Crest of the V&W Destroyer AssociationCrest of the V&W Destroyer AssociationV & W CLASS DESTROYERS




Badges and Bells
from the collection of Alan Dowling
Associate member of the V & W Destroyer Association


Unofficial badges 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.

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 Royal Navy 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.

Can you identify the boat badges without names? The one with the portcullis is, of course, from HMS Westminster and is the property of Jeremy Ouvry, son of Lt Cdr Aymé Arthur Carrington Ouvry DSC, RN (1904-89) who was her CO from December 1939 to August 1942.

Do you have a genuine screen plaque or boat badge of a V & W Class destroyer?
See the plaster cast of the 15 3/8 inch screen plaque of HMS Venomous (left) shown in the photograph taken in 1941
  A genuine  5 1/2 inch boat badge (centre) and a small scale replica of the screen plaque made by a commercial firm in the 1930s
Can you  distinguish the genuine from the copy?

Plaque for HMS VenomousHM S VenomousSouvenir mini Plaque for HMS Venomous
Screen badge in position on HMS Venomous
Warrant Officer Parkes RN with the screen plaque of HMS Venomous, 1941
Compare with the photographs above and the screen plaque of HMS Vanessa below
Copyright  Reserved

HMS WaterhenHMS ViceroyHMS Wryneck
HMS VerdunHMS VersatileHMS Voyager
HMS VanessaHMS Westminster
Bell of HMS Whitshed

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's collection includes sixteen "unofficial" (pre 1918) boat badges,
three screen plaques for Viceroy, Wanderer and Vanessa and 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

If you want to find out more about ships's badges read

Heraldry in the Royal Navy: Crests and Badges of HM Ships
Alfred E Weightman
Aldershot: Gale & Polden Ltd, 1957



If you have a crest or bell of a V & W you would like to contribute to the web site please contact Alan Dowling



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