Definition of Honour Boards:-
All wall-hung boards showing individual names of officers and men who in some way or other, in the year shown alongside their name, were unique in the appointment they held or in the achievement they attained whilst undergoing professional career courses in HMS Mercury. These courses transcended all others, and were for the officers, the "Long Course" / the "Sub Lieutenant SD[C] Course", and for the ratings, the "Instructor Course".
For many long years, honour Boards were displayed in HMS Mercury, the Leydene Signal School, some in the Main House (the wardroom) and some in the CPO's mess/PO's mess, open in full view for all using these messes, including many non-member visitors.
Main House (as far as these boards are concerned) was
a. the Captain's House
b. senior officers living in married quarters at Hyden Wood
c. Siberia accommodation
d. Hambledon Lodge
e. White Lodge
the incumbents of which used the Main House as a wardroom or as an office, and of course, all officers appointed to HMS Mercury.
Later on, when the new administration block (built in the old courtyard) was opened in 1974, the captain and the senior officers had their offices moved from Main House to the upper floor of this new block. Coincident with this move, some of these boards were hung on the walls of the of the lower floor.
The boards in the senior rates messes were first placed shortly after the commissioning of Mountbatten Block in 1958, and were there until the closure of the establishment. They were displayed on the upper reaches of the main staircase leading to the upper floor of the block, where CPO's continued ahead into their mess, and PO's turned right to enter their mess, the two quite separate messes sharing the same bar area which had two customer serving facilities each not viewed by the other. Later on the two messes combined and became known as the Senior Rates mess although the actual structure of the building was not altered to any great extent, meaning that the combined mess had two rooms in which to socialise. The PO's lost their President, and from that time on, all Presidents have been either a CPO, a FCPO or a WO.
Even later in the early 1970's, the mess was again renamed to take account of the introduction of the Master Chief known as the Fleet Chief Petty Officer and it became the Fleet Chiefs and Senior Rates Mess. It took many years (mid to late 1980's) for the Fleet Chief to be called what was originally intended, namely a Warrant Officer, but this time, unlike the Naval Warrant Officer of pre 1949, a rating Warrant Officer based on the Army WO1/RAF WO styles, and this terminology brought about yet another name change, to WO's and SR's Mess.
HMS Mercury closed in 1993 and relocated to HMS Collingwood at Fareham Hampshire. Since that time the boards have been moved around and some have been divorced from their original groupings. By and large, most of the boards now adorn the walls of the main passage of the Mercury Building wherein all communication training (what is left of it) is conducted. They do look impressive, that I will admit. However, this means that unless one has an official reason for visiting this building, the boards are never seen by those whose names are on them who occasionally visit the Collingwood messes to socialise, and because of their youth, they cannot possibly be appreciated by those undergoing training in the building. The boards, hitherto in the WO's and SR's mess in the former HMS Mercury are split into two groups, one displayed as mentioned above in the Mercury building, and the other, the list of Mess Presidents, is hanging on a wall in a tiny corridor outside a gents toilet at the back of the Mountbatten Room, a room off the Dryad Suite in the WO's, SR's and SNCO's mess. The names on this board are as shown in Captain Barrie Kent's book (Signal) on page 362 with amendments as shown in the Errata right at the back of the book. I understand that the Errata mentioned above is applicable to the second edition of the book published in 2004.
Now since many of the names on these boards have already be printed in the said Captain Barrie Kent's book, I will concentrate on those that are not listed anywhere outside the no-go area of the Mercury building in HMS Collingwood and were overlooked or not considered important by Captain Kent.
