plus a couple of others of a more general interest

Courtesy of the

Imperial War Museum

All images on this page are copyright of the IWM.

Accompanying text is the result of my research or added by me to the IWM photograph where ambiguity could arise, or is insufficient to fully describe or explain the nature of the IWM photograph. Despite the good and well intended text added by IWM employees, there are some errors although no comments on any typos!


Entertainment on the well deck of a British battleship in WW1

A sailor [or marine]  attempts Houdini escapism in the boxing ring. Note the rig worn by the majority of the ships company present wearing blue suits with collars [i.e., not in night clothing] called No 1's or No 2's, suggesting the vessel is alongside in a harbour  and libertymen or sports parties will be landed. Note those in white duck suits a type of fine jean-cloth [working rig] might be dutymen ready to clear-up decks when the festivities are over! You'd think that, probably?

But no!  Here is that same battleship on the high seas in a battleship squadron, following the ship ahead in line astern.


Note the men relaxing on deck, some laying full length in a sleeping position [for example, just after of port side double-bollards opposite the standing sailor in duck suit and the marine in dark tunic coat and trousers. If you look carefully at the distant ship you will see what appears to be the start of a bow-wave, meaning that the battleship under observation  is leading and not following the distant ship! But, in the navy the fo'c'sle, as far for'ard as possible on a long deck known as '1 deck or the upper-deck', is the recreation space for junior rates of the ships company, and first and second class petty officers As far aft as possible, still on 1 deck, is the quarter deck, the recreation space for the commissioned officers. At varying small deck areas above 1 deck [on say. 01, 02, 03, 04 decks etc, midships] is the recreation space for CPO's and all Warrant officer grades below a "ranker" which is a commissioned warrant officer, while midshipmen and cadets of the gun room relaxed in the waist of the ship, aft of the well deck,  on 1 deck. Note that the heavy guard rails are in place and taught, which if the ship was cleared for action, they would be released [slackened] and lowered so as not to impede gun fire from the main turrets when firing broadsides athwartships, across the narrowest part of the ship. That way the massive recoil does not travel down the fore and aft line of the vessel, but travels port to starboard [or starboard to port] along a short distance only.


This man is a 'warrant officer',  often, on qualification, known as a ' temporary skipper' when employed as the senior member of a small vessel's crew [possibly the one behind him] with one of his crew members. They were members of the RNR. In WW1 and in later periods, the RNR [when serving with the navy in times of hostilities] had 'temporary skippers', 'skippers', 'chief skippers', 'lieutenant skippers' and 'lieutenant commander skippers' : in peace time, the first three types of skippers  usually earned their living at sea in trawlers, tugs, medium sized pleasure cruisers, ferries, coastal trading vessels etc, and when the balloon went up, quite often their small vessels were requisitioned for war service [usually for minesweeping or mine recovery, despatch boats and harbour auxiliaries, and more often than not the crew came with them.  Temporary skippers/ RNR WO's ranked with and messed with [where appropriate] RN warrant officers. Note the big difference between a temporary skipper/RNR WO and a CPO. He wears a four buttoned double breasted tunic coat the same as a naval commissioned officer & RN WO and has three buttons on each cuff but with different cuff designs to that of an ordinary CPO, who has a three buttoned double breasted tunic coat with just two small button on the back of each cuff. In this case the temporary skipper/RNR WO  is wearing war chevrons above his right hand buttons and these denote his war service overseas and sometimes injuries received in service, both the same size but different colours silver or gold: one often sees WRNS officers wearing WW1 chevrons for overseas service. Notice also his cap badge. Not at all like the much smaller CPO's badge [PO's 1st and 2nd class, didn't wear peaked caps so no cap badges]. The cap badge is very similar to an RN WO's cap badge. On promotion to a skipper, he drops the three buttons on each sleeve and dons a " thick  dull-gold laced stripe on each sleeve, the type worn by an RN sub lieutenant but of the wavy-navy pattern and not straight as is the RN stripe, changes his tunic coat to rid it of the special cuffs relevant to a temporary/RNR WO  uniform tunic coat and changes his cap badge. He now lives in the RN wardroom when relevant. On promotion to chief skipper he changes his wavy-navy single laced stripe for a 'bright gold' single laced coloured one. He receives further RNR skipper laced stripes as he progresses up the ladder to lieutenant x2, and then lieutenant commander skipper x2 his highest attainable rank in the RNR.  See this picture of RNR  officers stripes. So, now you should see the bad taste of calling a senior naval RN officer in command of a warship or shore establishment a "skipper" which is really a gross insult, although the expression 'the skipper' is a well used and understood endearment: in the wardroom that name is usually changed to 'father'.

