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In 1870 and the years following there was much discontent. The  wardroom bemoaned their lot on half-pay, lack of sea-going experience/activity, poor, nay little chance of a promotion until well past middle age and that much too late to fulfil the aspiration of flag-rank, whilst the warrant officers, were becoming more and more rebellious, regularly agitating for a better reward in terms of pay and messing, whilst suggesting that social integration with wardroom officers would be desirable. With the severe cutbacks of those times and the loss of sea going ships into harbour hulks not requiring crews, their calls for improvements were falling on 'deaf ears.' 

These doors  will take you to areas which discuss pay, pension, training, qualifications and other matters concerning not only warrant officers but other ranks and rates also.

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Since by 1880 officers, warrant officers and chief petty officers were wearing a uniform which required buttons to fasten and more buttons for ceremonial dress, I now turn to that subject.  In the 18th century, buttons consisted of white metal, usually with a rose in the centre. In 1774 a foul anchor surrounded by rope edging took the place of the rose and in 1787 the same device with the addition of a wreath of laurel leaves was adopted for Admirals. When the Merchant Navy started to use the foul anchor device, a crown was added to naval buttons in 1812. The same basic design remains in use today.

The foul anchor device itself was first recorded in use in the seal of the Lord High Admiral of Scotland in 1402. It was subsequently adopted in the Admiralty seal and by a large number of navies throughout the world. The rope 'fouling' has no specific twist and may be deemed to be correct however it fits around the anchor [see Kings crown button below]. Whatever variation we see today is likely to have at least one manifestation in the past 400 years.

  The button on the left is very different from that one the right.  Yes they are both Royal Naval buttons, but the first one [left] has a QUEENS CROWN and the second [right] a KINGS CROWN.  In 1952, although a couple of years after the days of the warrant officer,  when King George VI died, the navy changed its buttons from King to Queen buttons [read the book 'BADGES AND INSIGNIA OF THE BRITISH ARMED FORCES' by W.E. May, W.Y. Carman, John Tanner {London, 1974}]. The art work is also different. Look at the foul anchor. On the Queen's [left] it follows tradition, namely that it comes from the connecting ring of the anchor, goes behind the shank of the anchor, comes back in front of the shank, and disappears behind the left hand arm between the base of the shank and the left palm [or fluke]. On the King's it is in reverse to tradition.  This cannot be other than that the photographer who produced these images printed the negative of the picture back-to-front!  I say that because the following two pictures, covering the same subject, show the traditional navy foul anchor.   Again, the Queens  officers cap badge, worn by warrant officers,  is on the left and the Kings on the right. In all cases of course, whenever the crown is shown [buttons, cap badges, rate badges, branch badges, Naval Patrol armlets, aircrew, submariner] be it worn by an officer or a rating, follows the same rule.   

 One of the 'burning' issues of the last quarter of the 19th century was the question about the status of the warrant officer and it consumed a disproportionate time of the Second Sea Lord's office staff. Nothing yet nothing was being done, and fleet officers were concerned about repercussions if some of the grievances were not addressed at the highest level. The following story speaks for itself.  In 1893 two warships, the Camperdown and the Victoria collided off Tripoli because the C-in-C  Vice Admiral Sir George Tryon issued a manoeuvre order which was impossible to carry out, but was attempted by his subordinates [who stated at the subsequent court martial that it was impossible] resulting in the loss of a ship and 350 men including the C-in-C himself [kind of a suicide!] At the resultant carnage was a man called Thomas Lyne, a petty officer, whose task in a small boat was to rescue the sailors in the water. A couple of years later, Thomas was promoted to become a Gunner, a warrant officer.  He served in the Boer War [1899-1901] where he commanded a Torpedo Boat but whilst at sea his propeller shaft shattered, and he brought his craft back to harbour using a jury sail rig. For this action he was specially promoted to Lieutenant.  He went on to be a Rear Admiral and was knighted. Lyne was the sole rating to reach the wardroom for OVER 50 YEARS.  Lyne, on first promotion was 'uneducated', and this was the main reason why the Admiralty would not promote warrant officers [commissioned or ordinary] to commissioned wardroom officer, so despite Lyne brave acts and brilliant initiatives, his elevation rocked-the-boat:  what was the REAL reason for not promoting warrant officers to the wardroom?      

The answer to the question was known to all and sundry and had been for many a long day.  Here is another story. Prince Edward Island at the back of Nova Scotia, where my wife and I used to walk when we were stationed in Halifax in submarines, had in 1887 a visit from the cruiser Canada.  The occasion was Queen Victoria's Jubilee.  A gunner [a warrant officer] Henry Capper discovered from friends ashore that he was expected to join them at an official reception in honour of the occasion. Not receiving an invitation card he sought advice from the first lieutenant, who referred him to the captain.  You and your messmates [boatswain and carpenter] said Captain Beaumont, 'are not included in the term "officers" in the social matters; I regard you Mr Capper, as one of my most  responsible professional officers, but in social affairs you must not consider yourself an officer.' Many years were to elapse before warrant officers and their wives were able to find a level in Service social hierarchy that satisfied all parties.  Reading further, it is clear beyond doubt that some of the warrant officers, their homes, their wives and all that touched their lives was far below the standards required of any organisation let alone the high standards of the Royal Navy. Many warrant officers were plain rough and ready, and whilst they were what we term 'salt horses' and au fait with everything about the sea often being consulted by even senior lieutenants on matters of sailing, their social skills and behaviour had not advanced beyond that of able seaman.  However, by tarring all warrant officers with the same brush, the Admiralty were exercising group punishment in writing-off all warrant officers as social misfits.

The warrant officer was no different from any other member of the crew, in that he had a few enemies on both the upper and the lower deck.  They were admired and respected by the vast majority of the crew, many wishing themselves to be known as friends.  The warrant officers argument was not with his own kind, the seagoing fraternity, but with the Admiralty for keeping their wings clipped.

Mr Capper, the gunner I previously mentioned, felt passionately about this plight. He was appointed to  Naval Ordnance Department in Whitehall [the Ordnance gave warrants and commissions to warranted personnel and not the Admiralty] and whilst ashore he was determined to alert the top-brass to the problem.  Despite his social snub, Capper was one of the warrant officers not willing to take the slight lying down. His boss was a man called Captain Fisher [you may have heard of him?] and Capper was given enough latitude to visit MP's and the press [absolutely unheard of in the 19th century and I don't think that it would be allowed today, though of course, it wouldn't be a requirement].  Capper then started the Warrant Officer Journal, [just an example and more follows]  packed it full of propaganda, and with that and his new friends, he went all out to secure commissions for 'selected' warrant officers who could pass the same examination as lieutenants'.  That Journal was published right up until 1949 when the warrant rank ceased, and at a monthly printing, there are over 700 issues on the shelf for posterity.  I have read  dozens or so of these issues and some of my findings are mentioned on this page.

Eventually, Cappers efforts and Captain Fishers encouragement led to the setting up of a  Manning Committee to look specifically at the grievances of the warrant officer. There was much talk around the fleet about the outcome, not only by warrant officers, but by chief petty officers too.  Pay and promotion prospects for warrant officers had long been insufficient to attract the best senior rates and concern among senior officers was growing. 

The day arrived for the Committee to deliver its decision.  What had Capper achieved?

The recommendation were to:-

raise pay
treble the number of chief warrant officers [they were commissioned warrant officers]
extend the warrant rank to artificer engineers
eventually extend the warrant rank to other branches
establish proper warrant officer messes
issue a formal full dress uniform to warrant officers.........
BUT - nothing else!

The most important and much wished for innovation was not to be.  No 'routine' promotion to the commissioned Lieutenant's rank.  

There was a bitter disappointment, but what followed shortly afterwards, stunned the warrant officer brigade.  The navy wanted officers and in 1895 it recruited 150 Royal Naval Reserve officers to full time employment, officers who may have had all the social graces but who could not offer the professionalism of the warrant officer.

After Fisher's time,  Mr Capper became  a pain-in-the-backside to the Admiralty, and like the saying goes, 'give 'em enough rope and they will hang themselves', he was drafted to Australia for 5 years as an expert in ordnance and much benefited the Australian gunnery world. On his return home he was promoted chief gunner [chief warrant officer] and sent to Sheerness to be the Mess President of a very large Warrant Officers Mess.  Capper, as keen as even for promotion to the wardroom, noted that many in his mess were unsuitable for holding higher rank, and his observation shattered his ideals.

In 1903 Admiral Fisher was Second Sea Lord [a job normally reserved for a rear admiral] and he had remembered Mr Capper well. To Capper's everlasting delight, Admiral  Fisher established the rank of lieutenant for 'long and meritorious service' for 4 percent of the commissioned warrant officers of both military and civil branches.  One year later in 1904, friend Capper was promoted Lieutenant under the scheme he had long sought.  Some of my research took me to the British Library database.    It is no surprise to find H. Capper as the editor of the two volumes written on warrant officers in 1893-4 and 1894-5.  Henry Capper did a great deal to further the fortunes of the warrant officer, the chief warrant officer and the promotion of a chief warrant officer to Lieutenant and the wardroom, and yet, few if any will have heard of him.  His name is not part of naval folk law though I feel it should be.

There followed what can only be described as a major shake-up in the way the navy operated, the recruiting system and the employment of officers.  With mixed feelings of apprehension and delight from the fleet at large, the 1st and 2nd sea lords virtually rebuilt the navy sending it into a further state of flux and uncertainty which lasted for the first ten years of the twentieth century. Those who shouted the loudest were the senior officers who had the most to lose and the retired admirals because the ideas were not invented in the London Pall Mall Club!  Those who had the most to gain, senior Lieutenants through to newly appointed young Captains, applauded the innovation and encouraged all below them to work hard and embrace the 'new navy'. In some newspapers of the time, all traditional  news took a back seat, and in its place lengthy editorials would be published, generally in support of Admiral Fisher's initiatives.  The navy of pre-change was the sum of two social clubs. The executive club whose members came from middle class, upper class and the aristocrat class formed the military side of the service and provided all the commanders of ships, shore establishments and fleets.  Their training, employment and social activities were all jealously guarded, and where executive types were of a 'different' species, commissioned warrant officers for example, they were tolerated but regularly humbled and embarrassed with the idea of ostracizing them from the Mess/Club. In the other employment/training/social club were the civil members.  In particular, since the introduction of the steam iron clads in 1860, nearly fifty years previously, the club had many members who were engineers and many very senior at that, who wanted recognition of their part in fighting the ship/battle and a system whereby seniority in rank meant that in harbour at least, they would often find themselves the senior officer on board when the Captain was ashore and therefore the second in command, out ranking the executive branch officers. This was considered to be totally unacceptable by the executive club, for after all, the 'engineer' didn't have naval or social skills befitting a proper naval officer.   To quote an article from contemporary times "Additional argument lay in the importance of diplomatic and social duties, which, it is alleged, could only be properly conducted by officers from polite upbringing." In effect, Admiral Fisher closed both clubs down. He forced its respective members into a new club by making sure that from hereonin, all young officers [cadets and then midshipmen] would receive a common training lasting many years before they specialised into branches of their choosing [assuming there were positions available]. Equally, though much more subtly, he encouraged the thought that the social graces so jealously guarded and yet so necessary to increase wardroom skills, should be 'shared' and set about encouraging the deep specialist civil officer to emulate his executive brother. His hope, and he succeeded, was to get officers to act as a band-of-brothers, where they sat in classroom together ashore and attempted the same examination; they played sport together; learnt about parts-of-ship at sea and were employed in them on a rotating basis during the seven odd years of formative training; messed and ate together, and as important as all these changes, socialised together. Admiral Fisher wondered how it was possible to have two groups of officers where neither recognised the merits of the other, but who pulled together for the good of the navy when required to do so, and then, when not, to split apart again each almost despising the other. 

