On May 4, 1910, the enactment of the Naval Service Act created the Department of the Naval Service and the establishment of a Canadian navy. The prefix “Royal” was added in 1911, creating the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN).
The Royal Canadian Navy replaced the Royal Navy for maritime security in Canadian waters. It acquired its first warships from Britain, the HMCS Rainbow and HMCS Niobe. It also inherited the Royal Navy Dockyards in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Esquimalt, British Columbia. The Royal Naval College of Canada opened in Halifax in 1910.
By the start of the First World War in 1914, 379 men had joined the Royal Canadian Navy. By the end of the war, over 9,500 had served. Some of the enlistees had previously served with the Royal Navy.
The Royal Naval Canadian Volunteer Reserve (RNCVR) was established in May 1914. In 1923, it was replaced by the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNCVR). The Reserves were manned by part-time citizen sailors. They were assigned to protect Canada’s coasts and to assist in the training of Naval Officers.
In 1968, the navy was merged with the army and air force to form the Canadian Armed Forces. The maritime component was named Maritime Command. In 2011, the title Royal Canadian Navy was restored.
The Department of the Naval Service created a series of records from 1910 to 1941 relating to the service of naval personnel (RG 150 Accession 1992-93/170). The records were once referred to as Navy Pay Ledger Sheets; however, they rarely contain information about pay.
These oversized sheets contain personal and service information on many of the officers, cadets and non-commissioned sailors who served in the Royal Canadian Navy, the Naval Reserve and the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve. The ledger sheets summarize each individual's service, including the names of ships and shore bases. Each man is devoted a full page outlining his service history.
Many of these individuals transferred between the Navy and the Naval Reserve, so they have two service numbers and two ledger sheets.
Important Note: These records are fairly complete for the period from 1910 to the end of the First World War. They do not include all those who served afterwards.
The ledger sheets are arranged numerically by service number within 27 volumes.
Each ledger sheet contains information such as:
In some cases, the date and place of birth were not indicated and so those details do not appear in the database entry for that person.
This research tool provides access to 16,788 references to many individuals who served in the Royal Canadian Navy and the Naval Reserve between 1910 and 1918. It also includes some records for those who enlisted between 1919 and 1941. It also includes a few references to the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve. The information was extracted from the Navy Service Ledger Sheets.
It does not include all naval personnel. It is not known why there are no ledger sheets for some individuals.
The search screen allows you to search by the name of an individual. You can enter a surname and/or given name(s). You can also search by service number.
Note that some entries include only an initial for the given names. Sometimes there is no given name on the document. Try searching by surname only. Names can also be written different ways. The entries reflect the spelling of names as they appear on the documents. You can try spelling variations of names or use the * wildcard character, e.g. Sm*th.
Also consider searching by shortened versions of the name, e.g. Bertie or Bert for Albert, Harry for Harold, Willie for William, Tom for Thomas, and Fred for Frederick.
Some service numbers have a prefix, such as ON or VR. Enter the number without a prefix. For example, if you search for 352, you will get results for all occurrences, including with or without a prefix.
When you have entered your search terms, click on "Submit." The number of hits found will be shown at the top of the results screen.
Your search will produce a results list, from which you can obtain more detailed descriptions.
The results list contains the following fields:
Click on the underlined name of the individual for a more detailed description. The detailed description contains the following fields:
The Service Number refers to the identification number assigned to the individual when he enlisted. The most common letter prefixes are:
It was common for an individual to have more than one service number. The Service Number is also the Sheet number.
You can export the results to a portable data storage device or to your own computer.
Please note that these documents are fragile oversized originals and they have not been digitized. To help conserve these documents, please consult the database carefully to be sure that it is the right individual before ordering copies.
Use the following link for options such as consulting the documents on premises or ordering copies:
Service files - First World War
Library and Archives Canada also holds the service files for those who served with the Canadian naval forces during the First World War (RG 24, 1992-93/169). References to the files are found in Finding Aid 24-167. The references can be identified using Archives Search. In the search box enter the Finding Aid number and the name such as:
Those files are more administrative and financial in nature than the service ledger sheets. Most files contain a variety of documents, which may include enrollment applications, discharge or demobilization forms and separation allowances. They usually average from 25 to 50 pages. Some files relate to enrollment in the Royal Naval Air Service. First World War files are open to the public without access restrictions.
If the individual continued his service after the war, his First World War records may be in his post-war file (see below).
Service files - After 1918
Restrictions apply to the release of personal information from most service files after 1918. For information about access, consult our page on Canadian Forces after 1918 (including Second World War).
Other Naval records
Library and Archives Canada also holds other records, such as nominal rolls, ships’ logs and pay accounting ledgers. References can be identified using Archives Search. In the search box enter the Record Group (RG24) and the name of the ship or shore establishment. Examples:
Royal Navy, Royal Naval Reserve and Royal Naval Air Service
Depending on the time period, service records for the Royal Navy and other British naval services are held in England at the National Archives or the Ministry of Defence. A guide to those records can be found in the National Archives’ website guide Looking for a Person.
Some of the records held at the National Archives can be searched in online databases in Documents Online.
Some records relating to the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve are held at the provincial archives in Newfoundland: The Rooms.
Awards to the Royal Canadian Navy
Canadian Officers: Royal Canadian Navy, 1939-1945
Veterans Affairs Canada: Canadian Virtual War Memorial
The Royal Canadian Navy: First Half Century, 1910-1967
Canadian Naval Centennial, 1910-2010
The 100th Anniversary of the Canadian Navy - 'Ready Aye Ready!'
The Naval Reserve
Canada’s Naval History
MARPAC: Maritime Forces Pacific
The Naval Service of Canada: Its Official History. Vol. 1, Origins and Early Years
The Naval Service of Canada: Its Official History. Vol. 2, Activities on Shore during the Second World War
For King and Country: Stanley I. Hillier and the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve
Museums & Attractions
Citizen Sailors: Chronicles of Canada's Naval Reserve, 1910-2010, by Richard H. Gimblett and Michael L. Hadley, 2010.
The Naval Service of Canada, 1910-2010: The Centennial Story by Richard H. Gimblett, 2009.
The ships of Canada's naval forces 1910-2002 by Ken Macpherson and Ron Barrie, 2002.