Category Archives: Royal Navy

Royal Navy Boot Brush (Part 2)

Last year we looked at an example of a Royal Navy boot brush here. Last week I was lucky enough to find another example of these brushes:imageThis example is a little smaller than the previous brush, but allows me to make up a nice pair:imageLike all these brushes, this one is dated, here it is 1919:imageAnd to show it is Royal Navy owned, it is stamped with an abbreviation for ‘Admiralty’:imageIt is this stamp that has warranted a post on a subject we have ostensibly already covered. Here the boot is marked as ‘ADMY’, the previous example was marked ‘ADLY’:imageQuite why this variation in marking exists is a little puzzling as one would suspect that the stamp for ownership was already made up, rather than being made of individual letters. That being the case the abbreviation should be standardised, but it is not. I wonder if the marking is dependent on which naval institution took delivery of the stores and marked them up. Whilst of no great significance I thought this was an interesting variation that might be of interest to some- all Royal Navy boot brushes are hard to find so it is instructive to have a pair to contrast.


1980’s Royal Navy Men’s Rain Coat

Whilst my father has retained all his uniform and papers from his time as an officer in the RNR in the 1980s, he has only gifted a very small number of items to my collection but one of them is this example of a man’s Royal Navy raincoat:imageThis is a dark blue single breasted overcoat of a design first introduced in 1986. Up until that point there had been separate coats for officers and men, but this design was a universal pattern to be used by all. Unlike foul weather jackets for use at sea, this rain coat was for wear ashore and was a smarter form of outer wear for inclement weather. Identical coats but in a dark green colour were produced for the Royal Marines. The coat secures with a row of buttons up the front, concealed under a fly. A pair of pockets are fitted, one to each side of the lower portion of the garment:imageThese are unusual in that they are just slits, allowing access to the inside of the coat and the trousers beneath. A pocket is included, but it is an open design and is not attached completely to the opening:imageThe jacket has a typical 1980s RN stores label with details of sizing and NSN number:imageMy father was promoted from Sub Lieutenant to Lieutenant in this period and made the alteration by blocking out the ‘S’ part of his rank. His service number indicates he was nominally attached to Chatham naval base before it closed- I do not believe he ever actually went there when it was operational though and this would have been merely an administrative attachment rather than anything with a greater significance.

I will be honest and say that I have struggled to find much substantive written about this type of raincoat and if anyone can help with more information please leave comments below.

1970’s Royal Navy ‘Steaming Bats’

Work boots in the Royal Navy have long been called ‘steaming bats’ or just ‘bats’. I have struggled to find the exact origin of this name, but like much Jackspeak it has been passed down through generations and although the patterns of the boots themselves might change, the name does not. Steaming Bats are a very particular type of footwear, regardless of exact pattern, and all share a steel toecap for safety and good grips for use on wet decks. Modern designs are fairly utilitarian work boots, but the earlier models from the 1970s could be polished up to make a passable set of parade boots as well and it is a pair of these steaming bats we are looking at tonight:imageThe boots are a well-made, ankle high design with a chunky rubber sole:imageA /|\ ownership mark is stamped into the leather on each side of the boot:imageThere are no toe caps on these boots, but there is steel under the leather to prevent crushing injuries, as can be seen the leather is nice and smooth so holds polish well:imageOften though these boots were unpolished and quickly bleached from sun and the salt in seawater. It was also common to write one’s name across the back in Tippex. The most distinctive feature of these boots is the intricate sole, made up of a ring pattern for grip:imageNote also the red warning label printed on the base saying ‘Electrically Conductive’:imageThe size is moulded into the sole and is also stamped on the inside of the boot, along with the date which is here a size 7 from 1977:imageSteaming bats were a popular choice for many sailors who spent most of their working lives wearing them, one slightly disturbing use for them is recounted by an old salt:

I knew a submariner who used to get seasick on them (I believe it was while it was on the surface) and whilst he was in his cot, if he was sick, used to throw up in his steaming bats. He said that it was a lot quicker and easier to clean his bats than the floor.