It is worth looking at the following thumbnail picture.  It shows what was called the Selbourne-Fisher Scheme, where Lord Selbourne was the First Lord of the Admiralty. It was this major and revolutionary scheme, which changed the lot not only of the wardroom and gunroom officers but also for the warrant officer.

In 1903, 100 warrant officers, gunners, boatswains, carpenters and engineers were promoted to Lieutenant as well as increased pensions for chief petty officers. I mentioned earlier the story of the early engine room men, the ERA and how the admirals had tamed them whilst starting a new training ship, the hulk Fisgard for boy entrant engineer artificers. When the warrant rank was conferred on the ERA in 1898, the attitude of many was that more pay was better than promotion.  Admiral Fisher assured them that wasn't an alternative, improved the lot of the existing ERA's and introduced the rate of CERA. 

Admiral Fisher also improved the lot of the humble stoker, who toiled but was not rewarded as a seaman might be for the same "seen" effort. He devised a system that the ERA should have a 'helper' to both assist him and to relieve him of some of his watchkeeping duties. The helper became known as a Mechanician and during the 1st world war, no fewer than seventy-two were promoted to Warrant Officer Mechanicians. 

At this stage in the story you cannot have failed to understand that a CWO, a Chief Warrant Officer, was a commissioned warrant officer, although he was not of wardroom status.

Now to add to that story came an unexpected twist, which really forced the hand of the Admiralty, and once again riled many for favouring a few whilst selling the majority short.

By 1915, virtually all branches had a chief [CWO] - except for the Telegraphist Branch - who was employable [and indeed employed]  in all duties undertaken by commissioned officers of wardroom status of the same branch, except for one rank, namely that of the Chief [CWO] Writer. This was deemed necessary for all CWO's to be employed in these ways especially when fighting a major European War when EVERYBODY should be pulling his weight. The Chief Writer  worked alongside Paymaster officers dealing with money; money coming from several sources which to the penny had to be accounted for.  Because his official title was a Chief Warrant Officer Writer [notwithstanding that meant he was a commissioned warrant officer, but not called that in official circles by the Admiralty] he was not allowed to receive, pay out, or handle money unless supervised by a wardroom paymaster of whatever rank from sub lieutenant to Fleet Paymaster - any officer with the word 'fleet' preceding his title was a commander. This led to meetings in the Admiralty at Sea Lord level to discuss ways of fully employing the Chief Writer so that other officers could  be released for more important jobs chiefly in the administration of the navy under fire. What they came up with,  altered the titles of all CWO's no matter what their branch or specialisation. They decided to call the CWO Writer [what in reality he already was] namely  a 'commissioned writer',  dropping all reference of the CWO rank - that he had the word 'writer' after 'commissioned' meant to all that he was not a wardroom officer but still a warrant officer. Now as a 'commissioned writer' [but still without wardroom status] he could add to his tasks the full and unsupervised handling of money, releasing more senior wardroom officers to tasks like acting as secretaries, heading up supply chains including victualling etc, indeed being more versatile as Supply Officers. 

Just before Jutland in February 1916, it was realised that the Warrant Officer Telegraphist was  also restricted in his duties. Before the war, these warrant officers were limited to handling confidential signals only, nothing of a higher caveat and they were responsible for coding and ciphers chiefly using book systems like OTP = One Time Pads.  Traffic was piling up awaiting the attention of a commissioned officer for traffic above the confidential caveat. It is important to note that the Telegraphist branch never had the Chief's rank and that the Signals branch was not involved in any coding/decoding duties.  Telegraphists and Signalmen were not integrated into one communications branch until very much later, and were treated as two quite separate branches in many ways ### [See just below].  The signalman branch had been formed back in the 19th century and was well established with a Signal Boatswain [WO under ten and over ten years] and a CWO. Signal Boatswains over 10 were recorded before 1900 and Chief Signal Boatswains from about the 1909 period. The telegraphists branch by comparison was almost brand new, the first WO's being created on the 18th May 1910. It would have been  easy to promote an existing Chief Signal Boatswain to a Commissioned Signal Boatswain but what about the Warrant Telegraphist? A further precedent was set to that of the Commissioned Writer [which later affected new and emerging technical WO's], in that they promoted a Warrant Telegraphist straight to a Commissioned Telegraphist, the first two being so promoted on the 29th February 1916. These commissioned Telegraphist were allowed to handle signals bearing the secret caveat from that point, which would have helped greatly for Jutland, although the Battle only lasted for a few hours, so the traffic generated demanding a secret and top secret  caveat would not have been great!  From early 1916 onwards, CWO's [where existing]  were, in piecemeal fashion, stood down in favour of the commissioned officer rank [non wardroom status].  I can find no logical reason for the dates these new ranks were introduced, but for the record these ranks cover some ground:-

Mechanicians Commissioned Mechancians - 1915 but CWO ERA's stayed thesame Commissioned Stewards - 1915 Commissioned Electricias - 1915 Commissioned Victualling Officers - 1918 Commissioned Supply Officers - 1918 Commissioned Master at Arms - 1918 Commissioned Shipwrights - 1918 Commissioned Wardmaster - 1918 Commissioned Ordnance Officers - 1919 Commissioned Cook - 1919 Commissioned Engineers - 1919

then, fittingly {?} first IN and LAST out Commissioned Gunner, Boatswain, Carpenter from approximately - 1924

except [meaning not the first in] bringing up the rear the - Commissioned Signal Boatswain from the early 1930's - approximately 15 years after the Commissioned Telegraphist.

Quite  separately, but not mentioned yet in enough detail, was the ORIGINAL colour coding associated with officers stripes, which were used previous to the colour codes of the five civil officers of 1910 which were the Engineers = Purple; Medical = Red; Accountant = White; Instructor = Light Blue; Assistant Constructor/Shipwrights  = Silver Grey - others were added at a later date, i.e.,  Electrical = Green; Wardmaster = Salmon Pink; Dentist = Orange.  These were:-

Chief Senior Schoolmaster = ½" Black braid
Clerks = ¼" White cotton
Warrant officers Engineers under 10 years = ¼" Purple cotton under cuff buttons.

### In 1904 there was much comment about the W/T branch, embryonic as it was, that it was seen as a part time job, where would-be telegraphists went off to do other jobs, not necessarily to do with communications but usually to act as electricians, and when there was subsequent wireless activity, others were 'grabbed' from their jobs to man the circuits. These others almost invariably involved bridge watchkeepers, commissioned officers and those on watch in associated decks/areas viz, signalmen. Indeed, the Yeoman of Signals, with his knowledge of the Morse code became quite adept at wireless telegraphy, as did some of the junior signalmen who actually vied with junior telegraphists to be the recognised ships telegraphist. The situation got quite out of hand because often was the case that the "volunteer/pressed man", irrespective of his rank or job, got quite involved in "wireless signalling" that he was not available for his scheduled watch, he already fatigued in terms of hours on deck with their associated necessary and demanded alertness.  Captains of vessels and admirals of fleets and squadrons questioned the volatility of the "ships nerve centre" and the piecemeal arrangements made of necessity in situ,  made to support the fledgling branch of new technology. By 1905, these same captains and admirals demanded of Their Lordships to provide a professional telegraphist branch, where, once operational and at sea, their sole job was to send and receive radio messages at a goodly speed with great [rather than hitherto amateur] dexterity and nigh on one hundred percent accuracy. During major fleet manoeuvres in the Mediterranean, the then C-in-C, in his post exercise report stated the following.    Reports from sea - C-in-C Mediterranean report.  For reasons he explains "communications at present are ABSOLUTELY UNRELIABLE.     W/T MUST NOT have precedence over V/S.  W/T was not used to any great extent in the Russo-Japanese war [also of course of 1905]".  The C-in-C went further by stating that :-

Electrical branch is in charge of W/T - because it uses electricity !
Yeoman of Signals employed as the early telegraphists to cope with the requirements of Morse code.
Shortage of V/S personnel as a result.
[Seen as desirable] - confirm those early telegraphists as permanent telegraphists and continue recruiting to their numbers from more junior members of the signalling [V/S] department.
But, surely this would cripple the signalling department at a time when bridge signalling was as important [if not more so] than W/T signalling.

Remedy ? Suggestions put forward by the C-in-C Mediterranean did not auger well for the future of the full time professional W/T operator.     HMS Vernon, the Signal School, rounded on the C-in-C giving all the reasons why the introduction of the professional W/T branch was  not yet possible, reminding all that the Royal Navy was the best W/T equipped navy in the world and that in due course, W/T operators would mirror that statement. It, the professional W/T branch, followed as promised just over a year later, and was formed by existing R.N.,  telegraphists, by GPO trained telegraph boys,  signalmen foregoing their branch skills, and by AWO's [Admiralty Weekly Orders - forerunners of the AFO] trawling for every man-jack  from all branches willing to be retrained as telegraphists.  It will hurt or even upset some readers when I say [with authority and from profound research] that seven years BEFORE Jutland, the R.N., were well equipped and had had well trained operators, and pose a question as to whether our admirals knew that and why they didn't employ that proven technology?  I can just see the naval father of W/T technology [that famous Yorkshire admiral Sir Henry Jackson] who by Jutland was the first sea lord, asking of his admirals at sea [Jellicoe and Beatty] what's wrong with our bloody admirals, in the same vein as Beatty referred to our bloody ships. Poor Henry Jackson, after what to him must have seemed a life time of fighting with Marconi, who, in the end won Admiralty's affection and purchased Marconi's equipment as opposed to HMS Vernon's/Jackson's equipment, wringing his hands in despair, reflecting on lost years, and a crucial battle lost - or was that half won - it certainly was not won? 

Seeing W/T as an unwilling toy, hell bent on not behaving itself and therefore side-lined by the early WW1 British admirals as unpredictable, reminds me of the 1850-1870 period, when the salt-horses didn't like the engineers and steam age and much preferred sail.  After all, most of the senior sea going officers of those days wanted, as much as anything, a ship, timely arrived and fully prepared for the battle but without the soot and the residual filth accompanying it, without worrying about that most unfortunate of all naval occasions, that of becalming!  Steam and engineering was forced on them just as W/T was forced on admirals post Jutland who turned down a better and more efficient alternative to flag wagging, to their cost. If "equal speed charlie london" means the loss of many thousands of men and many of our so-called fine ships in a less than a twenty four hours time period, then so be it. To others it might mean a classic and dreadful slaughter akin to the army's Somme battle, and yes, W/T versus the archaic V/S technique of yore comes to mind - certainly to mine!


The following plates show the states of the numbers of warrant officersThe following plates show the states of the numbers of warrant officers authorised in 1899 and the analysis of the lower deck viewed as numbers in each branch in 1919   .  This page comes from KRAI 1911 .  By the start of the 1920's, the officer corps looked like this ***   . Staying briefly with the last picture, here is the same picture but modified to show the changes in TITLES for the SAME number/configuration of stripes , and logically although out of historical context, this .  1917 changes affected the paymaster branch which came into line with the executive branch, and like others, won the curl over their top stripe and wore a coloured cloth. 1922 saw the introduction of the Supply Branch, also with a curl and a colour, and of course with its own warrant officer.

