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Royal Navy/Royal Marines/Royal Naval Air Service - Medal Rolls, Ratings & Officers (Military)

Nature of Source

Details of the medals and those awarded a campaign medal whether officer or rating. For WWI, the rolls include most of those who saw active service overseas. There were three types of medals awarded to those serving in the Royal Navy namely; Campaign, Gallantry and for Good Conduct or Long Service. Gallantry medals were awarded for acts of gallantry and heroism. Almost all gallantry awards were cited in the London Gazette. Almost all awards were published in the official London Gazette. The National Archives holds some quarterly indexes to the Gazette with gallantry medal name indexes. The Gazette entry only occasionally provides the citation which describes the reasons for the award. Citations are more likely to be found in The National Archives files. Post 1919 and WWII medal records are held at the MOD Medals Office.

WWI medals are inscribed around the rim with the soldier's surname with first name or initial, rank, regiment and service number. Medals from WWII and campaigns from the 19th century such as the Crimean war are not inscribed with this information.

Check local and national newspapers for reports of a gallantry medal award. For WWI also consult editions of publications such as The War Illustrated, The War Budget and The Illustrated War News for reports of gallantry awards. Some editions are freely available online. WWI unit war diaries can mention an individual’s medal award and are mainly held at TNA in series WO 95 with copies kept by regimental museums. Some diaries have been digitised and can be searched by regiment, battalion, brigade or division number at the TNA’s online catalogue Discovery and then downloaded for a fee. First click on ‘Advanced search’ and then type in the search term. Then under ‘Search within’ select ‘Enter a reference’ and type WO 95. Alternatively search direct from the TNA First World War portal. Also consult the TNA’s Operation War Diary website for details about unlocking the information such as individual persons and place names contained within the diaries. A collection of WWI and WWII war diaries are available to read free online at Forces War Records.

Some army gallantry awards such as the Distinguished Service Order, Victoria Cross and the Military Medal went to those serving in the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. See: Army - Medal Rolls, Gallantry, Other Ranks & Officers.

Campaign medals specific to the Navy:

The Naval General Service Medal, 1793-1840. The medal was initiated in 1847 and retrospectively covered the years from 1793 to 1840 and included the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic Wars, and the Anglo-American War of 1812. Index compiled by Douglas-Morris, see below

Naval General Service Medal 1915-1962. The medal was instituted in 1915 to recognise service by personnel serving with the Royal Navy and Royal Marines in minor naval operations that would not normally attract a specific medal. The Army/Royal Air Force equivalent was the General Service Medal (1918). In 1962 both these medals were replaced by the General Service Medal and issued for all campaigns across the services.

Gallantry medals awarded to Navy and Royal Marine personnel:

Conspicuous Gallantry Medal, CGM (From 1855 and awarded to petty officers and ratings and Royal Marines, indexed from 1914 to 1918 in ADM 171/75)

Distinguished Service Cross, DSC (From 1901, originally the Conspicuous Service Cross and awarded to naval warrant officers and later commissioned officers below the rank of lieutenant commander. Medal rolls for 1942-1972 are in ADM 171/164-165)

Distinguished Service Medal, DSM (From 1914 and awarded to officers and ratings, NCOs and Royal Marines)

WWI campaign medals issued to ratings and officers were as follows:

The 1914 Star or Mons Star (Issued to men serving August to November 1914) The 1914-1915 Star (Issued to men serving up to 31 December 1915 who had not received the 1914 Star)

The British War Medal (Issued to men who served overseas 1914-1918)

The Victory Medal (Issued to all men who saw service overseas)

The Long Service and Good Conduct Medal was instituted in 1833 and issued to other ranks and NCOs for long service with irreproachable character and conduct. The rolls are held at The National Archives in series WO 102 which is also available as part of the Digital Microfilm project. The Meritorious Service Medal (MSM) was awarded to long serving NCOs from 1845. Between 1916 and 1928, the MSM was awarded to warrant officers (sergeant majors), NCOs, and other ranks from the army, Royal Navy, Royal Flying Corp and the Royal Air Force. The rolls up to 1919 can be found at TNA in series WO 101 and were announced in the London Gazette mostly without citation. Records of later awards are kept with the MOD Medals Office. For background information on the history of the Meritorious Service Medal and a list of those awarded the Medal with the London Gazette reference, see Sainsbury, J.D. For Gallantry in the Performance of Military Duty: Samson Books, 1980.

