I have created this page, not as a definitive guide to research, but simply to give anyone who may be interested in finding out information on a relatives service, an idea on where to start.
To begin a search, you should try and find out as much information as you are able from family members and any photos or stories that they may hold. The very least that you will need, is the name of the person you are researching. The name of the ship or unit they were known to have been in will also be invaluable in your search.
A much more detailed guide can be found here:
Ministry of Defence
If your search is for ex-servicemen/women who were your relatives, and they were either Officers or Ratings, then you may contact the Ministry of Defence directly via the following address for copies of their Service Record(s).
However, I suggest that you ring them, as they only send you a form to fill out, ringing them first will speed up the process a little.
You will have to give proof that you are the direct next of kin to the servicemen/woman or that you have their permission to ask for their records. Do not expect a great wad of paper to come to you, in most instances, all you will receive is 1 A4 piece of paper. A charge is made in advance for them to search for any information that they may or may not hold.
Date of enlistment prior to 1892: see Public Records Office.
Date of enlistment from 1892 to 1938:
Ministry Of Defence CS (RM), Navy Search Room 17, 2a Bourne Avenue, Hayes, Middlesex, UB3 1RF
Tel: UK 0181-573-3831 x341, Tel: Int. +44-181-573-3831 x341
Date of enlistment from 1939 to present day:
Ministry Of Defence, Centurion Building, NPP(ACS), Grange Road, Gosport, Hampshire, PO13 9XA.
Tel: UK 02392-702223, Tel: Int. +44-2932-702223
If you have inquiries about Medals contact the Gosport office [Branch 1C(3)] room 1068 RN Medal Office Tel: 02392-702003.
For Merchant Navy information on crew members - ships & ships logs:
Department Of Transport, Registry Of Shipping And Seamen, Anchor House, Cheviot Close, Llanishen, Cardiff, South Wales CF4 5JA.
Tel: UK 01222-747333 Tel: Intl. +44-1-222-747333
Please note that information has almost finished being transferred to the public records office at Kew Gardens London, so this is probably the best place to start first.
For Tracing of information on servicemen who died on active service:
The Debts of Honour search facility at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission provides personal and service details and places of commemoration (in 150 countries) for the 1.7 million members of the Commonwealth forces who died in WW1 and WW2, together with details on the 60,000 civilian casualties of WW2. This database can tell you what ship or unit the service men where in at time of loss.
Public Record Office
All Admiralty documents dealing with events which occurred more than thirty years ago, are held in the custody of the Public Record Office. The P.R.O. does not undertake research on behalf of others, but is open to the general public, Monday to Friday between 0930 and 1700 hours (public and other holidays excepted).
Admission may only be gained by presenting a 'Reader's Ticket' which must be obtained in advance by writing or can be issued upon your arrival provided you have proof of identity, such as a passport or drivers licence.
Public Record Office - (P.R.O.) Ruskin Avenue, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 4DU
Tel: +44 -(0)181-392-5200; Fax Inquiries: +44 -(0)181-878-8905
The P.R.O is a VAST library of information, you should plan any trip in advance. If you have Internet access, go to their web site and do as much as you can via online. You should plan at the very least a whole day at the P.R.O, but from experience, this will not be enough time!
If it's ex shipmates you are looking for, then a good place to start is the ‘Navy News’. This is a monthly publication covering all things Navy. Many veterans and ex-Service personnel subscribe. It includes a section entitled ‘Calling Old Shipmates’ where people may advertise to get in touch with ex-shipmates, a ‘Reunion’ section and ‘Over to You’ where you can ask about any naval subject. There are of course, lots of advertisements for naval memorabilia, books, medals, etc.
The Editor, Navy News, Leviathan, H.M.S. Nelson, Portsmouth, Hants, PO13 3HH
Tel: +44-(0)1705-724194 (Direct Line To Editor's Secretary).