Military Histories

Snippets and stories from real-life military histories turned up by LMentary research.

Searching for your 19th Century Royal Marine

A Search for a 19th Century Royal Marine


I traced my subject to a GRO marriage certificate dated 1859. The certificate recorded his occupation as a Royal Marine Gunner serving on board the warship HMS ALGIERS, based in Portsmouth. The service records for Royal Marines are held in the records of the Admiralty, (ADM) 159 and cover the period 1842-1936. The records are available to search and download via the National Archives 'Discovery' website. I searched the database but found nothing. Why?

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Shipwrecked - September 2013 Issue

A Three Year Deployment

Richard Howard had left HMS RAVEN in the September of 1833 and was ashore for less than two months before he was back on the muster roll. This time it was HMS SPARROWHAWK, a sloop with a complement of 110 men. In this issue I will continue my search using Ships' Muster Books and the Captain's Log. I will also make use of the Allotment Books again as there is evidence in the muster books that Richard was sending some of his pay home. Finally I will introduce Description Books to my search.
          Using the four record sources I was able to follow Richard as he set sail from Portsmouth on what was to be almost a three-year voyage. A voyage that would take him across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and South America. Sadly some of his shipmates would not return.

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Read more: Shipwrecked - September 2013 Issue

Shipwrecked - August 2013 Issue

From CALEDONIA to RAVEN and Survey Duties  

 Richard was discharged from HMS CALEDONIA on the 24th October, 1831. He had decided to leave the Royal Navy at that point but, for whatever reason, he resumed his naval service on the 15th September, 1832, when he joined the cutter HMS RAVEN in Portsmouth. HMS RAVEN was quite a contrast to HMS CALEDONIA, Richard's previous ship.   The cutter had a complement of 30 whereas the CALEDONIA, a first-rate warship, had a complement of 340.
                   In this issue I will use the Admiralty records to describe Richard's time onboard HMS RAVEN. I shall provide personal details taken from the ship's muster and pay books (ADM 37) and (ADM 32) describe the voyage the ship undertook using the captain's log (ADM 51) and follow up a lead in the ship's pay book to discover the identity of the person Richard was sending money home to.

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Read more: Shipwrecked - August 2013 Issue

Shipwrecked - July 2013 Issue

Richard Howard lost his life when the troop carrier HMS BIRKENHEAD came to grief on rocks off the African coast. The loss, in February 1852, was the anchor point in my research as I had him in a given place at a particular time. It was then a matter of tracing Richard through a series of Admiralty muster and pay books as he moved from ship to ship; simple if the man remained in the navy without taking any breaks. Continuous service was not introduced until the 14th June 1853 so I did not have the luxury of his complete service record in the Admiralty (ADM) 139 - Continuous Service Engagement Books. It was also common for a man to skip from a naval warship to a merchant vessel or to take up employment ashore. When he did he would break the sequence, making it difficult to pick him up again. Richard did break the sequence more than once but it was possible to construct his naval service from 1852 right back to May 1831 when, at the age of eighteen, the boy sailor joined the warship HMS CALEDONIA

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Read more: Shipwrecked - July 2013 Issue

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