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 my copyright in all cases!


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 [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 known as 1 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 thwartships, 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 keeps the same 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. 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 will 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!


The CO of the WW1 battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth Captain Geoffrey  Blake RN

taken with a departmental group of seven CPO's and six petty officer. 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 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 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.

*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 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