A naval petty officer is equivalent to an army sergeant and is the lowest of the Senior Rates in the Royal Navy. Petty Officers have a distinctive rank badge of crossed anchors beneath the sovereigns crown. Today this badge is usually worn in the form of a shoulder slide, however during the Second World War it was commonly worn as an embroidered badge on the sleeve. These were produced in gold thread for best uniforms and in red for everyday working uniform, this is an example of the latter:This has the king’s crown above the anchors, indicating a pre-1952 manufacture. The same badge is illustrated in the 1937 Seaman’s Handbook:The badge appears to be machine embroidered, and the loose threads can be seen on the back:Although today all petty officers wear ‘fore and aft’ rig, during the Second World War there were various grades of petty officer and those who had only qualified in the last year still wore the ratings’ ‘square rig’:Note the petty officer’s badge on his sleeve. However it is the double breasted monkey jacket that is most associated with the rank, again the crossed anchor badge is clearly visible:
A few years back we looked at plastic cap badges, made during the Second World War as an economy measure. However these were not the only badges remade in plastic; metal was a strategic resource and if a badge could be moulded out of plastic then it saved brass or steel for more important duties. As well as military cap badges many civilian and Civil Defence badges were produced in plastic as well as badges for various youth organisations such as the cadets. It is a lapel badge for the Air Cadet Corps we are looking at tonight:This badge was worn on the lapel of a suit when the owner was out of uniform, allowing a discrete way of showing his role within the service and allowing other members of the cadet force to easily identify him as a member. It might seem strange today, but in the Second World War normal attire for teenagers was the same as for adults; shirt tie and jacket. As such they all had a lapel with a suitable button hole to attach the badge to. The rear of the badge has a straight post and a round top to it to allow it to fasten securely through a lapel:Small lettering on the back of the badge indicates it was made by Stanley’s of Walsall:This firm were a large manufacturer of badges and produced massive quantities for the armed forces. The badge itself is not made from Bakelite, but rather a form of cellulose. A larger circular cap badge was also produced in plastic for the Air Training Corps.
John Phillip Haseldine was a member of the ATC and recalls some of its activity:
From early 1940 I was going to the A.T.C. every evening and at weekends. We were shown how to recognise aircraft from all angles by black silhouettes – plus we did the normal square-bashing, of course. We used to be taught how to set a course allowing for wind speed and variation etc. and I was pretty good at all this sort of thing. Of course, nights in the winter especially were pitch dark and I remember two occasions in the black out. The first happened as I was riding my bicycle home when suddenly I flew through the air. For some reason a manhole cover in the road had been left off and my front wheel had gone into it. Luckily, being young, I was not badly hurt but my bicycle was a complete wreck. We used to have very bad smogs caused by all the coal fires, virtually the only kind of heating in houses. Added to the black out these smogs made it impossible to see even a yard ahead of you. On this one evening a group of us were going to A.T.C. training at a different venue than our usual place. We got completely lost, when a man bumped into us with his bicycle and said he lived in the road where we were going. He said if one of us held onto his bicycle and the rest joined in a line behind, he would walk there with us. We did this for a little way but then came to a dead stop as he had walked off the street into an air raid shelter. After this we groped about most of the evening and to this day I cannot remember whether we arrived.
Early in 1944 I went with other of the A.T.C. to a test centre in London. I cannot recall where it was but we were given medicals and things I remember we had to do was to blow into a tube that raised mercury to a certain level and hold it there for one minute; also a Japanese book which had numbers in it made up of all different colours. We were asked what numbers we saw when the pages were turned over. Then we were interviewed separately and asked questions, most of which I thought were crazy, by three R.A.F. officers. The only one I can remember was how a combustion engine works, which I knew.
I would have been coming up to 18 at this time. Some months later we were taken in R.A.F. trucks to airfields; we were not told where. I remember one we were taken to. There was a very large building with a ballroom-type floor, at one end of which was a dais with a seat and an aircraft joystick, in front of which was a flat board which you could lie on, with a bomber’s teat by the side. A map of Germany was projected on the whole of the floor which moved as if you were flying over it, both pilot and bomb-aimer were about 20’ above. Whoever was pilot was given a target on the map and as the map moved and you approached the target to get into the right position the bomb-aimer would give directions left or right of it until he thought you were in the right position. Then he would press the bomb teat and release the bombs. This was not as easy as it seems as you had to allow a time lag for bombs to drop. A bright spotlight would then show where your bombs had landed and the map would stop.