   Just how complicated can it be? The plates above are taken from royal navy books of reference [BR's]. In the second plate, note the rear admiral and the commodore sharing the same number of stripes **{see below}. In the first plate, left hand side, flag rank officers of the engineer branch, the medical branch and the accountant branch have colour codes stripes but no curl on their top stripe. Now look to the right. Senior and junior officers of the engineering branch are colour coded but have a curl on their top stripe.  However, the same goes for the medical and accountant officers for flag, senior and junior officers. This gives you some idea of how sea-going engineers wanted and got, parity with their sea-going executive peers.  By 1922 many of the old titles mentioned on these pages had been changed and new titles given which reflected new technology as much as anything - [part 1] [part 2] both taken from KRAI. The change to lieutenant commander from lieutenant over 8 years was about as obvious as it gets, and it took from 1877 to 1914. The old, and for the 20th century, confusing title of Chief Warrant Officer which always meant Commissioned Warrant Officer, was dropped, and all warrant officers [new technology and old salt horses] had the same titles, either, a Commissioned Warrant Officer or a Warrant Officer. Notice the peculiar titles for Communicators who had won commissions to the wardroom from Commissioned Signal Boatswain or Commissioned Telegraphist.    REST AWHILE HERE [CLICK]  and browse through some 1922 data plates. War memorials to our glorious dead are not only places  for reverent recollection and memories, they are open history books, there to read, to understand their times and ranks, and in our case [the navy] to learn about the ships we lost, and in the army's case, to read of old regiments now defunct whose resplendent battle honours have long been laid-up. One such place, which I personally often visit, is the memorial on Southsea Common near the city of Portsmouth UK, a memorial which covers the period 1939 to 1947 {yes, two years after the war finished people were dying as a direct result of injuries sustained}.  There, you will find a very large page to read which remembers the lost souls of HMS HOOD. On it, there is a Senior Master Commissioned Warrant Officer, the title which intrigued me originally, and which I found to be a school master. HOOD had two Communication Branch warrant officers, the junior, a Signal Boatswain [WO] and the senior a Commissioned Telegraphist [CWO] but by this time [1941] there is no mention of a Signal or Telegraphist Lieutenant Commander, but of a  Communicators Officer known simply as Lieutenant Commander. The change had been made in the early 1930's approximately ten years after the KRAI article above had been published. The changes to warrant officer titles was to last until 1949.  Names do change and it doesn't matter to what, as long as we all know that both names mean the same thing, except in a very few cases. One little light hearted instance is as follows.  In 1921   the name PTI was officially cancelled and in its place came PRTI. In 1953, some 32 long years later I joined the navy and just about the first man I am my peers met was a PTI, who told us he was a PTI, but that we should call him 'sir'. For the whole of my thirty year career I never heard a PTI called a PRTI or indeed anything other than PTI or 'Clubs'.  What's in a name?

**{from above} Like some many other things in the navy, rank stripes/badges have changed a great deal since the 20's. Whilst the proverbial number and configuration of admirals stripes has not changed, titles have, and in today's peace-time navy, there is no Admiral of the Fleet rank {since 1996 it has been  in abeyance but could be restored in war-time or at H.M's pleasure/command al la Lord Boyce in 2015} nor a first class commodore: an Admiral is the top rank and a commodore is a commodore. The following plates show the badges of admirals in 1920       being respectively, AofF, Adm, Vice Adm, and then, both with a rear admirals stripes, top Rear Adm and bottom Commodore 1st Class. Today, in 2004, the badges look like this . An AofF is shown because there are still a few of them around from pre change days. [Tip: open the tumbnail for 2004, and then drag the opened picture down the page to sit alongside the 1920 badges where you can compare like with like properly].

By 1922, piecemeal changes from the 1910's had added to the start of the 'swinging twenties' and much change befell the navy. Here, in these plates, we see that the old divide of military and civil branches has come to an end, responding to years of criticism from the engineers about the lack of command [at least in harbour or in shore establishments]: by years, I mean from the start of the steam period in 1860. The split into two groups, was henceforth a split into five groups, with the engineers part of the premier military branch . This picture plate, also from 1922 KRAI, includes strange names like for example, a Lieutenant-at-Arms, a wardroom officer commissioned from a warrant master-at-arms; a wardmaster with Maroon [dull red]   cloth which in later times was described as salmon pink. Also by 1922 there were very many more warrant officers from all branches.  Each man's name was printed in the Navy List and here is just a single page from scores of them. In later Navy Lists, pages were not printed showing the names of officers promoted many years previously, so this is from the early days .  Look at the medals awarded.   Up until 1902, warrant officers, although officers and not ratings, were not given crosses for bravery or gallantry in combat; there were given medals only. Thus, a DSM was awarded and not a DSC. In 1902, all that changed. It is pleasing to see that today [2004] notwithstanding ones rank or rating, medals/crosses are awarded for the act, meaning that the lowliest of Able Seaman can win the DSC. This next picture talks about the first two warrant officers to be awarded the CSC [as it was in 1902] and claims that it was called the Warrant Officers DSO - Distinguished Service Order, an order of great esteem, awarded to senior officers usually in Command of a ship or unit. 

Known as the Conspicuous Service Cross when instituted, it was awarded to warrant and subordinate officers [midshipmen and cadets] of the Royal Navy who were ineligible for higher awards. In October 1914 it was renamed the Distinguished Service Cross and thrown open to all naval officers of and below the rank of lieutenant-commander. Bars for second awards were authorised in 1916 and in 1931 eligibility for the award was enlarged to include officers of the Merchant Navy. In 1940 Army and RAF officers serving aboard naval vessels also became eligible for the award. Since 1945 fewer than 100 DSCs have been awarded. As a result of the 1993 Review of gallantry awards and resultant changes to the operational gallantry award system, this award is now available to both officers and other ranks, the DSM having been discontinued.


Soon followed other branches, each in its turn establishing a warrant rank.  In this URL Bits and pieces Volume V at Section 3, I have tried to show how to research the navy at the PRO. ADM196 shows the service records of warrant officers covering boatswains, carpenters, gunners, gunners [T], cookery instructors, signal boatswains, telegraphists, armourers, electricians, shipwrights, stewards and writers.  The Navy List's from 1860 onwards is also a good source of information on the warrant rank. 

The Navy in the first twenty years of the 20th century was a breeding ground for 'lower deck lawyers', whilst wardroom officers and non wardroom officers also had cause to show dissatisfaction.  The measures taken by Admiral Fisher and the Admiralty Board, much though they helped, did not go deep enough or wide enough to address the ever growing problems of living on the lower deck. Discipline was breaking down, visibly so, and the more the incidents, the harsher the punishment given by the captain of the ship. Some captains had taken it upon themselves to dis-rate petty officers, a punishment which should [if confirmed] be at court martial level.  In hindsight, it is clear that to punish a man for complaining about his lot albeit in an unservice-like manner is adding salt to the wound.  Better that the complaint is investigated and if found proven and justifiable, it would be perfectly in order to punish the man for not, as it were, going through the correct channels, at worst, an administrative punishment. The senior officers should have seen the 'writing-on-the-wall' about what was to come from the lower deck when, in desperation,  chief and petty officers distributed a series of pamphlets entitled 'loyal appeal from the lower deck', described as a Naval Magna Carta, and aimed at sympathetic MP's and the receptive media.  Above all else, the men wanted to be able to address their grievance on conditions of service, direct to the Admiralty. Quite naturally, the Admiralty trawled the officers in the Fleet for clarification on the complaints, and those with sway, the senior officers, reported that there were no real problems. Just two examples from the pages of history suffice to make the point. Captain Freemantle of the Dreadnought wrote "I do not consider there is much wrong with discipline of the service at the present day....the situation is certainly not one which calls for drastic revision of the regulations." Captain Leveson of the Indefatigable, commenting on the then No. 10A punishment in which a sailor had to stand on the upper deck in a place appointed for over two hours, said "men must learn to stand still.....Sailors are simply childish men, and must be treated as children". By comparison, young captains and commanders in command held an opposite view suggesting that current administration does not get willing and cheerful work out of these men as it should. 

Even if senior captains and admirals at sea could not see the 'wood for the trees', the admirals back home in Whitehall had enough evidence of unjust punishments, and did something about it.  Moreover, Churchill, as the boss of the navy added his two- pennyworth and a new edict was issued from on high! Number 10A punishment [which I myself once endured whilst at HMS Ganges for a minor and petty offence] was from henceforth to have extra work and painting in the two hour slot, given over to standing still; petty officers to be court martialled the same as army NCO's;  the ban lifted on playing cards on the mess-deck; surprise evolutions to be banned during scheduled training sessions; the rigidity of fleet routine to be relaxed commensurate with the rhythm of routine not being lost, and that the hated navy police, known as and called agents provocateurs, had to be 'tamed' and made more accountable to the harmonious running of the ship. Discipline had NOT to change or be relaxed, but the reasons for discipline HAD to change.

One Captain, Captain Reginald Hall went much further in putting to right some of the senior rates complaints. Firstly, with Admiralty's full approval, he conducted a trial in the Queen Mary to replace the navy policemen with ordinary selected chief and petty officers. It was a great success and within two years many units in the fleet were copying the experiment on a trial basis. Then he offered his chiefs and petty officers more comfortable messes [accommodation] by allowing them to re-build their messes themselves to an acceptable and pre-arranged design.  Then he established a laundry with a new fangled washing machine for his senior rates.  Next came a library and a cinematograph projector - all firsts in the fleet. Finally, he set aside an area for a church and encouraged its use for all the crew. He was the very first skipper to do this, and yet, as a group, do we know about 'Hall of the Queen Mary'? No we do not!

Having dealt with the problems of the lower deck, including those of the chief and petty officers, the next most common complaint was promotion from the lower deck to the wardroom, and something better than making 'old and bold' warrant officers into lieutenants at the end of their active careers was needed. It was felt that an 'active' wardroom, one at sea and in constant close proximity with men from the lower deck, was not pulling its weight to get the matter solved for they would inherit these promoted men. The 'inactive' wardroom, especially in the heart of Whitehall where to see a lower-decker would be the result of a lost soul, didn't see the urgency and ignored the  repetitiveness of the grievances.   

In 1910, either unaware of the problem in the fleet regarding promotion, or perhaps a little insensitive towards the men's feelings,  an MP brought a proposal to the House for youngsters from deprived families to be awarded scholarships to join the naval entry at Osborne or Dartmouth, depending on their age on joining. The proposal 'blew the rivets' of both the pro-promotion group and also of the officer corps, and it was said that the navy could look after its own without recruiting from the democracy. Also that "we should view with grave apprehension any attempt to officer the fleet at all largely with men of humble birth."

Also in 1910, Lieutenant N.F. Usborne had drafted a paper about promotion where young leading seamen and petty officers be promoted acting warrant officers, undertake courses with sub-lieutenants and later be promoted to lieutenants. Churchill urged Fisher to consider the matter, and in 1912 Churchill announced to the House and to the navy, his scheme.  It was accepted on both sides of the House and immediately put into practice. This initiative emerged as the MATES SCHEME, by which selected warrant officers and qualified petty officers were given a round of specialist courses, with subsequent promotion to the wardroom as mates before becoming lieutenants. The problems was that to be eligible one had to be below the age of 30, and that ruffled feathers amongst the 'old and bold' warrant officers, the very men who had been complaining for years.  Still, the scheme went ahead, but it was not an unqualified success as you can imagine. Whatever ones view, it was a break through, and by 1914 some forty four mates had started to 'climb the ladder' and no fewer than two hundred young warrant officers had been promoted to chief warrant officer after fifteen years service.  Internally things were looking up at long last, but externally, the war clouds were about to burst.  The outbreak of war did wonders for the Mates. Thirty five were at sea and a further twenty six finishing course ashore, including the very first engineer Mate [E]. As planned, in 1913 the first mates were promoted to lieutenant and from then on the demand for officers was so great that over one hundred per year qualified, and three became flag officers. 

