How to look for records of... Royal Marines other ranks

How can I view the records covered in this guide?

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  • Some

This guide provides advice on how to search for records of non-commissioned ranks in the Royal Marines. As soldiers trained for service at sea, marines have served as part of the Royal Navy for more than 260 years and the records of the marines are, therefore, Admiralty records.

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

Royal Marines’ service records, 1842–1926

Search online by name and download (£) Royal Marines’ service records (ADM 159) from Discovery, our catalogue.

Royal Marine campaign medal rolls, 1793–1995

Search the award of campaign medals (ADM 171) for Royal Marines on (£). 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 online by name and download (£) Recommendations for Honours and Awards (WO 373) from our catalogue. These are mainly British army awards but do include some for the Royal Marines.

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 (£). 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 (£).

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 159 (see above) or locating him in the campaign and medal rolls in ADM 171 (see above) but you can also try the following:

  • 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 (£).

Attestation and discharge forms, 1790–1925

Search our catalogue for an attestation form in ADM 157. These were compiled for each Marine on enlistment and show birthplace, previous occupation, physical description and often a record of service.

Please note, this is a search across the entire catalogue description of each record, not just the name. A search for someone called Barnes, for example, may give some results for people born in Barnes.

Narrow your search by using quotation marks to find a person’s full name, such as “John Williams”

Index to attestation forms, 1914–1925

Consult index ADM 313/1–26 if you cannot find an individual’s attestation paper. Failing this, browse ADM 157 and choose the relevant file.

Description books, 1750–1940

Consult description books in ADM 158. These volumes summarise the information given in attestation forms and provide a useful alternative where the attestation no longer exists. They are arranged largely by division and then by last name and provide a reason for and date of discharge.

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

Service records, 1927 to date

Look on the GOV.UK website to find out how to obtain service records from the Royal Navy for Royal Marines who enlisted after 1926.

Short and continuous service records

Consult the ‘Research’ pages of the Fleet Air Arm Museum website to see a list of the service records they hold.

Other resources


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


Read A Register of Royal Marine Deaths, 1939–1945, which gives rolls of all ranks, lists of casualties by ship and unit, and burial details for Second World War casualties.

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)