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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

CPO ? Grant, HMS Lion

Old Tom

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I have read with interest (thanks for the link) the account by this Gunner in the thread about the Battle of Jutland. I know next to nothing about the hierarchy of RN NCOs in the Great War and find I am unclear about this chaps rank. May I ask for some guidance. Grant appears to have been the senior non commissioned gunner in the ship and was appointed after the previous post holder had been dismissed. He clearly was qualified and able to advise senior officers and was later granted a commission. His story ends when he is appointed to command a destroyer. That is of course highly commendable, but I am inclined to wonder on the basis that as a gunner he would not have the experience for that post. Any thoughts much appreciated.

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Grant was a Chief Gunner, a warrant officer and near as high as a man can go without being made an officer and a gentleman, the title of his book is 'Through the hawse pipe' which was a phrase used for when a man was promoted from the lower deck to the quarterdeck, the seamans messdecks used to be sited foreward under the hawsepipes, the quarterdeck was traditionally officer country, hence the title.

He was thought something of a 'troubleshooter', a quality he shared with Lions Capt. Chatfield as both were good men sent to problematic commands to get them on the right path, and as can be gleaned from the way he organised the new outfit of cordite in Lion, he trod gently while accomplishing his goal. [One wonders what his peers and underlings thought of him?]

His promotion to the command of the destroyer has been described as unorthodox or unusual and it was something he valued more than money. The more informed than I think he got the promotion for his deeds aboard Lion [the Grant family lore has it that it was he who ordered the magazine flooding] and he was promoted out of the Battlecruiser Fleet just as the embarrassing questions about cordite handling started to be discussed.

Prior to Lion, he'd had various postings aboard ships so would think him qualified to command a small warship, in WW2 lieutenants with 12-18 months seatime were getting corvettes and submarines!

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Grant was a Warrant Office/ Chief Gunner

Warrant Officers were not Ratings such as Leading Seamen, Petty Officer, Chief Petty Officer. they had come up trough the ratings and had expertise in their specialist field Eg Gunnery, Signals, Engineering Etc.

Grant mentions a Dagger ,this was a specialist Warrant Officer Gunner involved in training in using the new technology for directing a ships guns onto a target.

This link gives more info on RN warrant Officers.


In the1950's the rank of Warrant Officer was changed to "Special Duty List Officer" a commissioned rank with the possibility to reach Commander(SD) in their specialist role such as Gunnery, Supply Administration etc.

The SD Officer had a similer status to the Quatermaster Commission in the Army

Warrant Officer as been reintroduced into the RN it replaced the Fleet Chief Petty Officer rating; the rank being equivalent to WO1 in the Army and Warrant Officer/ Master Aircrew in the RAF


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Thanks to both of you. I was vaguely aware the Warrant Officers had come and gone in the RN.

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As an aside, in the Fleet Air Arm, just before I left, senior maintenance Articifer CPO's were made WO2's.


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Interesting. A few years ago we brown jobs called our versions Artificer Quartermaster Sergeants also WO2's. Standardisation at last.

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Grant, as a Chief Gunner, was a Commissioned Warrant Officer, a step above Warrant Officer but still junior to Sub-Lieutenant. A Chief Gunner basically did what a Gunner did except with greater pay and status.

One of the many official accounts of what happened to "Q" turret at Jutland reads in part:

Two or three minutes after the hit the Chief Gunner visited "Q" Magazine, and whilst there one of the working chamber crew arrived in handing room down trunk and told the Chief Gunner the state of affairs. Orders were given for the magazine doors to be closed and later for the magazine to be flooded.

Half an hour later the Chief Gunner was approaching the hatch to the handing room on the main deck when a large sheet of flame came up the hatch killing several of the fire brigade in the vicinity. As soon as they could do so (owing to smoke) a party headed by the Chief Gunner proceeded down to the handing room etc. and found half the shell room crew in the shell room burned to death, the magazine and half shell room crews in handing room and switchboard flat burned to death.

This account appeared in Grand Fleet Gunnery and Torpedo Orders dated 1 May, 1918 which were issued to every ship in the Grand Fleet, so Grant was already acknowledged as responsible for flooding the magazine before the war ended. The Orders were clear, however, that it was the order to shut the magazine door, not the flooding, which was likely to have saved the ship, and the other eyewitness account of the incident, that of Private Harry Willows, is perfectly clear that it was Harvey who ordered it and Willows who obeyed it before Grant arrived on the scene. There are quite large discrepancies/questions posed by the three accounts.

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