The Badge of The Magpie

HMS Magpie, circa 1944.

I am always on the lookout for heraldry-related literature, especially if it can be read online for free. Yesterday I discovered that the county of Somerset and the former county of Middlesex have – or at least had – their own heraldry societies, and each publishes on its website a large back-catalogue of society journals – the Somerset Dragon and the Seaxe respectively.

The Seaxe‘s 34th edition (from September 2000), contains an article about the heraldic badges used by HMS Magpie, which the late Duke of Edinburgh once captained.

HMS Magpie and her Badges by Roland Symons

It has become the fashion recently for Royal Naval badges to be redrawn or even completely changed. Some have been altered for aesthetic reasons, some to reflect in status and some because the original design is now considered ‘politically incorrect’! The badge of HMS Forward for example originally consisted of a hunting cap and horn but, being the Royal Naval Reserve Establishment in Birmingham, it now carries the crest of the City of Birmingham. This may be current fashion but one change of badge design came as a result of a schoolboy’s initiative in 1952. There have been seven Magpies in the Royal Navy. The first was a re-named prize – a four-gun schooner captured at Perros in 1807. The last was a sloop of the Black Swan Class, launched in 1943. She saw active service in the Atlantic, the Arctic and off Normandy whilst in 1944 she formed part of Captain F J Walker’s Second Support Group and, along with HMS Starling, HMS Kite and HMS Wild Goose, helped in the sinking of U238 and U592 in that year. In January 1943 had been granted a badge consisting of a magpie volant proper. In September 1952 a pupil from Monkton Combe Junior School, in Bath, saw HMS Magpie at Gibraltar. The badge of the School happened to be a magpie and this appeared on the cover of the School’s magazine. And so, armed with a copy of the magazine, young Michael Swift boarded the Magpie! This contact led to links being forged between the School and the ship. The captain of the Magpie, Commander Graham Lumsden DSC, was rather taken by the design of the magpie used by the School and which had been designed by the art mistress, Miss Bulmer. He enlisted the support of a previous captain of HMS Magpie, HRH Prince Philip, in an effort to get the ship’s badge changed and in January 1953 a letter arrived at Monkton Combe Junior School stating that His Royal Highness feels that your magpie is nicer than the present ship’s badge and he has asked me to write to the Admiralty to suggest that it might be substituted for the one in existence. In May 1953 this was achieved and a new badge and a new badge was granted; this could be blazoned as white within an annulet black a magpie statant rousant proper.

Apart from the bird being turned around to face the right way, the badge was that of Monkton Combe Junior School. Sir Arthur Cochrane, however, surrounded the badge with a black annulet. An annulet is symbolic of unity and friendship, here officially linking school and ship, but it may also be derived from the ‘magpie’ found on a shooting target. Sadly, in 1956, HMS Magpie went into reserve and then to the breakers’ yard in 1959. One of Magpie’s final appearances was to ‘act’ the part of HMS Amethyst in the film The Yangste Incident – and when Amethyst moves in that film, it is in reality Magpie! As a token of her friendship with Monkton Combe Junior, the School was presented with with the ship’s bell and Division Trophies -the former is still used for the christening of children of staff members! In 1970 another chapter in the story was written when the Magpie’s badge made an appearance in the South Atlantic, this time on a postage stamp – the ascension 2s.6d. issue, being one of a series featuring Royal Naval badges. In 1988 Monkton Combe applied for a Grant of Arms and to accompany it, the Junior School asked for its badge to be registered on the same Grant. There was a moment of worry – could the School retrieve its magpie from the Royal Navy? Thanks to the efforts of Hubert Chesshyre a design was produced which satisfied all concerned. It is blazoned within an annulet embellished in chief with a fleur-de-lys Azure a magpie proper. Somewhere amid the cast-off clothing of the Prince of Wales and the Princess Royal there are two rather small sweaters featuring the new badge of their father’s old command. They were given by the School as presents in 1953! and, of course, there was the Warship Class diesel locomotive named Magpie but that is a story for the Editor to tell !

