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Commissioning certificate for an officer


wilkokcl
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Below is a copy of a certificate belonging to my great grandfather from his time in the Royal Marines in WWI. I cannot seem to get it any bigger than this so apologies if I destroy anyone's eyesight whilst looking at it.

Was this normal for any officer getting a commission? It says "we appoint you to be an officer in the Royal Marine Force from the 1st September 1916....."

And towards the bottom is "Given at our court at Saint James, the 23rd February 1917 in the 7th year of our reign".

It is in a frame as if it is a certificate and was obviously at one time folded to about 1/10 of this size. And at the bottom is also the date 30th Jan 1919 which would be when he resigned his commission - part of an official stamp which is not easy to read.

And lastly it refers to him as "Gentleman" throughout. Is "Gentleman" a military term or just the equivalent of "Esq."?

Any clues as to what this is much appreciated.

Mark

post-7757-1157813207.jpg

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Yes this is a standard Commissioning scroll signed by the monarch of the day-The current one is signed (well stamped with the Queens and the Sec of State for Defences signature).

There is no reference to the date of retirement on the scroll that is issued in the London Gazette.

Rob

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This is the usual document sent to commissioned officers and is known as 'a commission'. I think Edward VII was the last sovereign to actually sign these in person and George V would not have had time to eat had he so employed himself. A commission into the army (today at least) is into 'our Land Forces'. Virtually the same document is sent out today. They now come in a cardboard tube but I have seen then folded along a vertical creases into the form that you might describe as a 'long envelope' presumably suitable for galloping messengers to carry to your door of your manor house. You may find his name on the reverse so that it could be seen when folded. There is a fashion today for hanging them in the downstairs loo, framed (lest there should be any confusion).

I think there was originally a presumption that everyone deemed fit for a commission is a gentleman which was a distinct social class (not every gentleman was deemed fit for a commission). However, men were commissioned from the ranks in Victorian times (and earlier) and a social historian might be interested to know how they were addressed on their commission. The term 'esquire' is not technically the same.

In mists of time when this form of commission was developed, an esquire would have been of higher social standing (related to some sprig of the peerage, an eldest son of a knight or some other arcane qualification; people on the rec.heraldry newsgroup write reams of stuff about this and I could give you a reference if you are interested) than a gentleman. A 'gentleman' would normally have been of independent means (not having to work in a sordid trade such as the law, medicine or butchery but owning land or property from which he derived an income) and would probably have been recognised by the granting of a coat of arms from the Kings of Arms at the College of Arms. By the time of the Great War the rigorous definition of a gentleman had become archaic and the term 'gentleman' used here is a polite form of words. I think this reference in the commission gave rise to the term 'temporary gentleman' to describe (often humourously but sometimes disparidgingly) many of those commissioned who came from a broader background than was normal in peacetime. I can't remember what form of words is written in today but I don't think it includes the term 'gentleman'. I would be interested to know of examples from WW1 that might be addressed to Algernon Bloggs Esquire.

The London Gazette http://www.gazettes-online.co.uk will give you details; try the Supplement for WW1. There seems to be another Claudet in the cavalry!

eg http://www.gazettes-online.co.uk/archiveVi...;selHonourType=

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This is the usual document sent to commissioned officers and is known as 'a commission'

Many thanks for the very comprehensive replies. I must admit I had assumed receiving one's commission referred to the act rather than an actual piece of paper.

Thank you,

Mark

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I'm not a gentleman, it seems. I just checked mine and it has exactly the same wording except that there is no "gentleman" added after the name.

Still, its nice to know that they "repose especial trust and confidence" in my "loyalty, courage and good conduct" and that I'm "trusty and well-beloved".

Thanks, Lizzie, old thing. Love you too.

Oh, and I've just noticed that the "other Dominions beyond the seas" bit has been replaced with "Elizabeth II, by the grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith..."

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I'm not a gentleman, it seems.

:lol:

There is no reference to the date of retirement on the scroll that is issued in the London Gazette.

At the bottom of the certificate I have it definitely seems to have been stamped and signed when he resigned his commission. The rectangular stamp is very faded but I think includes the word "decommissioned" with "in the Royal Marines 30th Jan 1919".

And in the same pen are two signatures in the bottom right hand corner (below the word command). So would he have presented this commission to them again when he resigned and got it signed off?

Thanks everyone (Getleman or not!)

Mark

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Don't know the answer to that one. Looks like it.

I transferred from an RAF commission to an army one and got a second certificate, but was never asked to present the RAF one for "signing-off", so i don't think it happens nowadays.

