Until the early nineteenth century the Royal Navy used impressment to man warships. However it created problems during times of war when there was an urgent need for more ratings to man the ships.
From 1853, all boys from the ages of 14–17 joining the navy had to sign an engagement to serve ten years, from the age of eighteen. There was the possibility of serving further engagements, towards the twenty years required for a long service pension. This form of service was also extended to those joining aged eighteen and over.
Existing ratings could opt to serve an initial seven-year continuous engagement, along with further engagements to qualify for a pension. For each engagement served, a continuous service number was issued. These numbers are also known as "CS numbers". So it is possible that a rating could have been issued with several continuous service engagement numbers throughout his career.
In the original documents there are three groups of service records covering the periods: 1873–1891, 1892–1907 and 1908–1923.
If a rating joined the Royal Navy before 1873 and continued service after 1873, he might have a service record in both the ADM 139 and ADM 188 series. Also, some men may appear to have two accounts of service within ADM 188; firstly in the register and then continued in the Continuation Books ("new register"). We have linked these together, so both are attached to the same man's online entry.
While the last entrants were added in 1923, further entries were made to existing registers up until 1928. In 1928 the Royal Navy adopted an index card system instead.
The records listed below can be downloaded from the National Archives site as a pdf file for a small charge. These records might tell you:
Year of birth (you might also find the day and month)
Town and country of birth
Names of ships served on, with dates of joining and discharge from each ship
Period of time actually served
Any engagements not completed and the reason for this
|Name||Official Number||Birth Place||Date||Reference|
|Henson, Norman||K34010||Crich||29 Aug 1896||ADM 188/935|
|Prince, Harry Rodgers||K48448||Crich||07 Apri 1893||ADM 188/963|
|Haslam, Arthur||362613||Crich||03 Oct 1887||ADM 188/552|
|Simpson, George||198656||Crich||24 Feb 1881||ADM 188/344|
|Whyte, Maurice Samuel||F30288||Crich||13 Apr 1880||ADM 188/620|
|Sayles, Albert||SS106958||Whatstandwell||22 Jul 1885||ADM 188/1112|