This guide provides advice on how to search for the records of Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) ratings.
What do I need to know before I start?
The RNAS was founded in July 1914 when the naval wing of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) was moved out of the RFC and brought under Admiralty control.
On 1 April 1918 the RNAS was merged with the Royal Flying Corps to form the Royal Air Force (RAF).
The service records of RNAS ratings who served before the foundation of the RAF were kept with the Royal Naval seamen’s service records.
If an RNAS rating continued to serve in the RAF after April 1918, the remainder of his record would be kept with the RAF service records.
RAF service records (1918-1939)
Search on findmypast (£) the RAF service records (AIR 79), for RNAS ratings who transferred to the RAF when it was formed in April 1918.
RNAS service numbers were prefixed with the letter ‘F’. When they transferred into the RAF, the ‘F’ prefix was removed, the number 2 added and, if the service number contained less than six digits, noughts were added to bring its total number of digits to six. For example, F 1002 became 201002 or F 54559 became 254559.
RAF service numbers between 313001 and 316000 indicate that the airmen served with the Royal Navy before the RNAS was formed in July 1914 and that they transferred from the Royal Navy to the RNAS.
Registers of Seamen’s Services (1853-1923)
Consult the Registers of Seamen’s Services (ADM 188) for RNAS ratings who served before April 1918. You can search and download (£) them on our website. RNAS ratings have an F prefix to their Official Number.
Naval medal rolls (1793-1975)
Look in the Naval medal rolls (ADM 171) on Ancestry (£) to consult lists of seamen awarded campaign medals, long service medals and good conduct medals. They are arranged by type of medal.
Records available only at The National Archives in Kew
All the significant collections of Royal Naval Air Service ratings’ records are available online – please see above.
Records in other archives and organisations
Records held elsewhere
The National Archives’ catalogue contains collections and contact details of local archives around the UK and beyond. To locate these records, search our catalogue with keywords and refine your results to ‘Other archives’ using the filters.
Search the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for details of men and women who died in the First and Second World Wars.
Look up an announcement of a 20th-century gallantry award in the London Gazette on The Gazette website.
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 Air Force Records: A guide for family historians, 2nd edition, by William Spencer (The National Archives, 2008).