At times extremely frustrating but in the end very satisfying.

Probably the best way to describe how I felt from time to time during my research into my grandfathers service record. The process of research also reminded me that patience can be a virtue.

I've listed below only those institutions and websites referred to during my background research. For relevance and simplicity, I’ve grouped them under the following page headings. Also included are any guidance notes resulting from my experiences - I hope you find them useful. In addition to what I've detailed below, you will definitely find the research page on the website created by Gavin Johns entitled The Royal Navy Ships Of Victor Johns in WWII, extremely helpful.

Click on the shortcuts below if you wish to jump ahead to any section.

The Ministry of Defence has an excellent website detailing various addresses for naval service records, medals etc. relating to both Commissioned officers and Non-commissioned ranks. In both instances the appropriate address, telephone and fax numbers are provided dependent upon the year in which the commissioned officer or non-commissioned rank entered service. Of particular relevance to my research was (for Commissioned officers who entered the service between 1916 and 1950 inclusive, who are either deceased or aged 61, or over):

The Navy Records Centre
Ministry of Defence
Navy Search Room 31
Bourne Avenue

Telephone: 0208 573 3831 ext.341/342

Fax: 0208 569 2751

After making your initial enquiry you will receive a standard letter and associated Search Document - Navy Search. The Search Document is straight forward to complete with obviously the more information supplied by yourself about the ex-serviceman the greater the chance of a successful search - so be prepared to do some basic research first. However, make sure that you are entitled to the information. The MoD will only disclose information if the ex-serviceman is alive, to him/her personally, unless the ex-serviceman gives written permission to disclose it to another person. If the ex-serviceman is dead, the information will only be disclosed to the official next-of-kin, starting with the widow/widower, then son/daughter, then grandchild and so on. In my case, I had to request from my father, a written letter of consent requesting the disclosure of the information to me as the grandchild. A photocopy of the Death Certificate is also required. The search fee is £25, payable in advance and is non-refundable. Due to the large number of requests for service records received by this department, response times of 3 to 4 months from receipt of your enquiry should be expected.

In the Microfilm Reading Room of the Public Records Office, Kew are the Navy Lists – cabinets 13-17 inclusive. These books are catalogued by year and contain all Naval personnel by branch - Royal Navy, Royal Naval reserve, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve etc. If you're prepared to spend some time at the PRO, a search through the Navy lists will allow you to derive an overview of the ex-serviceman's service record.

For Royal Navy crew lists, these can be obtained from the following address:

Directorate of Personnel Support (Navy)
Navy Search
TNT Archive Services
Tetron Point
William Nadin Way
DE11 0TB

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All Admiralty records referenced in this website were obtained from:

The Public records Office
Ruskin Avenue

Telephone: 0208 876 3444

Fax: 0208 878 8905


From my experiences, it is advisable that you contact the Public Records Office first and request one of their information packs. The pack is very simple to understand and provides everything you need to get started, including opening times, guidelines as to the layout of the Public Records Office, a brief explanation of their document referencing system and how to apply for and obtain that all important "Readers Ticket". When obtained, the Readers Ticket will allow entry to the Public Records office and to request access to the archives for all government departments, including the Admiralty and MoD. Their website is also an excellent source of information.

In the Research Enquiries room you will find the index catalogues of all Admiralty Records bearing the letter code ADM. This is then followed by a class number. For example, ADM 199 identifies the class, War History Cases, including war diaries, convoy records, submarine patrol reports, operation reports, merchant ship survivors reports etc. Each piece (document) has its own unique number and will look similar too ADM199/473.

In the course of my research into my grandfathers service record and in particular, the period December 1939 - April 1940 when he was serving on the Admiralty trawlers Regal and Rutlandshire, the following Admiralty pieces were extensively researched.


Enemy air attacks on RN & merchant shipping 1940


Enemy air attacks on RN & merchant shipping 1940


Enemy air attacks on HM ships in home waters: reports 1940-1941


Enemy air attacks on HM ships: reports 1939-1940


Norway: 1st and 2nd battles of Narvik - 1940


Norway: 1st and 2nd battles of Narvik - 1940


Norway: 1st and 2nd battles of Narvik - 1940


Norway: 1st and 2nd battles of Narvik - 1940


Norway: 1st and 2nd battles of Narvik - 1940


Norway: 1st and 2nd battles of Narvik - 1940


Norway: Naval Air Operations - 1940


Norway: Naval Air Operations - 1940


Norway: Anti submarine measures - 1940


Norway: Military, Royal Marine and other operations - 1940


Norway: Military, Royal Marine and other operations - 1940


Norway: Misc. papers and arrangements for the evacuation of the crown princes - 1940