But then... not being a gentleman....

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A thought has just struck me:

In the regular or reserve forces, one receives a commission and usually retains "officer status" even after leaving.

Lots of those commissioned during the war weren't regulars or territorials (or the other services' equivalents), but New Army - an organisation set up with a deliberately limited lifespan.

Could it therefore be that a "temporary gentleman" was indeed just that - someone who did not retain the "honorary bits" of having a commission after they had finished their service? Hence they were required to hand in the certifcate for signing-off to show that they were, indeed, no longer gentlemen, but reverted to being one of the hobbledehoy again?

Don't know if this is right or not.

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Interesting and very helpful ideas Willywombat,

I note that the London Gazette of 1919 has the following:

Admiralty, 14th February, 1919. R.N.

Proby. 2nd Lieut, (tempy. Lieut.) resigns his commission. 30th Jan. 1919.

So he's still referred to as Proby. 2nd Lieut, even though the certificate at the start of this threat says "...You are therefore carefully and diligently to discharge your duty as such in the rank of Probationary Second Lieutenant..."

Could that be why he had to get the certificate signed off in 1919 and lose the honorary bits? (as you call them!).

Mark

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I can't quite get my head round the mechanics of the idea of taking your commission back in to be 'signed off'; I just don't think it's going to happen (there would be thousands of them flying round the Admiralty and many more round the War Office). The assumption might be that this commission hadn't even left their Lordships when Claudet was gazetted out.

One of the signatures appears to be L Halsey (I think)

QUOTE from www.firstworldwar.com

Sir Lionel Halsey (1872-1949) served at the naval battles of Heligoland Bight, Dogger Bank and Jutland prior to his appointment as Fourth Sea Lord in December 1916 as a Rear-Admiral

In October 1918 - the month before the war ended - Halsey was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Navy.Sir Lionel Halsey was knighted in 1918

QUOTE ENDS

The commission is unlikely to have been written out on the day on which it became effective in 1916 as Halsey was not in post until December 1916 as 4th Sea Lord (unless he was doing it in some other capacity); there is likely to have been a considerable backlog. If Halsey actually signed this commission, its actual date of preparation must precede December 1918 (when appointed CinC the Royal Australian Navy). I would say that this would be the case even if it were rubber-stamped.

To have been marked up with the date of resignation at the Admiralty, I think it would have had to have been sitting in a file there until after his resignation was done and dusted and then sent out. By this time Halsey was flying his flag somewhere in the Pacific or the Indian Ocean.

Certainly, in the Second World War there must have been a backlog as just last year the Regimental Headquarters of a infantry regiment was asking for the present-day whereabouts of some WW2 officers so that their commissions could be sent out to them or their heirs (in fairness, I think they had been languishing in the Too Difficult File since fairly soon after the war). It took Her Maj about eighteen months to find her rubber stamp to do mine.

However, I suppose it was possible that there was some financial incentive to send it back in (no last pay cheque unless ....?) but I think it's unlikely. The London Gazette provides the official evidence of resignation.

Ian

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Ian,

Thanks for the info. I agree it seems unlikely that everyone would have been returning their commissions - not least because of the mountain of paperwork it would have produced.

But it does look as if the date "30 Jan 1919" and the two signatures were written at the same time. They are definitely a different colour ink to the commissioning entries of 1916.

Mark

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  • 4 months later...
I'm not a gentleman, it seems. I just checked mine and it has exactly the same wording except that there is no "gentleman" added after the name.

Still, its nice to know that they "repose especial trust and confidence" in my "loyalty, courage and good conduct" and that I'm "trusty and well-beloved".

Thanks, Lizzie, old thing. Love you too.

Oh, and I've just noticed that the "other Dominions beyond the seas" bit has been replaced with "Elizabeth II, by the grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith..."

Good to see the motherland has kept the traditions of the Commission. Seems the dominions have parted from this somewhat. Have just checked mine (Australian Navy) and it states "and whereas all things have happened to render it desirable to issue a commission to you" Not nearly as flowery, and I didn't even need to display loyalty, courage and good conduct, nor am I well beloved! :o ... things just 'happened'!

Maybe you have bugged my house... not sure how you knew that it was framed and where it was hanging?? :rolleyes:

So if I read this thread correctly, an officer who commissioned from the ranks would have definately been termed a "temporary gentleman", but what of an honourary commission such as for a Quartermaster? Would they then be an "honourary temporary gentleman"?

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