   It might seem to you a long time ago since you started this page, and that the first interactive thing you did was to click on a 'click here' prompt. On that new page which showed warrant officers stripes in the middle of the page and wardroom officers stripes to the right of the page, I mentioned the captain of HMS Dorsetshire and that he was a 'ranker'. Do you remember?  Dorsetshire torpedoed the Bismarck on the port side and then on the starboard side from close range. Captain Benjamin C.S. Martin was one of the mates I have described above. A bright young petty officer, {an ex HMS Ganges boy [1904]} who became an acting warrant officer [a gunner] 28th May 1915 - a mate [sub lieutenant stripe] 13th October 1916 - a lieutenant 13th May 1919 - a lieutenant commander 13th October 1926 - a commander 30th June 1935 and a captain 31st July 1939. The Dorsetshire was lost to Japanese aircraft off Ceylon with the loss of over two hundred souls:  the Captain was wounded in action [WIA]. Benjamin Martin achieved Flag Rank and eventually the KBE.

The only remaining complaint of any significance was basic pay, and as the navy was pre-occupied in preparing to fight the German's, it was assumed that the administrators would be pre-occupied with addressing this problem.  We cannot comprehend today the administration of naval pay which was extant immediately before the outbreak of WW1. The basic pay had NOT increased for 60 YEARS, but paradoxically pay was not an issue as such, and recruitment was very buoyant.  Just about every rating in the navy was paid this allowance for this and that allowance for that, making the mans total gross pay adequate for his needs. The navy were not silly! They knew that by giving incentive pay for proficiency and extra pay for length of service supported by a stripe [a good conduct badge -GCB] etc., got the best out of a man.  If his proficiency was considered below standard the man could lose money, and if he misbehaved he could lose a GCB and the money that came with it. The saying 'dangling a carrot' springs to mind here as being apt. So, the men worked and studied hard and behaved themselves - simple!  Churchill decided to address the need for a re-think on basic pay and to call-in the many allowances, where possible to add them to basic pay, and then increase it to buy peace from the sailors. For the purposes of my story I am not interested in the actual cash awards made, but Churchill didn't get all his own way with Lloyd George almost halving his demands.  In 1914, despite increasing inflation, the sailors were not complaining about pay per se but about basic pay.

The build-up to the 1st WW and the war proper, resulted in a shortage of officers, so Churchill introduced the direct entry cadet scheme in 1913 which recruited seventeen to eighteen year old public school boys into the navy. Their training of eighteen months only and all of it at sea in a training cruiser turned out midshipmen ready for the fleet. The direct entry scheme which lasted until 1955, covered the requirements of Britain when she was at her most vulnerable state of readiness in two world wars.

Whilst visiting a lovely church in the tiny Norfolk village of Blakeney [up on the north coast by the famous salt-marshes and bird sanctuary], I came across the following wall plaque which must be very rare and ideal for my purposes. It tells of two brothers, both Warrant Officers R.N., who were killed in separate incidents during WW1. The church was very dark, but had I used a flash, the result would have been just a white bright light bouncing back from the highly polished/lacquered brass plaque.


Just in case you have difficulty in reading the plaque, here is what it says.

"Sacred to the memory of Warrant Officer William E. King. R.N. killed onboard HMS Bulwark 26th November 1914. Age 39 years.  Also his brother Warrant Officer George. A. King. R.N. drowned from H.M. Destroyer "Crusader" Dover Patrol 21st Jan 1917. Age 32 years.  THEIR DUTY NOBLY DONE."

Warrant officers also did well out of the first world war.  Fifty were promoted to lieutenant in 1918 all under the age of forty two, half for long and zealous service and the other half by examination. Buttons on their sleeves were replaced with a thin stripe of gold lace which {this snippet comes from the sub page on the Warrant Officer Journal which you will see towards the bottom of this, the main page} became a thick stripe when promoted from warrant to commissioned officer.  At this stage their daily rum ration was stopped.   

During the war, in 1917, the inaction on dealing with basic pay had  the men worrying about the inadequacy and irregularities of the system.  The war had brought many HO's [hostilities only] into the armed forces. Inflation had all but overtaken the pre war rise awarded by Churchill. Civilians [and therefore the HO's] had been awarded pay rise after pay rise whilst they, the fighting men had been ignored. The Royal Fleet Reservists who had left the Navy, came back to fight and received their navy pension and their navy pay, whilst regulars who were about to leave on pension but stopped from doing so by the war, had to forego their pension and continue in service on only their naval pay. HO's were paid more than their active service opposite numbers while others received bonus reimbursements from former employers. To the sailor, this was most unfair.  Despite much lobbying, Whitehall didn't want to know, but, the TUC whose many members were also fighting the Germans were not going to let Whitehall off the hook. Whitehall adhered to the warning signs and made a small increase in pay, adding some changes to procedures for men due to be discharged to pension but denied from doing so, and introduced KUA [Kit Upkeep Allowance] thereby accepting that men's uniforms should be free or subsidised - see THE NAVAL UNIFORM.  The sailor accepted this grudging and meagre award, reflecting that dying for ones country in war was one thing, but dying being paid paupers wages was another.  Although not part of my little story, I have to say that the back end of the war from 1917 onwards did no favours for the warrant officer brigade.  Reading the papers of this period I wonder why the naval mutiny didn't happen at this time such was the mood of the lower deck.  The chief and petty officers were putting demands to the Admiralty which were clearly mutinous and contrary to Kings Regulations for the Royal Navy compounded by acts of sedition and beneath them were the junior rates spoiling  for a fight:  and above them....well, who knows?  Many executive officers had their doubts about the loyalty of the warrant officers mess, but I can find nothing to support their fears.  The protagonists [the chief and petty officers] who earlier had been given the right to represent cases concerning Conditions of Service to the Admiralty through normal naval channel, i.e., through their commanding officer, were now usurping the authority of their CO., and making demands direct.  Admiralty in its turn thought that the trades union movement had, through the many HO's, encouraged the naval masses to show dissent and to force a strike, a mutiny in military terms. That thought was supported by local UK barrack commanders who observed fraternal relationships between civilian activist and lower deck lawyers. In the battleship Resolution, two CPO's, one a master-at-arms and the other a gunner's-mate were arrested and court martialled at Scapa Flow for fomenting sedition. Yet another temporary settlement was negotiated, with the TUC and many MP's forcing the issue for the Admiralty to give way, and in the end it did. 

Jellicoe had proved a successful sea commander but the records show that he wasn't a good First Sea Lord and he was sacked in late 1917 and replaced by Admiral Sir Rosslyn Wemyss.

By the time the great war had finished in November 1918 and the surrendered German fleet had arrived in Scotland,  the men had sailed past and cheered Admiral Beatty in his flagship the Queen Elizabeth, the rumblings deep inside the lower deck had been confused and lessened by the euphoria of the victory. HO's were discharged and the Admiralty's task was to try and get back to the man-power it had pre war i.e., from nearly half a million men down to just one hundred and fifty thousand men, a tall order by any standards.  In the first fifteen years after the war the navy took some hard knocks and morale was never good enough to allow fleet commanders to take their 'eye off the ball.' 

Note: Many of the men laid-off immediately after the war were destitute and virtually went begging to survive.  I don't have a naval example, but I do have an army example and there were several types.  Soldiers would buy a clutch of these envelopes for a farthing an envelope, hoping to sell them on for tuppence, thereby, netting them one penny and three farthings.


Despite the post war mayhem, many civilians [and certainly American and Australian service personnel in the UK] appeared to be doing well spending and enjoying themselves. Royal sailors if anything, had gone backwards by comparison and they were genuinely borderline poor.  This applied to officers also for their salaries had not been increased for 50 YEARS and their pensions, if entitled,  had not change since 1870.

In 1919 two admirals, two committee's [one for officers and one for ratings] and an agreeable government, sorted the problem out once and for all.  On average, both ratings and officers pay would double overnight. Typically, an AB's daily pay went from 1s 8d [8.33p] to 4s [20p]; that of a PO 3s [15p] to 7s [35p] - in addition increases were made to allowances and pensions.  For officers a lieutenant's pay shot up by 70%, a commander's pay doubled and a captain got rather more than double.  That's all the navy wanted, and the agitation by the lower deck over a long period had ceased. From 1920 ratings, but not officers, received marriage allowance from the age of 25. Officers were told that they were wedded to their ships and career!  However, all was not rosy for the officer corps, and as the 1920's rolled on, the navy 'rewarded' these men,  married to the navy or not, with draconian cuts forcing hundreds out of the navy from all ranks into a hopeless future with civilian employment to say the least, difficult to come by.  They were justifiably hurt and felt utterly betrayed.  What reward was this for defending the country? These cuts also affected the warrant officers, and the advances made before the war were either at best on hold, or cancelled.  Two pictures of the master-at-arms [a] in the boys' training ship HMS Lion [collar badge, single breasted suit and two little button sewn onto back of cuffs] in approximately 1896, and [b] in 1943 in HMS Rodney [one of the major players in sinking the Bismarck and which survived the war]

In 1922 the economy moved into recession and the 'tightening of belts' became the order of the day.  By 1923 a committee was looking into the standards of remuneration and conditions of employment in the civil service and in the three arms of the armed forces. Quite unbelievably, bearing in mind the past social upheaval in the navy, the committee stated that the pay of junior officers and ratings was much too high compared with others. Instead of the army, the royal flying corps [and now royal air force] and the navy getting together to fight the ruling, the army readily agreed to the cuts, leaving the other two much smaller services with no choice but also to agree. The Admiralty were quick to add a caveat to their agreement which would only affect new recruits who were to join after a certain date. Fittingly, in 1925 an AFO [Admiralty Fleet Order] was issued giving the start date as the 5th October 1925.  New ratings pay would be 25% less and junior officers would get 11¾% less than those ratings and officers already serving before that date. The small print of that AFO warned those already in the service before the 5th October 1925 that they were not entitled to claim a right to any rate of the event of reduced scales being introduced.  The men were happy that they had escaped the cuts but ignored the warning in the small print. Warrant officers, either reduced in numbers or their careers on hold because of the massive cuts in the officer corps, had escaped with their standard of living unaffected. Needless to say, that morale on the lower deck was affected because of the two pay bands operating side by side.    {This refers to the period 1810 - 1900}.

The engineering mates and warrant officers had their employment better defined when in 1929 it was agreed that engineers would also take over the responsibility of electrical high power leaving the torpedo department to maintain their hold on low power electrics, a compromise that stopped  any chances of an electrical branch being formed.  By this time, the Fisher-Selbourne  plan shown above as a thumbnail was no longer relevant, and it was time for training specialist in a specialised way. Engineers would start their training with four years as a midshipman at Manadon  in Devonport. 

In 1925 the Admiralty abolished the five branches of officers set-up in 1915 - military, medical, accountant, naval instructor and artisan.  They were replaced by twelve categories - executive, engineer, medical, dental, accountant, instructors, chaplains, shipwrights, ordnance, electrical, schoolmasters and wardmasters, the last five to be warrant officers.

Becauses mates and mates [E] promoted from the lower deck were too old to go far in the Service {but remember the three officers who became flag officers one of whom was Captain Martin of the Dorsetshire}  a scheme was put forward whereby promising young ratings could be selected for cadetship.  "To be a good officer it is necessary to be a gentleman" said the Second Sea Lord Admiral Heath, and he rejected the proposal because in his opinion, a young man from the lower deck couldn't have the qualities needed for successful application. MP's in the House didn't agree with the Admiral and the scheme was approved and set-up, stating that if this 'promising young man' from the lower deck could take a first class certificate in further special courses, he could be a lieutenant by the age of 23 with every opportunity with his new peers of reaching the top. The scheme was also extended to talented boy artificers to be trained for midshipman [E].  Where a parent could not meet the Dartmouth fees, the fees were waived. 1927 saw the original mates being promoted to Commander and to Commander [E]. After the first Labour government was elected in 1929 the new First Lord suggested to the then First Sea Lord that officer entry should be widened by accepting more candidates from the lower deck. The Admiralty at that time was trying to rid itself of an excess of lieutenant commanders and lieutenants. Democratise the navy, was the in phrase. Sixteen year old boys with school certificates from secondary school into Dartmouth! - why not? From the Admiralty came a big flat no. Later, a committee decided that Dartmouth was already democratise with its intake of wealthy family boys and not so wealthy public school boys, and anyway, a degree of wealth was necessary to pay the Dartmouth fees.  The First Lord, Mr A.V. Alexander, won the day but not the numbers he would have wished, and at the expense of the Mate promotion which was disbanded, replaced by the acting sub-lieutenant rank. To overcome the disparity in age [lower deck direct entrants being older than public school boys] and the standards of education [the public school boys being more able academically than a lower-deckers] he proposed an 'extended' period of classroom/school work in all subjects including those biased towards the lower deck experience of actually having been at sea. 

