The History of Conductor of Stores and his Badge of Appointment

By Mike Comerford, Researcher in to RAOC Affairs

The appointments of Conductor and Sub-Conductor have a long and very interesting historical background in the British Army. Perhaps the earliest recorded mention of Conductors is that in a Statute of Westminster of 1327 whereby Edward III enacted that wages of Conductors (Conveyors) of soldiers from the Shires to the place of Assembly would no longer be a charge upon the Shire. As long ago as the Siege of Boulogne in 1544 there were Conductors of Ordnance. There were also Conductors in the train of artillery assembled in 1618. At the capture of Newfoundland in 1762, Lieutenant-General Amherst’s force included a Conductor and a Clerk of Stores. These officials were from the Board of Ordnance depots at New York and Halifax respectively.

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".

By Royal Warrant of 11 January, 1879, a class of Warrant Officers was constituted, "to assist in the discharge of the subordinate duties of the Commissariat and Transport and of the Ordnance Store Departments of our Army, to be denominated ‘Conductors of Supplies’ and ‘Conductors of Stores’ respectively. Their position in our Army shall be inferior to that of all commissioned officers and superior to that of all non-commissioned officers. Conductors shall at the same time have full power to exercise command over any subordinates of the Departments of our Army, or non-commissioned officers or soldiers of our Army, who may be placed under their orders". In March, May and June, 1879, thirty-five Conductors of Stores were appointed; sixteen from the Royal Artillery and two from the Royal Engineers, while the remaining seventeen were already serving with the Ordnance Store Branch of the Army Service Corps which became the Ordnance Store Corps in September 1881.

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)

From 1879 to 1897 there is still no reference to any badges of rank for Conductors and Sub-Conductors, but on 20 February 1897, an official minute records the following, "Badges for Conductors, Army Ordnance Corps, for wear with khaki drill. Various proposals were put forward, i.e., crown, crown with laurel wreath, officers shoulder straps, VR, officers field cap badge - but nothing definite decided". It would appear that by 1898 Sub -Conductors had been raised to senior warrant officer rank because in the clothing regulations for that year they are bracketed with Conductors and shown as having no rank badge. (Clothing Regulations of 1898)

On 11 July, 1900, however, it was decreed that Army Ordnance Corps Conductors and Sub-Conductors would in future wear distinguishing badges, Crown in Wreath, Gold on Scarlet for Conductors and Crown Gold Large, on Scarlet for Sub-Conductors. These it would seem were obviously full dress badges.

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.

 The final change to the title was in April 1993 when under ‘Options for Change’ the Royal Army Ordnance Corps was absorbed into the newly formed Royal Logistic Corps (RLC) and the title became…

‘Conductor RLC’

©  Mike Comerford, 2002

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