How to look for records of... Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve personnel

How can I view the records covered in this guide?

How many are online?

  • Some

This guide provides advice on how and where to search for records of ratings and officers who served in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR). The RNVR was established in 1903 and was made up of volunteers who served both on-shore and at sea. It was merged with the Royal Naval Reserve in 1958.

Not all Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve records have survived.

The Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve also administered the Mine Clearance Service (MCS), although men came from all branches of the Royal Navy. The MCS was established in 1919 to clear all sea mines.

What do I need to know before I start?

Service numbers beginning with a Y were allocated to men who volunteered, to be replaced by another service number if and when they were called up. If you only find a Y number for an individual, and no other number, the implication is that the individual was not called on to serve.

Online records

Service records (1903-1922)

Download Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve service records (£) on our website for a rating (1903-1919) or officer (1903-1922) in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (ADM 337).

Naval officers’ service record cards and files (c1880-1950s)

Search by name and download (£) Royal Naval officers’ service record cards and files on our website (ADM 340/1-150) for officers in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (c1880-1950s). To view ADM 340/151-456 visit The National Archives at Kew.

Duplicated and additional information on many officers will be found in RNVR service records.

Medal Rolls (1909-1949)

Search by name for information about the award of First World War, long service and good conduct medals in the Royal Navy medal roll using (£). These rolls do not usually contain biographical information.

Digital microfilm copies of these records are also available to download and browse from our website free of charge. See ADM 171/70-72, ADM 171/89-91 and ADM 171/125-9.

Records available only at The National Archives in Kew

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

Naval officers’ service record cards and files (c1880-1950s)

Browse Discovery, our catalogue for officers’ service records for this period in ADM 340/151-456.

RNVR divisional records (1904-1939)

Browse ADM 900/75-86 for the small sample of surviving divisional records. Most have been destroyed.

Navy Lists (from 1903)

Trace RNVR officers who were included in the Navy List from September 1903. The Confidential Navy lists (ADM 177) contain information omitted during the world wars. These can be found in the reading rooms at The National Archives, Kew.

Records in other archives and organisations

Service records (1920-present)

Visit the GOV.UK website for information about how to request a summary of an officer’s or rating’s service record from the Royal Navy.

Fleet Air Arm Museum

Contact the Fleet Air Arm Museum who hold information such as Engagement Papers and First World War pay and appointing ledgers.

National Maritime Museum

Contact the National Maritime Museum which has an extensive collection of books, photographs, paintings, drawings and manuscripts dealing with most aspects of the Royal Navy and some of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. They do not hold official records of the Royal Navy.

Other resources


Consult the published Navy Lists to follow an officer’s career.

Use our library catalogue to find a recommended book list.

The books are all available in The National Archives’ reference library. You may also be able to find them in a local library. You can buy from a wide range of history titles in our bookshop.