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Remembered Today:

Master Gunner, 3rd Class


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DoughboyAl

Before the creation of the WOII rank, British Army documents listed Master Gunners, 3rd Class as the most senor non-commissioned officers. Was "Master Gunner, 3rd Class" an appointment or a rank?

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Ron Clifton

It was a rank. See King's Regulations 1912 (as revised 1914), paragraph 282.

 

Oddly enough, the 1st and 2nd Class were listed as appointments, their rank being Warrant Officer!

 

Ron

PS Welcome to the Forum, by the way.

Edited by Ron Clifton
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DoughboyAl

I see. Thank you, sir! Do you happen to know what the (pre-1915) insignia was for "Master Gunner, 3rd Class" or "Army Schoolmaster (when not a warrant officer)," the rank below?

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FROGSMILE
On 05/06/2020 at 20:04, DoughboyAl said:

I see. Thank you, sir! Do you happen to know what the (pre-1915) insignia was for "Master Gunner, 3rd Class" or "Army Schoolmaster (when not a warrant officer)," the rank below?


Between 1881 and 1915 the Master Gunner Class III wore a plain gun on the forearm as his badge of rank (generally in metal on drab service dress after 1907).

 

Master Gunner Class II wore similarly a plain crown, over the gun (metal after 1907 as above).

 

Master Gunner Class I also wore a plain crown, over gun (metal after 1907) - the badge was the same because both men were 'warrant officers' of a then single class.


These functionaries are often misunderstood, in that their primary duty was technical and clerical, and they specialised in the logistics of gunnery, including expenditure and calculations for propellant requirements, ballistics, and the furnishings necessary to construct gun carriages. As a result they were almost always based in magazines, fortresses, and gun parks (as opposed to artillery units).  Each of these had a 'resident' Master Gunner (senior) and at least one assistant.  They were very closely associated with AOC Conductors of Stores, and for many years a large number of Conductors had been promoted from Master Gunner.  It was only later in history that they diverged into more discrete spheres of operation.  The Master Gunners were promoted based on time served and the three classes simply reflected career progression in a highly specialised field.
 

The very first military (as opposed to naval) 'warrant officers' in British service were employed as such in India (HEIC and after) and were so successful that in 1881 the rank was introduced into Britain’s home establishment as part of the Cardwell-Childers Reforms.  It had been felt for some time that the prevailing system of specialist ‘Staff Sergeants’ had become unwieldy (too many classes) and required the top portion of that group of SNCOs to be separated into a new class of warrant officers, using the successful Indian system as a model.  This left a ‘rump’ of Staff Sergeants.  
 

One probably unanticipated consequence of the 1881 changes on the Royal Artillery was for the Master Gunners Class II and I to be categorised as warrant officers, whereas the Master Gunner Class III remained a Staff Sergeant (and thus NCO), which was no doubt considered unsatisfactory at the time given that they had hitherto been wholly unified.  This was resolved in 1915, when yet another slice of Staff Sergeants, including the Master Gunner Class III, were separated into a new, Class II of warrant officers, elevating by default the original warrant officers into a Class I.  I can advise you of the badges that emerged from this is you wish, it was only at that stage that each began to wear differing badges that made their difference in status clear.

 

Some of the remaining Staff Sergeants stayed at that level and still exist today with that title, but many became appointments that were rank-ranged, others were downgraded, and yet more faded into oblivion as technological change rendered them obsolete, or led to their role being civilianised.  Thus the majority of the original Staff Sergeant group are now all warrant officers of either, Class I, or Class II (often now rendered as ‘1’ and ‘2’).

 

School Masters did not wear badges of rank, regardless of their ranking equivalence. Instead they wore twisted bullion wire shoulder cords similar to those of Royal Engineers, but less thick (on almost all forms of dress except in the class room).  Their headdress badge was a simple crown.  Interestingly, they too had originally become warrant officers (when at the highest level attainable based on length of service), whilst in the Indian Service, just as with the Master Gunners and Conductors. Likewise being given the same opportunity ‘at home’ after the 1881 reforms.  Within a unit no one paid much attention to their rank, they were simply ‘the Schoolie’ and rank equivalence was merely a mechanism to ensure progressive pay.
 