Before I do that, there was a watershed in the administration of the SD (C) officers course which left those who came top of their course from 1956 to 1964 on the boards in the ratings mess, and those from 1965 onwards, on the officers mess boards. Moreover, you will see by the dates, that many of the courses start from the time of the Suez War (1956). This period (1956-1958) saw two major changes to the officer corps and to ratings rates. The old CCO (Commissioned Communications Officer) with a ¼" stripe and the SCCO (Senior Commissioned Communications Officer) with a ½" stripe leading to a lieutenants stripes if further promoted, was supplanted by the title SD(C) (Special Duties List Officer Communications) wearing the ½" stripe of a sub lieutenant and being called so. This officer would see his promotions to lieutenant, lieutenant commander, commander all suffixed with SD(C), unless that is, he was selected for GL (General List) in which case he competed with Dartmouth entry officers for his promotions and ceased using the '' ranker'' suffix. At the change-over, existing CCO's became sub lieutenants and SCCO's lieutenants. In August 1958 the old titles of Telegraphist and Signalman disappeared and in came the new titles of Radio Operator and Tactical Operator respectively, adding a 1 behind those titles to signify First Class (able rate) viz RO1/TO1. For senior rates, instead of being a Chief Yeoman of Signals (CYS)/Yeoman of Signals (YS) they became CCY's (Chief Communication Yeoman)/CY's (Communication Yeoman) whilst over on the W/T side, the CPO Telegraphist/PO Telegraphist, both nearly always shortened to 'Tel' and proverbially known as ''POTS'', became Radio Supervisors, thus CRS and RS respectively. ''Pots'' and ''Yeo'', notwithstanding official changes, remained as endearing addresses for many a long year after these 1958 changes. With these branch change titles came a change of title for the Instructor Rate, when the Rate of ''Wireless Instructor'' (WI) became the ''Radio Communication Instructor'' (RCI) and ''Signal Instructor'' (SI) became ''Tactical Communication Instructor'' (TCI).
These are the boards which are the subject-matter for my page:-
f. Sub Lieutenant SD(C) Course - to 1964
g. Radio Communication Instructor - 1967 to 1974 (the last RCI course)
h. Signal Instructor Course/Tactical Communications Instructor - to 1972
i. Wireless Instructor Course/Radio Communication Instructor - to 1966
j. Electronic Warfare Instructor (last course 1974)/Tactical Communications Instructor 1973 to 1974 (the last TCI course).
The boards show a total of 64 men all of whom achieved the highest marks on their professional career qualifying course. However, these names are the 'parts of the sum' and represent a phalanx of men who were at the very top of their career after having completed this course, pass or fail, for even with the personal disappointment in the latter case, the navy gained by having at its disposal a man who was a 'cut above' all those who, for whatever reason, had not passed through this career ''obstacle course'' with its demands and pressure measured over many months, usually with only one course per year, but exceptions as you will note.
The course was relatively short lived as navy history goes (see below). Those who had qualified for the Instructor Rate and who were recommended and had the necessary educational qualifications, were soon ''gobbled-up'' in the early 1970's when many were promoted to Fleet Chief. These men instantly lost their Instructor titles, pay and badge and their places were taken by those on, or about to fill, places on the last few courses. By the mid 1970's to early 1980's most of these had also been promoted to Fleet Chief. The badge that went with a successful completion of the course was much admired, respected and almost coveted, worn with great pride. However, there was soon to be a change in uniform regulations where the No3 fore and aft rig suit, worn as standard for work, was to be replaced by a wooly pully on which badges (and medal ribbons) were not worn. After that the badge was rarely seen and whilst the personal pride part remained, the navy per se adopted the inevitable ''out of sight out of mind'' attitude. I was the Course Instructor/Technical Instructor for the 1972 and 1973 courses, the latter being the penultimate RCI course in the Royal Navy.
(From above) - The Communications Branch Instructor rates had the following life spans: W/T & V/S 1956-1974 (18 years), EW 1964-1974 (10 years). In 1974, all other Operations Department Branches lost their highly prized Instructor Rate - Gunnery (GI): Torpedo and Anti Submarine (TASI): Radar (PRI). Had it not been for the introduction of the Fleet Chief Petty Officer, these Instructor Courses would have continued unabated. The navy decided that the FCPO would supplant the ''top men'' - the Instructor Rate - in each of the Ops Room branches rather than the FCPO taking over the tasks carried out by junior officers, and in the early days of the FCPO rate, there was much disillusionment re job satisfaction. Once established, annual quotas of FCPO's were selected in the early part of a year and promoted in September. As early as possible thereafter, a FCPO Management Course was staged, again on an annual basis just like the old Instructor's Course, but instead of the navy creating a new course (and thus spending extra money on training time and facilities), the easiest option was a new syllabus using a time-slot that had been utilised by the Instructor Course, albeit, a much shorter course for the FCPO than had been programmed for the Instructor Course, and certainly for that of the Radio Communications