Category Archives: Insignia

Territorial Army Lapel Badge

During the late 1930s local Territorial Army units started pressurising the War Office for some form of recognition for those who had joined their ranks. It was suggested that members either be given a certificate they could frame and hang at home, or some sort of lapel badge that could be worn with civilian clothes to show the commitment of the man to the force. The War Office gauged the opinions of TA units and in 1935 it was clear most were in favour of the badge. It was finally in March 1937 that the War Office granted permission for a badge to be issued.

The design settled on was a based around the letters ‘TA’ with a kings crown above and a lion springing forward below:imageThis design was the brainchild of a Mr Coombes of the Royal Mint and was to be made of sterling silver. The badge was approved by the King in March 1938 and the order for the first 250,000 was placed on 19th March 1938.

The badges has a lapel fitting on the back and a number can be found stamped on them here:imageEach badge was uniquely numbered and a register was maintained by local TA associations. It was expected that if a man left the TA, the badge would be returned and struck off the list. Sadly it is unclear if these registers still survive, as it would be very interesting to be able to identify the original owners of these badges.

Naturally the badges numbered ‘1’ and ‘2’ were presented to the King and Queen as honorary colonels of the TA.

The design was to be used for many years and examples can be found from the post-war period with a Queen’s crown at the top, these post war examples can also be found with a pin fastener rather than the lapel fastener. The badge was also used in printed form on a variety of leaflets and posters:imageBill Spry was a member of the TA during the 1930s:

I joined the T.A in 1932 at the suggestion of my uncle, Lionel Simpson, who was already a member. After an interview at the H.Q in Park St. Drill Hall, I was given a sealed envelope to take to a doctor’s house in Cathedral R.C Cardiff for my medical examination. The door was answered by a maid, she took the envelope and told me to return the next day. I did so and she gave me a sealed envelope back which I handed in to the H.Q office. I was told that I had passed the medical! I had to add a year on to my age to join, (I was fifteen) and for my first year was rated as “Boy Spry”. I also gave my name as “William James” Spry which I thought was correct, whereas it is actually “James William” Spry. Any eventual discharge papers included these particulars and caused me quite a few problems. My first camp 1932, was in Monmouth under canvas, very wet, very miserable, ablution and toilets in the open air. We slept in bell tents my place was under the flap so that anyone entering or leaving had to step over me. In the Mess tent eight men were assigned per table. Food was supplied in one big dish for each table. The senior men then divided the food onto plates. Guess who got the smallest portion and the stringiest piece of meat! In spite of this I got the prize for the “best recruit”. Incidentally, my pay as a “boy” was eight pence per day. The following year 1933, the annual camp was in Penally, near Tenby, in huts and fine weather. Each man was issued with three heavy blankets, (no sheets). Each morning these had to be folded neatly and laid out with the rest of the kit in the proscribed manner. Returning to my hut one morning I saw with dismay that one of my blankets was missing, stolen. I reported this to my sergeant. He said “No problem, go and take someone else’s”. I said that I couldn’t do that. He replied “That’s an order, do it”.

Waiting until the hut was empty I took the blanket from another bed and put it on mine. Returning to the hut later that day I was pleased to see that the bed I had robbed was back to three blankets! I attended camp each year until 1939. In 1933 I was rated signalman, pay 3/6d f.d. In 1934, I was promoted to lance corporal, 1935 Corporal, 1936 lance sergeant. Our uniform included bandolier, breeches and spurs (very smart). This was because until 1931 horses had been used to pull the cable wagons and the army had not got around to changing our uniforms.

Royal Navy Trade Badges (Part 4)- Mine Warfare

Continuing our survey of Royal Navy trade badges, tonight we are looking at that worn by Mine Warfare ratings:imageThis badge is a printed example and has a design based around an old fashioned contact sea mine, with a ring at the bottom where a real mine would be tethered to the sea bed and the horns sticking out that would detonate when hit by a ship.

