The traditional R.N. naval uniforms, were, in various times of the late 19th century and early 20th century, changed for no good or apparent reason. This statement of fact concerns the stripes [often called rings] worn by all commissioned officers in varying degree from the most junior of officers to the most senior, usually referring to a sub lieutenant or equivalent, through to an admiral of the fleet, with an oddity, that for a lengthy period in our history a commodore first class wore an identical uniform to that of a rear admiral, differentiated by shoulder boards of rank [but not always worn of course - see picture below] and  the rear admiral having a 'flag' whilst the commodore had a pennant [see picture below]. Both the flag and the pennant were in the form of a St George's red cross on a white background, with a first class commodore [a commodore embarked in a ship which had a captain in command] having no symbols on his pennant, and a second class commodore, captaining his own ship, having one red ball on the upper hoist canton of his pennant. This is of some historical importance. The Royal Yacht Britannia was for the most part of her long and glorious career captained by a rear admiral, a flag officer, and he was called FORY, meaning Flag Officer Royal Yachts, plural because in Victorian times there was more that one Royal Yacht. Towards the very end after it was known that under Blair the Labour Party wanted rid of it much to the displeasure of Her Majesty and the country at large, a commodore was appointed and he captained his own ship automatically becoming  a second class commodore, but in reality he was already a  permanent substantive rank as a commodore when all commodores in the navy were automatically second class under the old system - but never told that openly to their faces!  Instead of being appointed as FORY he became the only CORY the ship and navy every had. His name was Commodore Tony Morrow R.N. a well known and greatly liked, signal school trained "Long C" naval signals officer. More recently of course, we have seen a commodore appointed as the commanding officer of the carrier CVF01 HMS Queen Elizabeth, one Commodore Jerry Kyd RN.

1st class - Both wear an admiral's cap with two rows of scrambled eggs

Shoulder straps - Rear Admiral crossed sword, 1st class anchor and two stars

2nd class wears a captains cap with one row of scrambled eggs

and one broad stripe.

These pennant's were introduced in 1826. The first class commodore rank was put into abeyance in 1958 but the second class commodore is still extant although referred to simply as a commondore.  From 1958 until the last two decades of the 20th century, commodores were appointed on a temporary basis so only  held a temporary substantive rank while appointed to a specific task requiring an officer senior to a captain but not as senior as a flag officer. He reverted to his permanent substantive rank of captain when the temporary appointment ceased. Then more and more in those last two decades of the 20th century, and ongoing, senior captains won permanent substantive promotions to commodore, and in many cases fleet establishments, hitherto with a captain in command, became commodores in command. Looking back in my early days in the service from the early 1950's, I can only ever recall three permanent substantive commodore commands, they being the commanding officers of the three main port divisions whose titles were COMBRAX, meaning commodore barracks, for Portsmouth, Devonport and Chatham domiciled in HMS Victory [now Nelson], HMS Drake and HMS Pembroke respectively. Oops, one other joined the illustrious body and that occurred when drafting was closed in the town of Haselmere, Surrey,  and centralised in Gosport in HMS Centurion - I recall the oic of pay and drafting being dubbed 'Com Naval Drafting'.

Above, a  2nd class commodore's pennant.  The hoist side is to the left with the red ball in the upper canton, with the fly to the right having a swallow-tail type of reduction.  All admirals' flag's are nearly square in shape measured in 2-3 format, so if 2 feet deep it is 3 foot long.   Building on that, an admiral used the St Georges flag with no additions. a vice admiral had one red ball in the upper canton of the hoist, and a rear admiral two red balls one in the upper canton and one in the lower canton both on the hoist side.  An admiral of the fleet has as his flag, the union flag, in the navy only, referred to as a Union Jack, measured in 1-2 format, so if 3 foot deep it would be 6 foot long etc. You will be au fait with these appearances for sometimes the TV shows a square picture [usually when viewing old material] whilst at  other times,  the more modern appearance of a rectangle: these two screens sizes are known 4-3 and 16-9 respectively.