See also
Army - Medal Rolls, Campaign, Other Ranks & Officers, including WWI
Army - Medal Rolls, Gallantry, Other Ranks & Officers, including WWI
Royal Air Force/Royal Flying Corps - Medal Rolls, including WWI

Where Found

The National Archives (ADM 171, Royal Navy and Royal Marines Medal Rolls, 1793-1975 including Long Service and Good Conduct rolls)
The National Archives (ADM 171/89-129, WWI campaign medals, names indexed in ADM 171/78-88; ADM 171/1-8, Naval General Service Medal)
The National Archives (BT 97, Albert Medal, awarded for gallantry at sea, 1850-1921)

Records within this series are available to download free of charge as part of the Digital Microfilm project.

Records in ADM 171 are mostly arranged by date and then the ship's name.

Period Covered

1793 - 1913

Genealogical Value

Name, award, service number. The service number is important for locating extant service records.

Further References



Bishop, Richard, Hayward, John & Birch, Diana. British Battles and Medals: Spink & Sons, 2006


Brazier, Kevin. The Complete Victoria Cross: A Full Chronological Record of All Holders of Britain's Highest Award for Gallantry: Pen and Sword Books, 2010


Buckland, Christopher. ed. Waterloo Medal Roll: Naval & Military Press, 2001


Douglas-Morris, Kenneth. Naval General Service Medal Roll, 1793-1840: Naval & Military Press, 2001


Douglas-Morris, Kenneth. Naval Long Service Medals 1830-1990: Naval & Military Press, 2002


Duckers, Peter. British Campaign Medals, 1914-2005: Shire Books, 2006


Duckers, Peter. British Campaign Medals, 1815-1914: Shire Books, 2004


Duckers, Peter. British Gallantry Awards, 1855-2000: Shire Books, 2005


Duckers, Peter. British Military Medals: A Guide For Family Historians: Pen and Sword Books, 2009


Duckers, Peter. British Military Medals: A Guide for the Collector and Family Historian: Pen and Sword Books, 2013


Fevyer, W.H. Distinguished Service Medal 1914-1920: Hayward, 1982


Fevyer, W.H. Distinguished Service Medal 1939-1946: Hayward, 1981


Fevyer, W.H. Distinguished Service Cross 1901-1938: London Stamp Exchange, 1991

Hearns, Douglas. Companions of the Distinguished Service Order 1923-2010 Naval and Marine Awards: Naval & Military Press, 2014 Buy Now on Amazon

Kindell, Don. Royal Navy Roll of Honour - World War 1: Naval-History.Net


Kindell, Don. Royal Navy Roll of Honour - Between the Wars: Naval-History.Net
(Both the above Kindell titles are available for download at


McInnes, Ian. Meritorious Service Medal: The Immediate Awards: Naval & Military Press, 2001 (Listing of those awarded the medal serving with the RFC, RAF and RNAS from 1916 to 1928)


Mackay, James and Mussell, Philip. Medal Yearbook: Token Publishing


Mullen, A.L.T. Military General Service Medal Roll 1793-1814: Naval & Military Press, 2001


Norman, Charles Boswell. Battle Honours of the British Army: London, 1911


Purves, Alec A. The Medals, Decorations & Orders of the Great War 1914-1918: Hayward, 1989


