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Ranks & Decorations

British Royal Navy rank is designated by gold lace rings, the top ring having a curl. Officers generally wore their insignia on their shoulder straps, warrant officers and non-commissioned officers on their sleeves. The different branches were distinguished by different coloured cloth between these rings or on the borders of their shoulder badges, and had no curl above the rings.

Military branch No cloth, therefore the blue of the coat
Engineering Purple cloth
Surgeon Scarlet (later pink for medical service)
Dental Orange
Paymaster White
Instructor Light blue, later white
Shipwright and constructor Silver grey
Electrical Dark green
Ordnance Dark blue
Wardmaster Maroon
Air branch Blue

The cuff rings were straight for the regular navy, wavy for the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, and coiled for the Royal Naval Reserve. An embroidered slash crossing the cuff rings was worn on full dress uniform.


The decorations awarded to those in the British service are many and varied. Those listed here, while not necessarily a complete catalogue of British decorations, do include awards from both the first and second World Wars, and those awarded not only to British, but also to Commonwealth and Allied forces by the British government.

naval cadet Naval Cadet - A button on the collar lapel.
midshipman Midshipman - A white (red for Royal Naval Reserve, navy blue for Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve) lapel flash, with a gold, brass or anodised naval button. Dress uniform had three gold buttons on the cuffs as well.
commissioned officer Commissioned Officer - One thin gold ring on the sleeve or shoulder flash.
senior commissioned officer Senior Commissioned Officer - One gold ring on the sleeve or shoulder flash.
sub lieutenant Sub-Lieutenant - One gold ring on the sleeve or shoulder flash. (Engineer Sub-Lieutenant - purple, Assistant Paymaster [under four years] - white).
lieutenant Lieutenant - Two gold rings on the sleeve or shoulder flash. (Engineer Lieutenant - purple, Surgeon - scarlet, Assistant Paymaster [over four years,also Secretary to a Commodore second class] - white).
lieutenant commander Lieutenant-Commander - (Until early 1914, senior Lieutenant) two gold rings with one thin ring between, located on the sleeve or shoulder flash. (Engineer Lieutenant Commander - purple, Staff Surgeon - scarlet, Staff Paymaster or Paymaster [also Secretary to a Flag Officer other than a C-in-C, or to a Commodore first Class or Captain of the fleet] - white).
captain Captain - Four gold rings on the sleeve or shoulder flash. Those with three years seniority often wore individual insignia. (Engineer Captain - purple, Deputy Surgeon General - scarlet, Paymaster-in-Chief [also Secretary to a Flag Officer, if with over five years service as Secretary to a C-in-C] - white).
commodore second class Commodore (Second Class) - Broad gold ring on sleeve of shoulder board. Like a Captain, the Commodore Second Class commanded his own ship.
commodore first class Commodore (First Class) - (Ranked with Rear Admiral) one broad gold ring with a one-quarter width ring above it. On the full dress uniform a shoulder board with a Crown, two pips and an anchor could be worn. The Commodore First Class had a flagship Captain under him, and flew a flag, not a pennant.
rear admiral Rear Admiral - One broad gold ring with a one-quarter width ring above it. On the shoulder strap is the same, or a shoulder board with a Crown over a crossed sword and baton, and one pip. (Engineer Rear Admiral - purple, Surgeon General - scarlet).
admiral Admiral - A broad gold ring with three quarter width rings above it. On the shoulder strap is the same, or a Crown, crossed baton and sword, and threee pips.

Branch Badges

gunnery Gunnery
radar plot Radar Plot
topedo Torpedo and Anti-Submarine
coxswain Coxswain
surveying recorder Surveying Recorder
boom defence Boom Defence
stoker mechanic Stoker Mechanic
mechanician Mechanician
regulating Regulating
naval airman Naval Airman (other than Naval Airman S.A.M.


victoria cross Victoria Cross - For some signal of valour or devotion to their country in the presence of the enemy.
george cross George Cross - For acts of greates heroism or the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger.
order of bath Order of the Bath
order of st. george Order of St. George - For services abroad and in the colonies.
order of merit Order of Merit - For very distinguished and conspicuous services in peace or war.
order of st. michael Order of St. Michael - For services abroad and in the colonies.
order of indian empire Order of the Indian Empire - For services in India.
order of crown of india Order of the Crown of India
royal victorian order Royal Victorian Order - For extraordinary, important or personal services to the sovereign or the royal family.
order of british empire Order of the British Empire (Military) - For servicesnot warranting other orders or decorations awarded for services in the field or before the enemy.
order of companions of honour Order of the Companions of Honour - For conspicuous services of national importance.

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