Royal Navy Reserve and Volunteer Reserve Officer Insignia of World War I

The reserve components of the Royal Navy made a vast contribution to the war effort. The Royal Naval Reserve was composed of personnel from the merchant marine, and the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve from other civilian backgrounds. The Trawler Section of the RNR was comprised of commercial fishing vessels and conducted patrol, minesweeping, maintaining anti-submarine defenses and other activities near home waters. The trawlers in service were commanded by an officer with the warrant rank of Skipper, RNR.

Royal Naval Reserve and Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve officers were distinguished from those of the regular Royal Navy by variations in their rank stripes. When the war began, officers of both organizations wore stripes of quarter-inch gold braid. Those of the RNR were in intersecting waved pairs, and the RNVR in single waved lines. Colored branch distinctions were in straight quarter-inch lines. Cap badges were similar to those of the regular Royal Navy, but with the addition of the letters "RNR" or "RNV."

Before 1916, the stripes on shoulder straps for RNR officers were usually made as closed "loops" of braid. Because the stripes were the same pattern as on the sleeves, only one set of shoulder straps is illustrated in the table below.

Buttons:
button button
Royal Naval Reserve Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve
Royal Naval Reserve, 1914
cap badge
 
cap peak
cap badge
 
cap peak
shoulder insignia shoulder insignia shoulder insignia shoulder insignia shoulder insignia shoulder insignia   shoulder insignia  
sleeve rank insignia
Commodore 2nd Class
sleeve rank insignia
Captain
sleeve rank insignia
Commander
sleeve rank insignia
Lieutenant-Commander
sleeve rank insignia
Lieutenant
sleeve rank insignia
Sub-Lieutenant
  sleeve rank insignia
Skipper,
Warrant Telegraphist
sleeve rank insignia
Midshipman
(collar)
cap badge
 
cap peak
cap badge
 
cap peak
 
sleeve rank insignia
Engineer Commander
sleeve rank insignia
Engineer Lieutenant-Commander
sleeve rank insignia
Engineer Lieutenant
sleeve rank insignia
Engineer Sub-Lieutenant
sleeve rank insignia
Warrant Engineer, 10 years seniority
sleeve rank insignia
Warrant Engineer
 
sleeve rank insignia
Staff Paymaster
sleeve rank insignia
Paymaster
sleeve rank insignia
Assistant Paymaster
     

Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, 1914
cap badge
 
cap peak
cap badge
 
cap peak
sleeve rank insignia
Commander
sleeve rank insignia
Lieutenant-Commander
sleeve rank insignia
Lieutenant
sleeve rank insignia
Sub-Lieutenant
    sleeve rank insignia
Midshipman
(collar)
  cap badge
 
cap peak
     
sleeve rank insignia
Staff Surgeon
sleeve rank insignia
Surgeon
sleeve rank insignia
Surgeon Probationer
     
sleeve rank insignia
Staff Paymaster
sleeve rank insignia
Paymaster
sleeve rank insignia
Assistant Paymaster
     

Wartime experience showed that the gold braid did not wear well under active service conditions, and in 1916 the braid was ordered to be replaced by flatter gold lace.1 RNR officers' stripes were the same basic pattern as before, with quarter-inch lace replacing the braid. RNVR officers changed to gold lace 3/8 inch wide, arranged in waved rows with a squarish curl. The "half stripe" for lieutenant commanders would now be 1/8 inch and straight in both cases. RNVR branch colors were to fill the space between stripes, or follow in a waved line below a single stripe. In January 1915, as in the regular Royal Navy, engineer officers had begun to wear the "curl" of the military branch.