Arm-in-arm with Mr Alexander was the 1st Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Frederick Field. What a hapless man! He took over at the worst possible time. Straight away he had to put down a mutiny in the submarine world in Devonport which revolved around the submarine depot ship HMS Lucia.  Then the Wall Street crash of 1929 led in 1931 to the collapse of the UK economy [and all others of course] and a melt-down of public funding. The story is well known and I cannot do it justice in a mere sentence, suffice to say that a reduction in wages/salaries for all public employees, including the navy was ordered, which led to the down fall of the government. A national government was put into being, again led by McDonald, whose cabinet colleagues endorsed the cuts and imposed them.  Although new in marketing, higher purchase [HP] agreements and mortgages were frequently used by sailors just as they are now in 2004. Many sailors had medium to long term commitments on purchases of household equipments and [though rare] the family home. They had agreed to pay so many pounds and pence weekly or monthly allotments and they were legally bound to keep the payments up or else, suffer the bailiff.

What followed is legend and not in the scope of my story. The wise [?] warrant officers, chief petty officers and petty officers who frankly, because of their age and advancement into marriage, children, washing  machine commitments etc had the most to lose, took a back seat in what followed, although it can be shown but not legally, that some of them had hands-on sympathies with the protagonists.  Several  experienced able seamen around the age of twenty seven or so together with a few leading seamen and marines, started a mutiny at Invergordon, Scotland. At no time did they show disrespect to an officer nor was violence used as a tool at any stage. The mutiny manifested itself in the refusal by the crews of Nelson, Rodney, Hood and Valiant to raise steam or by the stopping of the raising of the anchors of these vessel in preparation for proceeding to sea. Quickly these actions spread to other ships effectively immobilising  the fleet. The situation was resolved temporarily by each captain being allowed [by the crew, the mutineers and the Admiralty] to steam his ship away from Invergordon and back to their home port. The mutinous activity brought shame upon the fleet and upon Britain, long thought of as being beyond such an action. The government had to change the basis of the economy to save face and to save the day as a currency. The mutiny did not last long, and more importantly, did not spread far and wide to other than the Atlantic fleet, large though it was. Amendments to  pay and conditions were immediately introduced  and the final reduction in pay was not as severe as first thought [but it was a reduction of 10%], and the fleet sailed for exercises within just a few days of the incident. However, investigations by MI5 and the Special Branch were immediately launched. 

The outcome of the mutiny and its subsequent [after many committees, conversations, meetings, resignations, changes at the top etc] findings, is much too involved and one is advised to seek it from dedicated sources. There were no ghoulish hangings or deportations to antipodean islands, and more were let off completely than were punished. One hundred and twenty-four men received a blanket amnesty, whilst twenty-four and all from the west country [Devonport] were discharged shore with a dishonourable caveat , not because of Invergordon, but because they had continued the unrest on arrival at their southern base port.  The main-stream seagoing naval officers blamed the Admiralty for accepting the cut in the first place, and stated that the fleet could not get back to full operations unless the board was replaced.  The board was not changed, but none of its members was promoted further after their term had expired. It changed the navy completely and anguish at the wrong doings on both sides might have continue unabated were it not for the onset of the second world war. 

By 1930 all lower deck promotions had become sluggish with people waiting for lengthy periods for advancement.  This affected the progress of the warrant officer and the selection of others for whom new schemes were in operation. Also by this time, anxiety about pay was beginning to make itself felt again. 

However, by this time, officers knew as much about technology and they did about seamanship. Ratings too receive better and more structured training and were better employed befitting their training and experience and  in more trusted positions. Everybody had settled into a work/leisure cycle which suited, except for the continuous [won't go away]  problem of poor pay and the indifference shown about this by the Admirals. What had not changed for over two hundred years was the social division between the upper and lower deck. More than ever, when peace was here to stay [how could anybody start another war after the Armageddon of 1914-1918] did the wardroom hold on to its position of the 'gentlemen's club', hell-bent at keeping out anybody who started life on the lower deck, and perhaps more hurtful to sailors many of whom had no aspirations about the wardroom, overtly showing contempt for the upbringings of decent, diligent and career minded lower-deckers.  Reading and re-reading the social history of the navy I become more and more annoyed at the attitude of the Admirals [and other officers] of the day. Many, I am sure, honestly believed that like themselves, naval pay was [and could be] supplemented by daddy, so why do ratings pre-occupy themselves with pay and conditions whilst we [the officers] go about our business being pre-occupied with ships and weapons? After all, isn't it bad style to talk about money? Ratings, including warrant officers spent a great deal of their time worrying about their families [in 1925, seventy percent of sailors over the age of twenty five were married] and how they would make ends meet. Many had the problem of living next door to civilians who were doing much better financially and of course, had a normal family life also. The bluejacket was despised [socially] by the wardroom and seen as a 'lesser' person by the indigenous population of naval towns - his lot was not a happy one. Despite the social divisions, the 'war-drums' in Europe had been banging for long enough sending out their vile message of aggression and impending war, and in 1938  forty five seamen were promoted acting sub-lieutenant and many went on to reach high ranks. In a modern world of technology, the engineering branch lower-deckers were even more successful in getting to the wardroom.  But, and once again, the 'elderly'  warrant officer  spent ten years waiting for a commission [thick ring] then another ten years waiting for a second ring, and less than 5% of them made it. Once again, as in 1914, the outbreak of war did wonders for their promotion prospects and in 1939/40 many warrant officers were promoted lieutenants. 

The war did a great deal to change the social scene in the wardroom and in the navy at large. The hooray-henrys were no longer in the majority and the men in the wardroom came from many backgrounds all there with one purpose - to kill and defeat the Hun at any costs. The ships company became the by-word and it was all for one and one for all. Rank counted, of course it did and must, but for the first time in many a long year the sense of belonging to a ship, being a team member, willing to die for your ship-mates  became the daily creed of all on board, and the days of division and blind obedience were replaced by a new word RESPECT [when due of course].  It is a warming thought to know that this word came into common use in the navy in those day and has lasted right up to this day for good reason. The competent officer of yesteryear, much admired by his peers spoilt his chance of endearing himself to the lower deck [not that that mattered to him of course] by showing gross indifference to their situation and by using wealth and social station as insurmountable barriers to establishing a true ships company camaraderie. The war produced an officer who could be trusted [by the lower deck] and who put aside the social differences and showed that the welfare of his crew was as important as the fuel in the ships tanks or the shells in the magazine - without either, he would not fight the ship to its maximum efficiency. 

The 'potential' shortage of officers as war broke out was addressed by re-introducing Dame Katherine Furse' famous 1st world war WRNS who had been disbanded at the end of hostilities. Additionally, CW [Commissioned and Warrant] candidate  were chosen from suitably educated/qualified HO's  to go straight to officer/warrant rank training.  They started the wearing of the white flashes on the shoulders of the uniform and the cap to denote ratings undergoing officer training. 

The mid-war years saw many further changes and by clicking  here you will  see the 1943 daily pay rates/conditions of service for warrant officers and others. Remember that a shilling is worth 5p today and a shilling was 12 pence - thus, say £12 - 16 - 8d, is worth [16 x 5] + {[8 ÷ 12] x 5]} = £12.83 approximately. 

Earlier, I mentioned the Warrant Officers Journal and how it was set-up, and subsequently used as a lobbying tool to prise better condition from the Admiralty for the warrant officer corps.  It had many members and more importantly, many friends, and in high places too. It was published monthly for over fifty years; had in succession, two headquarter buildings in Portsmouth both now demolished and used for other purposes, and of course, several editors. The monthly publications amounted to just a dozen pages each on white A4 size, and dealt with the financial matters relating to the DBA [death benefit allowance] - more of that soon ; matters concerning their branches in Chatham and Devonport; matters of interest in the fleet, and, in every issue without fail, but not always on the front page, they stated their grievances, many originating from decades ago. The twelve issues together, when placed in a stiff-back folder on which was emblazed the year, resulted in a thin A4 size book with no more than 150 pages cover to cover. In the early days, when the problems they sought to correct were many and fresh, even raw, few, if any, adverts were printed, but by the mid to late 1940's there were many and at the expenses of editorial space. I photocopied the 1900 album as a keepsake because the complete sets are rare and mainly in the hands of the naval research/reference libraries.

Now lets have a look at some of the things the editorial staff used to get up to. 

From reading any given issue, it would be easy to be persuaded into thinking that all warrant officers were members of their association, subscribed to the death benefit scheme, and were all of one voice when it came to the lobbying.  I myself might have believed that that was the case, but I came across one issue, June 1941, which made me have doubts.  When the tragic and almost unbelievable news of HMS Hood's sinking was known, virtually the whole of the UK grieved and it wasn't uncommon for some land locked small town in the middle of Yorkshire to show its grief publicly, with church services and fund raising events for the families of the Hood. Portsmouth predictably took it very badly, and even today, it is hard to accept that long wall of names at the Portsmouth Naval Cenotaph, which amongst others, carries the names of seventy-six boys many aged only 16 years. One would have thought that being based in Portsmouth and that sixteen warrant officers lost their lives aboard her, the Warrant Officers Association would have published a special edition, or at the very least, would have marked the occasion with great dignity and lamentation.  It didn't.  Instead of publishing  a dignified passionate and emotive story, it approached it from an almost  impassive perspective, stating the factual events and the loss of a fine ship and its crew. 

 This is what was published.  "As commercial raiders, "Bismarck", "Graf Spee", "Scharnhorst" and "Gniesnau" were of tremendous value to the enemy, and although the loss of the "Hood" with her talented and devoted ships company is a grievous one, the morale and material effect of the destruction of their raiders will be much greater, following as it does on the destruction of "Graf Spee" and the damage inflicted on the "Scharnhorst" and "Gniesnau" in Brest, France." 

  Giving the editor and his staff the benefit of my doubt, I consulted the July 1941 edition hoping to find there, the lament which I had expected. Again I was disappointed. In the list of deceased for the months of May and June were the names of those who had been members of the Associations DBA.  Just four names were mentioned for Saturday the 24th May, one wrongly stated, namely that of Mr T.E.C. Hallett, Wt Eng aged 29 who was killed in HMS Fiji on the 23rd of May. This meant that the Hood had three men listed: just 18.75% of HMS Hoods warrant officers were members.  I reasoned with myself that surely, with the likelihood of death at any time in those terrible years, men would do their best to maximise the income their loved ones would receive, and would join such an association for that reason, whereas in normal times, they wouldn't. If Hood was a typical ship,  then pro rata I wondered what percentage of warrant officers were members, and from that, how representative the Association was of all naval warrant officers? We shall never know, and anyway, those that officered the Association did appear to represent those who did bother to join in a fair and competent manner. Each of the families of the deceased members received a death benefit of £80 from the DBA which was denied to the other thirteen families.  DBA officials offered the bereaved not just money, but kindness and practical help at a time of their greatness need and desperation. They looked after their own at a time in history when other widows were at the mercy of the cold and uncaring man from the Assurance Company, or worse still, at the hands of the money lenders, groups of Jews, who frequented naval towns in large numbers. 