Since all RNR and RNVR officers were called up for naval war service only, they all received and were called such, Temporary Officer status  and sometimes Temporary Acting Rank status  annotations. The man above therefore would be known as a Temporary WO/ Temporary Skipper RNR.

Just to give you an idea from the Navy List of October 1916 starting on page number 517kk,  this is the first page of 42 such pages listing Temporary Skippers.

Preceding the page above in seniority, comes page 512  with just five pages showing the 'skippers'.


In this 1916 Navy List there are no lieutenant or lieutenant commander skippers listed or appointed but the rank was attainable for those suitably qualified. However, it does appear that all RNR lieutenants and separately, lieutenant commanders,  are listed as one group of officers without  differentiating between their specialisations!

Also from a 1914 Navy List page comes this, under the title of 'Uniform Regulations'. Note the top title line but ignore the text in the left hand side.

Just to refresh your memory a warrant officer under 10 years seniority wears three buttons on fluted cuffs - no other badges or symbols -carries a WO sword - and wears a four buttoned commissioned officers jacket instead of a ratings three buttoned tunic coat.  A WO over 10 years is the same except has a " stripe above his three buttons. A cwo [Chief WO] the same except for a " stripe above his three buttons. A commissioned WO [known as a Ranker] wears a sub lieutenant's " stripe and no cuff buttons plus a commissioned officers sword: he can then start climbing the ladder on merit instead of timed advancement and dead mans shoes.


The CO of the battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth [which wasn't at Jutland] Captain Geoffrey  Blake RN, appointed in 1921. He became Vice Admiral Sir Geoffrey Blake KCB DSO - Born in Alverstoke Hampshire. He became the 4th Sea Lord at the Admiralty and at the time of the Battle of Jutland he was the Gunnery Commander in Jellicoe's flagship HMS Iron Duke.

Here he is seen with a departmental group of seven CPO's [Class 1 uniform]  note no cuff buttons but two small back/bottom sleeve buttons as seen on the right cuff of the CPO sitting on the left of the bench, and six petty officer [Class 2 uniform] -. In those far off days, the only difference between 1st and 2nd class petty officers was their badge worn in the middle of their left arms. A 1st class PO wore two  crossed anchors with a crown above,  whereas a 2nd class PO wore a single anchor above which was a crown, the symbol known as a 'killick' which means a single anchor.  Both wore a sailors suit [Class 2 uniform] with bell bottoms and a round cap with a cap tally on which was embroidered in rayon thread [working caps] or with gold wire best ceremonial caps] the ships name. That rig was called square rig because of the shape of the blue jean collar hanging over the mans shoulders/middle upper back. For those groups wearing  a peak cap, jacket and trousers, collar and tie, three  of them at this time expanding to four  between the wars, namely commissioned officers, warrant officers and CPO's,  the rig was called 'fore and aft' rig referring to the rig of specific sailing vessels of yore. The fourth group I have mentioned were junior rates [Class 3 uniform]  of the supply and secretarial branches known as S&S [cooks, officers cooks, stewards, stores, victualling and writers], sickbay junior rates and coders whether those working with the school masters in which case they wore the letter 'E' = Education on their tunic coat's, or cypher coders working with the communications branch, wearing the letter 'S' = Special. Now we had two types of ratings wearing the letter 'S' on their tunic coats, one meaning Stores and the other Special. All S&S branch ratings wear a famous naval star* in which their  sub-branch letter is centred but coders, E and S have their single letter as part of a an open book as follows, with the


the special also having a flash of lightening. However in WW1 the following ratings wore Class 3 uniforms

