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Rank and appointment of Guards Junior NCOs


Muerrisch

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The badges of rank and appointment of junior Non-Commissioned-Officers (NCOs) of the Foot Guards in the Great War.

 

For the purpose of these notes “junior” is taken to mean below full sergeant rank, otherwise known as gold sergeant. The first step up from Private (“Guardsman” status was introduced immediately after the war) was a large and risky one. Lance-corporals (LCpls) had no security in their appointment, in that their substantive rank remained Private and they could be reverted at the stroke of the Commanding Officer’s pen. A battalion was established for 49 LCpls. They were forbidden to associate with privates and were expected to fill corporals' (Cpls) rôles.  Each unit was allowed a fixed number of “paid LCpls” who earned 3d per day extra over that of the Private. The first advancement was usually to “unpaid LCpl”, who received all of the kicks and none of the ha’pence, as the saying went. Many reverted voluntarily, many were reduced as a result of misdemeanours. The paid posts were regulated by Army Council Instructions.

 

The Foot Guards had been anomalous regarding an appointment badge for LCpls since about 1882. Regulations required the badge to be a single white worsted double lace chevron on the blue facing colour, worn on the upper right arm.

Dawnay records a photograph of that date showing a soldier of the Grenadiers with the single chevron. He adds that there was a grenade above, but makes no comment on the other two regiments. There seems to be no logical need for the grenade (no other NCO except the pioneer sergeant wore one in scarlet tunic order) unless to mark “paid” status.

 

The Grenadiers in white drill order wore the grenade above two chevrons, three chevrons and as part of the colour sergeant badge.

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By 1887 LCpls of Foot Guards were ordered to wear two chevrons, exactly the same as full Cpls. Dawnay avoids speculation on the rôle of the Sovereign in ordering this change.

To be made a Cpl was a promotion, to be senior to all privates and LCpls. Promotions could be substantive or acting (“local” was used interchangeably with “acting”). It was possible to be made a Cpl without ever having been a LCpl, and this was frequently the case in war. Substantive ranks could not be lost without administrative action. The Cpls’ badge was the same two chevrons as their juniors. At first sight strange, this was not entirely illogical, as both did the same jobs …….. there were never enough Cpls in any case. Both were referred to as corporal by all ranks.

Just as a unit was allowed privates to be appointed unpaid or paid LCpls, so was it allowed to appoint Cpls as unpaid or paid lance-sergeants (LSgts). A battalion was established for eight. The number of paid posts, which earned an extra 5d per day above Cpls’ pay, was regulated. Both LSgt appointments wore three white double lace chevrons, both were senior to all Cpls, and both did duty as sergeants.

 

Drab Service Dress {SD) from 1902.

Rank and appointment badges were ordered to be worn on both arms in SD, a sensible decision for active service. Scarlet tunics and their badges were retained until the declaration of war in 1914. The Coldstream and the Scots Guards, and the new Irish, transferred their badge system to SD with a minimum of fuss, so that a LCpl, whether unpaid or paid, wore two drab worsted chevrons, a full Cpl the same, a full Cpl appointed  LSgt three chevrons, and a full sergeant the same.

 

The Grenadier Guards chose to be different. No useful record of this appears to be in the public domain. Neither Dawnay, Walton, Barthorp nor other distinguished authors appear to have ventured to write about the introduction of the grenade as a SD rank distinction. The searchable index of the Military History Society database reveals nothing. It is not even certain if the addition of the grenade was made when SD was introduced, or later, or piecemeal. It does not appear to have been publicly funded or acknowledged in the early years. Neither Clothing Regulations nor Priced Vocabularies mention the matter of worsted grenades for SD before the Great War.

The grenade appeared above two chevrons, above three chevrons, and as part of the colour sergeants’ badge (exactly the same as the white drill jacket).  If the Grenadiers adopted it, why did not the other three regiments do similarly: each had a perfectly good regimental emblem to use, already worn by their pioneers? This article can shine no light on the matter.

 

The use of the grenade badge to amplify rank or appointment.

First a note on Good Conduct Badges (GCBs). These badges had each attracted 1d each per day, but the payments, but not wearing, were being phased out after 1906 when Proficiency Pay was introduced. Full corporals and above were deemed to be of good conduct by definition. They were not to wear GCBs. Thus, unless the Guards uncharacteristically and systematically broke the rules, the wearing of these badges should be by LCpls or below.