Norway: operation for the capture and evacuation of Narvik - 1940


Norway: operation for the capture and evacuation of Narvik - 1940


Norway: operation for the capture and evacuation of Narvik - 1940


Norway: operation for the capture and evacuation of Narvik - 1940


Norway: operation for the capture and evacuation of Narvik - 1940


Norway: operation for the capture and evacuation of Narvik - 1940


Norwegian & Danish shipping disposition - 1940


Norwegian & Danish shipping detention - 1940


Norwegian & Danish shipping treatment, seizure & manning - 1940


Norwegian & Danish shipping transferred to allied use - 1940


Norwegian & Danish shipping control, treatment etc. - 1940


Norwegian & Danish shipping control, treatment etc. - 1940


HM Ships, misc. craft and allied ships damaged and lost reports 1939 - 1943


Monthly A/S reports vol. 1 1939 - 1940


Wartime damage to ships and reports 1939 – 1940


Wartime damage to ships and reports 1939 – 1940

When visiting the PRO be prepared to spend some time there, as typically each of the above referenced pieces comprised reports totalling some 2 inches thick!.

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So many sources of information used in this category that I've rationalised and consolidated them under 3 titles according to which aspect of the trawler I was interested in, namely:

General specifications and brief history

Trawler plans: General arrangements, profile and decks


Click on the shortcuts above if you wish to jump ahead to any section.

Purely by accident I came across a great website called Sidewinder maintained by the webmaster, Ray Richardson. For those enthusiasts who have a passion for all things relating to trawlers and the fishing industry in general, a visit to this website is an absolute must. Ray is a total enthusiast, reminding me on several occasions that when it came to talking trawlers nothing was too much trouble for him.

I owe Ray a great deal for all the general information he supplied on the trawlers Rutlandshire, Indian Star, Regal, Berkshire and Melbourne .

Another useful source of information is:

Guildhall Library
Lloyds Marine Collection

Telephone: 020 7416 5000

Fax: 020 7606 3030


Following your initial enquiry, the Guildhall Library will send you a fact sheet entitled "Guildhall Library - Lloyds Marine Collection, Vessel Details - Lloyds Register of Shipping". This fact sheet outlines such details as the ships official number, the builder, when launched, the ships dimensions, engine type, port of registry and the owners. The Guildhall Library make no charge for their enquiry service but donations are always welcome.

There is a great website called Royal Navy Encyclopaedia - An Encyclopaedia of the Royal Navy 1930 - Today which is definitely worth a visit. It is a very comprehensive website dedicated to all things associated with the Royal Navy. Its RN web ring opens up several other websites related to Royal Naval topics. There are several pages dedicated to Trawlers of WW2. It also has a comprehensive research page.

Gordon Smiths web page is one site definitely worth visiting, full of very useful information relating to Navies of World War 1, Royal Navy in World War 2, Naval & Military Campaign Summaries of World War 2, British Naval Vessels Lost at Sea 1939 - 1945, United States Navy in World War 2 and the 1982 Falklands War.

Harry Tates Navy Contents is a new site dedicated to the Royal Naval Patrol Service. From my research in general and from the newspaper clippings and, Admiralty reports in particular, the photographs contained in the page entitled RNPS Trawlers are particularly poignant for me; graphically illustrating the conditions and outdated weaponry aboard my grandfathers A/S trawler Rutlandshire. I owe both Ray and Nick my thanks for all the trawler photographs contained within this website.

You may also be able to locate general information relating to Royal Naval trawlers and trawlers in general, at:

Imperial War Museum
Lambeth Road

Telephone: 020 7416 5000

Fax: 020 7416 5379


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Having almost reached the end of my tether in trying to locate at least a plan - that photograph keeps evading me - of the trawler, Rutlandshire, Ray recommended contacting the:

National Maritime Museum
Romney Road
SE10 9NF

Telephone: 020 8858 4422

Fax: 020 8312 6632


Whilst the National Maritime Museum did not have any photographs of the Rutlandshire, they did hold the plans for this trawler. The National Maritime Museum also appears to have an extensive library of ship plans. The process for requesting a copy was extremely straight forward. In my case, the completion of the National Maritime Museums standard pro-forma plus a fee of £35.48 secured me a copy of the plans for the Rutlandshire. If the National Maritime Museum are unable to find the plans of a particular ship, or type of craft, then they may quote the plans of a sister ship. At the time of researching this website the National Maritime Museum did not permit the publication of their ship plans on private websites due to copyright restrictions. This was currently under review as part of their web policy, so at the time of reading it may be worthwhile checking their current web policy.

When it comes to photographs of trawlers, Sidewinder is an excellent source. Rays link page will also open up several other sites for you.

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For trawlers built by Smiths Dock, Middlesbrough, the:

Teeside Archives
Exchange House
6 Marton Road

has a repository for archive material associated with this shipyard; the majority of the plans being transferred to the National Maritime Museum. There may be a chance that they will hold photographs of the trawlers built by this shipyard.


National Fishing Heritage Centre
Alexandra Dock
Great Grimsby
North East Lincolnshire
DN31 1UZ

Telephone: 01472 323345

Fax: 01472 323555


is well worth contacting. Discovered this source from Hillary's List page within Sidewinder. They have a large collection of trawler pictures and will provide a 7" x 5" copy for £4 - £5 each. Computer scans work out a little cheaper.

