UK releases historical records of 1 million seafarers

Posted: 09/03/2011 in all marine news

Mike Schuler –

The UK’s National Archive says it is releasing the records of 1 million Merchant Navy seafarers serving from 1918 to 1941 who were part of Churchill’s often forgotten ‘fourth service’. 

The records are being released for the first time in celebration of tomorrow’s Merchant Navy Day, and are available online at  The Archives hopes the information will help family historians locate information on their seafaring ancestors.

The records are in the form of index cards that the Registrar General of Shipping and Seaman required merchant seaman to carry in order to produce a single index of merchant mariners serving on British merchant navy vessels. 

The cards include detailed personal information including photos, name, rank, vessel numbers, address of kin, signatures and even physical descriptions such as standout tattoos or other identify marks or scars.

Referred to as the ‘fourth service’ by Winston Churchill, Britain’s Merchant Navy played an integral role in establishing the UK as a world leader in trade and industry, yet a remarkable 54% of Britain’s population has never heard of it, according to research by 

It was often described as a ‘floating United Nations’ as many crews were made up of international mariners from all over the world.

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