References:

 

1.  History of RA Dress - Campbell.

2:  Rank badges and dates - Perry.

3.  NCO and WO Rank Badges - Dawnay.

4.  FibisWiki - British Army (courtesy forum member ‘maureene’).

5.  History of NZ Army Ordnance Corps.

6.  Victorian Wars Forum (now defunct).

7.  Great War Forum - various posts.

 

Individual photo below with thanks to ‘Sepoy’ in GWF.
 

Footnote:  As a part of the re-separation into three constituent Armed Services in Canada, the Royal Canadian Artillery reintroduced the specialism of Master Gunner for those WO who completed the requisite course of instruction with effect from 2016.  The badge chosen to reflect this was the Gun in profile, as per the historical tradition.

 

6F24C9DA-F1D9-4FBB-9E23-246C57CECCBB.jpeg

 

2909D15D-91FC-44FE-8989-9A8E47C12936.jpeg

A5A7DCAE-6372-4EC2-9CE0-AF1278D63CE2.jpeg

 

FD3087C3-2302-4D36-AEC2-9F59C63246E9.jpeg

Edited by FROGSMILE
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MerchantOldSalt

Several Sergeants and Acting Sergeants in the Inland Water Transport Section of the Royal Engineers held the "qualification", "appointment" , "Rank" or maybe "proficiency" of Master Gunner.  I finally found the Service Record of one to prove this, but I was wondering how they might fit into the army structure and would they wear a badge to denote their superior trade if I might use that word? I know that at least six of them were appointed to the War Department Cross Channel Train Ferries, two to each to oversee 8 seamen gunners, all Royal Engineers, or to be more precise Merchant Seamen enlisted into the Royal Engineers

 

Tony

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FROGSMILE
43 minutes ago, MerchantOldSalt said:

Several Sergeants and Acting Sergeants in the Inland Water Transport Section of the Royal Engineers held the "qualification", "appointment" , "Rank" or maybe "proficiency" of Master Gunner.  I finally found the Service Record of one to prove this, but I was wondering how they might fit into the army structure and would they wear a badge to denote their superior trade if I might use that word? I know that at least six of them were appointed to the War Department Cross Channel Train Ferries, two to each to oversee 8 seamen gunners, all Royal Engineers, or to be more precise Merchant Seamen enlisted into the Royal Engineers

 

Tony


Tony, these are an entirely different thing and relate to naval gunnery on small craft.  Nothing to do with the warrant officer ranked “Master Gunners RA” described here.

The regulations for your men were linked with RN Gunnery Rates.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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MerchantOldSalt

Thank you Frogsmile, sorry to jump onto the wrong post, I assumed as the IWT was part of a Regiment in the Army they would follow Army practice.  As far as I know Master Gunner was not a Rank or Rate in the Royal Navy at the time, so I'm just interested to know why the title was dreamt up and by who for Sergeants IWT RE. 

Tony

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FROGSMILE
18 minutes ago, MerchantOldSalt said:

Thank you Frogsmile, sorry to jump onto the wrong post, I assumed as the IWT was part of a Regiment in the Army they would follow Army practice.  As far as I know Master Gunner was not a Rank or Rate in the Royal Navy at the time, so I'm just interested to know why the title was dreamt up and by who for Sergeants IWT RE. 