Royal Naval Reserve, 1916
cap badge
 
cap peak
cap badge
 
cap peak
sleeve rank insignia
Commodore 2nd Class
sleeve rank insignia
Captain
sleeve rank insignia
Commander
sleeve rank insignia
Lieutenant-Commander
sleeve rank insignia
Lieutenant
sleeve rank insignia
Sub-Lieutenant
  sleeve rank insignia
Skipper,
Warrant Telegraphist
sleeve rank insignia
Midshipman
(collar)
sleeve rank insignia
Engineer Commander
sleeve rank insignia
Engineer Lieutenant-Commander
sleeve rank insignia
Engineer Lieutenant
sleeve rank insignia
Engineer Sub-Lieutenant
sleeve rank insignia
Warrant Engineer, 10 years seniority
sleeve rank insignia
Warrant Engineer, under 10 years
  cap badge
 
cap peak
sleeve rank insignia
Staff Paymaster
sleeve rank insignia
Paymaster
sleeve rank insignia
Assistant Paymaster

Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, 1916
cap badge
 
cap peak
cap badge
 
cap peak
sleeve rank insignia
Commander
sleeve rank insignia
Lieutenant-Commander
sleeve rank insignia
Lieutenant
sleeve rank insignia
Sub-Lieutenant
    sleeve rank insignia
Midshipman
(collar)
  cap badge
 
cap peak
sleeve rank insignia
Staff Surgeon
sleeve rank insignia
Surgeon
sleeve rank insignia
Surgeon Probationer
sleeve rank insignia
Staff Paymaster
sleeve rank insignia
Paymaster
sleeve rank insignia
Assistant Paymaster

In October 1918, the reserve forces modified their uniforms in the same way as the regular Royal Navy had: The "curl" was adopted for all branches, oak leaf cap peaks became standard for senior officers, and warrant officers discarded their cuff buttons. Dental surgeons had been appointed to the RNVR since 1914 and had worn the same scarlet distinction cloth as other surgeons, but in September 1918 they were given orange as their own distinctive color.2 See also Admiralty Weekly Orders 2945/18 and 3224/18.

Royal Naval Reserve, October 1918
cap badge
 
cap peak
cap badge
 
cap peak
sleeve rank insignia
Commodore 2nd Class
sleeve rank insignia
Captain
sleeve rank insignia
Commander
sleeve rank insignia
Lieutenant-Commander
sleeve rank insignia
Lieutenant
sleeve rank insignia
Sub-Lieutenant, Chief Skipper
sleeve rank insignia
Skipper,
Warrant Telegraphist
sleeve rank insignia
Midshipman
(collar)
sleeve rank insignia
Engineer Commander
sleeve rank insignia
Engineer Lieutenant-Commander
sleeve rank insignia
Engineer Lieutenant
sleeve rank insignia
Engineer Sub-Lieutenant, Chief Warrant Engineer
sleeve rank insignia
Warrant Engineer
 
sleeve rank insignia
Paymaster Lieutenant-Commander
sleeve rank insignia
Paymaster Lieutenant
sleeve rank insignia
Paymaster Sub-Lieutenant
   

Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, October 1918
cap badge
 
cap peak
cap badge
 
cap peak
sleeve rank insignia
Captain
sleeve rank insignia
Commander
sleeve rank insignia
Lieutenant-Commander
sleeve rank insignia
Lieutenant
sleeve rank insignia
Sub-Lieutenant
  sleeve rank insignia
Midshipman
(collar)
sleeve rank insignia
Surgeon Lieutenant-Commander
sleeve rank insignia
Surgeon Lieutenant
sleeve rank insignia
Surgeon Sub-Lieutenant
   
sleeve rank insignia
Surgeon Lieutenant (D)
   
sleeve rank insignia
Paymaster Lieutenant-Commander
sleeve rank insignia
Paymaster Lieutenant
sleeve rank insignia
Paymaster Sub-Lieutenant
   

RN, RNR and RNVR insignia compared (1916-1918)

RN
RNR
RNVR  

RN    
RNR    
RNVR      

Notes:

The information on this page is based primarily on the Royal Navy Uniform Regulations published quarterly in the Navy List. Please see Quarterly Navy Lists, 1913-1919 on the National Library of Scotland website.


All text and images © Justin T. Broderick, 2013-2018 unless otherwise indicated.