THE ARMED FORCES LONDON CLUBS

[There are three of them with the third having a top Royal patron and a pedigree without comparability with Field Marshal Lord  Haig as President, sponsored and paid for from the upper classes but with regular asks  for money from voluntary donations,  and officially opened by a young, newly married beautiful Princess of 22 years, viz Princess Elizabeth, in 1948 - see video further down page].

All my readers I presume, will have heard of  my FIRST which is the Union Jack Club adjacent to Waterloo Railways Station in London.

I am a life member and my wife and I often use the Club for excellent accommodation, excellent food and almost perfect siting at one the most important railway stations in the land, plus one can easily walk to Trafalgar Square and all the places thereabouts. It is also a wonderful centre for topical lectures on past and present armed forces actions/functions, and the bar area with far lower prices than rip-off London, is roomy, comfortable and friendly. It was opened in 1907 by a nurse, Miss ETHEL McCAUL  who had witnessed the 2nd Boer War first hand [over 2 years duration] and was motivated to do something when she saw troops from that war, vagrants on the streets of London. She worked tirelessly and non stop to raise the funds, and can, very fairly although not for medical reasons, be considered the Florence Nightingale of the Second Boer War, a war nearly 50 years before, of 3 years duration. The UJC is primarily for other ranks, non commissioned only.

A second club was open in the same year of 1907 and for the same reasons to look after the welfare of soldiers [mainly]. One of its attractions today is that it caters for all ranks commissioned and non commissioned. It too is very well situated just around from Hyde Park and Speakers Corner. It is within very easy walking distance of Marylebone Tube Station, Paddington, Marble Arch, Bond Street and Oxford Street shopping hub. Its founder was Major Arthur Haggard who was motivated by destitute men also from the Second Boer War.

However it was not founded where its grand and prestigous building is now in Seymour Street in the fashionable West End. It started life above a pub in High Holborn [not the most fashionable place in London, and was originally called The veterans Association.

Then came the two great wars and the great depression so it moved to new premises with a much greater number of beds. They moved a few streets only to Bedford Row, and the 'Vets Association blossomed. In 1936 the club was renamed the The Allenby [Services] Club after Field Marshal Viscount Allenby its Patron who dropped down dead suddenly in that year. The Field Marshal was famous for all his many battles and wars but particularly as the WW1 destroyer of the Ottoman Empire and boss of Lawrence of Arabia. His nick name was The Bloody Bull or The Bull.

In the London Blitz it was bombed on six separate occasions and the area around it sustained much collateral damage. The club claimed 260 from the war damage commission and managed to stay open.

In 1943 the Lord Mayor of London started an appeal for money so that the club could move to a more undamaged and salubrious London address and it was decided to make a bid for a long lease on the well known Connaught Club in Seymour Street the present address, which during the early part of the war had been used as an American medical centre for US troops.

On the 29th January 1947 it was renamed to its current name viz The Victory Services Club [VSC] and from that date was opened to service women.  The club is still going strong and I used to visit it often in the early years of my career.

But the reason for writing this page is really to mention the third London Club known as The Chevrons Club.

Of these three most famous clubs [there were other smaller clubs for officers and different arms of the British and Commonwealth armed forces] and the most famous, known unofficially as the 'Rag' can still be found on Pall Mall and know officially as the Army and Navy Club. However this is a private club for the well healed [the majority of ex-service people being shown the tradesmen entrance were they to attempt an entry]  and pre-dates even Queen Victoria, founded in the reign of the ultra flamboyant and outrageous George IV [1827] and most of its members were from the Regency Army and Navy.

Now to Business!

WW1 was a bloody affair of that we need no reminder, although far more deaths occurred during WW2 than ever did in WW1 if that's a blow softener?

For the navy [ergo, for my website] - but of course for the Army, the Royal Flying Corps, the RAF and the Naval Air Service] - it was deployed at sea but also in the trenches of the battle fields, fighting [albeit, mainly with RNR/RNVR officers and ratings] alongside army infantry and artillery regiments against the rampant Hun, known as the RND = Royal Naval Division, where each of the naval battalions raised was named after a famous admiral. Many were injured and many more found themselves in uniforms and in foreign parts for longer periods than hitherto, far longer than in previous wars including Crimea and the Second Boer War [the Fist Boer war was a mere skirmish by comparison].  Eventually, there came a time when these two concepts were addressed by the issuing of chevrons to be worn on uniforms and on civilian attire. They took the form of small inverted military stripes worn on the right or left sleeve cuff [accordingly] in various colours [gold and silver for officers, red and blue for ratings, and the following Times Newspaper article describes the issue. One set was issued for wounds received in the war years and another set was issued for sea-time and/or periods spend abroad during the war.

