In 1949 the Royal Navy introduced trade badges for its Chief Petty Officers. Although ratings and petty officers had long worn badges indicating their specialism, CPOs had not. These badges were thin patches that were sewn onto the upper lapels of a CPO’s fore and aft rig. Tonight we are looking at two of the earliest examples of these badges:These are for a Chief Petty Officer Cook and both have a king’s crown on the badge, indicating they were in use between 1949 and 1952 (although they no doubt remained in service for a number of years after. One is in red for wear on everyday work uniforms:The other is in gold wire work, for wear on the best parade uniform:The backs of the badges reveal the complex stitching needed to produce such a complicated design:The Chief Petty Officer Cook is a senior position and he or she would be in charge of the galleys on the very biggest ships or ashore. The badges seen above are still worn today, but only on dress uniform. Most CPO’s Cooks in the Royal Navy wear traditional chef’s whites to work in, with their rank on the shoulders. Here we see the CPO cook of HMS Lancaster wearing chef’s whites with the ship’s badge embroidered on his chest:
I am slowly building up a little collection of 1970s and 1980s pin badges relating to the Royal Navy. My latest find is this one for the Air Sea Rescue role:The helicopter in the centre is a stylised version of a Wessex:The Wessex had replaced the Whirlwind in the Air Sea Rescue role in 1964 for the Royal Navy (the RAF continued using Whirlwinds until the mid 1970s). The Wessex had many advantages over its predecessor. In many ways it was a like a large Whirlwind in that it had a large main cabin suitable for casualty handling with a cockpit separated from and above it. However, it was a much more robust aircraft with a heavy-duty, tail wheel, tricycle undercarriage. It had two powerful Gnome engines with a very good single engine capability. It was significantly faster, it had a much greater lift capacity and an enhanced radius of action. Its only perceived disadvantage was that being heavier it needed to be hovered higher over the sea and was not quite as manoeuvrable as the Whirlwind. Conversely it had a good Auto-Stabilisation Equipment system which made it a stable winching platform and improved its ability for transit in cloud. Its ability to operate in poor visibility and at night was improved by fitting a radar altimeter; however, without a full Auto Pilot system, it was still not designed to be operated over the sea at night. The helicopters were painted yellow for visibility and were used in the Air Sea Rescue role for many decades, being supplemented and then replaced by the more powerful Sea King.
My thanks go to my father for permission to post a small item from his collection tonight. The Royal Naval Association was formed to bring together various old comrades association in 1950. Prior to that date Royal Navy old comrades associations were formed at a local level, acting independently of one another and this little badge is for the Halifax Royal Navy and Royal Marines Association:This is a small enamelled lapel badge, with the white ensign and anchor in the centre and would have been worn on a lounge suit lapel. As with so many of these items it is hard to date exactly, but I would suspect it dates to between the wars.
An attempt had been made to form a National Old Comrades association in the late 1930s, its aims were set out as:
THE AIMS AND OBJECTS OF THE ASSOCIATION
I. To perpetuate the Comradeship which began in the Service.
2. Foster good fellowship.
3. Render Service to one another.
4. Encourage and promote social gatherings amongst ex- Naval personnel.
The Association is non-political,
Obligations of Members:- The only obligation is that every member undertakes to do everything in his power to assist ex- Naval men in obtaining civil employment.
Membership.-Membership of the Association is open to all Officers, N .C. Officers and ratings (past and present) who have been attached for a period of not less than twelve months’ definite duty, lent or gazetted, transferred to or enlisted in the Royal Navy, Royal Naval Air Service, Royal Marines, Royal
Naval Reserve, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, Royal Naval Division and the Dominion and Colonial Naval Forces.
Serving personnel are also eligible to join the Association. Organisation:- The organisation consists of a Central Committee, a Headquarters Roll and Branches. The policy of the Association is to expand Branch development as membership increases. .
Subscriptions :- £ s. d.
Annual Membership .. .. .. 2 /6
Entrance Fee .. .. .. 1 /-
Badge .. .. .. 1/ –
Membership Badge.-The Association Badge is issued on enrolment and is numbered and registered. The Badge is the property of the Association, and is to be returned on recipient ceasing to be a member. If there is no Branch in your district, join the Headquarters Roll and transfer to a Branch later, if you so desire.
Branches: Bucks, Aldershot, Central London, Liverpool, Isle of Thanet, Tower Hamlets (London), Edmonton, Kingston-on- Thames, Dublin, Welling, Kent, St. Helens (Lancs.), Dagenham, Windsor. Further particulars may be obtained from the
Hon. General Secretary, Mr. Thos. Oakley, 16 Tring Road, Wendover, Aylesbury, Bucks.
As can be seen, at this date, Halifax was not affiliated with them. This attempt at a national organisation seems to have stalled when war broke out, it would be 1950 before the present RNA was formed, it is still in operation today with branches across the country.
To modern eyes commemorative souvenirs for diplomatic alliances seem a little odd. However in the First World War there was a steady stream of commemorative items for the alliance between the British and the French, the Entente Cordial. Previously we have looked at a small piece of commemorative china here for the triple entente, and tonight we have a small enamelled pin badge for the Entente Cordiale between Britain and France:This badge not only reflects the partnership between the two countries, as witnessed by the flags, but would also have been popular amongst buyers as a symbol of personal friendship between two people, as the phrase had entered the general population as a popular term for friendship.
Relations between Britain and France had been fractious for many centuries, but with the signing of the Entente Cordiale in 1904 the British went through a phase of Francophilia with popular revues, exhibitions and talks celebrating the link between the two countries.
The Daily Mail published a prescient editorial on the Entente on April 17th 1914:
The British People and the Entente
The French public is right in attaching special significance to the official visit of the King and Queen to Paris next week. It is not merely the return of President Poincaré’s visit to London last year; it is also a direct and emphatic affirmation of the permanence of the Entente. Ten years have passed since the Anglo-French Agreement was concluded, and seven years since the understanding was completed by the Anglo-Russian Agreement. Ministries have changed; new questions have arisen; yet the Entente Cordiale and the Triple Entente remain the solid and abiding guarantee of European peace. Again and again in the immediate past the strength of the tie which unites Great Britain and France has been tested. It has never been found wanting, and three times at least- in 1905, 1908 and 1911- it has prevented the outbreak of European War.
Yet the remarkable letter which eminent French historian M. Lavisse has published in The Times suggests that educated Frenchmen are not altogether happy as to the attitude of the British people. M. Lavisse thinks that he perceives in this country “a dispersion, a pulverisation of public opinion… a sort of apathy, a disinclination to dwell upon unpleasant ideas, to foresee grave events, to entertain anxiety,” and believes that this attitude is weakening British policy on the Continent. Now it is no doubt true that for the moment British opinion is intensely preoccupied with internal questions. But that is a condition which would instantly vanish were any great emergency to arise, and we believe that the energy and unanimity of our people would be just as great tomorrow, in an hour of danger as of old. It would be a very real mistake to interpret our preoccupation, or dispersion of opinion’ as a sign of decadence. Neither morally nor physically is the present generation of Britons inferior to its ancestors…
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.