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Naval Service Record Mystery

petwes

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While collecting a few stray second cousins I found an interesting individual in the 1891,1901 and 1911 census who looked as if he had pursued a naval career up to the rank of petty officer before then becoming a coastguard and moving around Wales and the West country. National Archives provided both his Naval Service record and his coastguard record. Then the puzzle begins. I am sure these individuals are the same as too much matches, however FreeBMD gives a very likely match for his birth in 1872 and this is consistently matched by the age he gives on the three census returns (19, 29, 39). But his date of birth on his Naval service record is given as 23 Feb 1874.
My question to anyone wise in the ways of the Navy: Could he have given a false date of birth when he enlisted? The strange thing is that he would then appear to be two years younger than he really was. Would he have gained an advantage by enlisting as a boy of "15" rather than as an ordinary seaman of 17?
I know his birth certificate would confirm at least one end of the story but in the mean time wondered if anyone here had any ideas.

Many Thanks from a new member
 

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