How to look for records of... Royal Navy officers’ service record cards and files c.1840-c.1920

How can I view the records covered in this guide?

How many are online?

  • All

What are these records?

These records, in series ADM 340, consist of over 5,000 officers’ service records for men and women serving in the Royal Navy, Royal Naval Reserve, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and Women’s Royal Naval Service.

Some contain information dating back as far as c.1880 (and possibly earlier still in a few cases), while others detail service through both World Wars and into the 1950s.

At present only the cards are available to download (pieces 1-150).

How do I search the records?

You can search and download the records in Discovery (£) by filling in the form below.

You don’t need to complete every field to find a record.

What information do the records contain?

The information in these records can include:

  • name
  • date of birth
  • place of birth
  • rank
  • date of seniority and promotions attained
  • training undertaken
  • names of ships served on, with dates of joining and discharge from each ship
  • period of time served
  • home address

In some instances an officer may have more than one card.

What do the records look like?


The image you receive will contain both the front and reverse of the card.

The top of the card contains an officer’s name, date of birth, place of birth, previous service, rank and date of seniority. The lower section of the card records any obligatory training undertaken and a list of ships the officer served on.

The reverse of the card contains a list of ships served on, retainer pay and any voluntary training undertaken.

To get an idea of what the cards look like, see the record of William Holmes Hossack (PDF, 0.59MB).

Why can’t I find what I’m looking for?

If you cannot find a record for an officer it may be because:

  • the officer died before records were systematically kept
  • the officer’s record you are searching for is held in files that have not yet been digitised
  • you should be searching for a rating, rather than an officer

Try searching the Royal Navy First World War Lives at Sea database by name, service number and numerous other criteria. As of June 2021, the database contains 32,000 records and is continually being updated. Once completed (scheduled for November 2022), it will contain information relating to all the Royal Navy officers and ratings that served in the First World War. The database is being compiled largely from records held at The National Archives and there is no charge for access. It is a joint project between The National Archives, The National Maritime Museum and the Crew List Index Project with the help of a global team of volunteers.

You can also try the following record series as alternative sources of information:

You can also consult The Navy Lists, which are available to view at The National Archives. The Navy List gives name, rank, date of commission and seniority. It should also indicate names of ships served on.