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

(L-R): Able Seaman Joe Leclair, Pat Cooke and Earl MacDonald.

Personnel of the Royal Canadian Navy who were serving aboard the cruiser HMS SHEFFIELD.
Item number 3224281

On this page


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).

  • Read more about the history of the 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, volumes 1 to 27). The records were once referred to as "Navy Pay Ledger Sheets"; however, they rarely contain information about pay.

  • Read more about the records
    • 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.
    • The ledger sheets are arranged numerically by service number within 27 volumes.
    • 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.

See a sample document

Sample of Navy Ledger
Ledger sheet for Patrick Dowdall,
service number 600

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

Important Note: If the date and place of birth do not appear in the database entry, it means those details were not recorded on the ledger sheet.

The database

This database includes 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 references to those who enlisted between 1919 and 1941 and also to those who served in the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve. .

It does not include all naval personnel. It is not known why there are no ledger sheets for some individuals.

Search tips

  • 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 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. Fred*.
  • Try searching by shortened versions of the name, e.g. Bertie or Bert for Albert, Harry for Harold, Willie for William, Tom for Thomas, etc.
  • 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 Ledger Sheet number.

Search results: record description

Click on the item number or the name to view the full record description. It will include some or all of the following fields:

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

Important note: If the date and place of birth do not appear in the database entry, it means those details were not recorded on the ledger sheet.

How to consult a record or order a copy

These records are not digitized.

You can order a copy. Be sure to include the full reference (RG 150 Accession 1992-93/170, name, service number, volume number)

You can visit Library and Archives Canada to view the records on site.

Other records

  • 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, for example:

    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.

    The files are not digitized. See How to consult a record or order a copy

    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 Service files - after 1919 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.

    The only exception is Service Files of the Second World War - War Dead, 1939-1947.

  • Other Naval records

    Library and Archives Canada also holds other records, such as nominal rolls, ships' logs and pay accounting ledgers (Record Group 24). References can be identified using Collection Search. In the search box, enter RG24 and the name of the ship or shore establishment. Examples:

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

    See also:

    Guide to Sources Relating to Canadian Naval Vessels

    How to access Library and Archives Canada records

  • 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.

    For the National Archives, see Research Guides: Military and Maritime: Royal Navy and Royal Marines.

    For the Ministry of Defence, see Get a copy of military service records.

    Some records relating to the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve are held at the provincial archives (The Rooms) in Newfoundland (Fonds GN 2, Series GN 2.14).

Other resources and published sources

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