An informal look at the embryonic days of the Royal Navy's COMMUNICATIONS BRANCH.

Few words but several pictures.  Obviously the BUNTINGS BRANCH [named so as having a direct association with the material 'bunting' which was used to make flags] had been established for over a hundred years, when Captain  Jackson RN., and Marconi started the wireless telegraphy revolution in 1898, and these pictures show each of the 'sub' branches doing their own thing.  I am writing a page about the RN Warrant Officer 1860-1949, and one of the articles I have researched, refers to the Signal Boatswain, a warrant officer, as the 'admirals servant', he being  about the only man of non wardroom rank he consults in his professional role, specifically in exercising or manoeuvring the ships under his command.  Thus, at the turn of the century, with a new and untried/untested sub branch about to merge and form the communications branch, it is understandable that the bunting would emerge as the senior man in the branch, and indeed, the senior bunting did become the branch 'regulator' and acted as number two to the communications officer. By the time I left the Service in 1983, the buntings were struggling to justify their existence because technology had increased the importance of the radio side of the branch in employment terms, and the radio senior men had broken the monopoly held by the buntings in other matters like divisional, mess presidents, warrant officer appointments etc. Whilst never written down, the first fifty years of the communications branch was almost as though the buntings were continuing to be executive branch, and the radio side [the sparkers] a quasi technical little brother who  played with, or competed against the age old visual signalling techniques, artificially lengthened and strengthened by the many war years where radio silence was the order of the day.  It seems strange to me that my memories of the Ganges communications branch instructors [chief petty officer and petty officers], polarised my reactions to authority, erring on the side of caution when dealing with the V/S [visual signalling] branch and feeling at ease with the more civil and approachable W/T [wireless telegraphy] branch.  In fact, the more I think about it, the more I realise that most of the officious and grumpy old-type commissioned and special duty officers were ex-buntings, and for some inexplicable reasons, had been blighted by bitterness.  OK! Now that is off my chest lets look at a few pictures from those early days.

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Note aerial rig

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The torpedo branch was the early alma mater of the W/T branch.
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Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge a very early "PO Siignallers course at HMS Vernonpo's signalllers hms vernon signal school.jpg (1344647 bytes) Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge

 

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The syllabus taken from the
1905 Seamanship Manual
for Signalman and
Telegraphist 1-4
Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlargeAt the very start of the W/T branch Taken from 1880 Navy List. Note Chief Yeomans pay in those daysClick to enlarge More pictures will be added if they become available!
The syllabus taken from the 1905 Seamanship Manual for Signalman and Telegraphist 5-8
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Click to enlarge First world war Yeoman of Signals
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Click to enlarge some original members of the W/T branch

 

The first British battleship to be refitted to receive her W/T fit was in 1901 - have a look here at second entry down to H.M.S. Sans Pareil