I am slowly building up a small collection of Home Front pin badges, tonight we have an example of one of the more common badges, a Rest Centre Service badge:The Rest Centre Service offered support to people’s and families bombed out of their homes, giving them shelter and helping them get their lives sorted after the trauma of enemy action. This little badge is stamped and then enamelled in white and blue with the letters ‘R’, ‘C’ and ‘S’ intertwined in the centre. The back has a simple pin fastening rather than a lapel button, reflecting the fact that many involved in this work were women where a pin was more appropriate for securing it to a dress:The Rest Centre Service did much valuable work, as described by William Reeks of Bethnal Green:
In the summer of 1940 I was an 18 year old working as a clerk for the London County Council in Bethnal Green, East London, and the only prospect I could see was waiting for my age group to be called up for military service. Our office was on stand-by for manning Rest Centres at a nearby school, which was equipped to receive bombed-out refugees if air raids on London started. Until the ” Blitz” in the autumn that meant sleeping in camp beds in the office on a rota basis, playing cards and deciding who was to be the cook.
Eventually on 20th October I was called to Rest Centre duty as bombed-out East Enders started arriving: for two months I worked 24 hours on and 24 hours off at Globe Road School in Stepney (empty as all the pupils had been evacuated to the country), tending to the needs of bombed-out families who trudged to the school with what they could salvage from their destroyed houses. The school, and many others had been stocked many months before with tea in chests, sugar in sacks, tinned food, blankets, mattresses etc. I remember the cheerfulness of the Cockneys, who quickly settled in and were soon even singing. Every morning we phoned J. Lyons caterers with the numbers of people and at lunchtime the desired number of hot meals arrived in an insulated van. The organisation and forethought was impressive and helped to alleviate the suffering of the refugees.
I mostly travelled the eight miles to and from my home by bicycle – with the disruption of public transport it was more reliable, though the rubble and broken glass everywhere meant frequent punctures. They were exciting times for young people, and I do not remember any down-heartedness or defeatism.
In December I enlisted in the Home Guard and left the Rest Centre Service to others, and resumed work in the office which enabled me to perform my Home Guard duties in the evenings and weekends.
I am not really a collector of patches or insignia, however if a likely candidate comes up for a pound or two I will often take a punt and hope I have picked up something military later. Last week I found this little patch in a box for £1 and despite not having a clue what it was it came home with me:A few minutes research indicated that it is the brigade patch for the 73rd Independent Infantry Brigade. The brigade was activated during World War II, in late March 1941, and initially consisted of infantry battalions raised for hostilities-only and, aside from a few Regular and Territorial soldiers, was composed almost entirely of conscripts and wartime volunteers. In December 1942 the battalions were posted elsewhere and the brigade ceased to be an operational formation, although the headquarters remained in existence until 19 July 1943, when it was finally disbanded.
The brigade served under various commands throughout its short existence: GHQ Home Forces from 19 June and 2 July 1941, the Devon and Cornwall County Division between 3 July and 30 November 1941, VIII Corps between 1 December 1941 and 12 December 1942, and Southern Command from 13 December 1942 and 18 July 1943.
Order of battle
The 73rd Brigade was constituted as follows during the war:
- 18th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (from 27 March 1941, left 17 May 1941)
- 9th Battalion, King’s Own Scottish Borderers (from 3 April 1941, left 17 May 1941)
- 6th Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers (from 3 April 1941, left 17 May 1941)
- 7th Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment (from 19 July 1941, left 21 September 1942)
- 6th Battalion, Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry (from 19 July 1941, left 9 December 1942)
- 8th Battalion, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment (from 19 July 1941, left 11 December 1942)
- 2nd Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment (from 22 September 1942, left 8 December 1942)
The following officers commanded the brigade during the war:
- Brigadier W. Robb (from 24 March 1941 until 18 June 1941)
- Brigadier J.A. Campbell (from 18 June 1941 until 10 October 1941)
- Brigadier A.de L. Cazenove (from 10 October 1941)
Fifteen gold bezants (small circles) on a black shield with a gold border superimposed on a vertically positioned white sword with gold hilt, point down, all on a blue ground.
The badge is based off the coat of arms of Cornwall, with the sword representing Excalibur from the legend of King Arthur.
The range of different enamelled home front lapel badges form the Second World War is astonishing with badges issued for olunteer workers, the ARP, nursing and many more areas of voluntary service. Tonight we are looking at a small pin badge for the RAF Comforts committee:This badge has an RAF eagle in the centre, with a light blue band around saying ‘RAF Comforts Committee’ and the title ‘volunary worker’ in a scroll beneath. The back of the badge has a pin fastening and a maker’s mark indicating it was manufactured by Thomas Frattorini the largest badge maker in the country:The following excellent description comes from a collector on Flickr, called Stuart- Sadly I do not have a full name to afford him the full credit he deserves:
The Royal Air Force Comforts Committee (RAF Comforts Committee) was formed by the Air Council in October 1939 to determine the type and quantities of ‘knitted comforts’ required for the RAF as well as arrange for their collection, storage and distribution through their depots. Local knitting parties or groups were organised mainly by the Women’s Institute (WI) and the Women’s Voluntary Service (WVS) according to guidance issued by the Committee. Anyone who could knit was roped into these knitting parties and that included many men too (it was commonplace back then for men to be competent knitters). Groups needed to be registered with the Comforts Committee to ensure they got supplies of free wool and badges/certificates. As the war drew to a close in 1945, knitted comforts were also made for needy children in the liberated countries and distributed by the Red Cross.
