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:Once 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:This 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:This 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:All 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:Many 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.