The editor didn't 'sit on the fence' and throughout the issues it is clear that he praised with great passion [and flowery language] his heroes, while being critical [and cynical] with those seen as the enemy of the Association.  Here are just a few examples.     left column,      left column,   ,      both from August 1902.  The Association did have enemies, but whilst the editor inferred that the Admiralty was one of them, and well it might have been though I doubt it, the members of the Navy League were in constant and open hostility with the warrant officers.  The Navy League was set-up to protect the Royal Navy both in historical terms and from the clutches of those who would do-it-down in the future.  They were a mixture of navy, ex-navy and civilian origins both British and international, and come hell or high water, they were going to do their job with the rules of engagement set against taking prisoners. [Front page from 1896]   [Two front pages from 1949]        To suggest that they were rude, arrogant, self opinionated and down right biased toward their cause rubbishing even the most level headed criticism of the navy, is like saying that Hitler was a 'naughty' man. They were bloody rude and aggressively arrogant, and they issued outlandish statements concerning aspects of the navy with which they were wholly and clearly unfamiliar:  one was the warrant officer corps. According to the Navy League, the warrant officer of the early 19th century was a competent and loyal sailor but an uneducated oaf best hidden away when the navy is doing a 'shop window' lest we risked ridicule by those looking on.  For some inexplicable reason, the Navy League used that perfectly reasonably statement pertaining to the time of Trafalgar as the status quo for the 1930's, almost suggesting that everything in the wardroom was fine and up to date, but that the warrant officers mess had stood still for over 125 years and was still crammed full of oaf's.  They objected at every turn to promotion from the warrant officers mess to the wardroom, and they were so influential and well connected, that their lobby was more than a counter balance to the Admiralty Board itself.  To pollute the very essence and centre of the navy [the wardroom] with inferior social stock would see the beginning of the end for their aspirations for Rule Britannia; pax was not a word they used. After all, how could a common man have such a need to maintain a strong and omnipotent navy? What would be his motive? Could it be that having spent thirty to forty years serving in the navy [the majority of those in the Navy League had never served their country, navy or otherwise] a little bit of it rubbed off onto the heart, or perhaps even the brain of at least one of these oaf's? 

The following block of plates tell of a speech made in the House of Commons by Commander Pursey RN Rtd., the MP for Hull East, who was an ex warrant officer before becoming a ranker. The speech was printed in the Journal issue May 1946.

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The editor of the journal called it "a fine speech."

To help speed the download of this main page, I will now take the remaining issues 'off-page' and invited you to look at the Warrant Officers Journal section by clicking HERE. It is an excellent insight into the hard days of the Victorian Navy and the struggle it had with the Admiralty.

When I left the navy in 1983 we used to have DCI's [Defence Council Instructions]. Then before that we had AFO's [Admiralty Fleet Orders] which came in two languages - Admiralty English, and non Admiralty Egyptian, the former arriving onboard via the ships office and the latter, via the number one trap in the junior rates heads.  However, before both of these we had AWO's [Admiralty Weekly Orders] AO in C's, [Admiralty Orders in Council].  What follows is a group of AO in C's from the 1898 to 1901 period, and whilst some of them are to do with my main topic, the warrant officers, some are of general interest to all naval personnel.

Unlike my other tables on this and other warrant officer pages, I'll  leave you to take pot luck in the opening of these cell-stories. Whilst they are not all exciting, one or two are revealing especially if you had a career like mine starting at Ganges in 1953 and leaving as a Fleet Chief in mid 1983. For example, I became 20 in 1958 just as they removed my branch title [telegraphist] and started to call me an RO [radio operator] when I drew my first tot of 2&1 [two parts water and 1 part rum]. From day one I understood the importance of being 'G' = Grog [that's for me I said], 'T' =Temperance [for mean people wanting a top-up of their pay hoping their 'G' oppo's would offer sippers, gulpers and straight forward, see it off]! I can also remember July 1970, twelve years later and at that time long used to drawing neaters, when the pious admirals decided that enough was enough and our day's of fun were over - so was our rum issue. Anyway, There was another guy in the system called a 'UA' = under age i.e. less than 20:  he got limers, ostensibly to stop him getting scurvy, limers being the root-word of why we are called "limies" by our strange American cousins. Last year [2003] I found out the truth. The navy ordered and paid the supplier of rum for every rating in the navy, with a small residue for officers who had endured an exceptional hardship to take a pusser-noggin to help him regain his composure. That meant that men who had signed the pledge could be paid an allowance for not drinking that rum, and also,  BOYS had also to paid [well some in certain ships], for they too saved the pusser money albeit compulsory. Surprised?  I'll bet! Have a look at No 8.

Do you remember brown [colour is not critical] CANVAS SHOES at Ganges? Do you know why you got them as a part of your kit? Well to rest your feet of course after long marches.  I don't recall  that we did many of these in my time at the Shotley Belson. Look at 11. 

Hammock allowance.  I honestly believe that we ALL should have got that, never mind just the warrant officers or ERA's. Now read on.......













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I live here so thought I would include this





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Ooops a mis-calculation on the use of my matrix, so I'll leave this cell empty for a rainy day!

For much of the mid to late 1930's, all in the Navy had something to grumble about in addition to the petty grumbles without which, there would be no relief valve to vent innocuous pressure points. [Thought I would include these two funny plates here in the 1930 area]     [I particularly like the bit about the Communicator]  Common to all were the issues surrounding pay [pay proper; marriage allowance; hard layers, specialist pay etc], promotions, training courses and leave.  As always, each group, lower deck, wardroom, warrant officers mess and the gunroom discussed their own problems from their own prospective often selfishly thinking that they were the only group missing out.  The warrant officers had the advantage of having their Journal which could, and did, broadcast the discussions of the warrant officers mess to a large audience.  Acknowledging that all groups had a legitimate cause for complaint, the warrant officer group did have a gripe which was not shared by other groups.  As war became inevitable in some form or other and Britain started to take its rearming seriously, the Admiralty created many extra chief petty officer billets and many junior to mid-senior ranked officers appointments, but did little to maintain the ratios amongst the three groups, thereby reducing the numbers of warrant officers and commissioned warrant officers.  Worse still, the pay of the chief petty officer had increased more than had the pay for a warrant officer, so the all important pay-gap had narrowed: the gap between warrant officer and wardroom officer had been maintained.  It was quite natural for a warrant officer to complain, and, though it should have been an Admiralty-led alteration, the problem was redressed because of the warrant officer lobby.

Very few of the aforementioned problems had been satisfactorily dealt with by the time war was on the door step, and just like 1914, the navy was going to war bemoaning their lot. The problems would not go away and the Admiralty knew that the issues would have to be addressed sooner or later. 

The warrant officers' chief complaint was, and had been for years and years, the lack of promotion on merit to the wardroom. The second world war was to settled the issue once and for all, and the outcome was to reward the Warrant Officers' Journal and the Association members for its long and dedicated lobbying of the Admiralty Board for due recognition.

To get some idea of the size of the Fleet at the time of the WW2 you might like to look at my pages at THE NAVY AND ITS CHANGES DURING MY 30 YEAR CAREER 1953 and also at KEY TO 1952 SHIPS AND THEIR CALLSIGNS both of which contain lists of ships in commission at the end of the war. To man the Fleet, the Navy required thousands of extra officers and these came from reservists, from the merchant navy and from civilian life as pure land-lubbers.  To understand the sheer magnitude of this requirement and how it literally changed the Navy in every possible way from the personnel aspect,  I supply the following figures. At the end of the war, measured from the humble midshipman to a commodore, 50,000 [fiftythousand] reserve and volunteer officers were serving in the Royal Navy which represented 88% of the officer corps and over 2000 had commanded HM Ships.  From these very figures sprung the post war changes in the warrant officers lot.

In addition to the huge amount of reserve and volunteer officers mentioned above, the navy created hundreds of temporary warrant officer appointments, elevated warrant officers to commissioned warrant officers, and commissioned warrant officers to commissioned wardroom officers. Likewise, promotions on the lower deck were volatile and thousands of petty officers and chief petty officers were promoted from the leading hand rate, with many hundreds joining as "hostilities only" [HO's] straight into senior rates billets.

The whole navy was upwardly mobile and nobody was complaining on that issue!

Of all the groups represented in the navy at that time, the warrant officers' group was the least affected by "hostilities only".  However, appointments did exists and all school master HO's [for example] were appointed as warrant officers, and many had university degrees to their credit. 

Imagine therefore, that we have a navy, a "new" navy and the time is 1938/1939, not too many months before our first 'real' big events which was the sinking of the Royal Oak in Scapa Flow and the German pocket-battleship Graf Spee in the mouth of the River Plate.  The navy is motivated and ready to go, but the upper deck and the lower deck are largely untested, untried, unsure and over civilianised.  The back bone of the navy has grown in size with the promotion of temporary warrant officers, but essentially, it hasn't change in terms of expertise, experience, leadership and understanding of the ways and means of the Service  . Throughout the history of the rank, there has never been a time like this when the responsibilities, hitherto shouldered by the fulltime and professional officer corps [now in the minority]  would be shared by the fulltime and professional warrant officer corps [now, quite often in several theatres of war, on par with the professional wardroom officer group in terms of numbers].  The navy looked to these warrant officers to lend full support to the RNR and RNVR officers who would be their new commanders, to train them, share their experiences and to 'hold their hands' through their 'baptism of fire'.  On small ships and minor craft commanded by a reservist/volunteer, a warrant officer was often appointed as first lieutenant, and even in larger ships, the warrant officer was appointed to do the jobs he had always aspired to.  Whenever a weakness was perceived, a warrant officer or a group of warrant officers was appointed to add strength to the command structure, and throughout the war as each year passed, more and more warrant officers were doing junior and mid-senior officer jobs at sea and ashore.  Additionally of course, the warrant officer was also appointed as a warrant officer to fulfil traditional appointments.

If the word 'good' can ever been applied to the word 'war', then the warrant officers had a good war.  They served with great distinction manifest in the number of DSC's awarded, and their support for the 88% of the wardroom [reservists/volunteers] was acclaimed by all to have been as necessary as any weapon in the naval arsenal.

After the war and the departure of the reservists, the volunteers and the hostilities only groups [which took several years to complete] the warrant officer group was left and the anti-climax hung heavy all around.  That it would lift was only a matter of time, as was the "reward" which was about to come their way.

Representations were made to the Commanders-in-Chief and they in turn to the Admiralty Board, that the pay and status of the warrant officer was now out of align with all in the Royal Navy, but also with the other Services.  I have previously mentioned that for over fifty years, the naval warrant officer had complained that he was aligned with the army warrant officer, this despite annually published/printed matter stating that this was not the case.  The warrant officer had long asked for a chance to become a wardroom officer but the establishment had turn him down as unsuitable.  The war had intervened, given the warrant officer his chance, and the warrant officer passed the ultimate test with flying colours.  A committee chaired by Admiral Sir Percy Noble decided that the warrant rank must go from the navy,   and that from the 5th April 1949, all warrant officers would become commissioned wardroom officers. [Just the first page - gets boring after that !]   Their new name was Branch Officer.  Gone were the cuff buttons, but the stripes would stay. The warrant officer became a Commissioned Officer, wore a quarter inch thick stripe [with coloured cloth if appropriate] and included his Branch between the word Commissioned and Officer; thus a Warrant Telegraphist became a Commissioned Communication Officer [CCO]. The old Commissioned Warrant Telegraphist became known as a Senior Commissioned Communications Officer [SCCO] and wore a half inch stripe. Whilst I was at Ganges, there were many such commissioned officers, one of whom, Commissioned Gunnery Officer Glyde was my second Divisional Officer in Rodney Division.   