Mine warfare was one of the areas where the post war Royal Navy led the world, with specialist ships and training that few other navies could match- indeed much of the sweeping and hunting for mines in the Gulf over the last thirty years have beeped by the British rather than the US Navy as they recognised the Royal Navy’s expertise.

A 1984 leaflet from the Third Mine Countermeasure Squadron explained:

A nation that depends on sea transport for the bulk of its trade is vulnerable to the threat of enemy mines. Mines are effective weapons in terms of the cost of production and sowing; compared with the amount of damage they do, the disruption they cause, and the effort required to clear them.

The most common minesweeper of the Cold War as the Ton Class, which cleared mines using a sweep that brought the mines to the surface to be destroyed. Mine warfare ratings on these ships were responsible for the sweeps and the paravanes that held the sweeping cables in the correct orientation to the ship:imageToday, mine clearance is done by hunting individual mines using sonar and dealing with them on the sea bed by exploding a mine disposal charge next to them. This fun cartoon from the early 1980s illustrates the difference:imageWhatever the method of mine clearance, serving as a mine warfare rating was hard work on small ships, with as much danger from the sea as anything else. This photo shows the sort of seas that tossed little minesweepers around- not an easy posting!image

Royal Navy Trade Patches (Part 3)- Cooks

This week’s Royal Naval trade badge is for a Petty Officer Cook:imageThe badge has a six pointed star in the centre, with a letter ‘C’, surmounted by a crown. The rear of the badge is sealed to prevent the threads from coming loose:imageHere we see a Leading Cook, wearing his version of the trade badge with two stars on it, but with the same central design:imageThe 1981 recruitment leaflet gives some helpful information on the branch:

With over 70,000 men and women to cater for, Navy cooks need to have a wide range of professional skills- and be able to work to the same high standards, whether on shore or at sea, or whether it’s egg and chips on the menu or a full banquet for VIPs.

Specialist training: an eleven week course at HMS Pembroke at Chatham, Kent where you’ll learn a variety of skills including the preparation of stocks, sauces, fish, meat and vegetable dishes, salads and various hot and cold sweets; you’ll also be given instruction in bakery. When you leave HMS Pembroke you’ll go to a shore establishment to gain experience in a Naval shore galley for nine months before your first draft to a ship and the challenge of catering at sea. imageFurther progress: As a leading cook you’ll be entitled to City and Guilds 706/2 (Cookery for the Catering Industry). As a cookery instructor you would be awarded the Hotel and Catering Industry Board Teaching Certificate, and you can subsequently qualify for the City and Guilds Certificate 706/3 (Advanced Cookery for the Catering Industry).

Average time from joining the Royal Navy to first sea-going draft- 12 months

Civil Nursing Reserve Lapel Badge

One of the easiest home front enamelled lapel badges to find is that for the Civil Nursing Reserve:imageThis organisation was formed in 1939 by the government to help boost the numbers of trained medical staff available in a potential war. Originally it was envisaged they would work in hospitals and first aid posts and assist district nurses with any evacuation procedures. This role was quickly expanded to include nursing at medical aid posts in air raid shelters and rest centres.

In order to meet this requirement, three levels of staff were recruited:

  • Trained nurses
  • Partially trained assistant nurses who were already earning their living from nursing
  • Nursing auxiliaries who were civilian volunteers given two weeks of training.

The scheme was very helpful for hard pressed hospitals in wartime- by 1943 it was supplying hospitals with 3,200 nurses, 2,800 assistant nurses and 12,800 auxiliaries. So successful was the scheme that it was extended and remained in use into the post war period to deal with an acute shortage of nurses.

The badge was issued from June 1940 to be worn on the left side of the indoor uniform, and this was extended to the outdoor uniform in November 1940 where it was worn as a cap badge, as seen on this recruitment leaflet:imageMarjorie Ruddick joined the Civil Nursing Reserve aged 23:

I was 23 when required to register for active service, and was given several choices: the armed forces, the Land Army, munitions, and the Civil Nursing Reserve; after much thought I chose the last. An interview at the County Headquarters followed, and then on to an emergency hospital in Weymouth, where I spent two reasonably happy years. Happy, apart from being bombed out at the nurses’ home and hospital, losing all my possessions. We were housed in lodgings until they could get another house for us.

