How to look for records of... Royal Marines officers

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This guide provides advice on how and where to search for records of Royal Marines officers. As soldiers trained for service at sea, marines have served as part of the Royal Navy for over 260 years and the records of the marines are, therefore, Admiralty records.

No service records of officers appointed before 1793 have survived but you may be able to piece together information about an officer’s career before 1793 using other documents.

The evolution of the Royal Marines

The Royal Marines trace their beginnings to the formation in 1664, under Charles II, of the ‘Duke of York and Albany’s Maritime Regiment of Foot’.

In 1755 a permanent Marine Corps of 5,000 marines was established and grouped into 50 companies under three divisions: Chatham, Plymouth and Portsmouth. It became the ‘Royal Marines’ in 1802, by an order of King George III.

In 1855 the Royal Marine Light Infantry (RMLI) was formed, followed by the Royal Marine Artillery (RMA) in 1859. The RMLI and RMA merged in 1923 to form a single Royal Marine Corps.

Online records

Officers’ service records, 1793–1925

Search online by name and download Royal Marines officers’ service records, 1793–1925, from within the wider set of Royal Navy officers’ service records, 1756–1931 (ADM 196).

The Seniority List of Officers of the Royal Marines, 1760 to 1886

Seniority lists provide lists of officers by rank with commission dates. Find officers in the seniority lists by browsing and downloading from Discovery in ADM 192/1–44 (1760 to 1886).

Royal Marine medal rolls, 1914–1920

Search the First World War campaign medal rolls (£) for the Royal Marines on findmypast.co.uk (£). This database provides a complete listing of all Royal Marines who served in the First World War and also has service details for a large number of men.

Recommendations for honours and awards, 1935–1990

Search by name and download (£) Recommendations for Honours and Awards (WO 373) from Discovery, our catalogue. These are mainly British Army awards but do include some for the Royal Marines.

Establishment Book of the Royal Marine Infirmary at Woolwich, 1817–1820

Find references to Royal Marine surgeons within ADM 104/3 which can be downloaded free of charge from our catalogue.

Registers of births, marriages and of the deaths of children, 1830–1920

Search marriage registers by name for marines who served in the Chatham Division (ADM 183/114–120) and Portsmouth Division (ADM 184/43–54) on findmypast.co.uk (£). Included among these records are details of the births and deaths of the children of marines.

Registers of deaths, 1893–1948

Download and browse through digital microfilm copies of the registers of those killed or wounded on board ship between 1893 and 1948 (ADM 104/109 to ADM 104/142). The registers are arranged by ships and later in alphabetical lists by surname. Details recorded changed from era to era but can include:

  • rank
  • age
  • date, place and cause of death
  • place and date of birth
  • next-of-kin
  • some information on their posting from the division to a ship, or station, under the heading ‘Disposal’

Second World War lists of prisoners of war in Germany

Search by name for entries from the nominal lists of Royal Marines who were held as prisoners of war in Germany, 1939-1945 (ADM 201/111) among the prisoners of war records digitised by findmypast.co.uk (£).

Wills, 1786–1909

Search by name for Royal Marines’ wills, 1786–1882 (ADM 48), part of The National Archives online collections.

You can also browse digital microfilm copies of the registers of seamen’s wills (ADM 142), which include some Royal Marines among the Royal Navy personnel, for a date of death and in some cases the name, address and relationship of the executor or administrator of the will. These are very large files and only suitable for download on a fast and unlimited broadband connection.

How to find a Royal Marine’s division

Most of the original Royal Marines records were arranged by division so if you can find out what division a marine belonged to it may help to locate and use the records presented in the next section. You can find a marine’s division by locating his service record in ADM 196 (see above) or locating him in the campaign and medal rolls in ADM 171 (see above) but you can also try the following:

  • Consult the Navy List (see below, in the ‘other resources’ section).
  • If you know which ship/s he served on, search ships’ musters 1688–1878 (ADM 36 to ADM 39) by ship’s name and date in to establish the home port. Before 1947, marines served on ships drawn from the same division as the home port of the ship.
  • If the marine was a war casualty, consult the war graves roll (ADM 242/7–10), for the First World War, or the book A Register of Royal Marine Deaths, 1939–1945 for the Second World War.
  • If you know or can find out his home address it should indicate his division as most marines were drawn from the ‘catchment area’ of the nearest division. Check the birth or marriage certificate of a marine or the census to find his address.
  • Consult the book The Records of the Royal Marines by Garth Thomas which provides guidance on how to find a division if you know a marine’s company number.

Records available only at The National Archives in Kew

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

The Seniority List of Officers of the Royal Marines, 1757 to 1886

Seniority lists provide lists of officers by rank with commission dates. Find officers in the seniority lists held in both ADM 118/230-336 (1757 to 1850, indexed from 1770), and as downloadable digital microfilm in ADM 192/1–44 (1760 to 1886).