Class III uniforms were also worn by Coders. Coders were new comers, introduced into the navy as national servicemen post WW2, commensurate with the start of the Cold War in the late 1940's. Two types Coders 'S' and Coder 'E' both of whom could be called upon to be school masters for ratings educational training when necessary. However the Coder 'S' was either deployed in the wireless offices of ships engaged on codes and cyphers, or afloat/ashore using his knowledge of Russian, spoken or in Morse code in their case using the Cyrillic alphabet. Their job was to gather information on the ramifications of the cold war and to assess information gathered and present it to the command. Coders never served as regular navy personnel and in 1960, when national service ceased, they too ceased. After them came a new naval branch called TELEGRAPHIST SPECIAL chosen from the telegraphist branch [in some cases from Coder 'S' who had signed on for full career service],  and from them developed the new linguists and competence in a very difficult Russian type of Morse Code. The Tel 'S' often served at sea in his own office with his own specialist equipment. He was a professional akin to a trained Coder 'S', but he  started a branch with full promotion prospects for a full naval career. The Branch was formally formed under AFO 2411/59 and operated from  RAF Tangmere [near Chichester in West Suffolk].   At one time in the navy, we had a Chief Radio Supervisor [CRS] for telegraphists; a CRS [W] for electronic warfare; a CRS [S] as explained and a CRS [SM] for submarine service. Aditionally we had a Telegraphist parachute branch and a Telegraphist [Flying/FAA] Branch.

above taken from January 1914 Navy List.

*Stars on naval uniforms are relatively new dating from the late 19th century.  At that time it was decided to use a symbol with a nautical connotation, and the one chosen was the original nautical compass rose used by the Romans.  They used 12-points to 'box their compass'  as we today 'box the compass' using 32-points or higher depending upon the degree of accuracy required. If you study a naval ratings star more carefully,

you will note that from the centre point, the inner circle, there are twelve lines drawn out to fixed points on the outside of the star. The vertical lines point to NORTH and SOUTH respectively while the horizontal lines point to EAST and WEST respectively. The other lines,  moving from NORTH clockwise, are each at 30 distance from the preceding point and thus overall, the rose covers 000, 030, 060, 090, 120, 150, 180, 210, 240, 270, 300, 330.

For some inexplicable reason, the vast majority of naval ratings were never taught this and yet it is clearly documented in naval archives. Now you know !


Admiral Sir David Beatty and the CO, Captain Ernie Chatfield of the battleship HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH on its bridge with other officers in WW1, on the day Germany surrendered. The Queen Elizabeth missed the Jutland Battle because she was in dry dock undergoing maintenance. She  survived the war and was sold for scrapping in 1948. Beatty went on to become an admiral of the fleet and so did Chatfield who at this time was three ranks below Beatty.

Beatty himself chose the Queen Elizabeth as his flag ship because she was one of the fastest ships in the fleet and could arrive at any rendezvous or point of combat more speedily than most ships could. He established two precedents. one being the youngest ever admiral of the fleet, and two, that he was the longest serving 1st Sea Lord. He served as a pall-bearer [note, not coffin-bearer] at the funeral of his Jutland boss, Lord Jellicoe in 1935, he himself dying in 1936. Chatfield died many years latter at the end of 1967, the end of era without precedent.

The ceremonial unveiling of the Guards Memorial on the St James' Park side [west side of Horse Guards Parade] central London. The text on the IWM site associated with this picture  runs entirely contrary to that of other records of the event,  so here is what appears to have happened. Before we do that, it is only fair to say that this IWM page shows the Memorial is a much better light and should be visited to achieve a fair balance https://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/11359

The event took place on Saturday the 16th October 1926, unveiled by HRH Prince Arthur the 3rd son of Queen Victoria and brother of Edward VII,  who was a field marshal in the British Army during WW1: Princess Elizabeth was just a few months old being born in April 1926.  This is a quote from Wikipedia's site on the subject matter.  The Prince "accompanied by the 100-year-old veteran of the Crimean War General Sir George Higginson, with a dedication by Rev. H. J. Fleming, who became senior chaplain of the Guards Division when it was formed in 1915, and a benediction by the Chaplain-General to the Forces, Rev. Alfred Jarvis, and a march-past by 15,000 serving and former guardsmen. The memorial suffered bomb damage in the Second World War, and some was left unrepaired as "honourable scars.". 

