Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve

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Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve
Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom from 1801.png
Active1903 – 1958
CountryUnited Kingdom
BranchNaval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Navy
TypeCoastal Defence Force
Part ofRoyal Navy
Garrison/HQEngland London
Ernest Rice.
Sir William Kaye Edden.

The Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) was a reserve force of civilian volunteers established in 1903, it was administered by the Department of Admiralty through the Coast Guard Office until 1923 and then the office of the Admiral Commanding, Reserves until 1958 when it was unified with the Royal Naval Reserve to create Royal Naval Reserves.[1]


The Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) was created in June 1903 by the Naval Forces Act 1903 c6, by the provisions of which volunteers were expected to serve anywhere in time of war where 'the Admiralty had a need of their services'. Volunteers joined for a period of three years and undertook to attend drills and conform to the customs of naval service. The RNVR came under the command of the Admiral Superintendent of Coastguards and Reserves, although details of organisation and management were handled by the Naval Volunteer Committee under the chairmanship of CEH Chadwyck-Healy. By the outbreak of the First World War there were six RNVR divisions (Bristol, Clyde, London, Mersey, Sussex and Tyneside) in major ports around the UK.[2]

On the proclamation of war in August 1914 the volunteers were summoned to report at their divisional headquarters but very few, other than signal ratings and tradesmen were drafted to ships of the Fleet. Instead, he majority were ordered into camps in Kent to become part of two new naval brigades, along with reservists from the Royal Naval Reserve and the Royal Fleet Reserve. These brigades later became the Royal Naval Division, a naval fighting force on land which saw distinguished service in the Dardanelles in 1915 and on the Western Front from 1916.[3]

On commencement of hostilities in the Second World War, the RN once again called upon the experience and professionalism of the RNR from the outset to help them shoulder the initial burden until sufficient manpower could be trained for the RNVR and ’hostilities only’ ratings. During World War II no more ratings were accepted into the RNVR which then became the main route for wartime officer entry. The service was called the "Wavy Navy" after the wavy sleeve stripes that RNVR officers wore to differentiate them from RN/RNR officers.[4]

From 1938 until 1957 the RNVR provided aircrew personnel in the form of their own Air Branch. After the war in 1947, their contribution was cut to anti-submarine and fighter units only. By 1957 it was considered that the training required to operate modern equipment was beyond that expected of reservists and the Air branch squadrons were disbanded.[5]

The British naval reserve forces were amalgamated in 1958, and the RNR was absorbed into the much larger RNVR organisation. After 100 years of proud service the RNR as a separate professional naval service ceased to exist.[6]


  1. "Records of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve". Kew, London: National Archives UK. 1862–1964. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  2. National Archives UK.
  3. National Archives UK.
  4. National Archives UK.
  5. National Archives UK.
  6. National Archives UK.