HMS Seahawk Fiftieth Anniversary Mug

A few weeks ago we looked at a commemorative mug from HMS Ark Royal. At the same time I picked that up, I also bought this example commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of HMS Seahawk at Culdrose in Cornwall:imageThe mug depicts the ship’s badge along with the dates 1947 and 1997:imageRNAS Culdrose, also known as HMS Seahawk was and indeed still is one of the biggest employers in this part of Cornwall and has an essential part to play in the local economy, even down to such mundane things as getting the orders to produce these commemorative mugs:imageThe Golden Jubilee celebrations were clearly a source of great pride to the base and the local area, the March 1997 issue of the Navy News reported:

RN Air Station Culdrose is planning a host of events to celebrate its Golden Jubilee this year.

HMS Seahawk, to use its other name, opened on April 17 1947, when a Fairey Firefly made the first official landing.

Today the air station is the largest helicopter base in Western Europe, but plans are afoot to capture the spirit of its early days.

On April 17th an exhibition of historic photographs will be opened by the Commanding Officer, Commodore Simon Thornewill, followed by a fly past by Culdrose’s modern aircraft.

On the same day, a Buccaneer, will be flown into the air station by a Chinook helicopter where it will remain on display.

And on July 25 a special ‘veteran’s day’ will be held for all ex-Seahawk personnel and their families when more than a dozen historic aircraft will be on display.

Two of the veterans who visited on that day in 1997 were twins Malcolme and Alf Jones who had been the two escorts for the colour on the initial parade in 1950 when the base was given the freedom of the old Helston Borough nearby:YOC_3_263edThe base has now been open for over seventy years and I am sure big plans will be made to celebrate the 75th anniversary of its opening in a few years’ time- no doubt commemorative mugs will again be produced for that milestone!

HMS Ark Royal Warrant Officers’ and Chief Petty Officers’ Mug

It is common practice for officer and senior rate’s messes to have a selection of commemorative items to give away as gifts to eminent visitors to their establishments. In a naval setting these can take the form of the ship’s badge on a presentation plinth with a commemorative plaque or for less distinguished guests a mug with the ship’s badge on:imageThis example was given out by members of the Warrant Officers and Chief Petty Officers’ Mess on HMS Ark Royal:imageThe original printers mark is on the base of the mug:imageThis would have been part of a small privately purchased run bought out of mess funds, rather than having been procured through official channels. A CPO and WO’s Mess has strict rules of membership, set out in Queen’s Regulations:

  1. Warrant Officers’ and Senior Rates’, and Senior Non Commissioned Officers Messes 1. Every Warrant Officer and Chief Petty Officer is to be a member of a Warrant Officers’ and Chief Petty Officers’ mess or combined Senior Rates’ mess at their place of duty, where such a mess is available. Every Petty Officer is to be a member of a Petty Officers’ mess or combined Senior Rates’ mess at their place of duty, where such a mess is available. In exceptional circumstances Commanding Officers have discretion to exempt WO’s CPO’s and PO’s from mess membership or to allow them to hold membership at an alternative mess, should use of the mess be proved to be impracticable for an individual. Similarly, when a WO, CPO or PO is accommodated in a ship or establishment different from his/her place of duty, and messes exist at both places, consideration should be given to waiving or reducing subscriptions depending on the circumstances, so that the total amount paid by the rating is not excessive. 2. All mess members are to pay monthly mess subscriptions as determined by the mess committee and as stated in the mess rules. When WOs, CPOs and POs are temporarily detached from their normal place of duty, they will become temporary or honorary members of their respective messes at that temporary place of duty. Temporary members are those who are detached from their parent unit for periods of more than 14 days and are to pay subscriptions at their temporary place of duty. For periods up to 14 days, honorary membership is to be granted, with mess subscriptions being paid at the normal place of duty 3. Honorary mess members may be subject to a temporary mess fee charge at their temporary messes and in such circumstance they should expect to pay the same pro rata daily subscription as a full mess member.

