Section of recruitment poster for Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (Catalogue reference: ADM 1/8331)

This is a brief guide to help you research someone in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. Many records are online, but it is important to note that not all records survive. 

This guide will help you to find out if the information you are looking for exists and, if it does, where to find it or more information about it. See also the Royal Naval Division guide as many Royal Navy Volunteer Reservists formed part of the Royal Naval Division (63rd Division) in 1914 and fought on the Western Front.

  • What do I need to know before I start?

    • Try to find out:

      • the name and rank of the person
      • a date range to help focus your search
  • What other resources will help me find information?

    • Books

      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.


Did you know?

The Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve 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.

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.

Not all Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve records have survived.

A rating is the most junior class of seaman in the Royal Navy - these are below officersofficer - a senior member of staff in the armed forces in seniority.

Some service records are held by the Ministry of Defence. They are not open to the general public, though next of kin may request access to them.