The main forms of knitted RAF Comforts were mittens, pullovers (preferably with polo necks), woollen helmets (balaclavas) and gum-boot stockings (of oiled wool). Other items such as ordinary socks and gloves were knitted in smaller quantities as required by the RAF and only to supplement regulation uniform issues. The official colour was a grey/blue but by 1941 there was a shortage of wool as it was required in ever increasing quantities and so wool of many shades of blue and sometimes other colours were supplied for the knitted comforts. The RAF had issued a standard book containing instructions for knitting parties with approved patterns.This badge issued by the RAF Comforts Committee was given free to each registered local knitting party but only the first badge (usually the party leader), additional badges required were supplied according to the amount of work done by an individual and at the cost of 1/- (one shilling) each, accompanied by the certificate. All this would have been monitored by the Comforts Committee.
Barbara Longley knitted for the Comforts Committee as a child:
I used to knit for the Royal Air Force Comforts Committee. They’d send 2lb of wool, from Berkeley Square in London, with a pattern book to make pullovers, scarves, helmets, gloves and socks. When I’d knitted the garments I used to send them to London and back would come another 2lb of wool. I’ve still got my RAF Comforts badge and personal message from Marshall of the RAF.
There were a plethora of charitable women’s groups involved in war work during the Second World War. Whilst the best known and certainly the largest was the Women’s Voluntary Service many other groups existed, often based around an existing faith organisation. One of these groups was the Catholic Women’s League that had been founded in 1906 and had operated canteens, provided catholic nurses and worked with refugees. During the Second World War this charitable work continued and a special enamelled badge was issued to members who had contributed their time and energy:As can be seen this badge is small and circular with the letter ‘CWL’ for Catholic Women’s League in the centre beneath a stylised dove. Around the edge it reads ‘For War Service at Home’. The rear of the batch has a simple pin fastening:The Catholic Women’s League is still proud of the work its members did during the Second World War and this descrition of that service comes from one of their official leaflets:
With the outbreak of World War Two, the work of the League continued in canteens both at home and abroad. A Mass Hut was opened at Harrogate, with all the furnishings provided by the League.
Members went into uniform, under the auspices of the Council for Voluntary Welfare Work (CVWW), in the Far East, Middle East, Europe and Iceland. The Rome Club, in the grounds of the Old Scots College, was visited frequently by Pope Pius XII.
In the UK this canteen and recreation hall was run by the League at St Peter’s Hall in Westminster in 1939 with soldiers relaxing beneath a large shrine to the Virgin Mary:The league also worked abroad as seen below with one of the League’s mobile canteens in service at Geldrop, Holland:
On the 16th December 1914 the Great War truly reached the shores of great Britain when three English seaside towns, Whitby, Scarborough and Hartlepool, were bombarded by the naval guns of the German high Seas Fleet. Although by later standards the bombardment was relatively minor, the fact that 137 people were killed and 592 injured brought shock and anger to the country, who had not expected civilians to be in danger on their own soil.
Hartlepool was the most significant target hit, due to its extensive docks and factories and the town was defended by three BL 6 inch Mk VII naval guns on the seafront: two at Heugh Battery and one at Lighthouse Battery. The guns were manned by 11 officers and 155 local men of the Durham Royal Garrison Artillery. They were warned at 04:30 of the possibility of an attack and issued live ammunition. At 07:46, they received word that large ships had been sighted and, at 08:10, a bombardment of the town began. The batteries remained confused by the approaching ships until shells began to fall. Two shore guns fired at the leading ship, while the third fired at the last, smaller, vessel. The gunners were hampered by a rising cloud of smoke and dust around them, affecting visibility. They found their shells had no effect on the armoured sides of the ships, so instead aimed at masts and rigging. The accuracy of the third gun was sufficient to oblige Blücher to move behind the lighthouse to prevent further hits. Two of her 6-inch guns were disabled, while the ship’s bridge and another 8 in gun was damaged. The Hartlepool attack killed 86 civilians and injured 424. Seven soldiers were killed and 14 injured. 1,150 shells were fired at the town, striking targets including the steelworks, gasworks, railways, seven churches and 300 houses. Once again people fled the town by road and attempted to do so by train. Eight German sailors were killed and 12 wounded. At 08:50, the German ships departed.
Tonight’s object commemorates that attack and the soldiers who fought back against it. This enameled badge seems to date from about 1916:It measures about 1 ½” high and the centre of the badge has the Royal Artillery’s Cap badge superimposed on the flag of St George:The dates suggest that the badge itself dates from 1916, two years after the actual incident. Around this central motif is a message ‘Thank Offering to the Hartlepool Hospitals, In Memory of December 16th 1914’. At the top of the badge are the phrases ‘Ye did it to mine, ye did it to me’:The back of the badge had a pin fastening, but this is now broken off:This little badge is a reminder of a traumatic incident at the start of the Great War that helped shape the attitudes of those in the country to the war.