Friday, October 28, 2011

British Tanker Co.

British Tanker Co.
Officer hat badge
Metal, gold wire, silk and colored thread on wool backing.
Circa 1940s.

Lately there has been an increased number of television commercials urging tourists to flock to vacations on the Gulf Coast - all of which are sponsored by British Petroleum. This brings to mind that last year I presented a British Petroleum Shipping Co. Officer hat badge, here. In that post I mentioned an earlier hat badge used between 1926 and 1955; presented now is said badge.

The period in which this hat badge was worn was an exciting one for the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, and by extension British Tanker Co. - profits were terrific, ships were built, the War came and Persia became Iran. There was much expansion of British oil exploration throughout the Middle East, and the Kingdom of Persia in particular. With government backing, the tanker fleet became one of the largest in the world, and its ships could be seen plying the waters between the Persian Gulf and the Suez on up to the British Isles - with regular stop-overs at the Port of Aden, where British interests created a safe haven for its sailors in the protectorate. In an effort to have a more efficient and profitable tanker fleet, vessels were fitted with modern tanks, pumping systems and numeous safety measures. The Second World War came, and with the declaration of hostilities, British Tanker Co. found its fleet under attack; by war's end, a third of its assets sunk and later replaced. By 1955, the British Merchantile Marine reached its zenith, and afterward met an eventual swift decline. BP survived, the fall, however.

References:
Over this past year, I have come across many excellent and encyclopedic works on general British Petroleum history, with scant passages on its tanker fleet throughout. Bill Harvey's book remains the best reference for BP tankers, in specific.

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

Henry Longhurst, Adventure in Oil: The Story of British Petroleum. London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1959.

Ronald W. Ferrier, The History of the British Petroleum Company, Vol. 1: The Developing Years, 1901-1932. London: Cambridge University Press, 1982.

James H. Bamberg, The History of the British Petroleum Company, Vol. 2: The Anglo-Iranian Years, 1928-1954. London: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

James H. Bamberg, The History of British Petroleum, Vol. 3: The Challenge of Nationalism, 1950-1975. London: Cambridge University Press, 2000.


British Tanker Co., officer hat badge, obverse
Metal, gold wire and colored thread on wool backing.
Circa 1940s.

The central badge device is comprised of a rectangular British Tanker Co. house flag of applied ribbed silk fabric - with details stitched in silk floss - and outlined with coiled gold metal. The flag is surrounded by laurel leaves of gold purl with stems of applied coiled gold metal. Surmouting all is a stamped gilt base metal lion passant gardant. All is stitched on a padded black wool base....

British Tanker Co., officer hat badge, obverse detail

...

British Tanker Co., officer hat badge, obverse detail

...

British Tanker Co. Ltd.
House Flag.
838.2 x 1219.2 mm
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Pope Collection.

The house flag of the British Tanker Co. Ltd, London. On a white filed is a red cross with a green diamond in the center bearing a gold lion passant gardant. This design was in use from 1926 to 1955 - the central lion symbolizing the Company's Iranian interests. The flag is made of a wool and synthetic fiber bunting; it has a cotton hoist and is machine sewn. The flag's central design is painted. A rope and two Inglefield clips are attached.

British Tanker Co. House Flag

British Tanker Co. Ltd.
British Gratitude ship model.
Scale: 1:192
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.

The British Gratitude is depicted the model below in wartime rig with paravanes, light anti-aircraft machine guns, and anti-torpedo net booms and posts. British Gratitude was owned and operated by the British Tanker Company. Built in 1942 by Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson, it was 470 feet in length and 8463 tons gross, very small by contemporary standards. It survived the Second World War and continued to have an active career under the ownership of British Petroleum. She was eventually sold for breaking up in 1959.

British Gratitude

From the Collection of Lyle Halkett I present two interesting British Petroleum hat badges.

The first is a modern pattern of the first British Tanker Company design, followed by that of a 1940's pattern of a BTC Petty Officer hat badge; both follow the same symbolic and stylistic language as other presented BP badges. Do take particular note of the Petty officer badge, as it follows the precedent set in The Mercantile Marine (Uniform) Order, 1921 Schedule which states that a Petty Officer's cap badge is to be of the same design as hat of a officer's with the exception that the surrounding oak leaves and acorns be deleted. The schedule outlines a previously announced, but not defined uniform order from 1919.

British Tanker Co., officer hat badge, obverse
Metal, gold wire and colored thread on wool backing.
Pattern circa 1940s.
Collection of Lyle Halkett

...

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

Metal, gold wire and colored thread on wool backing.
Circa 1940s.
Collection of Lyle Halkett

...