GC stripes for WWI RN officers?

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    I am currently researching the career of Augustus Agar VC DSO Royal Navy, especially his gallant antics in Coastal Motor Boat 4 in the Baltic in 1919 (I shall be giving a lecture on the Kronstadt raids as we sail up to St Petersburg in November).
    In one well-known photograph of Agar and his companions in CMB4, taken the morning after the first action in June 1919, I note that he and Sub-Lt John Hampshier RNR each have three inverted chevrons on their right sleeves above the lace. Agar also appears to have a short line of lace between the chevrons and his Lieutenant’s lace, and what appears to be a cotton or bullion twist and button on his left-hand upper lapel, which I associate with a naval cadet of the era.
    I can find no mention of Good Conduct stripes or any similar form of distinction chevrons for officers in the Naval Regulations for the period, or the lapel twist for a commissioned officer, and wonder if any member can please enlighten me?
    Agar is wearing a rather natty pair of checked woollen slippers – very non-uniform – and white trousers, which I gather was fairly recent issue for officers in tropical climes. The Baltic, even in high summer, hardly rates tropical kit, so is there an explanation for that too, other than Agar’s somewhat laissez-faire approach to life (his own life – he was very careful with the lives of men under his command)?

    Justin Reay

    Frank Scott

    I believe that the chevrons indicate years of war service. There are many photos of the then Sub-Lt Louis Mountbatten with three chevrons on his right arm.
    However not everyone wore them. There is a nice shot taken on board HMS Queen Elizabeth in 1918 showing Admiral Wemyss with his four war service chevrons, but Admiral Beatty with none on his famous six-button ‘uniform’ jacket.
    It is difficult to judge the other items without a photo. Indeed I think that we must find a way to post photos to accompany queries if required.
    Frank Scott

    David Hepper

    Chevrons [for RN officers] were introduced during 1918 (announced 6 May 1918) and were to ‘…denote services overseas or at sea undertaken since Aug 4, 1914’. One chevron was to indicate each year’s service. The chevrons were to be worn inverted on the right forearm; if in the Service in 1914 one chevron was to be silver lace; for those of later years, in gold.

    ‘News in Brief’ The Times, 6 May 1918 (London), The Times Digital Archive accessed 22 September 2012.
    David Hepper

    Frank Scott

    The chevrons to which you refer are for war service. By no means all naval officers wore them, indeed there is a well-known photograph of Admiral Wemyss (First Sea Lord) and Admiral Beatty (CinC Grand Fleet) on the quarterdeck of HMS Queen Elizabeth in 1918, in which Wemyss has all his chevrons, while Beatty has none. There are also a number of photographs of Sub-Lieutenant Louis Mountbatten sporting the three chevrons to which he was entitled, and it should be no surprise that he was one of those who did wear them!

    The war service chevrons were worn on the right sleeve, and the army had the same system.

    As far as I can judge from the photographs they are slightly smaller than the chevrons that were worn by Cadet Captains at the Royal Naval College Dartmouth & the nautical colleges (Worcester, Conway & Pangbourne).

    The Navy List does not make any reference to war service chevrons, but wound stripes (vertical) were authorised for ratings.


    Alastair Wilson

    Further to Frank Scott’s post above, I can confirm that (so far as my reading goes) there was no mention of war service chevrons in the Navy List for July 1920, but the vertical wound stripes are still included. They were only worn on the undress coat (the ‘reefer jacket’) and were two inches in length. the bottom being a half inch above the top of the curl of the rank insignia.

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