***

The Editors Tale is unfortunately all too quickly told. When the Railway Modernisation Plan of 1955 got under way the Western Region of British Railways (the old Great Western Railway) surprisingly obtained authority to pursue the development of diesel traction, based on a German technology, which was completely different from that authorised for the rest the country. As part of this development several hundred highly individual locomotives were built between between 1958 and 1963, including a batch of 71 intended for hauling express trains between London Bristol and the West of England. The WR in a characteristic gesture of defiance to the dictates then coming down from the British Railways Board gave these engines names commemorating well-known warships primarily of the World War II period. No.829 which was built at Swindon and entered service in 1960 was Magpie, the name being carried on impressive aluminium plates on either side of the locomotive. Many of these engines were also adorned with beautiful cast plaques bearing the appropriate ship’s badge but in the case of Magpie this was regrettably not to be. The arrival of the new 2,200 hp diesel-hydraulic locomotive was reported in the Monkton Combe School Magazine at the time and the School’s Railway Correspondent commented: These diesels will go on running for forty or even fifty years yet, so let’s hope that the then headmaster will acquire the name-plate or any other part of value to go with the bell of its fellow Warship! His prophecy was unfortunately to prove highly inaccurate, the bitter internal politics of British Rail eventually leading to the damning of the “Warships” on the grounds of high maintenance costs and they rapidly disappeared from the scene. Magpie fell victim to the cutter’s torch in 1972, being then just under twelve years old. The nameplates almost certainly still exist, such items nowadays commanding very high prices – but regrettably one did not find its way to Monkton Combe.

It is fascinating to have uncovered this story so soon after publishing my grandmother’s memoir relating to the ship. Unfortunately I have not found any articles about the Pelican‘s badges just yet.

FURTHER READING

 

Memories of Malta

Fort Manoel in Gżira, Malta, 1880.

This is Thursday and I still haven’t written anything and in any case, with the way I have been feeling and the things that have happened, I can’t even remember what I was supposed to write about. However, this week has seen the Queen celebrate her 80th birthday, and being a true royalist I was sitting watching the film of her life. She is a few months older than I am and was always there when I was a child. The two little princesses were my favourite pair. No television in those days, but I used to keep a scrapbook and cut out every picture I could find of them.

Sitting watching the program, Paull came and sat with me and I started telling him different things that had happened to granddad and myself over the years where our lives had touched with Elizabeth and Philip and had just been telling him about our lives in Malta when he left me to my program. No sooner had he gone than Malta appeared on the screen and I called him back. He watched the program with and said Grandma, you should write about these things. You knew all about that, didn’t you, so here you have a few memories. Just a few, I won’t bore you too much.

P.O. Stanley Edward Taylor & wife in Malta, 1949.

Stan and I met at Royal Arthur, a shore base at Butlins in Skegness. The first time I saw him he was wearing a pink tu-tu and dancing with four other PTIs to the music of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Shortly afterwards, Royal Arthur moved across country to Corsham in Wiltshire. There were three huge camps there: The first was the Ship’s Company camp for the Wrens, sailors and officers. The second was the working offices and training camps where new entries were taken in and trained, and their instructors lived on the same camp with them. I was a writer pay as it was termed and our office was very close to the gym where Stan spent his time. Up the road there was another camp, Kingsmoor where petty officers took their courses and it was there that we first made contact with Philip. We had been told that Prince Philip of Greece would be joining us and none of us had ever heard of him. We honestly thought that he was to be one of our young entrants so we were absolutely bowled over when this handsome blonde young man whizzed through the gate in an elderly open-topped sports car. The first time my friend and I saw him we were just going through the gate back to our working camp when this old black car without even slowing down shot past us taking Jean’s jacket off her arm and leaving it in the dust. Now, Jean was a Hull girl and no-one did that to her. When he didn’t stop she took her shoe off and aimed it at him together with a load of abuse. The poor old jaunty was dancing up and down waving his arms and mouthing no-no-no. That was our first meeting with Philip. We would occasionally meet him at sports events and he met with us when we played mixed hockey. Rumours started to circulate that he was getting mail from Buckingham Palace and returning from London one day he had a slight car accident. It was reported straight back to the Palace and Elizabeth dashed out and got into her car and started off for Corsham. However, word was sent that she had to be turned back and back home she was sent. Later, of course, came the Royal Wedding and ten Chiefs and Petty Officers from Kingsmoor were invited to the wedding and much to their embarrassment were known ever after that as the bridesmaids.

Philip’s ship, the Black Swan-class Magpie.

The following year Stan and I were married and Stan was posted to Malta where he was the PTI for six frigates, one of which was Philip’s Magpie. Stan was based on the Pelican which wasn’t easy for sport with six ships to look after and as we were newly-weds he pleaded his case and was allowed to stay ashore with me, except when they all went on exercises together. The little ships had never been heard of in the Med sports before but he went from one ship to the other getting his teams together by means fair and fowl. He had more AN Others on his lists than actual names, but by the time he had told each of his boxers that it didn’t really matter as so-and-so was a better boxer anyway, he ended up with his teams and that year took every cup in the Med. I can still see him and Captain Bonham Carter standing behind the goal with their faces up to the nets calling come on, hit me, hit me, and seeing their caps go flying in the air with each goal.

