Index
 
Naval Uniform, Kit Upkeep Allowance and Medals etc.

Snippets and Notes from various sources


Ratings Uniform
Changes in Uniform of Petty Officers
Approved Dresses for Ratings : Nos. 1 ; Nos. 2 etc.
Items of Uniform taken out on Temporary Loan on board Ship or issued as and when Required.
Hospital Clothing.
Naval Bandsmen - New Uniform
Civilian Suit Allowance
Medals and Ribands ; Silver war badges ;
Sea Service Chevrons
The "Shotley Medal,"
Officers Uniform
RN Clothing for RFA Personnel

Ratings Uniform

15 Jan 1849 : Good Conduct Badges (GCBs) were introduced for RN personnel. Initially they were issued at 5 yearly intervals (after 5 years, 10 years and 15 years), but in 1860, this was changed to 3, 8 and 13 years, which lasted through to 1946, when the intervals were amended to 4, 8 and 12 years.

Qualifying service for GCBs can generally be reckoned as time over the age of 18, or from date of entry if later.

Initially each badge was worth a 1d. per diem, which was increased to 3d. a day from about 1920, along with the pay review that took place in that year. On 1st July, 1946, the rate per badge was increased to 4d. a day. Although badges are still worn today, badge pay as such disappeared with the major pay review of 1970.

It should, however, be remembered that as well as being granted, men can be deprived of their badges for disciplinary reasons, and restored at a later date subject to VG conduct etc. More detailed rules and regulations for the award and deprivation of these badges can be found in King’s (Queen’s) Regulations and Admiralty Instructions – on-line on this web site.

I have ignored badges for Royal Marines, since prior to 1920, and in some cases afterwards, these were assessed on an entirely different basis.

Uniform for the seamen in the Royal Navy was introduced in 1857. In the dress regulations dated 11 April 1856, it was laid down that marks of distinction were to be worn on the upper part of the left sleeve of jackets.-

  • Chief petty officers, crown and anchor, encircled with laurel ; the laurel being changed to oak in 1879.
  • First-class petty officers, crown and cross anchor ;
  • Second-class petty officers, crown and anchor ;
  • Leading seamen, the anchor.
  • In the main the early uniform appears to have consisted of:
    A loose fitting white duck (canvass) shirt or blue cloth
    Trousers (blue or white) with no pockets, which could be rolled up to the knee.
    A clasp knife probably attached to a lanyard worn around the waist.
    One good blue or white suit suitable for inspections and going ashore with:
    Badges of rank and good conduct on the left arm and
    Proficiency badges, when introduced, on the right arm eg Gunnery and torpedo.
    A black silk under a blue collar
    Boots or shoes were only worn ashore - bare foot being more suitable aloft, but perhaps not so in the engine or boiler rooms, although that said, there are photographs of stokers taking a "stand easy," in bare feet.
    The tarpaulin windproof and waterproof jacket was made onboard.

    The sennet/sennit hat, removed from kit lists in 1921, a part of the dress of the sailor when uniform was first established, along with a few other items, probably formed a part of the sailor’s irregular uniform for many years prior to 1857, and it or something very similar, was probably associated with the Napoleonic wars. The hat was to be black in home waters, and white when serving in the tropics. The black hat, along with the jacket, sometimes known as the "tar" or "tarpaulin," was abolished in 1891. The white hat or "straw" aka sennet, when out-of-shape, could be stiffened by being painted or moistened with a solution of gelatine, and set to dry on a hat-block.

    The round blue jacket, also sometimes known as the "bluejacket," which formed a part of the 1857 uniform, was also abolished circa 1891, being replaced by the blue jumper.

    Initially the uniform appears to have been a little casual, as "jolly jack" added his own ideas as to what he thought looked smart, but over the years following further changes and developments were to take place, which left less room for personal interpretation. An indication of this can be seen in the various updates included on this web site:

    1877 RN Uniform Regulations
    1879 RN Uniform Regulations Ratings - Officers
    1885 RN Uniform Regulations - Officers
    1890 RN Uniform Regulations
    1896 Notes on Officers' Dress
    1897 RN Uniform Regulations

    In 1873 Chief Petty Officer (CPO) were authorised to wear gilt buttons on their uniform jackets, having previously worn black horn buttons.