Instructor (RCI) whose course at five months was the longest in the Communication sub-branches and possibly in the whole of the Ops Room Department ! By needlessly getting rid of the Instructor Rate (the navy always needed that level of expertise not readily found in the run-of-the-mill senior rates of any given branch in the Ops Room Department) the element of ''top dog'' pride was lost, and those senior rates who were worthy and who aspired to becoming a ''top dog'' were denied the opportunity to flourish. As it was, things got a little better for the FCPO and his job satisfaction as he moved 'upwards' into meaningful middle management, but by that time it was too late. By promoting qualified CPO's to FCPO's the navy effectively demoted those behind them, too young and inexperienced to become FCPO's but ripe and willing to become 'top of their tree' professionally. This whole episode was a classic cock-up from beginning to end, and for the years that followed, expertise was spread very thinly across and throughout the fighting element of the ship. As a footnote almost and to avoid any confusion, the navy has an 'INSTRUCTOR' (a commissioned officers Branch) and this full career Officer is a professional, employed in lots of ways, from meteorology to academic training, to professional/vocational training, to scientific duties. The Instructor's mentioned on this page are not of the same ilk and are, without exception, Ratings. Any rating in the Royal Navy can be assigned a role of INSTRUCTING other ratings in all and every aspect of being a sailor. Many are as good (and thus occasionally probably better) as a man who has passed a professional Instructor's course, which is not surprising because the ability to impart knowledge is very much geared to the personality of a person, and an extrovert usually performs better than an introvert. Thus, contrary to the word 'INSTRUCTOR' the true object of the Instructor's Course was to encourage the student to reach the highest professional levels of excellence over the full spectrum of skills/subjects (academic or vocational) which had been allotted to his Branch, either by means of formal studies/tuition, or by personal research/study sometimes merely refreshing subjects he had used over previous years whilst doing his job as an ordinary petty officer or chief petty officer. Once trained to be such a person, his subsequent employment was not necessarily Instructing (or teaching) but planning, overseeing, setting examination papers, writing reference books, operations (ashore and afloat), new equipments and other duties relevant to his proven newly acquired management skills.
This rather poor quality picture shows the boards as they were arranged in Mountbatten Block HMS Mercury. Some of the names are difficult to read so a clarification follows.
The clarification follows the boards above with TOP - L to R, then BOTTOM - L to R.
TOP LEFT Sub Lieutenant SD[C] Course
|Currie G.A.||CYS RAN||1956|
|Schofield K||PO TEL||1958|
TOP RIGHT Radio Communication Instructor
BOTTOM LEFT Signal Instructor Course/Tactical Communication Instructor
BOTTOM MIDDLE Wireless Instructor Course/Radio Communications Instructor
|Balsdon B.C||CPO TEL||1956|
|Jackson S||CPO TEL||1957|
|Orchard L.W.||PO TEL||1957|
|Alderson D.L.||RS||Joint Top 1959|
BOTTOM RIGHT Electronic Warfare Instructor/Tactical Communications Instructor
It would be a nice to think that these boards will be kept [and hung] wherever there is a building which concerns itself with Royal Navy communications, even though they might not be conducted by dedicated Communication Branch Personnel as was the case when these boards were lettered. The boards represent the sending of signals [information] from ship to ship, from ship to shore and from shore to ship, not forgetting of course the E.W., "boy's" who protected us from the enemies communications/transmissions. I am sure, that just as we look back to the navy of yore, the exchange of signals/information will be a fundamental and necessary tool of the future, and only the technology of signalling will have changed . Nelson used Flags; those in the 21st century and beyond will use enhanced cyberspace techniques, but the common bond over all these centuries will be the sea, and a navy protecting our precious Islands, the British Isles, will always need to COMMUNICATE.
Dedicated to all those who UNDERTOOK THE RN COMMUNICATION/E.W., INSTRUCTOR QUALIFYING COURSES.
Incidentally, if you are wondering what the Herbert Lott Prize was, it was a £10 note, issued in return for a signature. Here is my piece of paper,
and, for those devotees of Naval Traditions, Customs, Patronage etc, if you want to know who Herbert Lott was, have a LOOK HERE for his full story.
THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE WAS ADDED TO THIS PAGE ON THE 30TH JULY 2009
In this month [July] Ivor Rothwell, himself a Wireless Instructor of the early to mid 1950's, and now an ex pat living in Australia, brought to our attention that members of a 1954 Wireless Instructor Qualifying Course had been killed in an air crash whilst on a course visit to HMS Seahawk [RNAS Culdrose]. The accident occurred on Thursday the 13th May 1954 and resulted in the death of four men, three of whom were CPO Telegraphists. In keeping with the dedication mentioned above I add the following names to the HONOUR BOARDS. As far as I know there in no official Communicators Memorial to these men. May they rest in peace.
George William Henry
IRVINE [misspelled in the newspaper article below]
Edward Dennis HARDING
William John ABBOTTS
For the specifications of a SEA PRINCE aircraft click here Percival Sea Prince T.1. - Gatwick Aviation Museum