 

In the period of the Great War NCOs of the Grenadier Guards were photographed wearing the following badge combinations:

 

1.     Two chevrons, no grenade

2.     Two chevrons with grenade above, and GCBs

3.     Two chevrons with grenade above, no GCBs

4.     Three chevrons, no grenade, no GCBs

5.     Three chevrons with grenade above, no GCBs.

 

The photographs are placed in order at the foot of the blog

 

What might these distinctions signify? What is the order of precedence and what were the titles of the ranks and appointments? Assuming analogy with full dress, soldiers 1, 2 and 3, numbering from the left, are corporals of sorts, whereas 4 and 5 are sergeants. Soldier 2 wears GCBs, forbidden for full corporals, therefore he appears to be a LCpl, either unpaid or paid. Photographs of soldiers with this combination of badges are abundant. As collateral for LCpl recognition a commissioned portrait (The Grenadier Guards, Hanning), of soldier 6, in order below shows another example and this man is captioned as a lance-corporal.

Is soldier 1, Ernest Bailey in 1914, senior to, or junior to, the LCpls? We have a photograph, soldier 3, taken in 1916 showing Bailey with two chevrons and grenade above, so soldier 1 is almost certainly junior to the men identified as LCpls but is somehow senior to a Private. In turn, number 3. might be a full corporal (no GCBs), but we cannot be certain, because GCBs were lost for very minor misdemeanours. As in scarlet tunic order, so LCpls and Cpls in service dress are virtually indistinguishable from each other.

 

Acting Rank.

 

When war broke out there was an immediate problem in that reservists (who frequently made up half of war establishments) automatically retained their previous substantive rank on recall. Units found that they had many more corporals and sergeants than allowed, so that there could be no substantive promotions until all the reservist NCOs were assimilated. Nevertheless the expansion of the army demanded that extra NCOs were needed to train the New Armies. The solution was to appoint Acting ranks, with no job security such that when they were drafted to the Front they reverted to their lower substantive rank unless there was a vacancy. Soldier 1., Ernest Bailey, who is by his badge and his future career progression apparently junior to the grenade-badged LCpls, may have been Acting because his unit has its full establishment of 49 LCpls in the grade and needed more.

 

King’s Regulations 1912 amended to 1st August 1914, paragraph 294 refer:

The establishment of lance-sergeants, lance-corporals and acting-bombardiers is laid down in Peace Establisments  Part I. [Ed: and War Establishments]

Brigade commanders are authorised in cases of necessity to sanction the temporary appointment, in excess of the establishment, of a small number of unpaid lance-sergeants, lance-corporals and acting bombardiers.

 

Army Council Instruction 2105 of 1916 was one of several that returned to the subject, reminding Commanding Officers that:

The appointment will be given up as soon as the holder ceases to perform the specific duties for which the appointment was given.

 

The absence of a grenade badge signifies Bailey’s lowly Acting status; he performed extra duties for no extra pay. His career prospered and he died in 1918 as a substantice corporal, a lance-sergeant in the regiment.

 

The Sergeants.

Turning to the sergeants, soldier 7 in order below is identified as Lance-Sergeant Henderson (The Grenadier Guards), complete with three chevrons and a grenade. Given that the grenade is a much-prized artefact of the regiment, bestowed in 1815, it surely marks seniority over no grenade. This implies that soldier 4, with three chevrons but no grenade,  is junior to a lance-sergeant. He may therefor be an Acting unpaid Lance-Sergeant under KR 1912 , awaiting a vacancy on the Establishment, by analogy with Bailey. He may not even have attained any previous rank at all, because the exigencies of war made for extreme cases.

We are left with several questions unanswered, among them:

 

a.     When did the Grenadiers begin to use the grenade for rank distinctions in SD?

b.     Was it authorised?

c.      What were the rank/appointment titles, especially regarding Acting status?

 

I am greatly indebted to Frogsmile, who, on the British Badge Forum, has done the hard yards of research and finding illustrations. 

In addition to those references mentioned above, I consulted Brigade of Guards Standing Orders over the relevant period, and those for the Grenadier Guards.

 

On or before Brigade Standing Orders 1952 were issued, all substantive corporals were made lance-sergeants and admitted to the Warrant Officers’ and Sergeants’ Mess, thus abolishing the title (but not the pay) of Cpl..

 

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grenadierguardsman

Posted

On 28/04/2020 at 22:54, FROGSMILE said:


 

The grounds for my disagreement are the logic of usage, which I think I made clear, but I certainly see no need for angst over it. 
 

With regards to LSgt Henderson on page 184 of subject book then on the basis of my proposition yes it is a second error, but if the number of errors seems important then there seem to be plenty more.  On page 107 “meat distribution” is actually coal fatigues (aka ‘regimental sports’).  On page 155 in the group photo is yet another 2-stripe NCO without grenade.  What is his position?  Opposite on page 154 is the so described “Lance Corporal” but if both Lance Corporal and Corporal wore identical badge configurations how would an author differentiate between them with a caption?  On page 165 there are a group of four machine gunners behind their gun, on the left a 2-stripe man without grenade and on the right a 2-stripe man with grenade. What are their ranks and what would the logic be of having two men of the exact same grade in a four man gun team? Would that be likely? On page 169 top there are a group of GG outside a soldiers canteen including a 2-stripe and a 3-stripe both without grenades, is that two acting NCOs who just happen to be in the same frame, or two Lance appointments?  On page 199 there is a 2-stripe NCO without grenade marching an entire GG company through a bombed street, is it likely to be an acting JNCO marching that number of men?  Clearly books can often have errors or a lack of clarity.