    30 Sept 1890 Uniform Regulations were issued that divided the sailor’s uniform into three separate classes, to be known as Class I, II, III rigs:-

    Class I or "Fore and Aft" uniform with brass buttons: peaked cap and jacket, worn by CPOs from 1879, to which were added confirmed POs with 4 years’ seniority in 1920, which was revised to one years’ seniority circa 1924-5. Prior to 1920 the CPO wore the cap badge that was to be used by the PO - see below for CPOs.

    Class II uniform or "Square Rig": round hat and bell bottomed trousers worn by seamen and stokers up to and including the rating of 1st Class POs, who wore the sailor's "square" rig until 1920 (see Class I). Introduced in 1956, and compulsory from 1960, all men, except artificer apprentices, who wore class III uniform prior to 1956 were also to wear Square rig, with square rig being issued to all new entries.

    Class III or "Fore and Aft" uniform with black horn buttons : peaked cap and jacket, with normal trousers (crease down the front), worn by daymen such as writers, sick berth ratings, regulating staff or ship’s police, cooks, stewards and domestics, and later by stores and victualling personnel. This uniform disappeared, apart from artificer apprentices, on 1 Jan 1960.

    In 1888 Torpedomen were authorised to wear distinguishing badges.

    In 1891 The Tarpaulin hat and blue jacket were abolished.

    In 1904-06, Lord Fisher introduced a number of concessions, simplifying the uniform, reducing the value of the compulsory kit from £9 5s. to £6 15s. a year. A pundit at the time estimated that this saved the men in the fleet some £40,000 a year. In addition, every seaman and stoker, on joining a new ship, became entitled to two free hat ribbons, or cap tallies, although they were required to pay for replacements.

    Prior to December 1912, naval ratings, on entry into the Service, received only a gratuity towards the expense of his clothing and bedding, which is reported on the man’s service record as C.G. & B.G. paid (date) : rather than a precise date, the quarter in which it was paid will often be shown.

    In December 1912 a free uniform was granted to all ratings on joining the service, but men remained responsible for providing replacements and maintaining it in a reasonable condition.

    With this in mind, there had long been a tradition that an afternoon each week, often a Wednesday, was granted to off-duty men, which was known as a "Make and Mend," i.e. a period when they could spend time making, mending and washing their uniform and bedding etc. Not forgetting, of course, that a man was paid for a 7 day working week, and whilst leave could be granted it was never an entitlement.

    With a view to keeping costs down and earning a few extra coppers, some men invested in a sewing machine to make uniforms for others. It is apparent that this tradition continued at least into the 1920s, when the Admiralty complained in a Fleet Order that men were arriving ashore in RN Barracks from ships with uniforms that failed to match the criteria laid down in the Uniform Regulations, and commanding officers were requested to communicate the revised information to men making uniforms. Similarly other men would specialise in cutting hair etc.

    In view of the space required and length of drying time, set times were also set aside for the washing, or rather "dhobeying," as it was termed, of bedding, especially hammocks, and occasionally photos can be seen where these items can be seen hanging from washing lines rigged between the masts.

    In 1917 a kit-upkeep allowance was granted as follows :
    £7 a year for chief petty officers, (Class I)
    £5 10s. for men dressed as seamen, (Class II)
    £6 for men not dressed as seamen. (Class III)

    Kit upkeep allowance (KUA) was credited to each man's pay account. It being argued that if a man could maintain his uniform on less than he received it would act as an incentive to him to be as economical and careful as possible in the wear of his clothes.

