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.
Whale Island is the oldest shore training establishment in the Royal Navy, located in Portsmouth Harbour. Whale Island is predominantly reclaimed land, material dredged from the harbour being used for its construction. Large numbers of Napoleonic prisoners helped in its construction and it was well established as a base by the end of the nineteenth century. Whale Island was connected to nearby Portsea Island sometime before 1898 by a footbridge. This footbridge is the subject of tonight’s postcard:This photograph seems to have been taken between the wars and depicts the guardhouse on the Island:This guardhouse was pulled down and replaced in the 1970s. The footbridge can be seen to the left of the postcard:With a sentry box and armed sailor on guard:In the distance can be seen the mainland:This wooden footbridge was replaced by a road bridge around the time of the Second World War and this is still in use today. Rear Admiral Gordon Campbell VC describes the guardhouse in his book “Life of a Q-Ship Captain”:
Whale Island is the actual island on which the gunnery establishments are built, and where a large number of officers and men are accommodated. It is connected to the mainland by a small bridge, alongside of which is a guard-house manned by bluejackets, where the usual guard duties are carried out.
RH Nicklin was stationed at Whale Island during the Second World War:
Whale Island is only accessible by a bridge and various jobs are allocated to the ship’s company, one that I liked very much was guard duty mostly on the bridge entrance and in the guard house at the opposite end of the bridge, but there was also guard duties on other parts of the Island especially at nights, this was to make sure that no one could make a landing of sorts. Every guard was armed and issued with live ammunition and knew how to use it after having lots of practice on the rifle range, but the guard on the bridge was my second best job night or day, your duty was to stop everyone entering the island ask for a pass and search all vehicles, when satisfied ring the guardhouse by phone to let them know that you had passed someone so that they would be ready to receive them, then the P.O. on duty would ask them their business and either let them through or send them back and then it was the guards duty to see they cleared the area.
I am hoping some of our regular readers can help with a positive identification of tonight’s object. This is a naval detonator’s tin, made of sheet metal and painted red:It turned up for £1 at the Yorkshire Wartime Experience and at that price I took a punt on it! Inside is a metal grid with holes in it for the individual detonators:A paper label is pasted onto the sides:From this we can see that it is naval in origin, via the ‘N’ stores code, and that it dates from 1982. The base of the tin has a circular strengthening piece stamped into it:In the centre is a maker’s stamp for ‘B&SB’:What I have not been able to discover is exactly what this tin was manufactured for, or what the individual detonators were used with. If anyone can help with an identification, please comment below…
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.
We continue our review of wartime Royal Naval ratings’ uniform with the ‘bell-bottom’ trousers. These were so named due to the trouser legs flaring out to a great width at the cuff, with a width at the knee of 12-13in and a width at the ankle of 12-14in:This great width allowed the trousers to be easily rolled up to allow work such as scrubbing decks, where they were rolled past the knees to protect them from water. This pair of trousers is made of dark blue serge and has a blue and white striped lining at the waist, indicating they date to after 1932:Note the owner’s name stencilled on with white paint. The striped shirting material was replaced by unbleached calico in June 1943. The waist of the trousers had a complicated series of flaps. With all the flaps open the full extent of the lining can be seen:The first layer were two flaps that came in and fastened together on the front of the trousers, these included a small pocket for the wearer to store a watch or pocket handkerchief:These were then covered with a second fall flap that folded up and down. This was secured with four black buttons at the waistline:Buttons were fitted for braces, but sailors liked to wear their trousers so tightly cut that they were usually unnecessary and could often be removed by the owner as in this case. Sailors were issued with three pairs of serge trousers, kept rolled up in their kitbag. They were turned inside out to prevent fluff from appearing on the outside and folded into a rectangular block horizontally at about a hand’s width. This gave rise to the distinctive inverted creases down the sides of the leg, which having started as a practical measure, soon acquired a sartorial significance. Creases were ironed in with either five or seven depending on the length of the wearer’s leg.
This week we return to the pre-World War One Royal Navy and another fine postcard, this time of the Cressy class armoured cruiser, HMS Sutlej:Sutlej was designed to displace 12,000 long tons (12,000 t). The ship had an overall length of 472 feet (143.9 m), a beam of 69 feet 9 inches (21.3 m) and a deep draught of 26 feet 9 inches (8.2 m). She was powered by two 4-cylinder triple-expansion steam engines, each driving one shaft, which produced a total of 21,000 indicated horsepower (15,660 kW) and gave a maximum speed of 21 knots (39 km/h; 24 mph). The engines were powered by 30 Belleville boilers with four thin and elegant funnels:On their sea trials all of the Cressy-class cruisers, except the lead ship, exceeded their designed speed. She carried a maximum of 1,600 long tons (1,600 t) of coal and her complement ranged from 725 to 760 officers and enlisted men.
