Royal Navy ships

Here is a list of sources in the museum library that will help you research the Royal Navy.


Ships of the Royal Navy. Vol.1 major ships. Vol.2 Navy-built trawlers, drifters, tugs and requisitioned ships
J.J. Colledge.
359.3250942 COL
A two volume set which provides a brief entry on all Royal Navy vessels, detailing dates of build, tonnage, specifications, and fate where known.

Royal Navy ship badges
Peter C. Smith. St Ives. Balfour Publications, 1974.
929.9 SMI
A handy book for badges.

History of the Royal Navy
Edited by Peter Kemp. London. Conway Maritime Press, 1989.
359.00942 KEM
A good general text on the history of the navy.

Nelson's navy: the ships the men and organisation 1793-1815
Brian Lavery.London. Conway Maritime Press, 1989.
359.00941 LAV
A detailed study of the navy of the time.

The wooden world: an anatomy of the Georgian navy
N.A.M. Rodger. London. Collins, 1986.
359.00941 ROD
Also a detailed study.

A companion to the Royal Navy
David A. Thomas. London. Harrap, 1988.
359.00941 THO
A good general reference guide, featuring names and badges.

British warship names
T.D. Manning. London. Putnam, 1959.
359.325 MAN

The sailing navy list
David Lyon. London. Conway Maritime Press, 1993.
REF 359.00941 LYO
A very useful book about sailing vessels of the Royal Navy. Illustrated, with copies of draughts for many vessels.

Ships on the Australia station
John Bastock. Frenchs Forest, NSW. Child and Associates, 1988.
359.3250994 BAS
A comprehensive work on Royal Navy vessels stationed in Australian waters before 1913.

Fair winds to Australia: 200 years of sail on the Australia station
Lew Lind. Frenchs Forest, NSW. Reed,1988.
359.3250994 LIN
This well-illustrated book offers short profiles of naval sailing vessels serving in Australia from 1788 to 1988. Includes warships, survey vessels and sail training vessels.

The naval chronicle: The contemporary record of the Royal Navy at war
Prepared by Nicholas Tracy. London. Chatham, 1998.
359.00941 NAV
This five volume work is a consolidated edition of the Naval Chronicle which was published between 1799 to 1819. The original is hard to find but considered a primary source for naval history research.

Jane's fighting ships
Library has 1898- .
REF 623.825 JAN
The reference source on naval vessels. Good for a brief summary with technical details and profile drawings.

Conway's all the worlds fighting ships 860-1905, 1906-1921, 1922-1946, 1947-1982
623.825 CON
This series is similar to Jane's and an excellent ready reference source of information on naval vessels.

The library has many other books on the Royal Navy including many Navy Records Society Publications. Such titles cover various campaigns, histories, biographies and social history. To locate them, check the library catalogue using the subject index (under Great Britain. Royal Navy).

Looking to buy books? Shop online at the museum store.

Navy lists

These annual publications list all enlisted personnel including surgeons and engineers and are useful sources of information on Royal Navy ships and senior members of crew.

Navy List
Library has 1826- (imperfect)
REF 359.330941 GRE

NB: The Society of Australian Genealogists Library has an excellent set of Navy Lists.


Illustrated newspapers such as the Illustrated London News, Illustrated Sydney News and Australasian Sketcher provide good quality illustrations. Download the indexes below to make locating a suitable illustration much easier. The indexes list Royal Navy vessels with Australian connections, such as convict hulks. Hardcopies of the lists can be found on the reference shelves (REF 387.50994 ILL) when you next visit the library.

Maritime Illustration Index 1. Illustrated Sydney News 1853-1889  (PDF, 260kb)

Maritime Illustration Index 2. Illustrated London News 1842-1891  (PDF, 190kb)

Maritime Illlustration Index 3. Australasian Sketcher 1873-1889  (PDF,151kb)

The library also has an index to the Illustrated London News for naval ships compiled by Bob Nicholls.
REF 387.50994 NIC
This very useful and easy to use index covers ships of various navies.

We've even indexed some of the best illustrated books in the library to help you locate images of ships. Download our Library index to ship pictures (PDF 2.1 MB) or find it on the reference shelves with the above indexes.

The library also holds copies of indexes to the Dickson Gregory collection and Nicholls collection of ship photographs from the State Library of New South Wales. Ask the librarian if you would like to search these indexes.

Other libraries with excellent pictorial collections include:

Search the catalogues of the National Maritime Museum Greenwich and browse through the INTUTE website for internet based maritime history resources.

Our library Research guide Pictures of ships in the Australian trade provides more tips to help you locate pictures of ships.

Journal articles

The library has the following journal titles with articles about British Naval vessels:

Naval chronicle
Library has No.2 (1974) - No.29 (1813) incomplete.

Mariners Mirror
Library has Vol.18, No.1 (1932)-.

Nautical research journal
Library has Vol.1, No.1 (1949)-.

Library holds No. 1 (1977)-(2001/2002). Ceased publication.

Other sources

Royal Naval Museum
HM Naval Base (PP66)
Hampshire PO1 3NH

National Maritime Museum
Romney Road
Greenwich SE10 9NF

To find information on people who served in the Royal Navy see our Seafaring ancestors research guide.

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