Royal Navy Training Ships: Uniforms


Figure 1.-- This photograph was taken in 1903 and shows the trainees of the Royal Navy training ship 'HMS Minotaur'. Notice the boys did not have white caps. The ship was moored off the Isle of Portland. The boys are wearing their white summer uniforms. They are apparently being instructed about what we believe is the capstan used to raise the anchor. The boys went barefoot aboard the ship. They wore black boots and sometimes leggings when they went ashore. Put your cursor on the image to see a shore view.

The boys on the Royal Navy training ships wore classic sailor suits. The training ship program began a few decades after the Royal Navy adopted uniforms for ratings. We are not sure when this was, about the 1830s. As far as we can tell the boys wore the same uniforms with only minor changes from when the training ship program began (1855) until the program was ended after World War II. We do not have any information on the uniforms in the 1850s, but we do from the 70s. We suspect the uniforms were the same. The most obvious changes were the caps. The uniforms basically followed the current styles in the Royal Navy. The boys had both a white summer and blue winter uniform. The white uniform was plain. The boys wore black silk scarves with both the white and blue uniforms. The blue uniform had the traditional stripe detailing. The pants were bell-bottoms in the 19th century, but the wide trouser bittoms are less obvious in 20th century images, especially after World War I. The boys went barefoot while aboard ship. We believe this was a tradition instituted because Royal Navy sailors until after the Napoleonic Wars usually were barefoot aboard ships. They put on shoes and socks when they went ashore.

Royal Navy Uniforms

The boys on the Royal Navy training ships wore classic sailor suits. The training ship program began a few decades after the Royal Navy adopted uniforms for ratings. We are not sure when this was, about the 1830s. The sailors were not issued the uniform free. It was deducted from their pay. This system continued upuntil World War I. At first it was justified because Royal Navy men were better paid than Army soldiers and Royal Marines who were issued uniforms free od charge. By the turn-of-the 20th century, however, this pay differential had disappeared and Royal Navy ratings were complaining about this disparity. [Carew, p. 30.]

Chronology

By the time the Taining ship program was begun, the Royal Navy had instituted uniforms for ratings. As far as we can tell the boys wore the same uniforms with only minor changes from when the training ship program began (1855) until the program was ended after World War II. We do not have any information on the uniforms in the 1850s, but we do from the 70s. We suspect the uniforms were the same. The most obvious changes were the caps. The uniforms basically followed the current styles in the Royal Navy.

Seasonality

They had both a white summer and blue winter uniform. The seasonal difference is obvious because of the color, but it was aractical matter of having a uniform that was most practical for the prevailing weather. The styling of the summer and winter uniform garments was essentially the same, but the detailing was different. The primary difference was the material used. The white uniform was done in some kind of white cotton material. The winter uniform was done in a navy blue wool material.

Uniform Garments

The training ship boys as far as we can tell wore the same uniform as ratings in the Royal Navy. The basic garments were a long sleeve blouse with back flap and trouseres. There was also a dark cap which was used with both the summer and winter unifoirm. The white uniform was plain. The boys wore black silk scarves with both the white and blue uniforms. The blue uniform had the traditional stripe detailing. The white blouse did not have the stripe detailing. We see a light-weight long-sleeve blouse without the back flap. We are not dure when it was introduced, but we see the boys wearing it in the 1930s. The pants were bell-bottoms in the 19th century, but the wide trouser bottoms are less obvious in 20th century images, especially after World War I. We don't yet seecthe boys wearing pea jackets, but one would assume that they had them for cold weather. The boys went barefoot while aboard ship. We believe this was a tradition instituted because Royal Navy sailors until after the Napoleonic Wars usually were barefoot aboard ships. They put on shoes and socks when they went ashore.

Cost

The first boys entering the Royal Navy training program were expected to pay for their own uniforms. This was a problem because many of the boys entering the program came from humble families and could not afford to do so. The Royal Navy kept accounts. And thus many of the boys finishing the program were indebt to the Royal Navy. And cthis amount had to paid off when they began serving with the fleet. The Admiralty first addressed this problem in 1872. [Admiralty, Circular No. 53.] The Admiralty approved allowance for 2nd Class Boys becoming 1st class boys of 2 10s. The Admiralty finally addressed this problem more fully in 1874. The Admiralty approved a clothing allowance for the boys. "My Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, being desirous of improving the condition of Boys who enter the Navy, as it appears that they are generally in debt for Clothes when they leave the Training Ships, owing to their inability to pay for their outfit on entry, - are pleased to grant the following allowances towards their Kits, to take effect from the 1st October, 1874." [Admiralty, Circular No. 72-N.] The approved allowance was 5 to be paid to both 1st and 2nd class boys on the training ships. An exception was made for 'native boys'. We are not entirely sure what this meant, but in the available images we do not see any non-British boys. Presumably this mean British Empire boys of non-British ncestry. The allowance was also offered to boys entering the Royal Navy as ship stewards, band boys and boy writers. A boy writer we think was the naval term for a clerk. Boys already in the program which we believe meant 2nd class boys, were awarded a 2 10s allowance. And to aid 1st class boys boys who had finished the training program and awaiting assignment a 2 10s allowance was approved. And the boys already at sea were granted a 1 allowance. The already approved allowance for 2nd Class Boys becoming 1st class boys was continued. These allowances were not paid directly to the boys, but were placed as a credit on the Ship's Books. All this was done at the time that Royal Navy sailors still had to pay for their uniforms.

Sources

Admiralty. Circular No. 53 (September 21, 1872).

Admiralty. By Command of their Lordships, Robert Hall. "Boys: Allowances in aid of clothing," Circular No. 72.-N (November 7, 1874).

Carew, Anthony. The Lower Deck of the Royal Navy 1900-39: The Invergordon Mutiny in Perspective.






HBC





Related Military School Pages in the Boys' Historical Web Site
[Return to the Main Royal Navy training ship page]
[Return to the Main English naval school page]
[England] [France] [Italy] [Germany] [United States]



Related Style Pages in the Boys' Historical Web Site
[Long pants suits] [Knicker suits] [Short pants suits] [Socks] [Eton suits] [Jacket and trousers] [Blazer] [School sandals]


Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Page
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Cloth and textiles] [Clothing styles] [Countries] [Topics]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]




Created: 11:19 PM 10/15/2011
Last updated: 9:10 AM 10/17/2011