The Wavy Navy

Ever wonder when watching a World War 2 films involving the Royal Navy a lot of the officer are wearing “Wavy” Rank lace?

During the war there was a shortage of regular Naval officers for wartime service, there were several reservist force including the RNR and the RNVR.

Royal Naval Volunteer reserve or “Wavy Navy” as they became known due to the wavy rank lace worn by Officers. These men had very little or no sea experience before joining the RNVR beginning their training at HMS King Alfred. Rank was determined by age – those under 19 became midshipmen, those over 19 1/2 a sub-lieutenant. Upon receiving their commission the new officers received their badges of rank, midshipmen wore a maroon lapel flash while sub-lieutenants wore a single ‘wavy’ gold stripe on their jacket cuffs.

Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve Officers lace 

The Royal Naval Reserve was another branch of naval reserves which dated back to 1835 where all seaman in England were required to be registered in case their service was required in the Royal Navy during wartime. It was found though that during the Crimean War in 1858 that only 400 of a possible 250,000 sailors who had signed up actually came forward to volunteer. This lead to the creation of the Naval reserve act in 1859 following a review into manpower of the fleet.

The RNR then became reserve of professional seaman who worked in the British Merchant Navy or small fishing fleets who if required would go onto to serve in the Royal Navy during wartime. During this time the RNR was only for naval ratings but in 1862 saw them include commissioned officers for the first time.  During WWII the RNR return to recruiting ratings as most wartime officers where taken on via the RNVR.


Royal Naval Reserve commissioned Rank lace 

By the end of the war in 1945 80% of officers in the Navy where RNVR or RNR officers. In

In 1958 the RNR was amalgamated with with much larger RNVR and 100 years of history of the RNR as a standalone body of men ceased.

2 thoughts on “The Wavy Navy

  1. It should not be forgotten that the wavy lace is still worn by officers of the Sea Cadet Corps, being regarded as the last of the “true” volunteers in the naval service.
    From 1 April 2017, for the first time in their history, SCC officers are actually Commissioned rather than being appointed. From that date, they are the only serving officers to use the suffix RNR after their rank.


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