    During the Great War the cost of clothing was fixed, but on 1 Jan 1920, the Admiralty reverted to the pre-war practice of fixing the issuing prices of clothing on the basis of the actual cost to the Government, plus expenses, and increased KUA as follows:

    Chief petty officers, £15 10s. ;
    Men dressed as seamen, £13 ;
    Men not dressed as seamen, £14.

    For those in the † engine-room, electrical and ordnance artificer branches, the rates are:-

    Chief petty officers, £16 14s. ;
    men dressed as seamen, £14 4s. ;
    men not dressed as seamen, £15 4s.

    These rates will be revised from time to time as may be necessary,

    † It was considered that the wear and tear on the clothing of those working in engine-rooms etc., especially on coal-fired ships, warranted a higher rate of KUA.

    In subsequent years, KUA was reduced on a number of occasions, as the cost of clothing to the Government fell e.g. in May 1923, KUA for Chief petty officers was reduced from £13 to £10 10s.

    Over the next few years the following changes in uniform etc. took place :

    Jan 1920 Cholera belts become optional kit for all ratings, and were not in future be issued to new entries.

    Important Changes in Uniform of Petty Officers
    In May 1920 the Admiralty announced that with effect from 1 July 1920 major changes would be introduced in the uniform of the Petty Officers (POs) of the Royal Navy.

    Prior to this date POs dressed as seamen, in what in what was officially known as Class II uniform (with the round hats and no peaks).

    Following this change, and on completing four years' service in the petty officer rating, POs are to wear the Class I uniform, with jackets and peaked caps, as worn by chief petty officers.

    Certain modifications are to be made in the Class I dress:

    1. the cap badge to be worn by POs of all branches is to be the gold badge with a silver anchor, as has hitherto worn by CPOs.
    2. the buttons on the jacket and overcoat will be gilt, as worn by CPOs.

    POs will be paid an outfit gratuity of £16 to assist them to purchase the new uniform

    POs will continue to wear their badges of rating, distinction badges, and good conduct badges on their arms.

    Changes in Uniform of Chief Petty Officers
    Badges denoting their branch are worn on upper part of the lapels of the jacket, distinguishing them from petty officers.

    Cap badges for CPOs after 1 July 1920, will be "a gold crown on a silver anchor, encircled with one row of narrow gold embroidery and by a narrow wreath of laurel in gold."

    Torpedo gunners' mates - Badges
    In Jul 1920 the distinction between torpedo gunners' mates of the lower and higher scales was removed, the badge formerly worn by the higher scale ratings in future being the badge for all torpedo gunners' mates. This badge consists of crossed torpedoes, with star and crown above and star below.

    Seamen's Kit.
    In August 1920 the Admiralty restored the No. 1, serge jumpers, with cuffs and duck uniform jumpers, to the compulsory kits of men dressed as seamen. A free issue being made to all men who have been entered since November 1914. The necessary badges may also be supplied free, or their value credited on the same conditions.

    Seamen's Cap Boxes.
    In Oct 1920 cap boxes were restored to the compulsory kits of seamen, from which they were removed three years previously owing to difficulties in obtaining supplies. A free issue of one cap box is to be made to every man or boy dressed as a seaman whose date of entry is subsequent to 9 March 1917.

    Masters-At-Arms' Uniform
    It was announced in Oct 1920, that Masters-at-Arms were to wear three largo gilt buttons on the cuffs of their frock coats, jackets, and tunics, as at present allowed on the jackets and tunics of chief engine-room artificers, chief electrical artificers etc.

    Blue Waterproofs (The Burberry)
    From Mar 1921 men wearing Class I and III uniforms may wear the blue waterproofs of the pattern formerly worn by officers, but without capes.

    White Woollen Gloves
    From Mar 1921 white woollen gloves shall be added to the optional kit men wearing Class I uniform.

    The Sennet Hat Abolished
    In Mar 1921, the sennet hat or "straw" was abolished as an article of naval uniform. The blue cap is to be worn as directed during the winter months, with a white cover in summer, and on the occasions on which the sennet hat has hitherto been worn: sun helmets are to be supplied to men serving in ships and establishments on foreign stations.