Stan’s ship, the Egret-class Pelican.

We went out with the footballers that night, starting out in Sliema, but the boys got restless and wanted to go down the Gutt as the red light district is known, but couldn’t because they knew Stan wouldn’t let me go. He said “As long as I am with her she can go anywhere.” and off we all went to Floriana. I was very innocent in those days and watched a matelot dancing with a large lady in a pink satin blouse. After a quick glance at this pair I remarked to Stan “What a large lady that is!”, at which all the lads curled up with laughter. We then went on to the main Gutt and after a while one of the lads came to Stan and whispered in his ear, and Stan said okay and decided that it was time we got ourselves home, and off we went. The next morning there was an SOS from Philip: “What have you done to my crew? Get yourself down to the local prison and see if you can get them out!”, and that was when I learned that Stan had been asked to remove me as there was a fight brewing between the navy and the army.

Lt. Mountbatten with the Princess Elizabeth, 1947.

Elizabeth sometimes came down to Manoel Island when the boys were playing friendly matches. There would hardly be a soul watching and a matelot would walk to the side of the of the pitch with a wooden chair and a few minutes later she would appear. No sign of her detective though, he was always around watching from a distance, and in no time a little group of sailors would be standing around her chair watching the match. She always looked so happy in Malta. They were very happy days for all of us.

Must go, it’s bedtime.

Written 27th April 2006
by Pauline Taylor (1927-2018)
 
UPDATE (12th April)
The Lord Judge, Convenor of the Crossbench Peers, referenced his own Maltese memories in a parliamentary speech earlier today.

The Late Duke

His Royal Highness Prince Philip of Greece & Denmark was born on 10th June 1921. He was the only son of His Royal Highness Prince Andrew of Greece & Denmark, who in turn was a younger son of His Majesty King George I of the Hellenes. Through his agnatic line he was a member of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, while his mother Princess Alice was from the House of Battenberg. Queen Victoria was his enatic great-great grandmother.

Philip’s titles have an interesting history, in that he was born a prince of Greece and of Denmark but later renounced these titles to obtain British citizenship. This move later turned out to be unnecessary as the Sophia Naturalization Act 1705 meant he had British citizenship already. He adopted the surname Mountbatten, which was used by his maternal uncle Louis (later Earl Mountbatten of Burma) and represented an Anglicised version of Battenberg. The subsequent controversy over whether his descendants should be the House of Windsor or Mountbatten-Windsor is a little ironic given that Philip himself was already effectively going by his mother’s maiden name rather than his father’s.

The marriage certificate says Philip Mountbatten.

New titles were bestowed rapidly in advance of his wedding: On 19th November George VI appointed him a Royal Knight of the Garter (one day after The Princess Elizabeth, to maintain her seniority) and granted him the style of Royal Highness (on British authority this time), then on 20th raised him to the peerage of the United Kingdom as Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich – all of which now belong to his eldest son. The lack of simultaneity between these events means that for a single day he was styled “Lieutenant His Royal Highness Sir Philip Mountbatten”. On the 21st his title was inserted into the Book of Common Prayer. He was ceremonially introduced to the House of Lords on 21st July 1948. For a while there was some controversy over whether or not he was a prince. This was resolved on 22nd February 1957 when his wife, now sovereign, made him a Prince of the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland, which put him level with her sons and uncles. There were some suggestions of making him “Prince Consort” like Albert or “Prince of the Commonwealth” to reflect the monarchy’s larger purview but these were ultimately turned down.

His precedence at this time is unclear, though obviously the lowest he could have ranked was as the newest ordinary duke. A royal warrant on 26th September 1952 declared his should “upon all occasions and in all Meetings except where otherwise provided by Act of Parliament have, hold and enjoy Place, Pre-eminence and Precedence next to Her Majesty”, which again followed the example set by Victoria with Albert. This technically made him second man in the land, for the monarch is always first man even when female, and is the reason he was often seen walking two paces behind his wife on formal occasions.