As one can see from the picture above Beefeaters also attended the ceremony

as did many members of the Royal Family including the Prince of Wales.

At the unveiling the two union flags, one covering the front and one the back of the Memorial collapsed to reveal the beautiful shrine.

Most of us will know about the Victoria Cross and that it was made from the bronze in melted down Chinese  guns at least from 1914, and not, as originally thought, from Russia guns engaged in the Crimean War in the mid-19th century. Here is another case of melted down enemy guns to salvage the bronze element, for the bronze name plates on the Guards Memorial come from German captured guns in WW1.

This very small page also should be read, especially the note on an old post card at the bottom


HMS St Angelo Grand Harbour Valletta Malta looking into Dockyard Creek and part of the famous Three Cities in the background with the busy dockyard top right. In 1942 and the mighty walls of the fort were reduced to rubble by almost continuous aerial bombing by the German Luftwaffe and the Italian Regia Aeronaurica.  Note the quay under the curtain wall has been totally destroyed with the flotsam floating in the Creek which led around to the Stores Depot. Note how the sailors negotiate a thoroughfare by staying very close to the bottom of the curtain wall when immediately opposite  the damaged vessel.

1955 and HMS Wakeful arrives Malta towing an American a USAF Grumman aircraft which appears to be serviceable and in fine fettle. However,


November 1952 and C-in-C Mediterranean's Yacht HMS Surprise passes Grand Harbour's breakwater carrying the outgoing C-in-C Admiral Sir John Edelsten [1950-1952]. He was replaced by Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten  [1952-1955]. In the background is HMS [Fort]  Ricasoli and beyond it the aerial-farm used by RNWT Transmitting Station Rinella. Over to the extreme right is Bighi Bay. HMS Surprise was heading back to the UK taking Sir John with it and leaving the new C-in-C without a flagship*. The reason, she was to be prepared at Portsmouth as the Royal Yacht for HM Queen Elizabeth II Coronation in June 1953 and this required many modifications including taking her main armaments out of the ship and replacing it with a splendid viewing gallery for HM. She returned to the Mediterranean in the summer of 1953 to resume her duties as C-in-C's Yacht and participant in fleet exercises.

*During Surprise's absence from the Mediterranean Station Lord Louis used the cruiser HMS Glasgow in which to fly his flag. He was the first flag officer to be air lifted out of a flag ship,  and on this first occasion to return to his office in Malta, instead of using the normal admirals barge for a waterborne transfer. His air transport was a Sikorsky Whirlwind helicopter and he was winched into it from the deck of the Glasgow.

1942. Lonely Malta the most bombed heavily populated small island in the world, then and since.

The first reserve officers to be appointed to command British submarines. 

Cambletown Scotland

 Lieut Commander Frederick Sherwood, DSC, RCNVR, of Ottawa, first "VR" officer to be given command of a submarine (P 556), with Lieut Edward Young, DSC, RNVR, 29 year-old London Publisher, second to be given a similar command.

Next a story about the exploits of Lt R G P Bulkeley RN as the CO of a very busy submarine called HMS Statesman operating mainly in the Indian Ocean based on Trincomalee in WW2.  Her logs are of course explicit and comprehensive but parts are missing, or photographs wrongly categorised which are said to be of Statesman's crew members and well might be but wrongly dated with an incorrect story applied! That the Statesman had several sick people aboard over time is not in doubt, and the first entry in on the 9th July 1944 when two crew members were landed on a diversion to Karachi reported as being very unwell. Statesman sailed on her patrol without them. This picture above also claims that these two RNVR officers were operated on for acute appendicitis whilst  at sea in the Indian Ocean. It seems unlikely that the stated medical procedures were performed in a tiny 'S' Boat which didn't at all carry a medical man whether at sea or not, and it is strange to note that the picture is dated 10th November 1944. According to her war log she sailed from Trincomalee on this date for a new war patrol. What is factually shown in the log is that the first lieutenant of the boat Temporary Lt R F N Strouts RNVR was transferred in rough weather at sea to the Australian destroyer Quickmatch on the 2nd October 1944 in which he was immediately operated upon for acute appendicitis and his life saved. As far as I know, there was only one major surgical procedure [a gangrenous appendix]  carried out on a submarine at sea on a war patrol and that was in a USN Boat carried out by  a 1st Class Pharmacy Mate, a CPO who had witnessed this operation and had even assisted a surgeon in doing one or two [no doctor aboard] which was totally successful  the patient soon returning to duty. So beware of even the ultimate picture library [IWM] that's why I am adding my own commentary! The names of the officers shown are not known.