    In more recent years the straw was only worn on ceremonial occasions, such as Sunday divisions (parade), and funerals etc.

    May 1921 Leggings of webbing material will replace flax leggings.
    I suspect that we would probably describe these a gaiters today ?

    Sun Helmets for Foreign Stations.
    Feb 1922 A new sun helmet adapted for their wear in hot climates is to be made available to lower deck personnel. Only ratings dressed as seamen wear cap ribbons on their helmets, other ratings wearing neither ribbon nor puggaree.

    Mentioned in Despatches
    July 1922
    The Admiralty state that a number of Oakleaf Emblems, to be worn on the riband of the Victory Medal, still remain to be issued.

    This emblem, an oak leaf in bronze, was instituted by the King in May 1920, to denote that the wearer had been "mentioned in despatches" and was first issued in October of that year.

    Applications on behalf of those entitled should be address to the Accountant General of the Navy (Medal Branch), Cornwall House, Stamford Street, SE1, stating the date of the London Gazette in which the award of a "mention" was notified.

    Payment for Seamen's Clothing.
    In Oct 1922 a cash payment system is to be introduced for all issues of clothing, soap, and tobacco, or repayment, to officers, men and boys in H.M. Ships and Fleet establishments, excepting trainees serving at Boys' Training establishments and apprentices in Mechanical Training establishments, who will continue to be charged for "slops" † etc, on the ledger.

    † "Slops," is the traditional term used in the RN to describe the place on board ship where men purchased their "slops," in other words clothing and uniform etc. In Napoleonic times "slop" a ship was based at each of the main ports and supplied much of the Admiralty approved materials to pursers, for resale to the ship’s company, which were subsequently charged on their pay accounts and settled when the ship paid-off : apart from trainees this system of payment has now come to an end, with a view to reducing the expense of administration.

    From Nov 1922, men wearing Class III uniform could wear white shirts and collars in place of check shirts and collars.

    In Dec 1922 two pairs of half-boots were to form part of the kit of all naval ratings.

    Duck working jackets etc.
    In May 1923 duck working jackets were removed from the regulation kits of men wearing Class I and III uniform, but could continue to wear them until worn out: drill trousers could be substituted for duck.

    The compulsory kit of direct entries engineroom, and electrical artificers, fifth class, is to include two blue combination suits as hitherto, but a blue combination suit may be substituted for the canvas overall suit in the optional kit if preferred by the men concerned.

    When serving ashore, men dressed as seamen may use suit-cases, provided stowage is available, and on the understanding that they could not be taken on board ship.

    Aug 1923 Following a representation from the 1922 Welfare Conference, the Admiralty have approved the suggestion that one uniform of diagonal serge, may be added to the optional kit of men wearing Class I and III uniform.

    All cooks are entitled to a gratuitous issue of RM pattern sea service boots, to be worn only in the galley.

    Revised Uniform Regulations.
    In Nov 1923 Uniform Regulations were issued containing details of the approved dresses for ratings, and the occasions on which they are to be worn:-

  • No. 1 dress, tartan or diagonal serge suit, with gold badges and medals, is for inspections, musters, ceremonial occasions, and Sundays in harbour (except for signal ratings on duty, who may wear No. 2s).
  • No. 2, As for No. 1, but with medal ribbons, to be worn on leave on weekdays and Sundays at sea, and by dutymen etc. when ship’s company is ordered to wear No. 3s.
  • No. 3 the [rough] serge suit, with red badges, on working days for ordinary duties.
  • No. 4 is "any old, but respectable, serge, tartan, or diagonal serge suit," for night clothing and in wet weather.
  • No. 5 is the serge or drill suit when worn by working parties for the general cleaning of the ship.
  • No. 6 is drill suit with medals: in place of No. 1s, at the discretion of the senior officer, e.g. in hot climates.
  • No. 7 is drill suit with medal ribbons: in place of No. 2s, at the discretion of the senior officer, e.g. in hot climates.
  • No. 8 is light blue shirt, and dark blue trousers, with blue ratings badges ; at action stations ; on working days in lieu of No. 3s ; on shore as an anti-malarial dress, if ordered by the senior officer.
  • No. 9 is blue combination or canvas overalls, for coaling, refitting, or dirty work when better clothing might be spoiled.
  • No. 10 is tropical shirt and shorts, with cap, at the discretion of Commanders-in-Chief on foreign stations when tropical rig is allowed.
  • Higher Rates of KUA
    Since there are insufficient grounds for continuing to pay the higher rates of KUA to electrical and ordnance artificers, engine-room, mechanician, and stoker ratings, under modern conditions, the special rates of KUA authorized for these ratings will be abolished. From 1 April 1924, they will receive the standard rates for men in class I, II, and III uniforms, as appropriate.

