HMS MERCURY and the staff of the Signal School

The story of the Royal Naval signal school is well known and I am not about to insult your intelligence by going over old ground.  I myself have a couple of pages on this site about the subject, and countless other pages abound in the public domain. If you have missed any of my pages, have a peep here:



3. The Court Martial of the C.O. of HMS MERCURY.htm



6. HMS MERCURY HONOUR BOARDS.htm..........inter alia


What I intend to show here is the transition of the School from Portsmouth to Leydene in terms of Staff Personnel, and I don't think that has been done before.

By 18th May 1941, the records show HMS Mercury, the minesweeper and her officers. See this file.


Two months later in mid July 1941, the sweeper was still extant even though it sank on Christmas Day 1940 - see this page for details The Court Martial of the C.O. of HMS MERCURY.htm  A further two months later in mid September 1941 all things changed, and although a few names changed the format carried over into mid October. It then changed to this shown over three pages:-

By November '41, the format changed as shown on the following three files. Note for the first time the mention of an acting appointment for the command of Mercury viz. B.R. WILLETT. This is followed by the officers of the minesweeper HMS Mercury and then the appointments to the new H.M. Signal School [un-named].  That is followed by the staff for Mercury II: I have chosen to ignore the civilian staff which is rather larger than the naval staff.

Finally, and for the first time HMS Mercury has come into its own which is first documented in the Navy List in mid January 1942, as shown below:-

HMS Mercury II, this time Commanded by a Captain RN, was the experimental side of the Portsmouth Signal School which established itself at Haslemere and became known as ASE [Admiralty Signals Establishment]. The plate above [under Mercury II] shows the service personnel of ASE.

By  March 1942 the original Signal School at Portsmouth was now functioning in HMS Mercury at Leydene [this time with a senior Captain in Command] and ASE at Haslemere now commanded by the erstwhile commanding officer of Leydene-in-the-build. 


To assist you if you are interested in detail, the abbreviations used are decoded below. However better still, and for a more profound understanding of naval ranks and rates before the watershed of 1949 which saw the end of the warrant officer rank, you would be better placed were you to read the Warrant Officer files on this site starting on this page  The story of the RN Warrant Officer.htm

Abbreviation Used Meaning
Tempy Temporary [HO] for the war only, or, Temp for a regular who holds an acting local rate/rank, temporarily filling a job and getting paid for it. When the 'job' was over, he would revert in title and pay to his former substantive rank
Paym Paymaster - S and S Branch now called in the 21st century Logistics shortened to L. It is now a LO and not a SO [supply officer].
Headmaster Lieutenant Chief Petty Officers were Schoolmasters and bright junior rates were sent to teacher training colleges and returned to the navy as CPO Schoolmaster.  In establishment like HMS Ganges in the 1910's, they were the only schoolmaster in the establishment and no Instructor Officers were appointed. The Padre doubled as the sky-pilot and the schoolie when needed! The CPO, when promoted to WO, became a senior schoolmaster and when promoted to CWO [Chief Warrant Officer] he became an assistant school headmaster.  When he became a "ranker" a commissioned officer promoted to sub lieutenant and onwards up the ladder,   he became a Headmaster leading to the rank of Headmaster Lieutenant.
Sig Lt and Tel Lt Originally a Signal Officer qualified in signals only and had the capital letter 'S' after his name. Eventually, Signal Officers were trained in Signals and in Wireless Telegraphy and whilst most were appointed as Signal Officers, many more senior officers specialised and were appointed as either 'S' or 'W/T' - WW1, Battle of Jutland, in the flagship Iron Duke, Jellicoe had a Commander [S] and a Commander [W/T] on his staff, and Iron Duke had an [S] Officer appointed as the ships SCO.  This page has interesting reading on these points ROYAL_NAVAL_AND_BRITISH_MARITIME_SNIPPETS_2.html  and with mention in some detail about Jutland here ROYAL_NAVAL_AND_BRITISH_MARITIME_SNIPPETS_5.html  Note also in the lists the rank of Lieutenant Commander [S].
Cd signal bosun The system of advancement and then promotion to the upper deck as a RANKER, could be confusing, that is why I recommend my Warrant Officer pages. Using just the signalman route [although the telegraphist route was the same] the 'steps' were Boy - Ordinary - Able - Leading - PO 2nd class - PO 1st class - CPO [from 1853] or direct to WO if a telegraphist or a Signal Bosun if a signalman]  2nd class who wore three buttons on each cuff on an officers tunic coat [with 4 buttons] and officers cap badge and carried a sword - WO/Signal Bosun 1st class having been a WO/Signal Bosun  2nd class for at least 10 years who wore a " stripe above his cuff three buttons - CWO [Chief WO from 1853] who wore a " stripe above his cuff three buttons - Commissioned wardroom officer sub lieutenant with just a " stripe [no cuff buttons], known as a Ranker [rather like the expression SD denoted from the lower deck] - Lt - Ltd Cdr -and for one or two lucky officers only Cdr, but a very rare promotion as a Ranker!  At any stage a bright young rating could leap ahead of the normal queue and even opt out of it by becoming a Mate. This was a Mate to a Lieutenant and as such was called a sub lieutenant meaning 'under'- in modern terms he could be considered as an upper yardsman. He could, and the majority of Mates did, become a gentleman wardroom officer and could attain the highest rank possible : although originally from the lower deck, he was not associated with or considered to be a Ranker. The captain of the Dorsetshire which dispatched the Bismarck and went on to be an admiral with a knighthood, started life as a Mate elevated from a young newly rated 1st class PO to an almost overnight WO 2nd class and then  immediately fast-tracked to Dartmouth's BRNC. On promotion to the Wardroom, a Ranker could be selected for the long course and train in opposite-subjects or he could remain specialised in either V/S or W/T.
Cd Tel
Senior Master already explained above, but here the word schoolmaster has been abbreviated to master
Schoolmaster C.W.O. already explained above
Boatswain Bosun. A WO and a member of the oldest branches of the Royal Navy. He was an expert in seamanship and all things of the sea. The branch was abolished many years ago - see the Warrant Officer pages.
Sig Boatswain Already explained above
Wt Tel As above

Just as a one off, in May 1945 {four plates below}, at the end of WW2 in Europe, HMS Mercury's management seemed to be odd and a little top heavy! Note that the Commanding Officer appears to have an Acting Captain {retired} and an Acting Commander {retired} helping out {Yates/Kitson respectively}, these in addition to the active-list Commander [himself a future Captain of HMS Mercury] and all the normal and expected professional Signal Officers, etc. Note also in the list Lt Cdr JRB Longden another future Captain of HMS Mercury.

List ends when HMS MERGANSER starts