A visit to the:

Royal Naval Patrol Service Association
Sparrow's Nest gardens
Whapload Road
NR32 1XG

Telephone: 01502 586250 (Monday, Wednesday, Friday mornings)


is well worth a visit. Hundreds of photographs, memorabilia, artefacts, medals and personal stories. What was particularly poignant for me was seeing my grandfathers name on one of the 17 boards commemorating the 850, or so, honours won by members of the RNPS during WWII. If you can, the RNPS is definitely worth visiting

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As with the trawlers, visit the Royal Navy Encyclopaedia - An Encyclopaedia of the Royal Navy 1930 - Today - all information relating to these and many more Royal Naval vessels can be found on this website.

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For the issue and replacement of campaign medals and, for records of campaign, gallantry awards and available citations after 1921 contact:

Ministry of Defence
Naval Pay & Pensions (Accounts)
AFPAA (Centurion)
Centurion Building
Grange Road
PO13 9XA

Telephone: 01705 702204

Fax: 01705 702211

During WWII, publication of all citations for gallantry awards was suspended. For possible information on these "unpublished" citations contact:

Ministry of Defence
Honours and Awards
Navy Secretarys Department
Room 115
Victory Building
HM Naval Base

Telephone: 01705 727486

Fax: 01705 727413

Bear in mind that due to the large number of letters that are received daily by the above departments, responses of up to 2 months from receipt of your enquiry should be expected.

The Public Records Office holds a full set of the London Gazettes and is a good source for awards and citations. I found the London Gazettes to be extremely useful when it came to determining precisely when my grandfathers RD and DSC were announced and the dates on which the awards were made. In the Microfilm Reading room there is a simple pamphlet entitled "How to………find a Royal Naval Gallantry Award", pamphlet 5h. This details 6 simple steps to enable the researcher to determine the lettercode, class number and piece associated with the relevant issue of the London Gazette you're interested in for the serviceman in question. The London Gazette can then be ordered and perused in the Document Reading room.

The following Admiralty files may also prove useful to any researcher wishing to determine the date and specific reason(s) behind a naval gallantry award during the 1940 Norwegian campaign.


Norway: 1st and 2nd battles of Narvik - 1940


2nd battle of Narvik 13/4/40. Awards to naval personnel


1st battle of Narvik 10/4/40. Awards to naval personnel

There are several very good we sites associated with medals in general, their history, a brief description as to the reasons behind the award with associated photographs. One of the best sites is the Veterans Affairs Canada You have to follow several threads (General site -> Records & Collections -> Medals & Decorations -> List of Canadian Military Medals and Decorations [text only]) but the trek is well worth the effort.

Several other, very useful websites include the British Medals - Medals of Great Britain - use the search facility at the foot of the page to locate this one!. The medals page on the Aerodrome website also has some very information, photographs etc. For those interested in medals and decorations, the Orders and Medals Research Society is there to "Promote and foster a general interest in the study of orders, decorations and all matters related thereto, to assist members in their research projects and, to publish such information, particularly the results of individual research as may be practicable". Special thanks are due to one member of the society, George Lewis, whose interest is in collecting and researching naval awards and decorations for WW1 and WW2 RN, including RNVR, RNR and Merchant Navy, officers and ratings. George provided the majority of the details contained in my grandfathers medal page.

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The Merchant Shipping (Fishing Boats) Act 1883, extended the examination system to the skippers and mates of fishing vessels. The Public Records Office hold on microfilm the Registers of Certificates of Competency and Service in the following classifications BT129: Certificates of Competency: Skippers and Mates of Fishing Boats and BT130: Certificates of Service: Skippers and Mates of Fishing Boats. Both of these references are located in the microfilm reading room.

Whilst I have a copy of the entry from the Registers of Certificates of Competency and Service, the Certificates of Competency contained within this website are my grandfathers originals.

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Maritime and Coastguard Agency
Registry of Shipping & Seaman
Anchor House
Cheviot Close
Parc Ty Glas
CF14 5JA

Telephone: 029 2076 8227

Fax: 029 2074 7877

will provide you with an excellent pamphlet entitled "Information Leaflet/Historical records" which provides the researcher with information regarding the records of seaman and ship records held at the Registry of Shipping and Seaman and, identification of records transferred to other locations. It is split into 8 paragraphs, namely:

  • Merchant Navy Seamans Sea Service Records
  • Log Books and Crew Agreements
  • Deaths At Sea. Merchant Seaman and Passengers
  • Registers of Certificates of Competency and Service
  • Merchant Seaman Prisoner of War Records 1939 to 1945
  • Precedent Books, Establishment Papers etc.
  • Apprentices
  • Royal Naval Reserve: Rating Records of Service

For Log Books and Crew Agreements and, depending on the year(s) in question, you will either to have request copies from either the Registry of Shipping and Seaman, the National Maritime Museum or the:

Maritime History Archive
Memorial University of Newfoundland
St Johns


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Please contact [email protected] for further information regarding this site.