Sunday, June 27, 2010

Mersey Docks Harbourmaster/Pilot

Mersey Docks Harbourmaster/Pilot hat badge
Wool backing and wreath of silver thread.
Central device, stamped white metal.
Circa Second World War era.

A fact often overlooked by those interested in convoy history is that each ship that entered or left a port area was piloted by an individual versed in the particulars of the waters surrounding the port; when a ship was straffed by airplane fire, those on the bridge were targeted first with many a casualty being the pilot.

To this day, pilots are still employed and are organized in associations and pilotage authorities much as they have been for the past hundred years.  A major pilotage house, such as the Virginia Pilot Association, has about 40 active pilots, who steer a yearly 2000 or more vessels in and out of Hampton Roads.  These days, they are fortunate that their launches are motorized, as in years past, the vessels were predominantly powered by sail and oars.  Following in the Anglo-American tradition, apprentice pilots live on station, work some seven days a week around the clock, and are subject to U.S. Coast Guard examinations, tests and practical demonstrations.  Moreover, to prove their knowledge of the sea about them, apprentices must re-create mariner's charts of Hampton Roads from memory.  All of these skills are needed for a knowledgeable and professional group of pilots - all ready at a moment's notice to bring an oil tanker or yacht to port, the former's stopping distance measured in miles.  These individual work hard, and without whose dedication to knowing their waterways shipping depends, precious cargoes would remain offshore.  In interesting article about pilots on the C&D canal may be found here, View from the Bridge.

Much like Hampton Roads, Liverpool was a major embarkation port and convoy terminal during the Second World War; the city's port and train facilies were key links in the Allied war effort's supply chain, and as such the Germans considered it a major strategic target.  Despite the constant barrage of aerial bombings, on average a convoy either entered or left Merseyside each day for the duration of the War.  Interestingly enough, the last house destroyed by Luftwaffe bombing was Hitler's half-brother Alois' previous residence at 102 Upper Stanhope Street in Toxteth.

Presented is Mersey Docks and Harbour Board offical's hat badge.  This device was worn by both Harbourmasters and pilots in the Liverpool Pilot Service.  In the United Kingdom, a Harbourmaster is an appointed position once held exclusively by Navy Officers, they issue local safety information, oversee the maintenance and provision of navigational aids within port areas, co-ordinate maritime emergency response, do vessel inspections and oversee pilotage services.  In a large port, such as Liverpool's Merseyside, there is a head Harbormaster assisted by a small staff of assisting officers - during the Second World War, about 20; a priviledge of office is a white-bordered Union Flag with a white central disc bearing the initials "QHM" (or "KHM") beneath the crown, which is flown from the gaff or yardarm either afloat or on land.

The Liverpool Pilot Service has historically been an independent cooperative association, and is now operated and licensed by the Mersey Docks & Harbour Board (MD&HB) the Port of Liverpool authority.  Its stations are located at Point Lynas on the North coast of Anglesey and at the Mersey Bar.  At its inception up until the 1960s, the Liverpool Pilot Service covered the approaches to all ports around the Eastern Irish Sea from Holyhead in the South, to Barrow in the North, and the East coast of the Isle of Man; now, pilots are employed to guide ships to the River Mersey ports, which include the Liverpool and Birkenhead Docks, the Manchester Ship Canal and Garston.  It is worth mentioning that at latter, vessels are handed-over to a once fierce rival:  the Manchester Ship Canal Company Pilots.


Mersey Docks, Hat badge, obverse.
Metal and silver wire on wool backing. Metal central device.
Circa Second World War.
In terms of harbor agencies and government boards, this hat badge follows the British standard design of large laurels leaves with a municipal central device. More often than not, the leaves for other agencies are gold bullion - the Mersey Docks wreath is unusual in that respect, but still within "symbolic bounds." The central device is quite interesting being that it is Athena in a throne over Posideon; this hearkens to Liverpool's claim to being the "Athens of the North." Interestingly this same device is not found anywhere in Mersey Docks and Harbour Board Offices building except on the uniform buttons of the Harbourmasters and pilots.

Mersey Docks


Mersey Docks, Hat badge, obverse.
Metal and silver wire on wool backing. Metal central device.
Circa Second World War.

Mersey Docks


Mersey Docks, Hat badge, obverse, detail.
Metal and silver wire on wool backing. Metal central device.
Circa Second World War.
Mersey Docs


Views of the Mersey Docks & Harbour Building
on the river mersy, liverpool

landing stage, liverpool

landing stage, liverpool

Monday, June 14, 2010

U.S. Maritime Service Chief Petty Officer

U.S. Maritime Service Chief Petty Office hat badge (1st design, 2nd pattern)
One piece construction.  Seal, 25mm diameter; Anchor, 50mm length.
Obscured AE CO N.Y. hallmark (American Emblem Company).
Anchor and device stamped nickel; blue enamel band and red, white & blue shield.

This is the second pattern of the first design of the USMS CPO hat badge; it was worn from 1939, with the creation of the USMS training program, until  the dissolution of formal Coast Guard management of training program and its transfer to the War Shipping Administration in 1942.  1942 saw a re-design of U.S. Maritime service insignia, and with it, the USMS CPO hat badge.  Both the first pattern of the first design and second design have been respectively treated before, here and here.