    MAA and Chief Shipwrights Uniform
    Feb 1924 Masters-at-Arms and Chief Shipwrights, when wearing white tunics are to display their distinguishing badges on the right cuff, above the centre button.

    Jun 1924 One pair of white lace-up shoes has been added to the optional kit of men wearing No. 6 uniform on foreign stations by men wearing Class I and Class III uniform on board ship, and, if weather permits, on shore, except with landing parties, when black leather boots are to be worn.

    Diagonal Serge - Improved Pattern
    Oct 1924 An improved pattern of diagonal serge (width, 56in.) has been adopted for use in the Navy, and supplies will be available for issue shortly.

    New Ratings' Kit Bags
    Jan 1925 Since kit lockers are now being installed in H.M. ships, replacing the clothes chest previously provided by ratings, men will no longer have a means of transporting their kit between ships. Ratings not in possession of a kit bag may be supplied with one free, and in future one kit bag is to be supplied to each new entry.

    Waistbelt and Knife
    Jan 1925 When available, the waistbelt, fitted with a money pocket and a spring hook attachment for the knife, is to be a compulsory article of kit for all men dressed as seamen.

    The clasp knife is to be a compulsory article of kit for ratings of the seaman branch and is optional for other ratings in Class II dress. The clasp knife is, therefore, to be included in the first entry of kit of seaman branch ratings.

    Leading seamen - Mustering Kits
    Jul 1925 Leading seamen to be given the privilege of mustering their kits in a separate place from Able rates and below.

    Jul 1925 ventilation will be introduced into caps worn by men wearing Class I and III uniforms.

    C.P.O.'S Uniform.
    Sep 1925 In future all chief petty officers are to wear the three large gilt buttons on the cuffs of jackets and white tunics, previously limited to certain branches.

    Blue Combination Suit or Overalls
    Nov 1925 Blue badges of rating, and distinguishing badges, are in future to be worn on the blue combination suit. CPOs will wear their badge on the right cuff.

    The canvas overall suit, as an alternative to the blue combination suit, is deleted from the kit lists. The canvas jacket, as an optional article of kit for stokers, is to be retained.

    One blue combination suit is to be added to the optional kit for stoker ratings.

    One pair of fearnought trousers is to be added to the seamen's compulsory kit,

    1930 Distinguishing badge introduced for Submarine Detection Operators.

    1942 There was a widespread adoption of blue naval serge battle-dress.

    Artificers’ Uniform
    Artificer apprentices below the rate of chief petty officer will wear Class III uniform, with black horn buttons and red cap badges, until they have served one year as petty officer and have been confirmed, when they will be entitled to wear the gilt buttons and the petty officer's gold cap badge. Shipwrights will wear their branch distinguishing badge on the right arm with all dresses until they become chief petty officers.

    1 Jan 1960 Class III uniform only to be worn by artificer apprentices from this date. Junior rates of other branches which previously wore this uniform eg Sick Berth Attendants and the Supply and Secretariat to wear Class II - square rig - following a 4 year transition period which commenced in 1956.

    1970 Fleet Chief Petty Officer introduced.

    1971 Submarine Service badge introduced.

    In 1996 Male and Female ratings were required to wear the same uniform. [no comment !]


