Royal Navy uniform

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Officers, a Chief Petty Officer and Ratings of the Royal Navy on parade in No. 1 dress uniform.

The uniforms of the Royal Navy have evolved gradually since the first uniform regulations for officers were issued in 1748.[1] The predominant colours of Royal Navy uniforms are navy blue and white. Since reforms in 1997 male and female ratings have worn the same ceremonial uniform.[1]

RN uniforms have served as the template for many maritime/naval uniforms throughout the world, especially in the British Empire and Commonwealth. Modern uniforms of the Royal Australian Navy and Royal New Zealand Navy are virtually identical to RN uniforms, with the exception of nationality flashes at shoulder height and on rank slides. Royal Canadian Navy uniforms are also very similar, though some orders of dress are no longer used, such as "square rig," and some distinctly Canadian rank insignia and titles are used; i.e., Master Seaman.

History[edit]

Officers[edit]

Captain Edward Vernon (1723-1794)

Uniform regulations for officers were first issued by Lord Anson in 1748, and remained unchanged for nearly twenty years. Reportedly, the officers themselves advocated its adoption, as they "wished to be recognised as being in the service of the Crown."[2] The "best uniform", consisting of an embroidered blue coat with white facings, worn unbuttoned with white breeches and stockings, was worn for ceremonial occasions; the "working rig" was a simpler, less embroidered uniform for day-to-day use. In 1767 the best uniform was abolished and replaced by the working rig, with a simpler "undress" uniform for day-to-day use. By 1795, as a result of the French Revolutionary Wars, a plain blue "undress" coat had been introduced for everyday use, and epaulettes were officially introduced.[1] By 1846, all officers wore epaulettes. The white facings came and went over the years, briefly becoming scarlet (1830-1843). Though stripes of lace on the cuffs had been used to distinguish the different ranks of admiral since 1795, the first version of current rank insignia, consisting of stripes with a "curl" in the top one, was introduced for all officers in 1856.[3]

In 1825, the white breeches were replaced by trousers for officers serving in the United Kingdom, although the practice of wearing white trousers with naval uniforms continued for officers serving overseas (e.g. in the West Indies and China) until 1939. Throughout the nineteenth century, there was great variation in uniform; officers paid for their own uniform, and often adapted it to fit civilian fashion of the time, as the Admiralty regulations governing uniform were not highly prescriptive.[1]

For service in tropical climates, a white tunic and trousers were introduced in 1877, and replaced by a new design in 1938 comprising a white shirt and shorts.[1] During World War II, a blue working dress on the lines of battledress was approved. Caps were to have white tops all year around, and blue caps were abolished in 1956.[3]

The distinctive white collar patch of the Midshipman first appeared about 1758.[3]

Ratings[edit]

Uniform for ratings was first established by the Admiralty in 1857. Prior to this, most seamen wore "slops", or ready-made clothing sold to the ship's crew by a contractor; many captains established general standards of appearance for the seamen on their vessel, but there was little or no uniformity between ships. On one occasion in 1853, the commanding officer of HMS Harlequin paid for his boat crews to dress as harlequins, an incident which may have contributed to the Admiralty's decision to adopt a standard uniform.[1]

A number of changes have been introduced since the introduction of the first rating uniform, notably the removal of the blue jacket in 1890, and the replacement of bell-bottoms by flared trousers in 1977. In 1997 there was a major standardisation programme, meaning that all ratings now wear the same ceremonial uniform for the first time in history.[1]

Present day uniform[edit]

Ceremonial Day Dress, as worn by Vice-Admiral Sir Adrian Johns
Blue No. 1 dress (with aiguilettes) worn by Sir Charles Montgomery.
No. 3 dress as worn by the First Sea Lord
3A dress
3C dress

Present-day Royal Navy officers and ratings have several different uniforms; some are blue, others are white.

Officers[edit]

Ceremonial Day Dress[edit]

This is worn only by a few senior Officers (Admirals and Admirals of the Fleet, members of the Royal Family or Royal Household of the rank of Rear Admiral and above, the Vice-Admiral of the United Kingdom).[4] It consists of a tailcoat with standing collar (white with gold edging - a vestige of the white uniform facings of the 18th-19th century), worn with gold shoulder boards, black and gold belt and gold laced black trousers. It is worn at parades such as Lord High Admiral's Divisions (BRNC) or at state occasions.