Purves, Alec A. Collecting Medals and Decorations: Spink & Son, 1978


Purves, Alec A. Orders and Decorations: Hamlyn, 1972


Sainsbury, J.D. For Gallantry in the Performance of Military Duty: Samson Books, 1980 (The book includes a list of those awarded the Meritorious Service Medal with the London Gazette reference together with background information on the history of the medal)


Seedie's Roll of Naval Honours and Awards, 1939-59: Ripley Registers, 1999

Seedie's List of Fleet Air Arm Awards, 1939-69: Ripley Registers, 1990 (List of Fleet Air Arm Medals complied from the Admiralty card index)  

Spencer, William. Medals: The Researcher's Guide: PRO Publications, 2006


TNA Research Guide: British Military Campaign and Service Medals
TNA Research Guide: British Military Gallantry Medals



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Willis, Sam. In the Hour of Victory: The Royal Navy At War in the Age Nelson: Atlantic Books, 2014


Wills, Simon. Tracing Your Seafaring Ancestors: A Guide to Maritime Photographs for Family Historians: Pen and Sword Books, 2016

Wilson, Alastair. A Biographical Dictionary of The Twentieth Century Royal Navy: Volume 1 Admirals of the Fleet and Admirals: Seaforth, 2013


Websites (TNA Guide: Looking for records of medals and decorations) (Sea Your History: Understand Naval Medals) (Descriptions and information on campaign, gallantry and service medals) (Guide to UK medals and honours) (Naval General Service Medal 1915-1964) (Service Personnel and Veterans Agency: British Armed Forces Medals Booklet) (The Naval General Service 1793-1840 Medal Rolls, Past and Present, by John Hayward) (TNA Guide: Looking for a subject, Military history) (TNA Guide: Looking for a person, Navy) (British Maritime History: Background to researching mariners: Mercantile & Naval) (Officer Ranks in the Royal Navy: The Naval Hierarchy Explained) (UK Military Family History Online: Links to web sites with online data and information to aid in military family history research) (GENUKI Military guide with useful links) (National Maritime Museum: The Royal Navy: Guides to tracing people, ship records, administrative records, naval gunnery etc) (Imperial War Museum, Your History, Family History: Royal Navy: Information sheets include Tracing Royal Navy Ancestry, Naval Service Records and List of Abbreviations) (British Military Records Part 2: The Royal Navy, by Fawne Stratford-Devai) (British Library Guide: Service lists for the Army, Navy and Air Force) (Naval enthusiast site that contains a number of indexes including extracts from the Navy Lists, ship's photos & other information) (Information on battles, actions, medals, convoys, warships, merchant ships and ship losses, including photos of lost soldiers) (Online exhibition to commemorate the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805) (Navy Records Society: Publisher of original documents on the Royal Navy) (Naval Dockyards Society)

Online Databases (Naval General Service Medal Roll, 1793-1840. Compiled by Colin Message. (Royal Marine Medal Roll 1914-1920: The Jack Clegg Memorial Database of WW1 Campaign Medals to the Royal Marines 1914-1920, including those awarded the 1914 Star, the Clasp to the 1914 Star, the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal) (Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve Medal Roll, 1914-1920) (Navy Medal and Award Rolls, 1793-1972) (The Victoria Cross and Distinguished Service Order records 1857-1923)
(Royal Naval Officers' Medal Roll 1914-1920) (London, Edinburgh and Belfast Gazettes: Search and browse military and civilian gallantry awards published in the official government newspaper) (Military Genealogy Forces War Records: Military records of over two million British Armed Forces personnel cross matched with over 4000 Regiments including Rolls of Honour, Crimean and Boer War Databases, Medal Rolls and Casualties Lists. The site also has a facility to access information on specific units or bases including regiments, ships, airfields)
(Navy Records Online is an online archive of miscellaneous British naval records including charts, portraits, cartoons, logs, letters, diaries, battle plans, sketchbooks, photograph albums and videos)