Is that a scuttle I spy? Wrens at sea?  Well, possibly!, but in the mean time, they are working in 1942 aboard the submarine depot ship HMS Forth correcting navigation sea charts. At the point in the war Forth was stationed in Scotland looking after submarines working-up in the Holy Loch. The WRNS  were accommodated in nearby private shore accommodation and went ashore  at the end of each day. Later on she was stationed in different parts of the world including Canada [Halifax] and Trincomalee [Ceylon].

A WW1 R.N., hospital train heading for a RNH.  Note the [SBA] Sick Bay Attendant lighting of a cigarette for a patient.  The hanging chains you see support sky-cots, rather like slinging a hammock! Thought I'd mention that just in case some of you were thinking that they were 'communication cords'. Note also that the carriage appears infinitely better that most of the passenger carriages running on main lines today, now over 100 years ago!

An 'old school' admiral from a stiff upper lip Victorian upbringing and a quintessential Edwardian naval officer! Rear Admiral {from 1911}Rosslyn Wemyss taken in 1917. He became a very famous admiral of the highest possible rank and appointments.  He died in 1933. He did something no other naval officer has ever done which was to take the Duke of Connaught [brother of King Edward VII] all the way to South Africa just to open their State Parliament,  in a luxury liner [the SS Balmoral Castle] with the admiral as its captain [master].

Admiral of the Fleet Rosslyn Erskine Wemyss, 1st Baron Wester Wemyss, GCB, CMG, MVO (12 April 1864 24 May 1933), known as Sir Rosslyn Wemyss between 1916 and 1919, was a Royal Navy officer. During the First World War he served as commander of the 12th Cruiser Squadron and then as Governor of *Moudros before leading the British landings at Cape Helles and at Suvla Bay during the Gallipoli Campaign. He went on to be Commander of the East Indies & Egyptian Squadron in January 1916 and then First Sea Lord in December 1917

[taking over from the sacked and humiliated Lord Jellicoe of Jutland fame}, in which role he encouraged Admiral Roger Keyes, Commander of the Dover Patrol, to undertake more vigorous operations in the Channel, ultimately leading to the launch of the Zeebrugge Raid in April 1918. The admiral was a tour de force both as a champion of 'Rule Britannia', as well as a champion of 'Pax Britannica'.


*Moudros is a town and a former municipality on the island of Lemnos, North Aegean, Greece.

Admiral Sir Guy Herbrand Edward Russell GBE KCB DSO (14 April 1898 25 September 1977), being briefed by General
 one of our famous soldiers

Archibald James Halkett Cassels, soldier: born 28 February 1907; DSO 1944; CBE 1944, KBE 1952; GOC 51st Highland Division 1945-46; GOC 6th Airborne Division, Palestine 1946-47; Director, Land-Air Warfare, War Office 1948-49; Chief Liaison Officer, UK Services Liaison Staff, Australia 1950-51; CB 1951, GCB 1961; GOC 1st British Commonwealth Division, Korea 1951-52; Commander, 1st Corps 1953-54; Director-General of Miliary Training, War Office 1954-57; Director of Emergency Operations, Federation of Malaya 1957-59; GOC-in-C, Eastern Command 1959-60; C-in-C, British Army of the Rhine and Commander Nato Northern Army Group 1960-63; ADC General to the Queen 1960-63; Adjutant-General to the Forces 1963-64; Field Marshal 1968; married 1935 Joyce Kirk (died 1978; one son), 1978 Mrs Joy Dickson; and he died in Newmarket 13 December 1996.
Both the officers,  unknown today as national hero's, were just that, as well as being popular and charismatic.

