My late Paternal Grand-dad, was Edgar Graham, b.1880, Manchester, Lancs. He served in WW1 as an Assistant Engine Room Artificer; reaching Chief E.R.A. towards the end of The War. I have his full Service record.

Edgar got a job in about 1934, as the 3rd Engineer of the Duke of Westminster's Steam Yacht (a "corvette look alike!") "Cutty Sark 2".

When WW2 broke out, Edgar volunteered again for Naval Service. He was Commissioned at the Rank of Lieutenant Commander (E) RNR. I have a grainy photo of him in that Uniform. He was, I believe, the Chief Engineer of Cutty Sark in 1940, the Ship now being Classed as an "Armed Steam Yacht" = HMSY "Cutty Sark", and she was allocated as a Submarine Patrol Vessel, escorting newly built subs from Cammell Laird, Liverpool, to Portsmouth and elsewhere.

I expected that finding Edgar's WW2 Service Record would be reasonably easy because I know his Service No. was 134772.

However, every organisation that I go to has no Record of his Naval Service for WW2! Even the National Archives, quoting me £145 for Research, say they only have Crew Lists for Cutty Sark for 1937, 1938 and 1939 i.e. no mention he served in 1940, which I know he did, as my Dad kept a careful record of Edgar's actions in the War.

Can anyone provide me with any clues about how to verify his service in the Royal Naval Reserve (RNR) in WW2?

Thanks for your helpful Posts. Since my first Post, I have gained a wee bit more ...

The 1939 Crew List of "Curry Sark" (30 Quid !). This shows her final Pre-War Voyage from :- 6th June 1939 to 21st August 1939....only about two weeks before the outbreak of WW2. This came from The National Archives....who said "We tried The Navy List for 1939, but couldn't find him!" He signed on as 3rd Engineer.

I think it highly likely that Edgar " joined up ) = "Got his Commission" , very early in 1940, and so I have paid 30 Quid AGAIN ( ! ) this time to the "Disclosure Cell", Navy Command, Portsmouth, in the hopes The Navy has a Record of its own "Troops", especially those, who like Edgar were VOLUNTEERS !

I obtained a single page Document, from "[email protected]", which is a very badly Photocopied page, which I can't ID where it might have come from! The only info. I can decipher from it is :- 30/04/40 2nd Engineer Outfit Gratuity applied for 10 Pounds. with the handwritten addition "Ineligible for War Gratuity....Officer" He did get 12 Guineas, however, on 17th April 1950, marked down as "Prize Money".

I shall try to follow through as you have suggested Jan, and will Post whatever I might find, also the result of my Application for Info. from The Disclosure Cell.

  • 2
    Hi, Bruce, welcome to G&FH.SE! We have several other questions from people who were looking for WWII Royal Navy service records. I've tagged your question with the tags for the UK and for WWII -- try looking at the other questions with those tags, and do a search for "Royal Navy", and see if the answers to those questions have ideas and resources you haven't tried yet. Don't be alarmed if we edit your question a bit to tidy it up so it will be easier for others to read.
    – Jan Murphy
    Aug 30, 2014 at 21:24
  • 1
    I've added the link to the blog post HMS Storm becomes a submarine with the photo of HMSY Cutty Sark, so that everyone can see your prior research.
    – Jan Murphy
    Aug 30, 2014 at 21:50
  • Likewise welcome to G&FH SE! Something that you will have seen from the Tour and may not have noticed in the Help Center is that we try to make questions very to the point rather than chatty, and your questions/answer/comments are already signed by your user card where you are free to include whatever details you like about yourself.
    – PolyGeo
    Aug 30, 2014 at 23:17
  • I hope that you will find my edits to your question help you to get answers quicker. I removed your email address (which you are free to include in your user card) because we are keen to see answers provided here to help future readers with a similar problem to yours.
    – PolyGeo
    Aug 30, 2014 at 23:34
  • 1
    Hello @Beedge -- welcome back! I have edited your post into the original question, since it is an update and not a final answer. If you want to combine your new account with your old account, click the link and it will take you to the instructions for how to merge accounts. Good to see you again!
    – Jan Murphy
    Oct 4, 2014 at 22:16

2 Answers 2


You may want to submit a Request for personal data and service records to the Ministry of Defence.

I does not sound like the The National Archives (TNA) has complete Royal Naval Reserve (RNR) records which may explain your issue.


The National Archives' research guide Looking for records of a person in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve warns:

Many records are online, but it is important to note that not all records survive.

So this could be a coverage problem (your Dad is right but your grandfather's records didn't survive), or it could be that whatever material survives is not yet online.

Ancestry.co.uk's collection UK, Navy Lists, 1888-1970 doesn't have any entries for 1940 in the browse list (see the right-hand side of the page).

The World War Naval Ships forum has a Member article on Royal Naval Reserve (Personnel) with an overview of record collections that can be searched (slightly out of date; note Documents Online at the National Archives has closed since the article was written).

I see two possible avenues of research:

Find other sites which mention the Cutty Sark

In 1940 she was converted into a submarine tender and attached to the 3rd Submarine Flotilla. She was manned by the Royal Naval Patrol Service. She was paid off on 23 August 1944.

Unfortunately there is no footnote to show which of the references this information might have come from.

My suggestion would be to continue your research of the Cutty Sark herself, and of other ships that were part of the 3rd Submarine Flotilla, and make careful note of what sources are used by the authors of the books, websites, and other material you find.

Find other people who served on the Cutty Sark

In the references for the Wikipedia article on the Royal Naval Patrol service, there is a link to the Royal Naval Patrol Service Association.

Looking for more information about the Association, I found a writeup on the site Culture 24 which includes this caution:

The RNPS Association holds no records about individual members' service or medal entitlements. The main record of service is the form S-459 which records name, next of kin, postings, rating, etc. and is a potted account of each member's entire service. The original document was handed over to the member on discharge and there is no duplicate on file. Only brief details are likely to be recorded in the Ministry of Defence archives and so this prime record is the main source of any detail and only likely to be found amongst the member's personal possessions.)

The S-459 may be the form which you already have, from which you got his service number. If that's the case, you may not be able to find much more if you are searching for him by name.

However, if you have the names of your Grand-Dad's fellow officers on the Cutty Sark, you can use a search for their names as a test case. If more collections of records come online, you will have more than one name to try, to see what the coverage of that particular collection might be. You might also find memoirs that mention your grand-dad that weren't indexed with his name (or for which the index was faulty). This technique has been especially helpful when searching historical newspapers, books, and other documents that might have been indexed with OCR (Optical Character Recognition).

Studying people in groups is often called "cluster' genealogy or the FAN principle (FAN = friends, associates, neighbors). For an overview of the FAN principle, see QuickSheet: The Historical Biographer’s Guide to Cluster Research (the FAN Principle) by Elizabeth Shown Mills.

Widening your search for other references to the ship, and to the group of people who might have served with him, will help fill in the missing bits of the picture.

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