Yes, things were difficult, things like clothing coupons to get clothes together, but parents helped a lot you know. We coped, everyone had to in those war years, we all got together and got on with it — we didn’t think too much about it really.

A few of the girls that I worked with were Red Cross nurses, and some had been trained in St Johns, so they were very useful, but others like myself, and we were quite a bunch, were completely untrained, and we just had two lectures when we arrived at the hospital…two weeks’ lectures when we arrived at the hospital and then we were thrust on to the wards, and that was an eye opener I can tell you.

We must have been an awful headache for our matron, who was very strict, very different to the matrons of today, and we just had a trained sister in charge.

It was quite a big hospital, an emergency hospital, commandeered from…I’m not sure what it was before, but after the War it became a maternity hospital. But the premises were good, and we were well looked after really, considering that, you know, we were on war rations, and we had a chef and special waiting girls to serve us, and our food was very good really. We had 2ozs of butter, 2 ozs of meat (which of course the hospital took from our ration books, and yes, it wasn’t too bad really.

And the soldiers that we had, it was mainly army personnel, just one or two naval came in but not many. The soldiers had come from all over, and it wasn’t only wounded soldiers, it was…, I mean when you are dealing with hundreds of thousands of men, you get all sorts of complaints, operations, yes. I helped in the operating theatre for one stint, about four months at a time, and you had seven days’ leave, and came back and were put on to a different ward. The theatre was ever so (traumatic) — it was a completely different way of life at first, but as I say we coped, we just got on and did what we were told.

Royal Navy Trade Badges (Part 2)- Radar Operations

Following  last week’s overview, tonight we are looking at our first pair of Royal Navy trade badges, these are for Radar Operations and we have both an AB2’s badge:imageAnd an AB’s badge:imageBoth have a distinctive circular design mirroring the circular plot of a traditional radar screen, four bolts of lightning can be seen in the centre, indicating the electrical nature of the role. The qualified sailor has a single star above his badge, as we discussed last week.

This image shows a British radar operator at work aboard a ship at the height of the Cold War, the circular plots are clearly visible:imageA 1981 recruitment leaflet explains what to expect if you decided to join this branch:

This involves working in the Operations Room of ships on warning radar I.e. Plotting positions of ships and aircraft. 8 weeks training at HMS Dryad. You’ll normally go to sea within six months of joining the navy.

In 1986 the BBC created a new Doomsday Book to celebrate 1000 years since the original. The description for HMS Dryad read:

HMS Dryad is situated within the 300 acre estate, 7 miles north of Portsmouth. It is the Royal Navy’s school of Maritime Operations and provides training for every grade of seaman.                               

 Officers and ratings on courses are trained to operate radars, electronic warfare sensors and various other communication channels. Training takes place in buildings housing computerised trainers, operational models of five types of Royal Navy ships. Dryad has sports and recreational facilities including an 18 hole golf course.     

 The name  Dryad is derived from Greek Mythology; Dryads being wood nymphs. Dryad was moved from Portsmouth to its present site in Southwick in 1941.It was chosen as the Headquarters for the Allied Invasion of Europe in 1944.   

One radar rating who spent a lot of time at HMS Dryad recalls:

HMS Dryad, A.K.A. Follyfoot farm, due to the country club nature of the establishment. In reality it’s the Radar training school where I spend a fair bit of my Naval career. Situated at Southwick near Portsmouth, but far enough away to be in the country.

At HMS Dryad there were Riding stables a swimming pool [open to the public at night] a Golf course and even a wood shed, where we would have to chop logs to sell to the locals, Oh yes and some radar training happened occasionally as well. There are “simulators” of ships “ops rooms” we called them “models” where all the action took place.