The_Times_1918-05-06  CHEVRONS WW1.pdf

and to whet your appetite here are just a few examples of war time chevrons


An RNVR WW1 basic Warrant Officer i,e, with under 10 years service as a WO,  with a crew member in WW1. He was a Temporary SKIPPER, a skipper being a lowly substantive rank and NOT a lower deck name for the Captain, and he would have commanded the tug-type vessel behind him.  Note that the top four chevrons are a different colour to the bottom one. In peace time he would have been a ferryboat captain, a harbour tug captain or a coastal steamer captain.

The uniform of an Assistant Director WRNS in WW1 or a  Superintendent WRNS  in WW2 - note  chevrons on right sleeve above rank stripes.

A submarine crew in WW2  -  note four chevrons for sea time or time spent  in foreign waters.  The "BADGE" , note, not a stripe as it might have been in the army, signifying a Lance Corporal, on his left arm is for good conduct, in this case good conduct of over four years from the age of 18 or later if he joined after the age of 18. He can earn two move badges taking him up to the age of 30 signifying twelve years man's time service all with good conduct.

Now for reasons of brevity I am going to ignore the wound-bars worn vertically on WW1 uniforms because we will re-discover them in full in WW2 when they were reintroduced, save to say that they were introduced in 1916 and back-dated to the beginning of the war in 1914. The_Times_1917-10-17 the new heraldry.pdf  So, accepting that there were two types of chevrons, sea service/abroad service and wounded service, with colour changes/material changes for officers and ratings, some worn on left sleeve whilst others on right sleeves, we can safely introduce our third club, which surprise surprise, was called THE CHEVRONS CLUB, fittingly so because it welcomed all those non-commissioned officers with [and without] Chevrons which included Army Navy and Air Force ALL RANKS: later on, many other civilians were allowed to wear chevron's but they were not allowed access to the Chevron's Club.

Unlike the two former clubs seen above, the UJC and the VSC which were started by individuals feeling pity for service personnel involved in the 2nd Boer War bumming around London hugging green bottles, this club was a desire to keep the esprit de corps now well established after four years of war alive and kicking with  pride of purpose of being a member of a fighting force. It immediately attracted the cream of British society as trustees and at first, with a known pot of gold ready to be spent, but the ace cards were an immediate Royal Patronage, that of H.M. the King himself, George V, and non other than Field Marshal Lord Haig as the President.

 However the original club started at the end of WW1 in 1918, was woefully inadequate, with a low provision of beds and bedrooms leading to empty recreational rooms and necessary support facilities. Within just one year a demand for financial support to enhanced the club and put it on  firm [or firmer footing] was floated, but in 1919, a demand for 150,000 was almost pie-in-sky, but thousands of ex service people and hundreds of regiments, scores of ships companies and the influence on peoples generosity by the august group of Club trustees, sent hands deep into pockets. The following file tells all:-

The_Times_1919-04-07 CHEVRON CLUB THREE.pdf

By 1922 just a few years after the end of WW1 reports were circulating that ex servicemen were being committed to the work-house and worse still, to asylums.

The_Times_1922-11-29 ex servicemen in asylums.pdf

In 1927 the lease on St George's Street SW1 had but a couple of years left and planning began to source a new building.

Throughout the 20's and 30's it fulfilled its role to provide a sanctuary in London for all non commissioned officers. Come 1939 and the start of a new war, a trawl was launched for new money to revamp the club.

The_Times_1939-11-21 chevron club TWO.pdf

In 1940 Lord Derby who had been the Secretary of State for War in 1918, seeing a great need for extra space took a lease for property near to Victoria Station [St George's Street SW1] to accommodate many who had signed-up for WW2. He passed around his begging bowl for another 25,000 to put the building to right. During all these requests for funds, the Dominions and Commonwealth countries had generously given, for their troops had full access to the Chevrons Club.