Blue No. 1 dress[edit]

This is the formal uniform worn on ceremonial occasions. For officers it consists of a double-breasted, navy blue jacket; matching trousers; white shirt and black tie; peaked cap; and black leather shoes. It is divided into 1A (with medals and bearing arms), 1B (same as 1A, but without arms), and 1C (with medal ribbons). Female personnel may wear skirts except when carrying a sword or rifle.[1]

Blue No. 2 dress[edit]

This mess dress is worn in the evenings for dining. 2A is the formal evening dress for ceremonial dinners; it consists of "ball dress with [a] white waistcoat (cummerbund for female officers) with miniature medals." 2B is "mess undress" for other mess functions, and is worn with either a cummerbund or black waistcoat and miniature medals. 2C, "red sea rig", is worn for informal evening wear on board ship; it consists of a white short sleeved shirt, with tropical boards, and a cummerbund.[1]

Blue No. 3 dress[edit]

This is worn all year round for general duties; it consists of a white shirt with rank insignia on the shoulders, and appropriate headgear. For officers 3A dress includes a long-sleeved shirt and tie, while 3B includes a short-sleeved shirt without the tie. 3C and 3D are the same in all respects but with the addition of a navy blue woollen pullover.[1]

No. 4 dress[edit]

Royal Navy Lieutenant wearing No. 4 dress.

This is termed Action Working Dress (AWD) and consists of blue shirt and trousers, both with flame retardant properties, worn with pullover (optional) and cap or beret. Specialist badges are worn on the sleeves; each branch and specialisation has its own insignia and are to be worn accordingly. A new dark blue "modernised" combat uniform known as No 4 dress was introduced in 2012 on a trial basis for the crew of the new type 45 destroyer HMS Daring, the Type 23 frigate HMS Westminster and Trafalgar-class submarine HMS Talent.[5] It is meant to be more versatile and adaptable to weather conditions, and has rank badges at the front rather than on the shoulders, boots with zips instead of laces, collars that fasten with Velcro rather than buttons, and a baseball cap.[6][7]

No. 5 dress[edit]

No. 5 refers to the wide range of job-specific working kit worn by different personnel (e.g. medical, flight deck, boat crews, chefs, divers, etc.) for particular tasks. They are worn as required for duties.[1]

White No.1 dress[edit]

White ceremonial dress

In the Tropics, officers wear on formal occasions a short sleeved white bush jacket with an open collar; matching trousers; peaked cap; and white leather shoes.

Officers above the rank of Commander, and those holding certain appointments, occasionally wear instead a long-sleeved, high-necked white tunic; and others may be instructed to do so 'when required to conform with accepted international standards of dress on state or major ceremonial occasions'.[8]

White No.2 and No.3 dress[edit]

There are also white No. 2 and No. 3 dress which fulfil the same functions as their blue equivalents. Some white uniforms include shorts.[1]

Ratings[edit]

Blue No. 1 dress[edit]

A rating in 1A uniform.

This is the formal uniform worn on ceremonial occasions. For junior ratings it is a traditional navy blue sailor suit. Senior ratings wear a similar style uniform to officers. It is divided into 1A (with medals and bearing arms), 1B (same as 1A, but without arms), and 1C (with medal ribbons). Female personnel may wear skirts except when carrying a sword or rifle.[1]

Blue No. 2 dress[edit]

This mess dress is worn in the evenings for dining by all senior rates Petty Officer and above. 2A is the formal evening dress for ceremonial dinners worn a white waistcoat and miniature medals." 2B is "mess undress" for other mess functions, and is worn with a cummerbund and miniature medals. 2C, "red sea rig", is worn for informal evening wear on board ship.[1]

Sailors during the Falklands War wearing anti-flash gear

Blue No. 3 dress[edit]

This is the same for Officer's No. 3 dress but with the relevant rate insignia and cap. Senior rates (Petty Officer and above) can wear the 3A long-sleeved shirt and tie, junior rates are only issued with open collar short-sleeve shirts (3B).

No. 4 dress[edit]

Rating in No.4 dress

No. 4 is AWD (Action Working Dress): blue shirt and trousers with flame retardant properties; optional pullover.[1]

No. 5 dress[edit]

No. 5 is the collective category for all specialist working uniforms. They are worn as required for duties. Combat uniform also comes under this heading.

White No.1 dress[edit]

In the Tropics this is the uniform worn on ceremonial occasions. For ratings it is a white version of the traditional sailor's suit.

White No.2 and No.3 dress[edit]

There are also white No. 2 and No. 3 dress which fulfil the same functions as their blue equivalents. Some white uniforms include shorts.[1]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Information on uniforms was removed from the RN website and given to the National Archives at Kew according to this website. The National Archive link for the various uniforms is [1]. For current regulations see External Links below.
  2. ^ Rank and Style, National Maritime Museum
  3. ^ a b c 'The Dress of Naval Officers', National Maritime Museum, 1966
  4. ^ RN dress regulations 2014, annex 39b
  5. ^ "Royal Navy Puts New Uniform To The Test". Retrieved 21 February 2014. 
  6. ^ Whitehead, Tom (18 March 2012). "New Royal Navy uniforms to involve baseball caps and Velcro". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  7. ^ Malik, Shiv (18 March 2012). "Navy crew trial first new-look uniform in 20 years". The Guardian (London). 
  8. ^ "RN dress tables". Royal Navy. February 2013. 

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]