I remember once we were in the middle of a massive air attack during one of the “model” exercises, when Spike Ainsworth, my “surface picture reporter” accidentally switched the radar off, I quickly switched it back on again but it takes about 30 seconds to warm up. I have never seen so many headless chickens during that 30 seconds.

At this time Radar Operations was part of the Operations branch:

The Operations Branch spans such a wide range of skills that it is divided into two groups- the Seamanship Group and the Communications Group. But whatever their job, the men of the ‘Ops Branch’ have one important thing in common- they are all in the ‘front line’ of a warship in action.

Royal Navy Trade Patches (Part 1)- Introduction

As well as their badge of rank, Royal Naval ratings also wear a badge indicating their trade qualifications. These badges have changed many times over the years, reflecting the different trades that have come and gone in the navy as technology and roles have changed. There are a bewildering range of these badges for the collector, both those which are still in service and those that are now obsolete. Detailed information on these badges is very sparse and it can be hard to get a positive ID on what a badge represents and what exactly it’s original wearer would have been expected to do. Over the coming weeks I am aiming to post weekly a different trade badge and explain what it represents and provide some background. There are variations with stars and crowns representing differing levels of qualification and where I have examples of different levels of the same trade badge I will post these together.

Tonight though we are going to start with some background and then look in detail at the badges themselves later.  Trade badges are either embroidered in gold on black for wear with the No1 dress uniform or they are printed or embroidered in blue on white for wear on working uniforms. The current system of trade badges dates back to 1975 and the level of proficiency in a trade is usually closely allied with a sailor’s rating. The lowest trade badge is that word by an AB2 (previously known as an Ordinary Seaman). This is the trade badge without any stars or crown and indicates that wearer has passed out of basic training and chosen his or her branch and is currently undergoing specialist training:imageOnce this training has been completed the sailor is an AB1 and to indicate they are qualified, the badge is worn with a star above the branch device:imageThis then indicates the wearer has a basic level of training and is now suitable to be deployed aboard ship. The next level is that attained by Leading Hands and is indicated by a star above and below the device:imageThis indicates a higher level of trade proficiency and the wearer can be expected to be able to carry out more complex tasks and lead others. The next rung on the ladder is a Petty Officer and this trade badge is the basic device surmounted by a crown:imageAll the above devices are worn on the sleeve. Once a rating reaches the position of Chief Petty Officer the badges move to the collars on the No 1 uniform, and above the pocket on the chest for the working uniform:imageMany of these trade badges are easily available for insanely cheap prices- I recently picked up a large number for 25p each. They make a fascinating little collection and are an ideal starting point for anyone getting into naval insignia. Next Tuesday we will start taking a detailed look at some specific badges.

Staff Sergeant’s Rank Slides

We have looked at a number of rank slides in the past, but those have usually been naval rather than Army examples. A couple of weeks ago I picked up a nice pair of rank slides for a staff sergeant in both DPM and desert DPM:imageThe insignia here consists of a queen’s crown over a set of sergeant’s stripes and this design for of rank insignia has been in use with the British Army since the Victorian era.

In the British Army, staff sergeant (SSgt or formerly S/Sgt) ranks above sergeant and below warrant officer class 2. The rank is given a NATO code of OR-7.

Staff sergeants can also hold other appointments, such as company quartermaster sergeant, and are usually known by that appointment if held. The equivalent rank in infantry regiments is colour sergeant, and holders are known by that title no matter what their appointment. In the Household Cavalry the equivalent rank is staff corporal.

British staff sergeants are never referred to or addressed as “Sergeant”, which would be reducing their rank, but are referred to and addressed as “Staff Sergeant” or “Staff” (“Staff Jones”, for instance) or by their appointment or its abbreviation. Quartermaster sergeants are often addressed as “Q”. In most cavalry regiments, staff sergeants are addressed as “Sergeant Major”, which is assumed to derive from the original rank of troop sergeant major.

This pair of rank slides are made from an embroidered piece of fabric, folded round and sewn with a seam down the back:imageThe slides would either be worn as a pair on each shoulder or centrally on the chest depending on the order of dress.