Military Archive Research
by Dr. Stuart C Blank
Member of the Orders and Medals Research Society (OMRS)
Member of the Royal Air Force Historical Society (RAFHS)
Member of the Naval Historical Collectors and Research Association (NHCRA)
Member of the Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS)
Member of the International Bank Note Society (IBNS)
Member of the International Bond and Share Society (IBSS)




Review of
A Biographical Dictionary of the Twentieth-Century Royal Navy
Volume 1 Admirals of the Fleet and Admirals
By Alastair Wilson
Seaforth Publishing (
ISBN 9781848320888
RRP GBP £30.00


This exceptional volume has a CD-ROM attached which furthers the aims of the main body of the text. The UK was for much of the twentieth century a major player in world affairs. However in recent years its power, size, status and influence have declined. The Royal Navy (RN) was perhaps the main force which the UK used to carry out its Foreign Affairs programme and policy. The RN made the UK as it controlled the Empire’s seas.

Senior RN officers carried out British Foreign Policy and sometimes made policy matters in war and peace. Except for a few star figures the details of many of the RN’s leading figures have not been published. This is the first volume of a major study intended to provide a resume of the service lives of every Flag officer. Each individual entry is based on primary sources which include the RN’s confidential personnel files. These records have been cross-referenced with other general historical data. Often in the case for living subjects the author has corresponded with them.

The highly useful CD that accompanies the book has the service histories and careers of the 336 most senior Admirals in the Navy List from 1900 onwards. The magnitude of each entry depends upon the relative importance of the particular individual. Each record includes an outline of the officer’s career and significant dates for such things as promotions and awards. The CD has over 600,000 words and is an epic masterpiece of 1479 pages. The majority of the officers on the CD are not covered in the book. As such the CD represents an essential reference for historians and genealogists.

The book contains a number of chapters which are essential reading. These chapters place the biographies into context. They describe how one entered the RN, promotion through the ranks and seniority issues, the Branches, Specialisation / sub-specialisation, half pay and retired list, records of service and honours & awards. It has four Appendices of which three are lists of “Admirals” and the final appendix is a useful list of abbreviations and acronyms.

If you are seeking biographical data on twentieth century RN Admirals then this is the volume to buy. It is a masterpiece of research and deserves being on the shelf of any twentieth century RN historian.

December 2013