Friday, 22 April 2011

An RNPS silver badge file in the National Archives

Late last year I was asked if I would like to give a short talk to the local Rotary Club about the Royal Naval Patrol Service. Flattered that anyone would think that I knew enough about RNPS to take it on I readily agreed and then wondered if I could really get away with it. This would be to a local Lowestoft audience, men who could well have served or whose fathers had served in RNPS and I needed to get my facts right. I knew my limitations but fortunately I had a couple of months in which I could refresh my memory and try to fill some of the gaps in my knowledge.

I was a bit hazy about the sequence of events surrounding the development of different minesweeping methods. I re-read my references and all that I could get hold of from elsewhere. Amongst the sources I examined were the cabinet papers of the first few months of the war, when Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty. These are held in the National Archives and fortunately most of them seem to be online. It was while I was searching in the National Archives (as one does!) that I checked to see what they had on the silver badge and I came across a file from 1940 with the name:

    HONOURS AND AWARDS (85): Institution of silver badge for personnel serving in Auxiliary, Anti-Submarine and Minesweeping Vessels.

(For those unaware, the silver badge was unique to the RN Patrol Service. It was produced at the personal intervention of Winston Churchill when First Lord of the Admiralty in December 1939 and it was awarded exclusively (it was believed, more later) to RNPS personnel after six months sea time on minesweeping and anti-submarine duties to reflect the hazards of their tasks. It was indeed solid silver and was a much prized mark of distinction).

The file sounded intriguing but unlike the cabinet papers, it was not online I could not dip into it to confirm what it was about and there was no mention of the Patrol Service in the heading. To have confirmation I would need to get it copied and there would be a cost involved, unless I wished to travel to Kew to view it in person.

As I hadn’t previously heard of this file before deciding what to do I checked with the RNPS museum curator to see if he already had a copy or even knew of it. He hadn’t heard of it so I asked the National Archives to quote for supplying a copy.

The basic information available about the file did not give any indication about its size. The scale of charges by National Archives is a very reasonable 43 pence per A3 photocopy plus a charge for post and packing. When you ask for a quote they promise a reply within ten working days and after about a week the quote duly arrived.

They set out the number of pages and the cost of copying and shipping. Although the per page cost of 43p had seemed very reasonable it was a bit of a shock to find that the file contained 120 separate pages and the quote including carriage was £65.00. This was, however, a record that needed to be investigated, would be cheaper than travelling to Kew and I am delighted to say that it was worthwhile.

Although there appear to be gaps in the file it contains copies of correspondence between Admiralty departments, between the Admiralty and the Ministry of Shipping, the Patent Office, The Royal Mint, the Naval Press Bureau etc. on all aspects of the design, production and distribution of the badge. There is even a covering letter from the Royal Mint to the Admiral Commanding Reserves for the fee of 50 guineas charged by Mr Kruger Grey for designing and modelling the badge, asking for sanction for its payment.

Unfortunately there are copyright issues with showing some of the contents of the file which I have not yet cleared with the National Archives. There is much more of interest in the file which needs time to detail than I have at present but I hope to have a better description and permission to supply images available in subsequent posts.

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