Tony

 

You make a good point Tony.  Gunners from RA and other Arms like RE were trained to fire guns from the decks of ships, lighters, and other craft and I think I recall reading somewhere that some of the training was done by RA (depending on the type of gun), but I imagine that there was a 'lead Service' organising the training and that it was the RN and RM.  The meaning of 'Master Gunner' carried such specific connotations in the RA that I cannot imagine that it was them who used it in the context that you've outlined.  I'll be interested to know if you learn anything different.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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MerchantOldSalt
1 hour ago, FROGSMILE said:

 

Gunners from RA and other Arms like RE were trained to fire guns from the decks of ships, lighters, and other craft and I think I recall reading somewhere that some of the training was done by RA (depending on the type of gun), but I imagine that there was a 'lead Service' organising the training and that it was the RN and RM.  The meaning of 'Master Gunner' carried such specific connotations in the RA that I cannot imagine that it was them who used it in the context that you've outlined.  I'll be interested to know if you learn anything different.

The first part of your answer I didn't know, so thank you for that.

The part about the RA and Master Gunners is exactly why I asked the question for the reasons you state.

I know from many service records that most of the Seaman Gunners in the IWT were previously trained by the RN during their time in the Merchant Service as DAMS gunners before enlisting in the RE. The IWT were rather good at getting previously qualified men saving them the effort of certain training, particularly as the IWT and RN apparently didn't see eye to eye on several issues to do with maritime transport.

Anyway I have taken up too much of the OP's post so will call it a day, thank you for your thoughts Frogsmile

Tony 

 

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FROGSMILE
1 hour ago, MerchantOldSalt said:

The first part of your answer I didn't know, so thank you for that.

The part about the RA and Master Gunners is exactly why I asked the question for the reasons you state.

I know from many service records that most of the Seaman Gunners in the IWT were previously trained by the RN during their time in the Merchant Service as DAMS gunners before enlisting in the RE. The IWT were rather good at getting previously qualified men saving them the effort of certain training, particularly as the IWT and RN apparently didn't see eye to eye on several issues to do with maritime transport.

Anyway I have taken up too much of the OP's post so will call it a day, thank you for your thoughts Frogsmile

Tony 

 


I agree, but just as a closing remark on this aspect, it’s worth a reminder that the adjective ‘Master’, as a precursor to a skill, indicates a long term expertise, and the ability to teach others as a matter of course.  For example, Master Goldsmith, Master Tailor, or Master Saddler, and in a military context Master Sergeant.  It seems unlikely that a man simply trained to operate a gun on IWT warrants the title Master Gunner, in a way that it had for centuries in the case of Master Gunners in the RA.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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Terry_Reeves

Tony

 

Can you let me have the details of the master gunner IWT RE you mentioned please. It is certainly a very interesting turn of events.

 

TR

 

 

 

 

 

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DoughboyAl

Awesome! Thanks for sharing, FROGSMILE! That was a great read.

 

Was "staff sergeants" the term for all NCOs above the rank of Serjeant/Sergeant?

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FROGSMILE
11 hours ago, DoughboyAl said:

Awesome! Thanks for sharing, FROGSMILE! That was a great read.

 

Was "staff sergeants" the term for all NCOs above the rank of Serjeant/Sergeant?


Glad to help.  Not quite, it was the term for all SNCOs that worked in roles above company level in the infantry, above squadron level in the cavalry, above section level in the artillery, and in specialised roles in the remaining arms, services and departments.  

For example, sergeant major of unit, quarter master sergeant, instructor of musketry, armourer sergeant, paymaster sergeant, orderly room sergeant, pioneer sergeant, drum major, cook sergeant, shoemaker sergeant, farrier sergeant, rough rider sergeant, armaments artificer, etc (the list is long).  As you will realise all these men carried out roles on the unit staff, and so hence were Staff Sergeants.  Thus in an Infantry battalion the most senior rank below the Staff Sergeant grouping was Colour Sergeant, who although technically of the same grade as a staff sergeant, and held in high esteem with certain privileges, was not included in the infantry’s staff sergeant group for practical purposes, including dress.  For example, Staff Sergeants were frequently armed with a sword and or pistol.  A Colour Sergeant had a rifle.  Colour Sergeants had responsibility for a discrete group of men, a company, whereas each staff sergeant was responsible for a special function.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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