Her main armament consisted of two breech-loading (BL) 9.2-inch (234 mm) Mk X guns in single gun turrets, one each fore and aft of the superstructure. They fired 380-pound (170 kg) shells to a range of 15,500 yards (14,200 m). Her secondary armament of twelve BL 6-inch Mk VII guns was arranged in casemates amidships.Eight of these were mounted on the main deck and were only usable in calm weather. They had a maximum range of approximately 12,200 yards (11,200 m) with their 100-pound (45 kg) shells. A dozen quick-firing (QF) 12-pounder 12 cwt guns were fitted for defence against torpedo boats, eight on casemates on the upper deck and four in the superstructure. The ship also carried three 3-pounder Hotchkiss guns and two submerged 18-inch torpedo tubes.
The ship’s waterline armour belt had a maximum thickness of 6 inches (152 mm) and was closed off by 5-inch (127 mm) transverse bulkheads. The armour of the gun turrets and their barbettes was 6 inches thick while the casemate armour was 5 inches thick. The protective deck armour ranged in thickness from 1–3 inches (25–76 mm) and the conning tower was protected by 12 inches (305 mm) of armour.
Sutlej, named to commemorate two battles on the Sutlej River during the First Anglo-Sikh War, was laid down by John Brown & Company at their shipyard in Clydebank on 15 August 1898 and launched on 18 November 1899. She was commissioned at Chatham on 6 May 1902 by Captain Paul Bush, to take the place of the HMS Diadem in the Channel Squadron, which she joined in late July after steam trials. She took part in the fleet review held at Spithead on 16 August 1902 for the coronation of King Edward VII. She was later re-assigned to the China Station and remained there until May 1906 when she became a boys’ training ship in the North America and West Indies Station. The ship returned home in 1909 and became flagship of the reserve Third Fleet until 1910. Whilst on manoeuvers off Berehaven, Ireland on 15 July, she had a boiler explosion that killed four men.
A few days after the start of the war, Sutlej was assigned to the 9th Cruiser Squadron (CS) for convoy escort duties off the French and Iberian coasts. She was transferred to 11th CS in Ireland in February 1915 for similar duties. Sent to the Azores in February 1916 and rejoined the 9th CS in September. She was paid off at Devonport on 4 May 1917 and became an accommodation ship. In January 1918 she became a depot ship at Rosyth and was renamed Crescent. She reverted to Sutlej in 1919 before she was sold on 9 May 1921 to Thos W Ward and laid up in Belfast. Sutlej arrived at Preston, Lancashire on 15 August 1924 to be broken up.
In 1932 the Admiralty revised the serge jumpers sailors were issued for wear. Up until this point they had received one jumper with cuffs for best, and two without for working dress. In 1932 it was agreed that all three jumpers would have buttoned cuffs and the design of the jumper was improved to make them both smarter and more comfortable. Tonight we have an example of one of these sailor’s jumpers for consideration:This jumper is an example of No1 dress as the rating’s trade badge is in gold wire:On his working dress this stoker would have worn the same badge but embroidered in red. We can date this jumper quite accurately as it has an internal pocket for carry the rating’s paybook:This feature was deleted in 1941 so we can place the date between 1932 and 1941. The jumper has lined and buttoned cuffs and as can be seen this was a convenient place to stamp one’s name:The buttons were deleted in 1943 as an economy measure.
In the 1930s the Admiralty had experimented with jumpers which had a zip up the front to make them easier to get on and off. It was felt that a zipper would not be robust enough to stand up to prolonged service life, and it was pointed out that many of the difficulties sailors experienced with the jumpers were their own fault as it was fashionable to have the jumper cut as tight as possible! Zippers would finally be introduced in 1956.
The jumper has a large collar at the back of the neck, over which the blue jean collar would be worn:This example is manufactured out of two layers of serge fabric. This was reduced to a single layer with a dungaree binding in the spring of 1942.
This is just a brief account of a few of the many changes the uniform went through during the war and I heartily recommend Martin Brayley’s book “Royal Navy Uniforms 1930-1945” for those wishing to explore this subject in greater detail.