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Reviewing John Stacey's Rating Badges for Apprentice Petty Officers

David Minton

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I was reviewing my Apprentice Petty Officers badges, and after reviewing Part Four of the Second Edition of John Stacey’s book, and after which have questions on his documentation. He seems to identify five patterns, but does not name them as such, does not date his samples as he does full size rating badges, and worst of all his samples don’t match the descriptions he provides in the body of the section. While not huge, I own twenty samples of Apprentice Petty Officer rates, from which I draw my own observations.



First Pattern (1918–1933)

An interesting variation of the petty officer' rating badges was those introduced in Change No. 17 (18 March 1918) of the uniform regulations of 1913 as “Rating Badges for The Use of Enlisted Men Under Training at Training Stations.” These were issued to identify recruits assigned to positions of responsibility within the training units. The rating badges were the same basic style as standard petty officer rating badges but reduced in size. The dimensions for these smaller rating badges were described as follows:
These rating badges were not included in the uniform regulations of 1922 but Change No. 6 (1 May 1929) to those regulations repeated the description published in 1918, adding dimensions for the eagle: “The eagle shall cover an area approximately 2 inches in breadth (from tip to tip of spread wings) and I 3/4 inches in height (from lower end of talons to a line parallel with wing tips).” It is interesting to note that the width given is the same as the overall breadth specified for the rating badge. The change further specified that the rating badge be worn on the right sleeve.

Stacey’s First Pattern samples are identified as 1918–1933 and do match the description provided. 
All of the samples in my collection have applied chevrons, as would be expected by the era.


Second Pattern (1933–1948)

Change No. 10, dated 16 February 1933, to the 1922 regulations conveyed a change in the mark to be used on these rating badges. The mark was to be that of the Ex-Apprentice, an open figure-eight knot rather than the original square knot (see section on “Distinguishing Marks”).

Stacey provides three samples, which he identifies as pre-1948 but should be identified as 1933–1948 from his description of the pattern. The significant issue is he states “The mark was to be that of the Ex-Apprentice, an open figure-eight knot rather than the original square knot.” All three of his samples, as well as all from my collection have the original square knot. While I can believe that some manufacturers might have made patches with an incorrect specialty mark, I can’t understand why Stacey would use them, and only them. Did Stacey make an error, or did all manufacturers ignore the regulation? 
My samples are both applied and embroidered chevrons. I am not sure if the type of chevrons proves useful for dating. Apprentice Petty Officer rates are similar in appearance to (and often mistaken for) WWII era WAVES/SPAR rates, which are typically, but not exclusively embroidered chevron. As odes Stacey, I have a WWII era dated sample with applied chevrons.


Third Pattern (1948–1951)

These rating badges continued unchanged in uniform regulations following the 1933 change until Change No. 1 (24 February 1948) to the post-World War II uniform regulations of 1947. In that change, the placement of the eagle, previously resting on the specialty mark for first, second and third class, was described thus, "The talons of the eagle shall be approximately I" above the angle of the upper chevron and just above the specialty mark." The change also stated that these rating badges were to be worn on the left sleeve, consistent with the general change for wearing all rating badges.

The significant distinguishing feature from this period should be the switch from right facing to left facing. From my collection, this appears to be when the specialty mark actually changed from square knot to figure eight knot, as all of my right facing samples have square knots while all of my left facing have figure eight knots.
Stacey notes “In that change, the placement of the eagle, previously resting on the specialty mark.” Unfortunately, none of his 1933–1948 samples display this. Is this another case of manufacturers ignoring regulations, or the regulations clarifying how they were being made? Stacey does not seem to provide any insight, other than acknowleding the discrepancy.
Stacey appears to have provided one example, but simply identifies it as post-1948. Again, this example uses a square knot, which should not have been used since 1933, according to his notes. He does mention this in his conclusion, but it is odd the only example he chose was non-regulation. I have no samples of left facing apprentice petty officer rates with square knots, so this must be less common. Another option is this is a Second Pattern with the eagle flipped, an error we see with some regularity with full size rates.
My samples are both applied and embroidered chevrons. Within this short time period both types of chevrons are seen in full size rates, so I don’t believe the difference may be used for dating. The following example is the only one that had a 2" wide eagle (see Fourth Pattern for relevance).


