When sailors get leave ashore, some members of the ship’s company were assigned to act as a Shore or Naval Patrol. This role involved policing their ship mates to ensure they did not get into too much trouble and then bringing those who did back to the ship for punishment if required. The job was hated by most and often seen as a punishment duty as it involved upsetting one’s friends on a night out! Normally a patrol would be headed up by a leading hand, with a number of able rates serving as the main force. The party would be landed alongside those with shore leave and then spend the night patrolling the streets of the port looking for members of ship’s company acting inappropriately. They usually had permission to enter bars, nightclubs and brothels in the area and would drag out any sailor who was too intoxicated or causing trouble. They usually worked closely with local law-enforcement agencies and most places felt it was better to let a sailor’s senior officers deal with him rather than waste time tying up the local judiciary. The standard dress for a patrol was the appropriate uniform for the climate with a white belt and anklets and a wrist band:This example dates from the Cold War (it was found in the pocket of a 68 pattern smock) and consists of a white cotton band with printed blue bands, Queen’s crown and NP lettering:The NP stands for Naval Patrol and the band was worn when on duty to show the sailor’s responsibility. It is secured with Velcro and would have been worn on the left cuff of the sailor’s uniform, or just around his wrist if wearing a whitefront in tropical ports:Wartime examples were very similar, but had a King’s crown and were secured with press studs rather than Velcro:Shore patrol was not without its perks and ‘Jack’ was an expert at getting away with as much as he could, even when he was supposed to be policing his shipmates:
I did shore patrol in Detroit 1964. Leading Hand plus one(me) from each ship in Dartmouth Training Squad: Tenby, Torquay and Scarborough. Eastbourne had broken down in Montreal. Cruise round in big yank car until midnight then off belt, gaiters and wrist band and big eats, beers and brothels until 8am with the officers. Funny nobody ever asked us for any money. People were paying rum to get posted for duty shore patrol. Drunken Matelots were just picked up by the Cities Finest and dropped off at the bottom of the Gangway, sometimes not to gently if they had got stroppy.
Another sailor remembers:
I had the ‘privilege’ of being Shore Patrol in the United States on the 4th of July 1976, (their Bi-centennial), whilst on board the old Ark Royal (IV). Considering the size of ship and the amount of crew, there was only a Petty Officer, a Killick, and an Ordinary rating delegated to be shore patrol each day we were alongside. I believe it was Providence, Rhode Island we were visiting. The duty shore patrol was made up from duty ratings of any branch, (as opposed to being any of the many Regulators carried on board), and we were collected from the ship at 0900 each day and returned around 0800 the following morning.
At the local Police Department, we were individually paired off with a US Patrolman and allocated to a patrol vehicle with him as our ‘side-kick’, and didn`t see our fellow RN crewmates again except when meeting up at any incidents.
My ‘buddy’ was an FBI Lieutenant for this 24 hour period, and it was probably one of the most exciting times I spent in the RN! We were called out to shootings, arson attacks, motorway chases, toured the ‘red-light’ districts, (most interesting!!), and even to collect a drug crazed US Navy man who broke out of a straight-jacket he had been strapped into. It actually took eight of us to hold him down and put him into a cell.
All in all, it was one of the only times I spent in the RN when it had actually been a pleasure to be duty, and even more so, to be Shore Patrol!
These wrist bands are still in widespread use today by both shore patrols and duty ratings on board ships and at naval bases to show to their shipmates and officers their (temporary) authority. Ratings are still given training on how to act as a member of a Naval Patrol, however I can confirm that the training video used in 2015 is about as old as this wristband and features Leander class frigates and a British controlled Hong Kong!