Ship and Operational Histories

See The National Archives (TNA) guides for Royal Navy operations during the First World War and the Second World War.

Trace the activities of specific ships using the index in the five volumes covering Naval Operations in The Official History of the Great War and in the 'War at Sea' sections of The Official History of the Second World War at IWM and TNA.

Daily accounts including details of voyages, weather conditions and operations are recorded in the official log books for Royal Navy ships and submarines or Official War Diaries for land-based units serving with the army. See The National Archives guide to log books.

For vessels lost at sea, see The National Archives guide to ships wrecked or sunk.

  • Royal Navy ships lost at sea during the First World War – a card index 1914–1919 (ADM 242/6) at TNA, a list on Naval History (free) and with images of the cards on FindMyPast (£)
  • British vessels lost at sea 1914–1918 and 1939–1945 (republished by Patrick Stephens, 1988) – Fascimile reprints of four HMSO official publications: Navy Losses, Merchant Shipping (Losses) published in 1919, Ships of the Royal Navy: statement of losses during the Second World War and British Merchant vessels Lost or damaged by enemy action during Second World War, published in 1947, available at IWM

Ship histories:

  • IWM has an extensive collection of ship histories, available to search on our online catalogue

To search for ships and locate references, try searching by the name of the:

  • Ship or submarine (for example, 'HMS Wanderer' or 'Wanderer')
  • Operation (for example, 'Operation Neptune' or 'Neptune')
  • Battle (for example, 'Battle of the Java Sea' or 'Java Sea')
  • Theatre of operations (for example, 'Pacific' or 'Persian Gulf')
  • Convoy number (for example, 'HXF 1')
  • Date or month (for example, '27 February 1942' or 'February 1942')
Other things to look for:

Download our guide to tracing your Royal Navy ancestry.