    Items of Uniform taken out on Temporary Loan on board Ship or issued as and when Required.
    Jun 1920 New allowances have been fixed for oilskins, sea-boots, duffel and watch-coats, for vessels of various classes.

    Oilskin overall suits, with separate warm linings, introduced during the war, are not much required. Ships may continue draw these items as required, but they will not be replaced when they become exhausted.

    Warm Clothing for the Baltic.
    In Sep 1920 men employed in ships serving in the Baltic during the forthcoming winter are to have a special supply of warm and protective clothing on loan. Each man is to be issued with a Balaclava helmet, extra blanket, comforter, pair of woollen gloves, and 2 pairs of woollen drawers.

    Men wearing class II uniform are to have jerseys and men wearing Classes I and III, cardigan waistcoats. Additional cold-weather clothing such as sheepskin coats and fleece-lined gloves are also to be issued to men working in exposed positions, along with two pair of extra thick stockings to every man who is supplied with sea boots. Russian type felt boots are to be issued for the use of watch-keepers in destroyers.

    Newfoundland - warm clothing
    Sep 1922 Similar cold-weather clothing allowances as to those authorised for ships operating in the Baltic may be issued to those ships operating in Newfoundland waters and to the north.


    Hospital Clothing.
    Sep 1920, Naval ratings who are patients in naval hospitals, may wear their ordinary uniform with a light blue band above the left elbow when granted leave. Inside the hospitals the blue hospital suits are still to be worn, but those of chief petty officers and petty officers will in future have gilt buttons; the suits of other ratings will continue to be fitted with horn buttons.


    Naval Bandsmen - New Uniform
    In Oct 1921 it was announced that a new uniform was being issued to bandsmen of the Royal Navy. It differs from the old one in having a blue band round the cap in place of a red one, a blue collar to the tunic, blue edging to the waistbelt, and blue piping down the trousers. The band furnished to the Renown by the Royal Naval School of Music was the first one to be fitted out with the new uniform.


    The Civilian Suit Allowance

    January 1920, a civilian suit allowance of £2 12s. 6d. (or the issue of a civilian suit in kind), was payable to RN and RM ratings and other ranks (including Royal Marine Labour Corps), being de-mobilised, would cease on 1 April, later extended to the end of the year : perhaps an indication that not all men retained for the war had been released.

    Plain-Clothes Gratuity

    In Aug 1921 it was announced that men leaving the RN would in future be given a grant to assist them in obtaining a suit of plain clothes. The grant, to be known as the Plain-Clothes Gratuity, is £1 2s. 6d. for all ratings, but subject to revision in the event of any change in the cost of civilian clothing. All men may take with them on discharge their uniform, kit and their personal bedding, excluding hammocks and clews etc.

    In Mar 1923 it is reported that the Gratuity had previously been reduced to 19s. 6d. and was to be reduced to 16s. 6d. in view of the lower cost of living.


    Medals and Ribands (Ribbons)
    In Jan 1920, the Admiralty was concerned that manner of wearing medal ribands was frequently being transgressed by many naval ratings and their attention was drawn to the rules laid own in the Uniform Regulations.

    June 1920 clasps and roses for wear with the 1914 Star and riband are now ready for issue to those members of the naval forces who have been awarded the 1914 Star, and who were actually present on duty on shore within range of the enemy's mobile artillery in France or Belgium between August 5, 1914, and midnight, November 22-23, 1914..

    Mentioned in Despatches - Emblem
    In May 1920 it was announced that an oak leaf emblem in bronze, worn on the riband of the Victory medal, was to be introduced for those who were Mentioned in Despatches.
    In October the emblems were ready for issue to entitled former members of the naval forces who have received a certificate to the effect that their names have been published in the London Gazette.
    In July 1922 it was announced that a number of these emblems were still to be issued.