Heraldic banner at St Giles’s Cathedral in Edinburgh, 2010

Philip’s heraldic status in his youth is not clear to me, but as a British adult he was – rather unconventionally – given two grants of arms. In 1947 his armorial achievement showed the arms of Greece surmounted by those of Denmark, which in turn were surmounted by those of his great-grandmother Alice (albeit omitting the Saxe-Coburg inescutcheon she used, which the British royals had abandoned in 1917). For reasons difficult to uncover these were deemed “unsatisfactory” so in 1949 the shield was replaced by a new quarterly version. The first quarter showed the lesser arms of the Kingdom of Denmark, the second quarter the white cross of Greece, the third the black and white stripes of Battenberg and the fourth a castle on a rock for Edinburgh. That last part is especially unusual as peers’ shields do not normally incorporate the municipal insignia of their nominal territories. These arms were of course rendered as a rectangular flag (confusingly called a royal standard, even though “standard” refers to a very different style of flag) and a square banner above his Garter stall at Windsor. In composing this article I also discovered that he had a badge, showing the castle surmounted by a princely coronet and encircled by the Garter, though I do not recall ever seeing it in use. Livery colours are not so prominent in modern times, and those of the royal family no longer change with the dynasty. Philip had his own personal livery of “Edinburgh Green”, used for his personal cars and the uniforms of his staff.

New badge illustration, published mere minutes ago.

Sodacan has of course illustrated all of these for Wikimedia Commons, and already I have spotted several instances of his illustrations being used in television coverage of his death as well as in reports online.

EXTERNAL LINKS

The Bus Law of By-Elections

Portraits by Richard Townshend, 12th January 2020 (CC-BY-3.0)

It has been nearly two years since the last by-election to the UK House of Commons – in Brecon & Radfordshire, where Jane Dodds unseated Chris Davies. This is said to be the longest gap since the end of World War Two, though I suspect you could look a lot further back than that and not find one. It is quite remarkable that over the course of 2020 no MPs died despite several testing positive and one having to be put on a ventilator.*

Things got moving again on 16th March when Mike Hill, facing an employment tribunal, took the Chiltern Hundreds. A by-election for his constituency of Hartlepool is scheduled to take place on 6th May, alongside the many local elections across the country. Already eleven candidates have been put forward. The list is rather fascinating in that three former Labour MPs will be competing against each other for different parties: Paul Williams (Stockton South 2017-19) is still fighting for the red rose but Hilton Dawson (Lancaster & Wyre 1997-2005) is now secretary of the North East Party which seeks a devolved parliament for the region similar to those in Scotland and Wales and Thelma Walker (Colne Valley, 2017-19) has defected to the Northern Independence Party which seeks to revive the ancient kingdom of Northumbria as a democratic socialist republic. The Conservative candidate Jill Mortimer is a farmer and Hambleton (North Yorkshire) District Councillor. Reform UK (formerly the Brexit Party) is putting forward businessman John Prescott (not the former Labour MP) and the Liberal Democrats have chosen Andy Hagon, a teacher who also stood there in 2017 and 2019. It has cause some controversy (and mirth) to note that so few of the candidates are actually from Hartlepool. Once the domain of Peter Mandelson, this constituency is part of the so-called “Red Wall” of traditional Labour seats that has swung towards the Conservatives after voting to leave the European Union. You might reasonably think that any seat which stayed red in 2019 couldn’t possibly go blue now, but a recent Survation poll gave the Conservatives a seven-point lead. Obviously it’s too early to call at this stage, but the prospect of the government gaining a seat from the opposition again in just over four years would be seriously humiliating for the latter, although we can hope that on this occasion the prime minister will not be tempted to go for a snap general election as a consequence.

On 23rd March Neil Gray took the Manor of Northstead, vacating the constituency of Airdrie & Shotts in order to contest the same seat for the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood**. In this instance the returning officer has decided that it would be safer not to have the two polls on one day, so instead the by-election will take place a week later on 13th May. The candidate list for this election is not yet as long, nor as amusing. Notable here is that there has not been a Commons by-election in Scotland since Inverclyde in 2011 and never at all where the National Party was defending.

On 4th April Dame Cheryl Gillan died at the age of 68 following “a long illness“. She had been MP for Chesham & Amersham since 1992 and was the twenty-fourth most senior by continuous service. No candidates have yet been announced for this by-election and neither has the writ been moved when the others were. Partly this is because she died when the Commons had already risen for the Easter recess, and partly it is because of the convention to delay political machinations until after the late member’s funeral.

*The other place was less lucky, with Lord Gordon of Strathblane succumbing to COVID on 31st of last March. A few hereditary peers have retired or died of other causes in that time but their by-elections have been repeatedly postponed.

**This is required by the party’s rules, rather than those of either legislature.