Admiral Sir Geoffrey Layton GBE, KCB, KCMG, DSO the son of a Liverpool solicitor.
He was a high profile submarine commanding officer in WW1 having several boats overtime under his command.  At the end of WW1 after a period in a German POW camp from which he escaped returning to Britain disguised as a sailor, he was awarded a DSO. Betwixt the wars he migrated through promotions to various appointments in general service via being Admiral Superintendent Portsmouth, eventually serving in capital  ships, battle cruisers and battleships flying his flag at one time as a rear admiral in HMS Hood leaving his flagship in August 1939 as the war started. On the 3rd September he took over the 1st battle squadron having the battleships Warspite, Malaya and others under his command,  After a year in command of 1st battle group, he was appointed to Singapore as C-in-C Far East. Six months later he was relieved by Admiral Tom Phillips, and after a very brief turn over Admiral Phillips took the battleship Prince of Wales and battlecruiser Repulse out to sea as Admiral Layton prepared to travel home. The next day Admiral Layton was informed of the loss of the Prince of Wales and the Repulse in which Admiral Phillips died; Admiral Layton had to stay to continue being C-in-C Far East. Soon afterwards Admiral Sommerville became C-in-C Far East with Admiral Layton becoming C-in-C Ceylon with Admiral Mountbatten's HQ on the Island fighting the Japanese in Burma.  The appointment was a poisonous chalice for the defences of the whole Island  were a shambles and an easy target for Japanese bombers; he was still there in 1945 at the end of the war, pulling his hair out to get things ship-shape as the hapless C-in-C! At this stage he was promoted to full admiral. On return to the UK he became C-in-C Portsmouth retiring in 1947 and dying in 1964 aged 80.

Jump to search

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Frederick Laurence Field, GCB, KCMG born to English parents serving with the army in Ireland. 

Served from 1884 until 1933, qualifying as a torpedo specialist.

He was involved in the Boxer Uprisings in China in 1900 and in WW1 he was the CO of the battleship HMS King George V engaged at Jutland as the flagship of Admiral Martyn Jerram who Beatty publicly criticised for not supporting him as darkness fell - Admiral Jerram retired in 1917. Admiral Field was applauded for the great skill shown when handling  the KG V under great difficulties. He went to be the C-in-C Mediterranean and then the First Sea Lord. He had a very active career with much time spend at sea in capital ships [battlecruisers and battleships]. For his services he was awarded many foreign high honours. Promoted to rear admiral almost immediately after the end of WW1. He is famously known for his command of the Empire Cruise flying his flag in the Hood, which lasted for 308 days. I show pictures of that cruise on my web page  http://www.godfreydykes.info/1923%20World%20Cruise.html  He more than ably handled the Invergordon mutiny of September 1931, forcing the Admiralty Board to a rethink on the severity of the proposed cuts in pay. He encouraged the banning of the 10 year rule in which planning and defence spending were geared to what a committee thought would happen in the next ten years before increasing navy estimated. Quite often they decided peace would prevail, often getting it badly wrong. He died of cancer at the end of WW2 at his home in North Yorkshire. He was 74.




Jump to search

Admiral Sir Claud Barrington Barry KBE CB DSO who in 1942 was appointed as Rear Admiral Submarines. His career spanned 47 years. In WW1 he commanded several submarines  in hostile conditions, and in 1918 transferred to the RAN. On his return to the RN he continued commanding submarines until 1934 until appointed as chief of staff to Rear Admiral Submarines in 1934. From the early days of WW2 [October 1940 - May 1942] he commanded two battleships, the Queen Elizabeth and the Valiant until becoming the operational boss of the submarine fleet, an appointment he was extremely well qualified to undertake. After the war he was appointed as naval secretary, an important job controlling all personnel matters, today a job doing by the 2nd sea lord. His last appointment was Director of Dockyards from which he retired in 1951. He died on Boxing Day 1951 at the relatively young age of just 60.