    Medal Ribbon Change – DSC & CGM.
    Jun 1921 To preserve the distinction between the D.S.C. and the C.G.M., when the ribbon only is worn, the ribbon of the latter is to be altered to white with narrow blue edges.

    Naval Clasp to War Medal.
    Jun 1924 the clasp "Falkland Islands, December 8, 1914," being extended to include the officers and men of H.M.S. Canopus, to War Medal.


    Silver war badges
    On Jan 1920 the Admiralty announced that no silver war badges were to be issued to officers and men discharged after December 31, 1919. Details regarding stocks of badges still held were to be reported to the Accountant-General of the Navy.


    Badge for Wounded
    In July 1916 it was announced that a stripe of gold Russia braid, No. 1, two inches in length, may be sewn perpendicularly on the left sleeve of the jacket to mark each occasion on which wounded.


    Sea Service Chevrons
    In May 1918 the Secretary of the Admiralty announced the conditions for the award to members of the Royal Navy and the other marine services of chevrons for service at sea and overseas.

    They will be awarded to denote services overseas, or at sea undertaken since August 4, 1914, and are to be worn in uniform.

    Service overseas and at sea is defined as service at sea in sea-going ships of war, auxiliaries, in defensively armed merchant ships as guns’ crews, and those employed in minesweeping. Officers and men of the late R.N. Air Service who, although serving in the United Kingdom, were liable for service in the air for offensive or defensive purposes, may count such service as qualifying service. Service in kite balloons when embarked in ships will also count.

    The date for the award of the first chevron will be August 5, 1914, in the case of those serving at sea or abroad on that date. In other cases the date on which the individual began or begins qualifying service as defined - for example, an individual who began qualifying service on December 31, 1915, is entitled to his first chevron on that date.

    Additional chevrons are to be awarded as follows:-

    (a) From January 1, 1915, to December 31, 1917, inclusive, on a calendar year basis, that is, one chevron and not more than one for each of the years 1915, 1916, and 1917. The individual must have an aggregate of three months' qualifying service in the calendar year to entitle him to the award for that year.

    1914 Silver Chevron
    The chevrons will be ¼ in. in width, the arms 1¼ in. long. They will be worn inverted on the right forearm. Chevrons for officers will be of silver or gold braid. The first chevron, if earned on or before December 31, 1914, will be silver; if earned on or after January 1, 1915, it will be gold, and all additional chevrons after the first will be gold. The silver chevron will be worn below the gold one. For ratings they will be of worsted embroidery of two colours - red and blue. The first chevron, if carried on or before December 31, 1914, will be red; if earned on or after January 1, 1915 it will be blue; and all additional chevrons after the first will be blue.

    In the case of officers they are to be worn on the blue undress coat only.

    The chevrons are a distinction to be worn on uniform to denote service at sea or overseas since the outbreak of war, and are not to be regarded as being in the nature of a reward. There will, therefore, be no posthumous award to fallen officers or men. The chevrons may be worn in plain clothes by officers and men who have left the Service, but who would, had they remained in the Service, have been entitled to wear them on uniform. In such cases, application for authority to wear the chevrons must be made.

    War Badges Abolished in the Navy.
    24 Nov 1922, since most medals for war service have now been issued, service chevrons, wound stripes, and silver war badges were no longer to be worn in uniform.


    The "Shotley Medal,"
    Jun 1921, discontinued during the war, it has been decided to reintroduce the "Shotley Medal," presented annually to the best boy in the training establishment. Details of past recipients have been lost and Commanding Officers are requested to communicate the names of men under their command who were awarded the medal.


    Officers Uniform

    In 1846 the first uniform was established for engineers, when their buttons had the device of a steam engine instead of the naval crown and anchor worn by officers of the Executive branch.

    In 1856, Midshipmen were to wear the Dirk instead of the Sword.

    In 1856 officers cap badge established with mohair instead of gilt used for cap band.

    In 1860, the curl was added to the gold lace on the sleeve to distinguish officers of the military branch from officers of the civil branches.