Officers pension records, 1712–1961

Search by year for:

  • registers of pensions paid to officers, 1871–1961, and to officers’ widows and children, 1882–1933 in ADM 165
  • records of pensions paid to widows of officers, 1836–1870, in PMG 16
  • records of pensions paid to widows and relatives of officers, 1870–1919, in PMG 20, and 1921–1926, in PMG 72

Select either of the following alphabetically-arranged registers of officers’ pensions for:

  • officers with surnames beginning with A-M, 1862–1908, in ADM 201/22
  • officers with surnames beginning with N-Z, 1862–1908, in ADM 201/23

Select any of the following files of pensions paid to widows of officers for the following year ranges:

Browse through catalogue descriptions to select records from:

  • records of payments made to the children of officers, 1837–1921, in PMG 18
  • records of officers’ retired pay, 1871–1932, in ADM 22/475–487

Survey results, leave books and records of appointments, 1673–1960

Search within ADM 6 to find:

  • results of an 1822 survey of Royal Marine officers in ADM 6/73–83 and ADM 6/409. For each officer it contains biographical information and pay details
  • results of an 1831 Royal Marine officer survey in ADM 6/84–85
  • leave books for Royal Marine officers in ADM 6/200–206, and ADM 6/414. Officers on half pay are listed in ADM 6/410–414
  • brief statements about officer’s appointments in ADM 6/405 (1703–1713) and ADM 6/406 (1755–1814)
  • references to Royal Marine surgeons in ADM 6/406 (1755–1814). Other information may be found in records held by the Royal College to which they belonged and in the alumni lists drawn up by their university

Commissions and appointments registers, c.1679–c.1855

Browse SP 44/164–196, a complete run of royal warrants for commissions for 1664–1782.

From 1782, use the index in HO 51/105 to locate records in HO 51.

Birth, baptism and marriage registers, 1810–1921

In addition to the online birth and marriage registers (see above), you can also look through the following registers:

First World War war graves roll

Locate some First World War marine casualties in ADM 242/7–10, which are arranged by first letter of surname. Details in these records include:

  • name
  • rank
  • service number
  • ship’s name
  • date and place of birth
  • cause of death
  • where buried (including plot number)
  • next-of-kin

First World War hospital admission and discharge registers, 1918

Browse through the admission and discharge registers from 1918 of No.2 General Hospital, based in Le Havre (MH 106/986–997).

Wills and administrations, 1740–1764 and 1836–1915

Search for marines’ wills or administrations, 1740-1764 (ADM 96/524), within the records of the Royal Marines Pay Office.

You can also search for letters of administration from the Army and Navy, 1836–1915 (PMG 50), in the probate registers of the Paymaster General’s Office.

Records of good conduct medals and gratuities, 1849–1884

Search in the records of good conduct medals and gratuities, 1849–1884 (ADM 201/21), within the correspondence and other papers of the Royal Marine Office.

Courts martial registers and case files, 1803–1978

Search the courts martial case files, 1890–1965 (ADM 156), by the name of a marine or Royal Navy ship.

Search courts martial registers, 1812–1978 (ADM 194), by year and division to find the appropriate register.

Look through the indexed registers of courts martial, 1803–1856 (ADM 13/103–104).

Correspondence, registers, muster lists, pay lists and other records of the Royal Marines Pay Office, 1688–1862

Search by date in the records of the Royal Marines Pay Office, 1688–1862 (ADM 96), or browse through the series by reference, to find correspondence, muster lists, pay lists and other records of the Royal Marines Pay Office. These records do not contain detailed information of individuals but can be used to connect marines to ships or to dates.

Records in other archives and organisations

Obituaries

Search for obituary notices published in The Times and in the Royal Marines’ magazine, The Globe and Laurel. These can contain very comprehensive information. The Royal Marines Museum has a full run of the Globe and Laurel and is indexing all back editions.

Service records, 1925 to present

Look on the GOV.UK website to find out how to obtain service records from the Royal Navy for Royal Marine officers commissioned after 1925.

Other resources

Navy Lists (1782–2014) and Army Lists (from 1740)

From the 18th century, all the officers of the armed services were listed in the annual Army List and Navy List (and then, later, the Air Force List), collections of which are held in The National Archives reading rooms. Royal Marine officers appear in early Army Lists and then more consistently in the Navy List from the late 18th century, listed by rank and date of commission. From 1848 their division is included too. Using the lists, published annually, you can trace the arc of an officers’ career by the dates of his commissions as they appear in successive editions of the lists.

Online copies of some Navy Lists are available through commercial websites like Ancestry.co.uk (£).

Books

Read A Register of Royal Marine Deaths, 1939–1945, for details of Second World War casualties by ship and unit; burial details are included.

Visit The National Archives’ bookshop for a range of publications on the Royal Marines.

Use our library catalogue to find a recommended book list or look for the same books at a local library.

Richard Brooks and Matthew Little, Tracing your Royal Marine Ancestors (Pen & Sword, 2008)

Ken Divall, My Ancestor was a Royal Marine (Society of Genealogists, 2008)

Websites

Browse the collection of research documents which are available to download from the Royal Marines Museum website.

Find an officer in the lists of commissions, promotions and resignation in the London Gazette on The Gazette website.