Fourth Pattern (1951–1961)

In the uniform regulations of 1951 (10 August 1951), the specific dimensions for the eagle on these rating badges were changed. That description stated, "The eagle shall be 1 3/8" high over-all, width between the wing tips 1 7/8".

As Stacey did not provide measurements for second and third pattern, I can only assume they were intended to have 2" wide eagles. Nearly all of my Second Pattern and what I believe are Third Pattern rates tend to range from 1 3/4" to 1 7/8" so this change might have been more of a standardization than a true change. If so, there may actually not be any difference between Third Pattern and Fourth Pattern. Stacey does not provide explicit samples of this pattern.
I am really not sure if there is a difference between Third Pattern and Fourth Pattern, so not sure which of my rates fall within which.


Fifth Pattern (1961–1975?)

The last change to be made in the configuration of apprentice petty officer rating badges was in Change No. 1 (31 October 1961) to the 1959 uniform regulations. This change increased the spacing between the chevrons from 1/8" to 1/4". These rating badges were last illustrated in Change No. 5 (25 May 1973) to the regulations of 1969 and were not included in the 1975 general revision of enlisted uniforms from jumper to coat, shirt and tie.

The differentiator between Fourth Pattern and Fifth Pattern is the spacing of the chevrons. The final sample Stacey provides, identified only as post-1948 appears to be a Fifth Pattern. Of note, if the only difference between Fourth Pattern and Fifth Pattern is the space between chevrons, it would seem impossible to differentiate third class rates of Fifth Pattern from those of Fourth Pattern.
My one example has embroidered chevrons, which would be expected from the era.


While I find Stacey’s writing useful and informative, it was not as clear, particularly related to his samples, in helping me identify and categorize my own samples, to my satisfaction. Particularly disappointing is he seems to identify three post WWII patterns, but provides only two samples to represent the three, without specifically identifying which they illustrate.
1. Does anyone have a sample Second Pattern with a figure eight knot
2. Is there a good way to differentiate Third Pattern from Fourth Pattern? Is the Fourth Pattern distinctive, or should it be merged with the Third Pattern?

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I don't know how much this will help but a couple of points that may be of interest:


Below is a copy of Change No. 17, 1918, which Stacey summarizes, and the illustration that was included. The specialty mark was not described, only illustrated, which was standard practice in the regulations of that time.





As Stacey says, these badges were left out of the 1922 uniforms regs and returned with Change No. 6 in 1929. He says that the change order repeated the description from 1918, which is true for the dimensions. But the change of the specialty mark to the figure-eight knot, which he dates to 1933, is also in the same 1929 order, with the eagle still to "rest on" the specialty mark:




I don't know the reason for that change, but it did have the advantage of using a specialty mark that was already illustrated in the regs.




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Something to keep in mind, these badges were worn by Recruits. Temporary use, and discarded when leaving recruit training. Also, used in some service schools to designate “Student POs”, again discarded upon completion of the school. Basically, disposable. Perhaps the Navy didn’t really care all that much about them, to get into deep detail about them. We were still using them when I enlisted. Trash cans full of them after each graduation. 

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Good discussion on Apprentice Petty Officer patterns.

On your second question, David, I'd merge the two patterns in my collection.

To muddy the waters on second pattern I have contract dated square knot APOs in the early forties.

In addition, I have examples of full sized figure eight knot apprentice specialty mark on early rating badges that I believe might have been intended for "middy/kiddie" use.

My own question, has anyone seen the below pictured APO armband in use? Is it even USN?




Apprentice Petty Officer.jpg



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