Many reductions in width of gold lace had been ordered throughout the years and come 1836 broad stripes were down to 1" and the single stripes down to  ".  However, flag officers had kept their  " single stripe/stripes over their 1" broad stripe although many of them chose to wear oak leaf embroidery in lieu of the broad stripe in the short period of 1900-1904 when the broad stripe returned .

Below, a vice admiral with two stripes and oak leaf embroidery instead of a broad stripe.   For those of you wanting to know who this admiral was [all admiral's from 'rear' to 'of the fleet' are called 'admirals'] he was Vice Admiral Lord Charles Beresford wearing a full dress uniform in 1903, a very famous admiral likened in many ways to Lord Nelson - serving simultaneously in parliament and the fleet [in his younger days], as an MP often falling out with the Admiralty both with the first lord and first sea lord over naval policies, much to the annoyance of the Admiralty. Winston Churchill was the First Lord, and perhaps to many souls surprised to learn that he sometimes was fool hardy in his dealing with people, for the first rule of engagement is first know your enemy and your subject.  He rather stupidly took on a very feisty naval officer and he lost a very public argument in the House of Commons against [at that time] MP Commander Lord Charles Beresford RN. On a previous occasion, Churchill had come to the house with so-called facts and figures about the navy which Lord Beresford disputed, at which Churchill called him a purveyor of untruths.  At a subsequent meeting and debate in the House about the navy, now pre-occupied in 1913 with oncoming war, Churchill met his match as Lord Beresford rose to his feet to pick up on being called a liar in public by the 1st Lord of the Admiralty.  This is what happened, taken from Hansards,  and I have outlined salient points in RED.    Churchill had no defence and had to take it on the chin - possibly the first and last time he had been challenged, insulted, humbled, humiliated and lost! History shows that Churchill was to make many naval mistakes and blunders during the war that was shortly to follow. Lord Charles Beresford  began in the time honoured way with Mr Speaker.........

These uniform changes all involved the reduction in the size [width] of stripes reducing for example a rear admirals and first class commodores broad stripes from 2" down to 1" and the stripes above it from " to ".  Other changes were introduced creating a great deal of cost for removing many thousands of stripes  from sleeves and then the re-sewing of all the new stripe dimensions. The procurement costs for new gold lace were horrendous and the salvage from the change over was  largely wasted as many of the navies likely to be customers for such lace were already users of " lace.

In an endeavour to quell the anger across the fleet, officers were told that these new dimensions had been approved by the Admiralty and by HM The King, George V.

However immediately after WW1 in 1919, the Admiralty decided that flag officers too would have their stripes reduced from " to " meaning that an admiral of the fleet would have a reduction of 4 x ⅛" = " on each sleeve less gold braid, and one inch overall. Again,  the  flag officer corps were told that this change came with the Kings approval and blessing. The Admiralty had, however, omitted to seek the approval of His Majesty The King, and the King, refusing to be told in this casual way what uniform he should wear  was accordingly angry, and gave immediate instructions that the Royal Family  should continue to wear ⅝" stripes and this Royal custom is still continued to this day. Both Prince Philip and Charles are admirals of the fleet, Princess Anne is an admiral,  Prince Andrew is a vice admiral and  Timothy Laurence, Anne's husband, is a rear admiral. Philip and Charles therefore have 1" more gold braid going up their sleeves  than have non royal admirals of the fleet, and we have just two of these resplendent officers Sir Benjamin Bathurst [now 83] and The Lord Boyce [now 76] still alive on August 29th 2019: admirals of the fleet are no longer routinely promoted from the rank of admiral, and when they are as was the case of both Prince Charles and Lord Boyce have honorary commissions, a gift from  Her Majesty.

However the story is even more complicated, and its not quite an inch as stated, for in 1931 the crazy Admiralty with obviously too little to do, INCREASED all stripes from  " [12.7mm] to a fraction [not catered for in windows] of a 9th of a 16th, or [14.3mm]. I have lost the plot and can't be bothered to get my converting calculator out.  All I can tell you is that purely for Royal use ⅝" wide gold lace is still produced albeit in very limited quantities! 


End of brief snippet and I say good to that your MAJESTY, King George V who died on the 20th January 1936 two years before I was born.