
CRS 53 British seaman’s identity card
CRS 54 Application for British seaman’s identity card
CRS 55 Report of loss of a British Seamen’s identity card
CRS 56 Transfer of a seaman to national registration and civil rationing
CRS 57 Record of issue of ration cards to a seaman ashore
CRS 59 Forms of receipt and order on photographer
CRS 59A Acknowledgement of application for British seaman’s identity card
CRS 59B Order for photograph
CRS 60 Advising MMO how to set upon seamen’s identity card invalid by National Registration Officer
CRS 61 Seaman’s identity card improperly held, asking National Registration Officer to act
CRS 62 Asking MMO to issue CRS 8 to seaman whose discharge has been recommended by us and central pool
CRS 63 Wanted for desertion abroad
CRS 64 Referring to period of loan in connection with CRS 51
CRS 65 Action sheet for surrendered or impounded identity cards
CRS 66 Process sheet for national service action
CRS 67 Requesting seaman to call at MMO for conversion of national registration card
CRS 68 Information from national registration that member is holder of unconverted NR 110 number
CRS 69 Instructions to MMO to issue seaman’s unemployment insurance book
CRS 70 Relating to alleged deserters from the army to be used in the merchant navy reserve
CRS 71 Amendment of BSIC
CRS 74 Daily operational pool report of personnel movements
CRS 75 Instructions to seamen whose BSIC is incorrect
CRS 76 MNRP notice of termination of employment
CRS 77 Request for RS3 pouch (internal)
CRS 78 Relating to withdrawal of RS3 pouch from file
CRS 79 For completing record as to latest movement contained in RS3 pouch
CRS 80 Reporting admission of seaman to HM prison
CRS 81 Medical xxamination of certificates engineers and apprentices
CRS 81(2) Medical examination of volunteer apprentices
CRS 82 Report of loss abroad of a BSIC
CRS 83 Temporary identity card for issue abroad
CRS 84 BSIC enquiry form
CRS 85 Medical report on a merchant seaman
CRS 86 Requesting sea cadet to obtain parents consent to enter training school
CRS 87 Wallasey sea school; parents consent to cadet to enter
CRS 88 Wallasey sea school rejection of application
CRS 89 Wallasey sea school preliminary acceptance of cadet’s application to enter
CRS 90 Wallasey sea school final acceptance of sea cadet
CRS 91 Letter to manager, labour exchange relating to application to become a sea cadet
CRS 92 Notification to Inland Revenue of seaman’s departure from pool
CRS 93 Notification to Inland Revenue of opening or closing of articles
CRS 94 Inland Revenue voyage slip
CRS 99 Letter to applicant for training in Wallasey Sea school enclosing forms
CRS 100 Training youths for the merchant navy. Application form
CRS 101 Application form for ribbon 1939/45 Star
CRS 102 Application forwarding a supply of ribbon 1939/45 Star
CRS 103 Letter informing applicant he is not eligible for the 1939/456 Star
CRS 104 Letter to application re 1939/45 Star stating claim is being considered
CRS 105 Letter informing relatives of a deceased seaman that ribbon cannot be issued to them
CRS 10 -CRS 108 Letter explaining procedure for applying for 1939/45 Star
CRS 109 1939/45 Star
CRS 109A Amendment slip
CRS 110 Application for War medal
CRS 111-CRS 117 Application for 1939/45 Star
CRS 118 1939/45 Star
CRS 119 1939/45 Star Chevrons for war service
CRS 120 1939/45 Star Wound Stripes
CRS 121 Application for clothing coupons by a seaman who has lost his clothing book
CRS 122 Merchant Navy Selection Board. Report of interview
CRS 123 Letters to volunteers with instructions to report to Fireman’s Training school
CRS 124 Instruction to report to Cooks Training school
CRS 125 Volunteer questionnaire
CRS 126 Letter to deck or steward trainee
CRS 127-CRS 128 Entry of men registered under National Service Act
CRS 129 Electoral declaration record card proxy voting
CRS 130 Parliament (Elections and Meeting) Act 1943
CRS 131-CRS 134 Proxy meeting
CRS 135 Temporary identity card, ex POW
CRS 136-CRS 139 Alteration of income tax coding
CRS 140-CRS 141 Kings badge
CRS 142 Ships Records to CRS section
CRS 146 Release from merchant navy to the building trades
CRS 150 Report of engagements
CRS 151 Report of discharge
CRS 152 Report of engagement advice note
CRS 153 Report of discharge advice note
CRS 154 Seaman to whom a British seaman’s identity card has been issued (or re-issued)
CRS 155 Statement of a seaman seeking to transfer to the national register, the loss of his British seaman’s identity card and for his merchant navy clothing book