Judging by the style of the mug and the printing, I suspect this example was manufactured in the 1980s or 1990s so this would have been the Invincible class carrier:HMS Ark RoyalI have been unable to find a picture of the CPO’s and WO’s Mess on HMS Ark Royal, but this is their Mess on the Type 42 Destroyer HMS Edinburgh which was of the same vintage as Ark Royal and gives a flavour of what the mess would have looked like:standard

Royal Navy Auxiliary Interphone Panel

Regular readers will have probably gathered that I am something of a magpie collector, picking up odd bits that take my fancy even if they do not correspond with much else in my collection! Tonight’s object is just such an example, it doesn’t really have any purpose in my collection beyond the fact that I thought it was rather interesting and it has some fun switches to flick! This then is a Royal Navy auxiliary interphone panel:imageThis was part of a larger telephone console and was used aboard ship to select different internal telephone lines for communication purposes. The front of the panel is painted warship grey and has five three-position switches:imageIn the central position the telephone lines are dead, but by flicking them either up or down different telephone circuits would be activated, a bulb lighting up to indicate they were open lines. A removable black plastic panel is fitted with lettering on it to show where each line was connected to, for example the Operations Room or for when Replenishing at Sea (RAS):imageThe back of the interphone is covered in thousands of different coloured wires:imageThis component has a data label stuck to one side which indicates it was manufactured in 1988:imageWhilst a number of ships were under construction in the late 1980s, it is impossible to say for sure what vessel this panel might have come from as these were designed as an interchangeable module that could be swapped out and replaced with an equivalent as they became unserviceable or due for an upgrade. Amazingly I have been able to find an example of a very similar module in situ, here in a communications room on a Royal Navy warship:imageThe panel can be seen on one side of the large central communications console:imageAs I stated at the start, I am unsure what exactly the point of adding this to my collection was, but I do rather like it and it is very interesting so it’s a nice addition to have.

HMS Barfleur Photograph

This week’s photograph is a nice study of the battle class destroyer HMS Barfleur:SKMBT_C36416120815480_0001The ship’s pennant number, D80, is painted on her hull making identification easy:SKMBT_C36416120815480_0001 - CopyBarfleur was the first commissioned Battle class destroyer and the only ship of her class to see action during the Second World War. She was present in Tokyo Bay when the official Japanese surrender was signed on USS Missouri.

In 1946, Barfleur deployed to the Far East along with the rest of the 19th Destroyer Flotilla, performing a variety of duties, including visiting many ports on ‘fly-the-flag’ visits. Barfleur returned to the United Kingdom with the rest of her flotilla in 1947, and was subsequently placed in Reserve.

In 1953, Barfleur took part in the Fleet Review at Spithead in celebration of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Barfleur was positioned in the middle of the destroyers St. Kitts and Crossbow.

Barfleur also became Captain (D) of the 3rd Destroyer Flotilla, which served in the Mediterranean. While there, Barfleur picked-up survivors from a Handley Page Hastings that had crashed in the region. Upon the completion of her task, Barfleur returned the aeroplane’s crew to Malta. In 1954, Barfleur moved back home but was returned to the Mediterranean the following year.

The destroyer was involved in the Suez War in 1956, taking part in the Allied landings in early November. Barfleur returned home later in the year for the last time to join the Home Fleet.

In 1958, Barfleur was put in Reserve before being placed on the disposal list and broken up at Dalmuir in 1966.

Barfleur’s main armament was two dual 4.5 inch guns on the fo’castle:SKMBT_C36416120815480_0001 - Copy (2)Barfleur was a fast ship, capable of making up to 35.75 knots, and this speed was achieved through her fine lines, with a bow capable of cutting through the water:SKMBT_C36416120815480_0001 - Copy (3)And two steam turbines capable of giving 50,000 shp, venting through a single central funnel:SKMBT_C36416120815480_0001 - Copy (4)Barfleur was home to 268 sailors and one dog, the ship’s mascot Gozo, a Maltese terrier:02Emailv1Gozo considered himself superior to all other pets in the ship; he had his own papers, kit bag, hammock, kit list and a conduct sheet (with many offences written therein) and S264, and many letters and signals of his activities.  His rate was A/B Dog.  He had a Crossing-the-line certificate and also claimed the honour of being the first allied dog in Tokyo.  He met and talked to more than twenty Admirals, lunched with Commodores and taken leave in New Zealand.

His overall length was some 12 inches, his height almost six inches and his displacement some 3-lbs.  The colour scheme was pure white, or at least for almost two minutes after bath time, after which he takes on a real battleship grey for camouflage purposes.