This specific badge is often misidentified as a USMS Warrant Officer device; this is an understandable error, as mid-war, individuals who trained at USMS Radio Officer schools were issued USMS CPO hat badges and collar disks, and upon graduation held the appointed rank of Warrant Officer within the U.S. Maritime Service. Compounding some of confusion is that by war's end, USMS Regulations published in 1944 stated that officers in the Radio Department, depending upon vessel tonnage and class, and certificate status could rank anywhere from Lieutenant to Ensign, vid.: U.S. Maritime Service Officers' Handbook, 1944 p5.


USMS CPO Hat badge, obverse.
USMS CPO


USMS CPO Hat badge, obverse detail.
USMS CPO


USMS CPO Hat badge, reverse.
Note that the screw post and pins have been sheared off and replaced by a flat pin. It, like its predecessor has the curious "CO N.Y." or "CD N.Y." hallmark.

USMS CPO

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

British Petroleum Shipping Co.

British Petroleum Shipping Co. Officer hat badge
Metal, gold wire and colored thread on wool backing.
Circa 1960s.

With contemporary events unfolding regarding the catastrophe in the Gulf, it is worth pausing for a moment to think about transport of petroleum products. One of the safest, economical and most expedient methods to transport liquid petroleum and its derivatives is via ship. In fact, about 34% of all worldwide seaborne trade is devoted to the transport of oil. This entry is the first of several regarding oil tanker fleets and officer insignia.

British Petroleum was originally formed as the Anglo-Persian Oil Company in 1909 to exploit oil deposits in Persia. The British Tanker Co. Ltd started in 1915 to handle sea transport and achieve a contained, integrated oil company model akin to its American counterparts. The parent group was renamed the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in 1935. In 1951 the company's Iranian assets were nationalized, a crisis partly resolved by negotiation in 1954 when the company was re-named British Petroleum. In 1955, the fleet was re-christened BP Shipping. During the 1970s BP extended its oil interests to the North Sea and Alaska, and eventually moved to major oil fields in the Middle East and Gulf of Mexico. The fleet and its manning remained in the province of BP until 1986 when staffing went the way of a modern crimping system known as "agency manning" concurrent with BP re-flagging its fleet under various flags of convenience.

At present, BP Shipping is based out of Singapore and operates a fleet of 77 vessels and charters an additional 115. Its vessels are comprised of crude oil tankers, product tankers and LNG (liquefied natural gas) carriers. In its employ are some 2300 mariners and 600 onshore personnel. In all, 50% of BP's maritime cargo is carried on these ships worldwide. BP remains one of the few major oil producing corporations that continues to man a fleet under its own house flag.

British Petroleum Shipping hat badges may be found in three distinct variations:
1. 1915-1926. Merchant Navy-style hat badge with the current house flag - a red flag with a horizontal white band expanded at the centre in the form of a circle, the band bearing the black letters "BTC", the "T" being larger. I have read of the red being bordered in black; however I have yet to see an example.

2. 1926-1955. Similar to the illustrated hat badge, with then current house flag - a St. George's flag with a green diamond in the center - with a golden lion passant gardant above all.

3. 1955-1968 (present?). The illustrated badge; the golden lion replaced by a red lion rampant.

Images and analysis of several of the older badges may be found here.

References:
Bill Harvey, BP Tankers: A Group Fleet History. London: Greenhill Books, 2006.


British Petroleum Shipping Co. Officer hat badge, obverse
Metal, gold wire and colored thread on wool backing.
Circa 1960s.

In terms of British hat badges, the BP Shipping follows the British standard design of house flag as central device, Royal Navy wreath and Tudor maritime crown surmounting all. Over time, the embroidered leaves have grown thicker; and catalogs may denote the badge as belonging to the agency placing Deck and Engineering officers aboard BP vessels - Chiltern Maritime Ltd.




British Petroleum Shipping Co. Officer hat badge, detail.




British Petroleum Shipping Co. Officer hat badge, variation.
Circa 1950s.

Note the bronze-toned Tudor crown and the British Merchant Navy-style wreath.





British Petroleum Shipping Co. Chief Petty Officer hat badge, obverse.
Metal, gold wire and colored thread on wool backing.
Circa 1960s.




British Petroleum Shipping Co. Chief Petty Officer hat badge, detail.




British Petroleum Tanker Co. Ltd.
House Flag.
914.4 x 1422.4 mm
Circa 1955-67

The house flag of the BP Tanker Co. Ltd. On a white field, there is a red St. George's cross with a green diamond in the center, bearing a red lion, rampant. This design was in use from 1955 to 1968 and was re-introduced in 1984. The flag is made of a wool and synthetic fibre bunting. It has a cotton hoist and is machine sewn. The lion is printed. A rope and two Inglefield clips is attached.




British Petroleum Tanker Co. Ltd.
House Flag.
Circa 1940s.

The house flag of the BP Tanker Co. Ltd. from the 1940s. On a white field, there is a red St George's cross with a green diamond in the center, bearing a golden lion passant gardant. This design was in use from 1926 to 1955. The flag is made of a wool and cotton bunting. It has a cotton hoist and is machine sewn. The lion is printed.