The History of Conductor of Stores and his Badge of Appointment
By Mike Comerford, Researcher in to RAOC Affairs
Thomas Simes, in his book "The Military Guide for Young Officers", dated 1776, writes: "Conductors as assistants to the Commissary of the Stores, to receive or deliver out stores to the Army, to attend at the magazines by turns when in garrison and to look after the ammunition wagons in the field; they bring their accounts every night to the Commissary and are immediately under his command".
The title Conductor of Supplies was abolished in 1892 and that of Staff Sergeant Major 1st class substituted.
Conductors, Warrant Officers, Bandmasters (except in the Royal Artillery), and Schoolmasters originally had no badge of rank, because they wore a ‘distinctive tunic’. Details of which were not recorded. (Clothing Regulations of 1881)
There seems to be no direct evidence as to when the practice started, but from circa 1898 to 1909, Conductors and Sub-Conductors wore gorget patches on khaki drill, the patches being dark blue edged with 1/8 inch scarlet material. For some years therefore it would appear that these warrant officers wore both rank badges and gorget patches on their khaki drill frocks.
In 1901 the Crown within a Laurel Wreath was officially introduced as the badge for the Conductor, Army Ordnance Corps and the Staff Sergeant Major 1st class, Army Service Corps (Priced List of Clothing and Necessities, March 1901) For some inexplicable reason the Sub-Conductors had to wait till 1904 for their badge, A Large Crown, to be introduced or at least mentioned (Clothing Regulations, 1904)
Following the introduction of the rank of Warrant Officer Class II, in February 1915, an army order was issued specifying the badges to be worn by Warrant Officers Class I and II In this order, (Army Orders 70 & 174 of 1915) the Conductor wore the Crown in Laurel Wreath, while the Sub-Conductor wore the Royal Arms. The Crown is now used by the Warrant Officer Class II. It was not until October, 1918 however that the badges of rank question was finally settled (Army Order 309 of 1918) For a Conductor the Royal Arms in Laurel Wreath, and for a Sub-Conductor the Royal Arms.
Crown in Laurel Wreath Large Crown
Royal Arms in Laurel Wreath Royal Arms
(All badges illustrated are examples as to pattern and design, and may be of a later issue)
Service Dress was introduced for wear by the British Army at home in 1902, and the price list for that year (Priced List for Clothing and Necessities 1902) records badges for use with it were of (drab) worsted. By 1907 however (Priced Vocabulary of Clothing and Necessities 1907) both brass and worsted badges had again been taken into wear.
Notes on changes of use to rank badges - In a 1938 Army Council Instruction (A,C.I. 398 of 1938) the Crown in Laurel Wreath was allocated to Warrant Officers Class II on the introduction of Warrant Officer Class III who in turn were allocated the Crown to wear. (This rank was placed in suspension in 1940, technically however this still remains as a rank) This was to continue till 1947 (A.C.I. 991 of 1947) when it was decided that Warrant Officers Class II graded as Quartermaster-Sergeants would revert to wearing the Crown in Laurel Wreath and all other Warrant Officers Class II and any remaining Warrant Officers Class III would wear the Crown.
Towards the end of 1947 (A.C.I. 991 of 1947) it was decided that, in battle-dress, the worsted badges of the Royal Arms in Laurel Wreath and the Royal Arms would be worn upon background of colour appropriate to the arm of service. The colour was to be the same as that used for the backing of Officers rank badges. (In the case of the RAOC, Red) It is not often, however that this was put into practice till the introduction of the ‘Queens Crown’ (Saint Edwards Crown) versions of the badges in 1953. Examples of ‘Kings Crown’ (Imperial Crown) Royal Arms on a Red background and with embroidered Red piping have been noted, but so far no examples of a ‘Kings Crown’ Royal Arms in Laurel Wreath have been seen. This may be just an example of using up existing stocks.
1965 saw the Staff Clarks RASC transferring to the RAOC, under the Macleod reorganisation and, with the remainder of the RASC re-titled as the Royal Corps of Transport (RCT) and the title Staff Sergeant Major 1st Class RASC being discontinued. In 1967 the title of Sub-Conductor RAOC was changed to W.O.1 SSM.
Under ‘Options for Change’ Staff Clarks RAOC transferred to the newly formed Adjutants General Corps (AGC) in 1992, but the appointment of Conductor was not transferred with them to that corps.
© Mike Comerford, 2002
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