R.N. Uniform question – Officer with cuff buttons
- May 18, 2015 at 6:33 pm #9476
I have a query regarding Harold Lyndsey-Smith who was apparently promoted as an Engineering Artificer (ERA?) to officer rank in WW1. He served in E-Class submarines in the Dardanelles campaign. I was given a photo of him. probably when first receiving his commission, with him in uniform holding an officer’s sword. On each rather elaborate jacket cuff are three brass buttons. One usually associates these buttons with a Chief Petty Officer, or way back a Midshipman. So far I have not been able to confirm his rank although I assume it was some form of warrant rank or a commissioned engineer who in the 1950s as I recall wore a single thin stripe.
In the Royal Navy Day by Day (Sainsbury/Phillips 2005 edition) on page 502 I have come across a photo of “Officers at Malta during WW1” which includes two officers in the front row wearing gold buttons on their cuffs.
Any information would be appreciated in solving this mystery
Malcolm LewisMay 19, 2015 at 8:50 am #9481
I consulted Commander Alastair Wilson on this matter, and his answer is below:
He was promoted to Acting Artificer Engineer (a Warrant rank – nowadays we would call him an Acting Sub-Lieutenant (SD)(E)(MESM)). His seniority was 13 March 1916, and the Navy List has him as Harold Lindsay Smith (was there a bit of later ‘gentrification’ to his name?)
His first ship as an officer was HMS Adamant, to which he was appointed on the same day as he was promoted – he was appointed “For Submarines” (which meant he was entitled to draw submarine pay). That same Navy List (April 1916, corrected to March 1916), contains a copy of the Uniform Regs, which specify that, on their full dress coat, Warrant Officers still have the three gold buttons (which, incidentally, had three “notched holes with blue twist thereon.” They also had a purple stripe above the buttons.
A year later, Navy List for April 1917, he is still an Acting Artificer Engineer, but his seniority is now given as 01 March `16 and he is now borne supernumerary on the books of another S/M depot ship, Lucia (again, borne “For Submarines).
One year later still, April `18, he’s now confirmed as an Artificer Engineer, and he has also got a DSC. He’s now on the books of another depot ship, Titania, and is again “For submarines”. Nowhere, throughout those war years, does Navy List specify which submarine he was serving in.
So far as I can see, he died sometime before 1927 – at all events, he’s not on the Active List, nor on the Retired List in the Navy List for January 1927. Let me know if you’d like further details and I will see what I can dig out.May 19, 2015 at 10:48 am #9486
Further to my last message, Alastair has done a bit more checking this morning, and reports as follows:
The next Navy List I have, after March 1918, is June 1919, and he is not on the Active List – nor is he in the Obituary list, nor the Removals from the Active List. This suggests to me that either:
A: He died or was killed in the last few months of the war. This is by no means impossible, but not particularly likely, other than in an accident (and I checked, he was not lost in the notorious ‘Battle of May Island’ accidents)
B: He was a victim of the great influenza epidemic of 1918-19 (I would suggest this is more likely).
It ought to be possible to get at his death certificate on-line without too much difficulty, or an enquiry to the RN Submarine Museum might do the trick.May 19, 2015 at 1:15 pm #9488Wayne TrippParticipant
May not be of too much use, but he is listed in the October 1918 Navy List but NOT in the January 1919 Navy List.May 25, 2015 at 4:11 pm #9574
The use of buttons on naval uniform cuffs to denote rank over the centuries is interesting. I am uncertain of the chronology but perhaps the rank of Midshipman was first to wear them in the time of the Napoleonic Wars. This seems to have been the situation through the Victorian era. The Artificer Engineer achieved the new “warrant rank” in 1897 and had three buttons on each sleeve. Maybe the midshipman then retained only the white collar patches as is the case up to this day.
The Chief Petty Officer rate was introduced in 1853 when he was dressed in “square rig” with crossed foul anchors on the sleeve similar to Petty Officers today. Am I correct in assuming the CPO changed to “Fore and Aft rig”, which included three sleeve buttons, when Warrant ranks changed to a narrow gold braid stripe, either with or without “Executive” curl, sometime after WW1?
Malcolm LewisMay 26, 2015 at 11:14 am #9575
This website provides the RN uniform regulations from 1877 to 1897: http://www.pbenyon.plus.com/Uniform/Index.html
By 1879 all Chief petty Officers were in ‘fore & aft rig’ as opposed to square rig.
FrankMay 27, 2015 at 3:35 pm #9584
Interesting source for RN uniform regulations, thank you. It would seem in WW1 that Artficers (Warrant Rank) and both Chief Petty Officers wore three buttons on their sleeves. There is no mention of Midshipmen in the Regs. Again am I right that in WW1 midshipmen no longer wore buttons on their sleeves? Is there a date for this change?
Malcolm LewisMay 30, 2015 at 1:31 pm #9589Alastair WilsonParticipant
By Alastair Wilson
The September 1914 Uniform Regulations (back of the Navy List, corrected to 18 August 1914) give the following details:”Undress Coat” (Paraphrase) “Blue cloth . . . the length to be sufficient to cover the hips” (i.e, what was known as the ‘reefer jacket’) “double-breasted with five holes and buttons to match on each side, to button four . . .”, etc. The text continues “Midshipmen will wear on each side of the collar a white turnback of 2 inches with a notched hole of white twist, 1¾ inches long and corresponding button” (ie, the traditional Midshipman’s white patch). There is no mention of cuff buttons.
For what was known as “The Jacket” (sometimes referred to as “the round jacket”, which was worn by Midshipmen as Full Dress, or Mess Dress, or Mess Undress, the specifications are (again, I am summarising): “Blue cloth, single-breasted, with seven buttons: three notched holes of black twist on each cuff with buttons to correspond” The regulations go on to say tha it has a stand-up collar with the white Midhshipman’s patch as described above.June 10, 2015 at 8:12 am #9622
It was I who started this thread about Harold Lindsey-Smith when I did a presentation at the BNRA based on the photographs he took while Chief ERA on HM Submarine E2on expeditions into the Sea of Marmara during the Gallipoli campaign. I was 30 years a GP in Banbury and Harold’s son John was a patient of mine. My attention was caught by that studio portrait of his dad, which he had on the wall as well as a photo of L10 on sea trials. When John (who went to sea as a sparks with New Zealand Lines in 1926) passed away his home help, with the OK of his solicitor passed the material on to me.
He signed on for 12 years in 1902, Chief ERA 1910. Appointed to E2 27.4.14.They did two patrols into the Sea of Marmara and he was award the DSC. Promoted Acting Artificer Engineer 1.3.16 while still with E2. Confirmed 11.4.17 with seniority from 1.3.16 and appointed to Dolphin “for S/M L10” on 18.11.17 presumably to stand by as she was built. 4.6.18 Maidstone “for S/M L10” when she was commissioned. L10 was lost with all hands on 4.10.18.
Brendan O’FarrellJune 10, 2015 at 4:25 pm #9634
Under L10 he is listed as Smith H.L. ArtEng (DSC) on panel 12 of the RN Submarine Memorial Wall at Gosport
– see https://www.flickr.com/photos/submarinemuseum/8099763619/in/photostream/June 11, 2015 at 7:47 pm #9639
I imagine double barrelled names were not allowed on the lower deck but were positively encouraged amongst officers some even had triple barrelled names. The way it is hand written on his record there is no doubt that he is just Smith but the way his DSC was announced in his local Market Harborough newspaper it is definitely Lindsay SmithJune 12, 2015 at 9:06 am #9640Alastair WilsonParticipant
Brendan, you’re thinking, no doubt, of Admiral Sir Reginald Aylmer Ranfurly Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax – whew! He started life as plain Plunkett, but added the Ernle-Erle-Drax under the terms of a bequest in 1916, and by Royal Licence. And there were, indeed a few RN officers who gave themselves double-barrelled names. Bowden-Smith and Atkinson-Willes were two examples from the flag list at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th Century – the latter was another case of adding a name to comply with the terms of a will – Captain George Atkinson got his flag in 1901, in the same year as his uncle, old Admiral Sir George Willes died. Being thoroughly cynical, one imagined that his parents named him George, after his uncle, in the hope that Uncle would be favourably impressed – in due course he was, but stipulated that his nephew should take his name.
But the Navy got used to double-barrelled names on the lower deck during WW2.
At the risk of our Moderator picking us up for topic drift, there’s a whole PhD thesis on Christian names among naval officers waiting to be written. While preparing my Biographical Dictionary of the 20th Century Royal Navy, it was very noticeable that officers of the Engineer Branch and later (E) branch tended to have simple names like John, Edward, Alfred. and so on, there was quite a preponderance of more high-falutin’ names in the Executive branch; Admiral P-E-E-Drax, cited above, being a prime example.June 17, 2015 at 8:45 pm #9647
I remember reading a book about the RN at Malta between the wars which mentioned an officer being given a small dog by a lady friend which the lower deck christened “Barker Barker”.August 30, 2018 at 9:39 pm #16592Søren DParticipantSeptember 11, 2018 at 12:49 pm #16655
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