    In 1863, the uniform for all grades of engineer was updated, and the engine on the buttons being replaced by the crown and anchor.

    In 1864, distinctive colours between the rows of gold lace were introduced to indicate the branch to which an officer belonged:-

    Military branch: no distinctive colour between rows of gold lace.
    Navigating branch: light blue velvet
    Engineers branch: purple velvet
    Surgeons branch: scarlet
    Paymasters: white.

    2 Jul 1867 the light blue velvet stripes were abolished for the navigating. branch, on its the amalgamation with the military branch.

    In 1867 Chief Warrant Officers were authorised to wear a narrow gold lace stripe.

    1870 naval instructors authorised to wear uniform

    30 Oct 1877 Lieutenants with over 8 years seniority authorised to wear an additional narrow stripe between their two rows of gold lace

    In 1879 the light blue colour was allotted to the naval instructors.

    7 May 1879 Officers, a ship's jacket was introduced with buttons below stripes.

    During the early part of the 20th Century appropriately coloured cloth replaced velvet between officers gold lace on cuffs of jackets etc.

    1914 The rank of Lieutenant Commander formally introduced for those officers wearing 2½ rows of gold lace i.e. previously lieutenants with over 8 years seniority in the rank.

    Circa 1918 Dental officers: orange cloth ;

    In subsequent years:

    Constructors and shipwrights were allocated silver-grey cloth ;

    Wardmasters: maroon cloth

    Electrical officers: dark green cloth

    Armourers or ordnance branch: dark blue cloth.

    Tropical Uniform for Officers
    1885 Officers tunics and helmets with puggarees approved for hot climates (Puggaree = a thin muslin scarf tied round a sun-helmet etc. and shielding the neck.)

    In 1889 The monkey jacket replaced the blue tunic for officers.

    In 1891 Shoulder straps showing officer’s rank were to be worn on great-coats, white mess-undress and white jackets.

    Officers Uniform and Plain Clothes
    In Apr 1920, the Admiralty reminded officers that it is not permissible to wear any article of uniform with plain clothes. And conversely, in Nov 1923, the Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth found it necessary to draw officer’s attention to irregularities in their uniform, having observed the wearing of non-uniform gloves and scarves with greatcoats etc.; laced-up shoes with mess dress; and plain-clothes waistcoats underneath uniform jackets.

    Midshipmen's Sea Chests to be phased out.
    In Apr 1921 lockers were introduced in new ships in lieu of sea chests for midshipmen to stow their clothes. In addition, the prospect of modified chests of drawers for the use of midshipmen, warrant officers, and others not provided with cabins is being considered.

    Watch coat
    Dec 1923 It is announced in the London Gazette that the watch coat for naval officers is to be provided with a 3in. slit for the sword just above the left hip, the slit to be vertical and to have a 2in. welt.

    Badge for Fleet Air Arm Officers.
    Oct 1925. R.N. and R.M. officers attached to the R.A.F. for service in the Fleet Air Arm are wear a badge composed of a silver anchor and cable of silver embroidery surrounded by a laurel wreath of silver embroidery, superimposed on the wings of an albatross in gold embroidery. The badge will be worn by R.N. officers in the centre of the left sleeve, and by R.M. officers on the left forearm.

    Engineer Officers Uniform
    Nov 1925 following the recent changes in the engineering branch officers of this branch are to wear a darker purple stripe than hitherto.

    1955 Coloured cloth between officers' stripes discontinued, except for surgeons and dental officers, but officers permitted to wear out old uniforms.


    RN Clothing for RFA Personnel
    In Jan 1921 the Admiralty authorised the sale of certain clothing from naval stocks to the civilian crews of merchant or other ships employed as fleet auxiliaries when attached to the fleet in foreign waters when necessitated by local conditions and which are provided for issue on board H.M. ships.

    (In memory of Dave Perkins and Brian Cave who gave me so much help and stimulation in producing much of this web site, particularly when it came to early uniforms. As may be noted, they actually provided the photographs, post cards and source material that made much of this section possible.)

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