 

I think I made clear what I meant about acting rank being a sticking plaster that was not as permanent and ingrained in regimental infrastructure as the Lance appointments.  I wasn’t suggesting that acting rank was rare.

 

Thank you for explaining about the CWWGC entry for Ernest Bailey, reading it again I do now recall his rank at demise from when we first discussed him, and his badges, in the thread back in Jan 2019: https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/188449-photos-of-1st-2nd-and-3rd-btns-grenadier-guards/?tab=comments#comment-2718277

 

 

 

 

 

What book is being referred to here please ?

Andy

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FROGSMILE

Posted (edited)

2 hours ago, grenadierguardsman said:

What book is being referred to here please ?

Andy


It is the book as described.  I received no response to explain the specific errors mentioned, it was manifestly inconvenient for the argument being postulated.  Water under the bridge now, both sides of the debate are clear and have holes.  You can no doubt form your own opinion.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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grenadierguardsman

Posted

16 minutes ago, FROGSMILE said:


It is the book as described.  I received no response to explain the specific errors mentioned, it was manifestly inconvenient for the argument being postulated.  Water under the bridge now, both sides of the debate are clear and have holes.  You can no doubt form your own opinion.

I found this thread very interesting. I only have a few standing orders 3 pre 1900 and 1 1907. Acting rank mentioned quite a bit but nothing referring to SD unfortunately. I'll keep looking, just need to get to London.

Andy

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18 minutes ago, grenadierguardsman said:

I found this thread very interesting. I only have a few standing orders 3 pre 1900 and 1 1907. Acting rank mentioned quite a bit but nothing referring to SD unfortunately. I'll keep looking, just need to get to London.

Andy


It’s certainly an interesting subject Andy.  Good luck with finding something meaningful.

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Andy, I would not bother with the book, written by a Lt Col [Retd] of your regiment, assisted by the Curator of the Guards Museum: Froggy believes he found lots of  errors.

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grenadierguardsman

Posted

26 minutes ago, Muerrisch said:

Andy, I would not bother with the book, written by a Lt Col [Retd] of your regiment, assisted by the Curator of the Guards Museum: Froggy believes he found lots of  errors.

Ive just found a cheap copy £10, may as well have it for that. Thanks though, ive just got a copy of your book ( soft back ).

Andy

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3 minutes ago, grenadierguardsman said:

Ive just found a cheap copy £10, may as well have it for that. Thanks though, ive just got a copy of your book ( soft back ).

Andy

 

Good. And Happy Christmas!

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Muerrisch

Posted (edited)

Andy, my Guards Standing Orders are a bit thin, but if you need anything specific I can do a look up, by PM. The list is rather chaotic, needs editing.

 

SO Grenadier Guards 1881

SO Gren Gds 1893

SO Coldstream Guards 1933

SO Coldstream Guards 1927

Colours Customs Coldstream Guards 1978

SO Scots Guards 1931

SO Scots Guards 1964

SO Welsh Guards 1946

SO IG 1928

Colours Gren Gds  1958

Colours Gen Gds 1869

HM Regs Bde Guards  1904

SO Brigade Guards 1911

SO Brigade Guards  1922

SO Brigade Guards 1929

SO Brigade Guards 1936

SO Gren Gds 1939

SO 2nd Gren Guards 1946

 

 

SO Brigade Guards 1952

 

SO 3rd GG 1960

 

 

SO Gren Gds 1954

 

 

SO Brigade Guards 1962

 

 

Edited by Muerrisch
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grenadierguardsman

Posted

24 minutes ago, Muerrisch said:

 

Good. And Happy Christmas!

And you.

Andy

19 minutes ago, Muerrisch said:

Andy, my Guards Standing Orders are a bit thin, but if you need anything specific I can do a look up, by PM. The list is rather chaotic, needs editing.

 

SO Grenadier Guards 1881

SO Gren Gds 1893

SO Coldstream Guards 1933

SO Coldstream Guards 1927

Colours Customs Coldstream Guards 1978

SO Scots Guards 1931

SO Scots Guards 1964

SO Welsh Guards 1946

SO IG 1928

Colours Gren Gds  1958

Colours Gen Gds 1869

HM Regs Bde Guards  1904

SO Brigade Guards 1911

SO Brigade Guards  1922

SO Brigade Guards 1929

SO Brigade Guards 1936

SO Gren Gds 1939

SO 2nd Gren Guards 1946

 

 

SO Brigade Guards 1952

 

SO 3rd GG 1960

 

 

SO Gren Gds 1954

 

 

SO Brigade Guards 1962

 

 

Wow, outstanding.

Andy

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