To the Editor of the Times

Sir – the findings of the Committee on pay in the Services have astonished the average naval officer conversant with the work and pay of ranks and ratings in 1914.

One would like to know how or  why the Committee found that the pay of a naval ratings was not too low in 1914.  The following figures of pay of the seaman branch speak for themselves:-

Petty Officer 2s 8d rising to 3s a day after six years service.  Able Seamen 1s 8d a day. This could be augmented by 1d a day for each good conduct badge and 6d to 1s a day for special gunnery qualifications which were only achieved by a comparatively small group of seamen. This pay might not have been too low but for the fact that out of a mans pay he had to purchase practically every month some kind of clothing to replenish his kit on account of wear and tear or losses, which he, and not the State, as in the case of the Army, has to pay for.

The engine room department was paid on a slightly higher scale.  Also, of course, artisans ratings, writers, stewards, cooks, but in view of their duties it cannot be claimed that their pay was not too low. The Royal Marine branch receives pay approximately to that of the seamen branch.  A sergeant receives 2s 10d a day, and a private 1s 4d, though the marines had the advantage of getting their kit replaced free of charge to them. 

As a striking indication of the lowness of pay to the able seaman, it was a frequent occurrence when monthly payment was made to hear the formula “not entitled” when a man answered to his name. This meant that he received no pay owing to the fact that his being mulct for clothing or some stoppage of pay. It was common knowledge that many of the excellent seaman class earned extra money of necessity by doing odd jobs such as making clothes, washing for officers, cutting hair, repairing boots: and as there was no marriage allowance in those days it was a marvel and mystery how the married seaman kept a wife and loyalty at the same time.

With regard to officers up to 1918, I will only quote the case of the lieutenant who received the princely salary of 10s a day.  After eight years service as such he was called a lieutenant commander and received 12s a day. It was recognised by the Government that he, as well as officers of all ranks, had been very much underpaid, and a substantial pay increase was awarded.  Now the Committee finds that the officer up to the rank of lieutenant commander is being paid too highly, as well as the naval rating.

About the same time one reads from the speech of an ex-Prime Minister that the British Navy has not received the recognition it deserved. There has been, however, unpleasant recognition in the way of wholesale reductions in personnel, to be followed apparently in further reductions based on the opinion of the Committee. I would like to ask if the Committee realised the duties and responsibilities carried by the officer of today, who requires greater scientific and professional knowledge than ever, whether of officer of the watch on a cruiser worth half a million pounds or a battleship worth several millions. Tranquillity and stability are as necessary to the Navy as to any other Service, and I submit that the reduction of pay in the Navy irrespective of the reduction in the cost of living is not only an injustice to those serving, but is an unsound policy as it is inevitable that the effect will be to prejudice the entry of the best type of youth into the Navy.

In conclusion it should be remembered that the naval officer has no marriage allowance.  He has to keep two establishments, and in view the shortages of houses, cost of living and uniforms, the proposed reduction of pay for junior ranks and ratings will, I trust, be quashed by the Government.

A.P.DAVIDSON Rear-Admiral Retired.