DEMOCRACY IN THE ARMED FORCES

a snippet

Way back in time, the British were class conscious, cue, no excessive  laughter please, and it was important to know what one's equivalent rank with other branches of the British Armed Forces were before adopting a subservient or dictatorial equated approach in a tri service environment, either operationally or when socialising.

 OR'S [Other Rank's] of course had no such need to know one's status {?} which was differentiated simply by being either a senior rate or a junior rate.  By and large, tri service OR's rarely ever mixed operationally and rarely if ever socially, and as long as a junior rate [for example] was in a junior rates mess he was safe [?]:  the same applied for the chief's mess and the petty officers mess.  However, the difference in pay, perks, and status between say a seaman CPO and a WO CERA on a Polaris/Trident submarine was too great to cover in a few words and really requires a dedicated paragraph of its own. Likewise it was too simplistic to talk about wardroom officers and ratings, for an SD seaman officer bore no comparison with a nuclear trained WO CERA in a nuclear submarine in educational terms or responsibility terms? To compare would probably takes several paragraphs!

The first world war was the beginning of being a "social leveler" but it took thirteen years before the EQUIVALENT RANK lists were updated and republished in several tri service editions, ours in the Royal Navy being KR&AI = King's Regulations and Admiralty Instructions, which after the demise of the Admiralty [1964] in favour of the Ministry of Defence [Navy] = MOD[N], was changed to QRRN = Queens Regulations for the Royal Navy.

Before the onset of 1932, the list, proverbial in all wardrooms and other officers messes, stopped at the lowest levels of midshipmen and warrant officers.

Then at the end of February [29th, a leap year] 1932, this list, published in the Times was issued, and for the first time democracy was established throughout the British Armed Forces, from the very top - admiral of the fleet -  to the very bottom viz an ordinary seaman as this cutting shows: boys never occupied complement billets and were discounted for equivalent ranks purposes.  At the beginning of the 21st century, the ordinary seaman rate was withdrawn making the able seaman the starter rate in the navy.

This list endorses the status quo of 1970 [planning] 1972 [execution] at the introduction into the navy of the Fleet Chief Petty Officer [FCPO] as a rank equating with the Army and RAF 1st class warrant officers, all three non-commissioned rates. Come 1987 {?} the rate FCPO had changed to WO = warrant officer, and then WO1, the substantive rate followed by the ratings trade or branch title, and a new rate WO2 [2004] was introduced for CPO's holding charge appointments as artificer's.  However, by 2014 [at the April pay rise], it was withdrawn with existing WO2's allowed to keep their rate and pay until they were either promoted to WO1 or left the service. 

By 1949 naval warrant officers had disappeared and in their places Branch Officers were established, equating to a pilot officer in the RAF [one thin " stripe] and a second lieutenant in the Army with one pip. On promotion to senior branch officers, they took down their " stripe, and replaced it with a " stripe at which time their equivalent in the army and air force were respectively a lieutenant and a flying officer.

Now, simply try this Naval Research page below from January 1920, direct from the Navy List archive, and well before this 1932 edict.

It shows the lower ranks [in those days WO's were ranks and not ratings] meaning that when clear lower deck was ordered, only the ships company [lower decker's, mustered] and NOT the ships complement which included ships company + wardroom officers. The left hand column shows the Military Branch [all those in the ship which fought the ship against the enemy] whose officers had executive powers and wore a loop or curl on their top stripe, and all columns to the right of it were supporters, what today we would call engineers and or logistic personnel, but in those days called engineers and Civil Branch personnel. None had executive powers nor wore a loop or curl on their top stripe. Unlike a Military Branch officer with no distinguishing marks between his stripes, Civil Branch officers had colour coded cloth bands sewn between each stripe to denote specialisation. See this URL for definition  http://www.godfreydykes.info/officers%20coloured%20stipes%20of%20branch.htm

Note that the junior WO's - line 15 in the military branch column, although considered officers in the complement of a naval vessel, were the equivalent to 1st class staff sergeant major's in the army column, extreme right hand side. The senior naval warrant officers in column 14, were the equivalent to Second Lieutenants in the Army: a vast and unsupported difference socially. You must or should realise the social significance of those times, but only in a tri service environment, for in a naval wardroom, all warrant officers dined on set menu's with gentlemanly dining habits [commonly known as the knife fork and spoon etiquette], not to mention expectations!

Just a snippet which could be expanded and explored, but today, here, for my purposes, adequate.  However, equaling my utter amazement, I would think that the EQUIVALENT LIST of military ranks would have remained established as shown, but not so, for they went back to being undemocratic and come post WW2, did class-divide, sadly reverting back to what most of us considered the upper deck and lower deck divide, having been re-established and for the worst!

It should be recognised that in the 1950 et seq, armed forces officer structure's, were in so many case based on privilege and ruled the roost, whereas today for example the 'grammar school' officer intake entry rules the roost, and by and large, the officer corps, is based on a meritorious system rather than a privilege system.

In today's armed forces environment, there is no room for a UK equivalent list, with a greater emphasis placed on an Allied list, NATO obviously, but also directly with what remains of the 'old' Cento, Seato and other now defunct command organisations.

 

This type of list is of more use today than the equivalents list exhausted above.

http://www.godfreydykes.info/ROYAL_NAVY_COMPARISON_OF_RANK_AND_RATE_AND_PAY_WITH_THE_USN.htm

As I said, just a snippet with one foot in the social side of the navy and the other in the operational side.

Good sailing.