History though shows that some rejected the change and lamented the passing of the warrant officers mess and the influence it had on the naval scene, generally, and at ship/establishment level.  The warrant officers went from 'big fish in small ponds' to 'small fish in large ponds', and the adjustment was difficult and not always a happy experience.  For years, the warrant officer had been a quasi-protagonist in his own right on the naval scene, but now he had been reverted to a spear-carrier representing a new and different group of actors. Several rose to the rank of commander and many to lieutenant commander.  None but the very few had sea command and that usually of ships like specialist diving vessels, boom defence vessels and certain other small non combatant craft. The most able of these officers, though it too was rare, won a transfer from Branch Officer to a General List Officer where the officer competed against Dartmouth trained officers for promotion to the very top.  

The loss of the warrant rank also meant the end of the Warrant Officers' Journal and eventually the DBA.  The Journal had been a useful tool in seeking to better the lot of warrant officers per se.  However, had it not been for the two world wars, I wonder if it really had enough influence to force the Admiralty Board into change?  I think not.  

In 1939 the numbers in the navy were as follows showing the increase in the navy of approximately 13,000 over 1938. The dagger by the Marines figures means a Supplement Estimate calculated as at 14th November 1938. As from 1940 onwards, the Navy Estimates were secret but by law [House of Commons] they had to be published. This is what was published at that time. Note the costings and the numbers required. 1940 [2 plates] .  1941 [2 plates] . 1942 .  1944 [3 plates]  .  1946  .  1947-48 .

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December 1948. These are the very last pay rates issued for the WARRANT RANK      

June 1949. These are the very first  pay rates issued for the BRANCH OFFICER       .

1950 and no mention of the WARRANT RANK. .

Subordinate officers mentioned in several places mean midshipmen and cadets of all branches.

During the Suez War of 1956 - see my page at SUEZ WAR 1956 [second edition] - their Lordships decided that the thin quarter of an inch stripe was no longer relevant, nor was the Branch Officer title which was supplanted by the Special Duties [SD] Officer. In 1957 all commissioned officers took down their thin stripe and replaced it with a thick half inch stripe thereby making them sub lieutenants, and the senior commissioned officer added a second half inch stripe to his cuff making him a lieutenant. The branch letter was added to the SD's title just as it had been to the Branch Officers title, but this time as a suffix e.g. a Sub Lieutenant  SD[C] was the direct equivalent of the now defunct SCCO  [one half inch stripe] when the last 'C' in both cases stood for Communications.  The change over in titles and uniform was widely promulgated by signal and AFO. However this was the first chapter to be included into QRAI which covered the new subject in great detail. This page from those same new rules, covered my branch .

Thus, what started as a WARRANT OFFICER of non-wardroom status, became, via the BRANCH OFFICER, a SPECIAL DUTIES OFFICER, the second and third being wardroom status.  All were/are officers, carried/carry swords, were/are saluted and called sir, wore/wear officers uniforms and were/are listed in the Navy List. The link is irrevocable and the SD, although a relatively new rank in itself, has naval antecedents which match those of his general list brother officers stretching back over many hundreds of years.

FINALLY to...........








[Above there are five groups of words, each group being underlined separately. Put your mouse over any single group to reveal a picture]

If you can think in family terms, then the old warrant officer was the grandfather, the branch officer the father, and the SD officer the son. It was a 'naval blood' line that historians rather than genealogists would relished.  In this section we could liken the new naval warrant officer [from hereonin correctly titled Fleet Chief Petty Officer] to a family situation where all naval fleet chief petty officers are brothers, and the warrant officers [correctly titled] in the RAF and WO1's in the army are first cousins, their fathers and our uncle's being the army and the RAF - grandpa, though shiver the thought, is the MOD.

I can never remember a time in my Service career especially from the time I became a senior rate [1962], when the senior chief petty officers didn't complain at the lack of opportunity for further promotion.  Chief Petty Officers' messes, separate from other senior rates, were awash with men who were deep specialists, highly trained but no where to go.  It wasn't uncommon for a man in my branch to be promoted to the chief rate when in their very early thirties [I was just 32] but in other branches they were very much younger.  The compulsory retirement age for a senior rate was at forty years of age, so that many chief petty officers soldiered on for many years doing the same old thing for the same old [relative] pay with no incentive other than sheer pride to keep on top of things, routinely and continuously been assessed as 'superior', 'exceptional' or 'water-walkers'.  At aged forty they were discharged to pension, young enough, as did so many, to start a new [and often much more successful] life as a civilian.  A few chose to take extra years to age 45 and exceptionally to age 50, but by and large, those who maintained their dedication and were achievers to the last day of their time, were the cream of the navy, admired by all except for a certain group of peers who were themselves not motivated and couldn't see the point of maintaining the pressure on the accelerator when free-wheeling was a better alternative.  Free-wheeling was known as the RDP [run down period] and I have known this to last for the whole of the last year in Service - they still got their full pension but they did become 'passengers' on the pay-roll.

Many of these high achievers in their own fields, were promoted on merit and proven abilities both ashore and afloat. At the beginning of 1970, the average age of a chief petty officer's mess would be in the region of thirty-six years, perhaps a bit more, and if that were the case, the average DOB would have been 1934.  Assuming that almost to a man, they would have joined-up at or before the age of eighteen, we can assume that they were either King's-Men or Queen's-Men but pre Coronation.  Throughout that period, 1952 to 1970, educational qualifications were an exception to the rule rather than the rule for major advancements.  On my page BOREDOM CAN DO FUNNY THINGS , I tell the story about minor educational qualification during the early years, but from that time right up to leaving the Service to pension, educational requirements were not prerequisites.  Many chief petty officers and petty officers had educational qualifications, some obtained for CW1A [officer candidate] requirements but not used [my own for example] whilst others were CW1A recommended who didn't have the qualification, and they had to cram for them.  However, there were many very senior grandee's in the mess who, whilst extremely able academically [not to mention their branch/trade skills], had no piece of paper, no certificate to show that they had undertaken an academic course of study culminating in the passing of examinations. Moreover the Navy had a potential problem with education which was not widely known in the Service and was at its height in the 1960's in the submarine world. HMS Stalker, and old LST which for years had been the submarine tender in Londonderry based on the River Foyle not far from the city centre, was moved to Faslane as the accommodation ship for the newly formed nuclear submarine personnel.  In that ship were artificer chief petty officers from electrical and mechanical branches who had recently completed their long academic nuclear training course in the USA [ashore and at sea in USN nuclear boats].  Academically they surpassed Dartmouth entrants, and there was tension that many SD and SL officers [who required just four basic 'O' levels] were inferior to them. This was a perception not a proven fact, and as is so often the case, pieces of paper denoting qualification don't always hold sway when other whole-man qualifications are more tangible and more desirable to the royal navy. Many SD and SL officer candidates lacking in academia were nevertheless front runners when it came to "learning new tricks" and that is what the navy wanted.

When the MOD first mooted the idea of introducing the fleet chief petty officer as the 'Master' rate, it gave prior warning that there would be an educational requirement.  This 'warning period' was sufficiently long enough to give those without the minimum qualification time to attain them.  With them, or if studying for them, their names would be put before the selection boards [all other things being satisfactory] but without them, or a know reluctance to enter into a course of study, their names would be withheld by their commanding officers. The requirements were simple and exactly half the requirements demanded for the commissioned rank, namely two GCE 'O' level passes or a pass in the naval HET [Higher Educational Test] in Mathematics and English Language. Additionally, a successful candidate would be required to serve twenty-seven years mans time counted from the age of eighteen making a man forty-five years of age on termination of Service.

On these two counts alone, many excellent mens names never crossed the table of the selection boards.  On the one hand the learning habit, at least the academic one, had been lost and to get that HET certificate at this late stage in their careers was a tall order, so much so, that they wouldn't even attempt the 'assault course' of the classroom. Secondly, an extra five years beyond the age of forty disadvantaged their chances of a decent civilian job, plus the number of years in it, to count for a second career pension: had it been an extra ten years say, then things might have been more attractive, although I doubt it.  In the late 1960's and early 1970's, forty year olds were not considered too old to employ [and certainly no employer worried about petty 'O' level certificates], and one never doubted ones ability to find suitable and well paid employment.  Likewise, civilian retirement at fifty, the norm today in 2004, was almost unheard of.  As the years went by, from forty-five the chances of finding good civilian employment grew less and less as one approached fifty and beyond that, the man himself didn't want a second job/career, even if offered. Obviously, the longer the second career the better the lump sum and pension, which, together with the naval lump sum and pension far out strips the one naval lump sum/pension awarded when aged fifty five: the civilian system has more flexibility and devices for building and subsequently reaping financial rewards!

As the excitement grew and the names of those suitable as candidates for selection were communicated to HMS Centurion, speculation as to who would be [and wouldn't be] selected was the talk of the ship or establishment. Many of those chiefs near to the age of forty and in some cases much older they having extended under various votes in teaching or administrative posts, were not candidates because they didn't meet the rules for selection.  These very men were the 'top dogs' militarily having seniorities going back years as well as being 'top dogs' in knowledge/experience terms and they were much respected. They knew that when the first of the new fleet chief petty officers were promoted their seniority would be irrelevant, and many of the FCPO's could well have been students of these soon-to-be 'deposed' icons. I can think of several, and it must have been very hard for them to continue.  They were hapless victims of a system which had nothing to offer them except for the BEM, a lesser award than the younger warrant officer was now eligible to receive, namely the MBE.

When finally the scheme was launched and the newly appointed fleet chief petty officers joined the fleet, it created forty-one new branch rates on HMS Centurion's computer which I have listed on page RN Ratings and their titles in the early 1970's.  See also page  rn badges 1930 to 1980.htm or further references.

This article is taken from the magazine THE COMMUNICATOR VOL20 -No 5 Summer 1971 and tells of the introduction to the FCPO scheme generally, specifically referring to members of the Communications Branch who were serving in HMS Mercury at the time of inception, and who were promoted to ACTING FCPO's.  Why acting? I don't know. By the time I was promoted the 'acting' period was not relevant.   {The photograph is taken on being selected and before promotion for they are still CPO's } [please ignore the bit on bottom right re quotes from......}

Name and Rating When Promoted
D. Alderson CRS
P. Ansty CRS
W.G.R. Bernard CRS
D.J. Bignell CRS
D. Blackwell CRS[W]
M.A. Carpenter CRS
A.J. Cokes CRS
D. Couniham CCY
J.W. Edge CRS
R.R. Foster CCY
T.C.W. Hankey CCY
P.W. Kitchin CCY
A.W. Lillington CRS
M.J. Matthews CRS
L. Murrell CCY
P.L. Newton CRS
P.L. O'Rourke CRS[S]
R.C. Sanders CRS
A.D. Shuker CRS 
First batch  1971
Selected March 1971 
Promoted September 1971
D.J. Boon CRS
J.E. Eilbeck CRS 
R.H. Lomas CRS
Second batch 1972
Selected September 1971
Promoted March 1972
R.C. Davies CCY
G. Duncan CCY
H.J. Soden CCY
N. Whitlock CCY
F.W. Arbuckle CRS
J.A. Bradley CRS
D.J. Caless CRS
J.A. Farley CRS
D.A. Marks CRS
P.S. Snape CRS
P.D. O'Clee CRS[W]
Third batch 1972
Selected March 1972
Promoted September 1972
Soon after, there was one selection and one promotion per year only.