In October 1940 the Chevron Club was bombed out of its premises in St Georges Street SW1 and a general call for aid and assistance was issued for substantial funds to reopen the club elsewhere in town, and quickly! This was to be in early 1941 in the fashionable west end in Belgrave Square, in Pont Street Knightsbridge, known today in the 21st century as 'Embassy Park' for in this area of London, are grouped together many of the world's Embassies accredited to the Court Of St James Palace.

In December 1941 after fourteen months of acquisition and fitting-out the Chevron Club open its doors again with a great blessing [and another generous contribution] sent by Their Majesty's the King and Queen.

The_Times_1941-12-13 CHEVRON CLUB NEW PREMISES.pdf

However, after a relatively short stint in Pont Street, the Chevron Club was moved yet again this time out to a very smart area of W2, to Dorset Square London NW, equidistant between Marylebone and Baker Street Tube Stations.

 

Front door name plate

and Dorset Square today in February 2019

 

 It was officially opened by HRH The Princess Elizabeth on the 4th February 1948 her first London engagement after her wedding - text followed by video.

HRH Princess Elizabeth opens the new CHEVRONS CLUB in London in 1948.docx

HRH Princess Elizabeth Open Chevrons Club in 1948.wmv

The Club continued to attract Royal personages as this jpeg shows. The time line is 1954 and Princess Alice and her husband paid a visit. Princess Alice was one of my favourite Royals, she being the last surviving grand daughter of Queen Victoria, and lived until she was 97 dying in 1981.

In the Spring of 1970 it became insolvent and had to borrow money to allow it to remain open and trading. On the 1st September 1975 the famous, much loved and much used CHEVRONS CLUB ceased trading and closed its doors, because it's banker and only creditor, the Armed Forces, called in their loan to the club. It was the passing of a famous WW1 Symbol, a symbol repeated again in WW2. Its closure left the remaining two clubs, the UJC and the VSC, to pick up the pieces, mainly for the many soldiers stationed in central London [Wellington, Chelsea, Knightsbridge, Regent's Park Barracks], plus troops at Horseguards and Windsor: with outlying Barracks at Hounslow and Woolwich. The UJC became the most popular of the two because of its siting and transport system.

The_Times_1975-08-08 THE CHEVRON CLUB CLOSES AFTER 57 YEARS IN BEING.pdf

Chevrons per se

Chevrons, or both types [wounds and time served/overseas service] were designed to be for members of the armed forces commissioned and non-commissioned ranks, and the Chevrons Club remained throughout a club for combatants and ex combatants.

It didn't take long before civilians, engaged in the war back home [civil defence, police, firemen, ambulance crews, fire watchers, wardens, medical personnel, boys in cadet forces, mortuary staff and several others] wanted their share of recognition, and instead of 'inventing' a symbol/badge, even a chevron, they gave them military style insignia, which, whilst deserving, immediately relegated the military wearing of similar/same insignia, expressly issued NOT TO BE CONSIDERED an award or a rewards but just as a  recognition. Many civilians did treat them as a return of service and collected them on trivial and flimsy evidence evidence of entitlement.

 This letter from a civilian worker in the House of Commons set the cat among the pigeons and triggered some massive claims.

The_Times_1942-04-16 NEED FOR THE WANT OF WEARING A RECOGNITION OF UNIFORM - CHEVRONS ETC.pdf

This edict more than sums up the outcome where sea scouts in short trousers and uniform jersey's were running around with more chevrons that surely they could have earned legitimately in a dozen wars?

The_Times_1944-02-02 chrevron rule for award civilservice.pdf

Again in 1944, the King issued a proclamation on wounds and sea service/long war service chevrons.

The_Times_1944-02-17 from 1939 king approves issue of wound stripes and chevrons.pdf

The RAF Chevrons were shown separately in this cutting.

The_Times_1944-02-19 chevrons etc for RAF.pdf

And yet more chevrons for civilians

The_Times_1944-04-18  1944 CHEVRONS.pdf

Finally, in 1944, in August the wearing of chevrons, hitherto a uniform article was no longer recommended nor issued.

The_Times_1944-08-02 END OF COMPULSORY WEARING OF CHEVRONS ETC.pdf