Service Files of the Royal Canadian Navy, 1910-1941 - Ledger Sheets

Personnel of the Royal Canadian Navy who were serving aboard the cruiser HMS SHEFFIELD.

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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 the 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 (RCNVR). 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 Records

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.Sample of Navy Ledger

Each ledger sheet contains information such as:

  • Full name
  • Date and place of birth
  • Occupation
  • Physical description
  • Name and address of next of kin
  • Dates of service
  • Names of the ships served in

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.

The Database

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.

Search Screen

The search screen enables you to search by:

  • Surname
  • Given Name(s)
  • 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.

The most common letter prefixes are:

  • OFF: officer
  • N or ON: regular service number
  • VR: volunteer reserve
  • x: outside Canada (e.g. Newfoundland Naval Reserve or Royal Navy)

It was common for an individual to have more than one service number. The Service Number is also the Sheet number.

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.

How to Interpret the Results

Your search results will be posted as a results summary list from which you will be able to obtain an item description.

Search Results Page

The search results page displays the following fields:

  • Item Number
  • Name (surname and given name)
  • Service Number

Click on the underlined Item Number of a record to access the Item page, which contains additional information specific to that record.

Item Page

The item page contains the following fields:

  • Name
  • Date of Birth
  • Service Number
  • Other Service Number
  • Place of Birth
  • Occupation
  • Religion
  • Volume
  • Reference
  • Item Number

To suggest a correction, click on the Suggest a Correction link to access an electronic form.

To return to the Search Results page, click on the Back button of your browser in the upper left corner of your screen.

How to Consult a File or Order a Copy

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.

How to Access Library and Archives Canada Records

Other Records and Resources

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:

  • 24-167 William Smith
  • 24-167 Jean Simard

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 1919

Restrictions apply to the release of personal information from most service files after 1919. See Requests for Military Service Files.

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:

  • RG24 Diana
  • RG24 "Royal Naval College"
  • RG24 "Lady Evelyn"

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 (Fonds GN 2, Series GN 2.14).

Other Resources

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