Royal Marines Registers of Service
You can search and download the service registers of around 110,000 men who joined the Royal Marines between 1842 and 1925. You can use the links below to jump to the topics you are interested in.
The Royal Marines
In 1664 Charles II wanted to ensure that there was a supply of trained ‘sea soldiers’ who could be deployed on Royal Naval ships. He ordered a regiment of 1,200 land soldiers to be prepared for sea service and distributed into His Majesty’s Fleet. They were called ‘the Duke of York and Albany's Maritime Regiment of Foot’. The Regiment of Foot was disbanded and replaced by two sea serving regiments in 1690.
In 1755 a corps of 5,000 marines was established and grouped into 50 companies under 3 divisions; Chatham, Plymouth and Portsmouth. The number of Royal Marine companies increased steadily and the Marines were never again disbanded. The Marines were designated ‘Royal’ by an order of King George III in 1802.
In 1855 the Royal Marine Light Infantry (RMLI) was formed, followed by the Royal Marine Artillery (RMA) in 1859. The RMLI and RMA merged in 1923 to form a single Royal Marine Corps.
Searching the service records
We have created a search form for these records, or you can use ‘Quick’ and ‘Advanced' DocumentsOnline search. You can search the records using any of the following:
The records of marines who were transferred to the Royal Naval Air Service show the date of transfer rather than the date of enlistment. If you don’t find the record you are seeking, try leaving the date field blank.
What could these records help me to discover?
Typically these records note the date and place of birth, occupation, religion, date and place of enlistment, physical description, names of ships and shore stations served on, plus details of conduct, promotion and medal entitlement.
How to interpret a record
The example on the left records the marine’s date and place of birth, trade, physical description, religion, date and place of enlistment and a full record of service. It also contains comments on the marine’s conduct.
The example on the right tells us similar information, but is printed on a different form.
Why can't I find an entry?
The individual may have been an officer. Officer‘s records are held alongside Royal Naval officers' records in ADM 196.
The records in this series (ADM 159) began in 1884 and a record was created retrospectively for anyone who had joined earlier and was still serving in 1884. If the Marine you are searching for had left by that date you will need to search the records in ADM 157, which are not available online. You can search pieces ADM 157/1-1251 for the Marine’s name using our online catalogue.
Whilst a few of the service records available from DocumentsOnline continue after 1925, most enlistments after 1925 are still held by the Ministry of Defence.
The following research guides may be useful:
Records of the Royal Marines by Garth Thomas (PRO Readers’ Guide number 10, 1994).
You may find a further entry for a marine in the collection ADM 157, however this may not provide information other than that found in these service records. For more information please read the research guide Royal Marines: other ranks' service records.