Did your ancestor serve in the British Royal Navy or Royal Marines? Discover your ancestor’s service and pension records to learn important dates and the name(s) of your ancestor’s next of kin.
Depending on the form and its origin and whether it pertained to the Royal Navy or the Royal Marines, transcripts may include the following:
Images may provide additional information such as the amount of the pension being paid, next of kin, or additional remarks noted in the register. Use the previous and next arrows in the image viewer to see all the images associated with your ancestor. However, please note that blank pages have not been imaged, which is why it may appear that a right-hand image is missing when in fact it was intentionally left out.
Some of the records in this collection relate to armed forces pensioners from the Royal Navy (seamen) and the Royal Marines (marines). Often at the end of their careers after being discharged, seamen and marines would be awarded pensions.
There are two types of pensions awarded by the Royal Navy and Royal Marines:
Pensions were originally paid out of the Chatham Chest, which was a fund set up around 1590 for the sole purpose of paying pensions to disabled seamen. Contributions were deducted from members’ paychecks (sixpence per month) to finance the fund. However, in 1804, the Royal Hospital Greenwich took over responsibility for paying out pensions. Hence, ex-seamen and ex-marines in receipt of pensions were referred to as Greenwich pensioners. Regarding the hospital’s funding, a visitor’s guide from 1855 explains that 'the Hospital is supported by its own property, with the exception of a grant from the Consolidated Fund in lieu of Merchant Seamen’s' Sixpenny Duty formerly paid to it. The income consists in the interest of funded capital; rents of estates in Northumberland and Durham; rent of property in Greenwich; a fourth of the commission on conveyance of freight in Her Majesty's ships; and receipts at the Painted Hall'.
Those applying for a pension are referred to as candidates. Once assessed, some were admitted to Royal Hospital Greenwich as in-patients. The in-pensioners were required to live by militarized regulations and standards, including the wearing of uniforms. Those admitted to Greenwich were free to discharge themselves, however, if they wanted to be re-admitted, there was a required one-year waiting period. Families of in-pensioners were not allowed to live at the hospital.
The 1855 visitor’s guide details the requirements for admittance of in-pensioners: 'The Pensioners must be Seamen or Royal Marines, who by their servitude at sea, in the Royal Navy, or wounds received, have established a claim to the benefits of the Institution. Merchant seamen who have been wounded in action with the ship of an enemy, or in a fight against a pirate or rebel, are also eligible for admission'.
The hospital could accommodate up to 2,710 in-pensioners. The visitor’s guide goes on to describe the facilities available to the in-pensioners: 'A Library containing about 1,500 well selected volumes is provided for their exclusive use, which is also supplied with daily and weekly newspapers. Their wards are spacious, well ventilated, and lighted with gas. Each man has a separate bed-cabin, or distinct bed-place, well furnished with horsehair mattresses, bedding, &c. […] In case of sickness, the men are immediately removed to the Infirmary, where every comfort and all that can contribute to their ease and recovery is liberally and kindly dispensed. […] A commodious piazza has lately been built on the western side of the building, on the new ground, for the use of those who smoke tobacco'.
His Majesty’s Naval Service, of which the Royal Navy and Royal Marines are a part, is the oldest branch of the armed forces in the United Kingdom, dating back to the early 1500s. As such, it is also referred to as the Senior Service.
Following the creation of the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707, the modern Royal Navy was established after the merger of the Royal Scots Navy and the Royal Navy of England. Subsequently, the Royal Marines was founded in 1755 and constitutes the infantry force of the Royal Navy.
From the late 1700s up through World War II, the Royal Navy was considered the most powerful navy then in existence.
The extent to which the British Empire expanded and dominated as a world power for several centuries is in large part due to the roll and power of the Royal Navy.
The National Archives series included in this collection are as follows: