Badges and Bells
from the collection of Alan Dowling Associate member of the V & W Destroyer Association
produced by ships' captains prior
to 1918 were usually round but might be any shape. In 1919 the
Admiralty produced standard patterns according to vessel type: circular
for battleships and battle cruisers, pentagonal for cruisers, shields
for destroyers and diamond for all other vessel types and shore
establishments. There are three categories of badges (frequently known as crests) on Royal Navy ships:
Screen Plaques These massive bronze castings were attached to the screen,
the front of the bridge structure at head height. They weighed 33 lbs
and measured 15 3/8 inches from the top of the crown to the bottom of
the rope. There might be more than one, others being attached elsewhere
on the bridge structure or in the Wardroom. Small replicas were cast in
light alloy and mounted on hardwood for presentation and display. Their
quality varied considerably.
Boat Badges These small brass badges were attached to the ship's whaler on V &
W Class destroyers. They were 5 pounds in weight and measured 5 1/2 inches in
height. About thirty of them were cast to replace ones which went missing and
consequently they can occasionally be bought by collectors.
Gun Tompions These were the same diameter as the barrels of guns and attached
to a plug which closed the gun barrel. Frank Witton, a veteran of HMS Woolston holds its tompion.
The majority of the hand carved wooden originals from which the sand
moulds were made for
casting the plaques, badges and tompions are believed to be at the
Museum in the Naval Dockyard at Plymouth and are not on display but
some are on public display at Chatham. Original casts have a fine
finish and exactly
match the measurements given. A boat badge might be temporarily removed
from a ship's whaler to make a secondary cast in a depot ship or naval
dockyard for presentation to a distinguished visitor. They are slightly smaller than the original since metal contracts on cooling.All castings should be polished after casting to bring them to a nice finish. This can be done with heavy duty polishers, sandblasting, etc. Some
of the reduced size reproductions of screen plaques cast in light metal
and mounted on hardwood for sale as souvenirs by commercial companies
are of high quality.
Warrant Officer Parkes RN with the screen plaque of HMS Venomous, 1941 Copyright Reserved
Do you have a 15 inch crowned screen plaque or a 5 inch boat badge of a V & W Class destroyer? Compare the replica plaster cast of the 15 3/8 inch screen plaque of HMS Venomous (above left) with the original in the photograph taken in 1941
And the genuine 5 1/2 inch boat badge (centre) with a small scale replica of the
screen plaque made by a commercial firm in the 1930s on the right Can you distinguish the genuine from the copy?
By 1934 large numbers of old
warships were laid up and the expectation was that they would in time
be scrapped. Consequently, on 12 April 1934 Admiralty Fleet Order (AFO)
867, "Ships Bells for Disposal", was issued listing bells from eighty
named ships for sale to ships' officers and others at prices from £1 to
£5. They included the bells of twelve V & Ws: Vanoc, Vega, Verity, Veteran, Viceroy, Vimy, Vortigern, Wallace, Watchman, Wessex, Wild Swan, Witch and Worcester. Most of them had a diameter of 10 3/4 inches and a weight of 27 lbs.
As Germany rearmed and the threat of war became plain these old
warriors were brought back into service and fitted with new 14 inch
diameter bells. The bell of HMS Whitshed
is the only ship's bell in Alan Dowling's collection and since it has a
diameter of 14 inches we can be sure that it is the same bell that hung
in the ship when she took part with five sister ships in the evacuation
of the Welsh and Irish Guards from Boulogne on 23 May 1940.
Alan Dowling has the mallet used at the launch of HMS Vancouver in 1917 renamed HMS Vimy in 1928 plus an original badge of HMS Vancouver and HMS Vimy.
The bell of HMS Vimy was
bought by Rodney Scott Moncrieff in British Columbia, Canada, and is
rung on Remembrance Day at cenotaphs throughout the state.
Alan Dowling's collection includes sixteen "unofficial" (pre 1918) boat badges, three screen plaques for Viceroy, Wanderer and Vanessaand thirty official boat badges (including three Class Leaders) to the authorised Admiralty design.
Official screen plaques for HMS Viceroy, HMS Wanderer and HMS Vanessa
Unofficial boat badges for HMS Wallace, Shakespeare (Class Leaders) Winchester,
Vivacous, Wryneck, Vancouver, Waterhen, Watchman, Vectris, Whitehall,
Wivern, Whitshed, Vega, Vimiera, Viceroy and Viscount.
Official boat badges for HMS Shakespeare, Malcolm, Bruce, Campbell (Class Leaders), Wishart,
Viscount, Verdun, Valorous, Vivien, Wanderer, Vidette, Verity, Wolsley,
Walpole, Vimy, Valhalla, Valkyrie, Wolfhound, Wild Swan, Versatile,
Waterhen, Voyager, Valentine, Whitshed, Vansittart, Vega, Violent,
Witch, Venomous and Wyvern.
The Admiralty drawings of the authorised designs were published in two volumes as The A to Z of Royal Naval Ships Badges 1919 - 1989 by Neptune Books in 1987. An updated hardback edition was published as: Admiralty Ships Badges: Original Patterns 1919 - 1994. Volume 1: A - M and Vol 2 N - Z; by T.P. Stopford. Stone Frigate, 1996. ISBN 0952934604