Hydrographical and Meteorological Leading Hands Overalls

Royal Naval overalls went through a number of updates over the years. We have looked at one of the more recent patterns here, but today we are looking at a slightly earlier pattern of overall:

Unlike later patterns, these overalls do not have a pair of pockets on the chest, but do have a pair of pockets on the thighs, each secured with a Velcroed flap. Above these are a pair of vecroed openings that allow access to any clothing worn under the overalls. The cuffs of the garment are again secured with Velcro:

The inside of the overalls has a drawstring in a channel at the waist to pull the garment in and give it some shape:

The owner’s name is stenciled onto a piece of white tape and sewn on the left breast:

The original owner’s rate was leading hand and his badge of rate, a fouled anchor, is worn on the left sleeve:

His trade ratings, that for the Hydrographical and Meteorological branch, is worn on the right sleeve:

The branch is split into two parts, those involved in hydrography and those who specialise in meteorology. The Royal Navy’s website explains what a rating in the branch might be expected to do as part of their job:

  • Hydrographers complete ocean and coastal surveys, recording information on currents, water composition and depth.
  • Meteorologists measure the environmental impact on operations, determining cloud cover for our aircraft or oceanographic information for our submarines, and ultimately forecasting the weather.
  • Both roles use some of the most advanced kit on the planet. 

The label in the back of the overalls shows that the overalls were made by Cookson and Clegg Ltd:

Cookson and Clegg are a clothing company based in Blackburn Lancashire that have been making garments since the 1860s and still make specialist clothing for the military and have recently been involved in making specialist medical clothing during the recent pandemic.

The overalls were designed to be worn over a set of No 4s (No8 Action Working Dress for the older hands), although for many stokers working in the hottest part of the ship, it was typical just to wear a set of white boxers and t-shirt under the overall…or indeed nothing at all! One former stoker recalled:

I stuck to the knicks and tee-shirts, though on Invincible in the 80’s one watch used to wear identical nicks from the Chinese tailor. I also witnessed the on-watch killick stoker on Active being dragged before Neptune at the crossing the line and stripped of his ovies to reveal full basque, stockings. MEO was not amused as he had been on watch for 3hrs like it!!


  1. Hatch, the inclusion of the letters AMR on the label should be a give away for you. These are current issue overalls for Air Maintenance Ratings (WAFU’s), hence the lack of pockets everywhere. More pockets means more places to put tools or gash that could fall out into a helicopter or planes engines. The owner of these must have been an M to have been issued them, most likely from Culdrose or Yeovil.

  2. Interesting device on the badge for a Met Tech, I’d have guessed weapons since it’s reasonably close to what I wore…

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