Like so many other aspirants to the FCPO rate, I looked on as the roll-out progressed.  It appeared to me that some aspects of the new rate had not been well thought out, and whilst the fledgling fleet chief petty officers were rightly proud of their new status, the status was often vague, with many FCPO's doing practically the same job as when they were chiefs. Some argued that another layer of management between chief petty officer and the junior SD officer [indeed any junior commissioned officer] was unnecessary, and that inevitably FCPO's would take some of the chief petty officers jobs and some of the lieutenants jobs.  Being called 'sir' or 'Mr', wearing different badges and receiving slightly more pay and better pensions, were not enough in themselves to sustain that pride mentioned above. A new job with corresponding job satisfaction was expected where new knowledge and insight would be gained and applied  to enhance the status of the fleet chief petty officer. In the early days it was accepted that there would be a learning-curve before these 'new' jobs would be created and that the way ahead would be decided in the light of experience.

The rationale of promoting fleet chief petty officers was, or should have been, that they were the very best chief petty officers of their branch measured by those criteria in the 'whole-man' concept of assessment, where the ability of managing a department across a broad spectrum of branch skills was proven beyond doubt. The specific naming of the rate viz, Fleet Chief Radio Supervisor, Fleet Chief Petty Officer Cook etc., was in itself indicative that they was no intention in the MOD to employ any fleet chief petty officer in other than his own branch [except for general duties like work-study, standing OOW in shore establishments etc], and that inter-branch cross training was not a requirement. In 1970, the Communications Branch had four fleet chief petty officers coming from the Tactical, Radio, Electronic Warfare and Special sub branches. Four were created because of the complexity of each sub branch instead of just a Fleet Chief Petty Officer Communicator.  On promotion, fleet chief petty officers undertook [or should have done so] a Management Course conducted at their alma mater which lasted for several weeks.     This was the course syllabus for my course in September 1975 which was very similar to the original syllabus. Bearing in mind that FCPO's were the 'cream' of the chief petty officers from whose numbers they came and that subsequent to promotion they were not intended to be branch/sub-branch cross trained, all the subjects mentioned in the contents section [for their needs] were already fully known to the candidates except for Service Writing, which we all acknowledged was a useful module in the course. The divisional three day course was a refresher course for all that we had learnt and thereafter used in earnest as chief petty officers, particularly those who held the Instructor Rate.  Thus, the vast majority of the seven week course was a wasted opportunity which could have been used to acquire new skills or learning.  At the course wash-up we suggested that for the 1976 course that half the course should be branch management/divisional training {note for many years as chiefs, we had been writing up S264A's [comic cuts] for petty officers and below and if we couldn't do it before promotion then [perhaps] we should not have been promoted!: and when appointed, especially to sea, we would do the customary read-up or attend PJT's for any cross sub-branch knowledge we would require in that appointment}, and the other half [though not necessarily arithmetical] to spend on subjects and visits to the likes of RNDQ's, Colchester Central DQ's, RN Families and Welfare Support Services, HMS Centurion [appointing, drafting, pay, medals, pensions, records], Drugs, Venereal Disease in the Service, Married Quarters Organisation at MOD level, other WO's in other navies and our position vis-à-vis theirs, our ranking with other WO's in the army, marines and the RAF, the honours system, a visit to Dartmouth Naval College and whilst West to the Part I training establishment HMS Raleigh, and a whole host of other lectures delivered in our alma maters which would enrich our understanding of the Navy, and by so doing, make us better and more knowledgeable middle managers.  I remember the course officers comments to our wash-up resume. He curtly reminded us that we were newly appointed fleet chief petty officers and not newly appointed flag officers. Frustrating? - I'll say. Additionally I knew the "sea" environment backwards being involved first hand with FOST and then with FOF2 as a FCRS, and to my certain knowledge there were no FCPO's at sea doing cross branch or cross sub branch jobs except when they were acting as the DO. If and when those skills were needed a FCPO in that specialist field was appointed. HOWEVER ! []

During my time at sea as a fleet chief petty officer I came into contact with the USN on several occasions both at sea and ashore in the USA. Apart from their excellent hospitality and many kindnesses, the master chief petty officer in the USN, which was my equivalent [both graded E9] was easy to identify with if only because he had the same name; that of chief petty officer with a prefix of either Master or Fleet.  One begins to understand why the MOD first mooted the idea of a Master rate. The USN had developed the rate of MCPO into many areas and he was well represented at every level throughout the USN.  Here are just two plates of their system, and I got to meet Robert Walker, a man with a great deal of clout      .

As names helped me whilst at sea and in the States, names hindered me when back home in the UK. As the leader of the coffin bearers for Lord Mountbatten's funeral in September 1979, me and my small group of men were based in Chelsea Barracks which was garrisoned by the Second Battalion of Scots Guards, a fine body of men and excellent hosts. In the mess, I met the Battalions RSM and introduced myself as FCPO Dykes, as one would do.  Whilst for all apparent reasons [uniform and badges etc] I was a warrant officer, he took me on my word to be a chief petty officer, and, from where else, other than from the Fleet. In both cases, he and I had never served in the other environments, although, being a sailor, I knew more about his five hundred year old title than he did about my nine year old title. After some friendly bantering and a couple of pints, I learnt that he had been a warrant officer for six years, two as a WO2, three as a WO1 and six months as a WO1/ The RSM.  That meant that I outranked him because I had been a WO1 for four years.  We spent the next four days teasing each other, although he didn't allow me to take over the running of his mess. Perhaps at the next state funeral the army will have no problems recognising navy warrant officers.

Finally to the uniform of the fleet chief petty officer. If any thought at all had been given to the appearance of the uniform it was insensitive and transient and caused much confusion in the first two years. It is as though they used a role-model from the days of pre 1920 naval warrant officer, which as you have seen, had three cuff buttons plus adornment symmetrically placed on both cuffs.  The adornment in those distant days was a stripe either quarter of an inch or half an inch depending upon seniority, but in this case, the adornment was to be a single royal coat or arms placed on the left cuff only above the buttons rendering the appearance asymmetrical.  One assumes that had a subordinate sailor approached from the port beam he would have said good morning sir, and from the starboard beam, good morning chief [artificer/technician type with no collar badges]. Then the MOD decided that the buttons were inappropriate [just as the title FCPO was, although they took fifteen-odd years to change it to WO] leaving the man with just a royal coat of arms.  I dread to think what the sailor on the starboard side said thereafter; probably good morning mate.  Symmetry was achieved when the MOD decided that both cuffs should show the royal coat of arms.  The jacket upon which all these pathetic meanderings occurred was of exactly the same design as that of a chief petty officer and therefore of a petty officer.  Indeed, the FCPO's uniform was identical but for one dress, that being Number 9's - overalls - white instead of blue - and in all my eight years as a FCPO I never got to wear a pair! After the badging farce the uniform regulations looked like this        .

Well, as an observer [and later, from 1975 as an active participant], I have given you some of the bones forming the skeleton of the post 1970 warrant officer rank, and now it is time to put meat onto those bones.  Who better to do that than somebody actively involved from day one, and more importantly, somebody who collated and filed for posterity original documents. to go back 33 years to 1971, to a sub-page which tells of the inception of the FCPO rank, warts and all!


Much as I would like to, I can go no further.  I now seek a volunteer or volunteers to bring the story up to date, to bridge the 21 year gap from 1983 until now.  I know that titles have changed and I believe that uniforms have also changed and are now more in keeping with the status of a warrant officer. Perhaps the most important change is that of the integration of the WRNS into the Royal Navy which was not the case in June 1983.   I am looking for somebody who would be willing to write a page or two giving the details I seek, which would be suitable to include here at the end of my story. Obviously the writer of that article would get full credit by name, rank and appointment.  Were such an article to be written and added here, it would be a fitting tribute to all who have been called a ROYAL NAVY WARRANT OFFICER over the last two hundred years.

ADDED AT THE REPUBLISH OF THIS PAGE IN DECEMBER 2016..............Don't bother, for as I hear [or read] it, so much has changed since 1983.  This page was originally written in 2004 and until a take-down for archival purposes in September 2015, was maintained and fully available to my visitors for ELEVEN YEARS without a taker.  Makes absolutely no sense to take-on now!

Ladies and Gentlemen:  to YOU. Yours aye.

19th July 2004

Since writing the above paragraph, I have asked several 'groups' of known WO's and ex-FCPO's/WO's to assist, but no offers or support has been forthcoming. I have managed to ascertain WO's pay and using that new information, I have written a little page which can be found at A PAY COMPARISON OVER A 21 YEAR PERIOD.  I now consider the story of the WO in three parts, finished, and put to bed.


Return to Home Page  Return to start of WO's story  Go to part two   Go to part one, and yes, boring though it might be, don't forget the "back button" top left when relevant.


Well at least somebody appreciates my research work.  Here is a copy of a much appreciated email.

From :  Jim Maclean <>
Sent :  28 September 2004 09:47:04
To :  <>
Subject :  Your websites
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I found your excellent series of websites whilst looking for info on Warrant Officers. I've started to research my Grandfather's Naval Service from 1904 -1927 and 1940 - 45. Amongst his photos was one of Warrant Officers on HMS Conquest complete with Jack Russell terrier. I recognised the uniform but wanted to find out more about their status. All is much clearer now, thanks very much for the great research.
I've had a brief look at the other subjects and can envisage many hours of interesting browsing.
I can't match your family's record of 132+ years of Naval service but between my Grandfather, brother and myself we clock up 62,  me being the short timer at 10.
Thanks again and please write that book.
Best regards
Jim Maclean

Thank you Jim for your kind comments. I wish you success with your grandfather's career searches. ALSO, Bob Campbell from Canada has been kind enough to comment. Thank you Bob.

From :  <>
Sent :  03 October 2004 00:13:42
To :
Subject :  Warrant Officers
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Thank-you for your extensive details on the evolution of the rank of
Warrant Officer. What a strange and complicated beast the military is when
it comes to rank and badges symbolizing rank.

Here in the colony, the Royal Canadian Navy has an honoured tradition, but
in my home-town of Victoria-Esquimalt, the Royal Navy had a presence from
the Crimean War, right up until 1905. I have been attempting to identify
uniforms through pictures and the Warrant Officer rank was complex to say
the least (especially when you cannot always see the cuff buttons).

Stellar work sir on a most interesting topic.


Bob Campbell

I have received this email from Ed Buscall who left the R.N., in 1982 and has lived in Canada with his Canadian wife for the last 24 years. Ed mentions some useful points about warrant officers per se, and it is fitting and apt that his email is placed here for general viewing. If you need to comment upon anything Ed has written, then please email Ed as shown in his email, and, for clarification, again here <>. Thank you Ed for your kind and helpful correspondence which I have answered separately and privately.


On the 20th April 2006 I received this email from an ex commissioned Bosun, a very rare [my words] SD [B].  His name is Bob Pearce [] and, he points out, he belonged to a branch of the R.N., which can trace its origins back to the 9th century.  Thank you Bob for reading the page[s] and for telling us about the sad demise of the Branch and of your Association. My very best regards to you and yours.  Yours aye Godfrey [Jeff].

Dear Godfrey,
I am studying  with great interest the vast amount of information you have made available on your website.
I was an (SD) (B) until I took early retirement in 1972. Sometime later the Royal Navy Boatswains Association was formed and for the last twenty five years we have been sending deserving Sea Cadets to sea aboard TS Royalist.
The last Bosun retired from active service in 1991 or 2, the decision having been made in 1964 not to promote any more Bosuns and that the branch should be allowed to die out. (I believe that there are records of Bosuns dating from 1050).
We have decided, due to advancing years and a steady death rate, that the Association will cease to exist from 20th.May 2006.
I appreciate that your work appears to cover the warrant rank in general and not any branch in particular but I thought that this little snippet of information might interest you.
Yours aye,
Bob Pearce