History of the Special Duties Officers List

Formation of the SD List of Officers: It   was   decided   during   1956   as   part   of   an   overall   Review   to   abolish   the   Branch   List   and   replace   it by   a   different   designation   to   be   called   the   "Special   Duties   List". As   a   result   meaningful   recognition was   given   to   officers   promoted   by   virtue   of   their   specialist   expertise.   At   one   stage   serious consideration    was    being    given    to    providing    special    uniform    buttons    marked    “SD"    for    these officers.   Such   a   distinction   was   felt   by   all   Branch   List   Officers   to   be   quite   unnecessary   and   a   way of    maintaining    the    distinctions    so    evident    before    1939.    Following    many    representations    by individual   officers   that   this   would   be   against   the   best   long   term   interests   of   the   Service   the proposal was dropped. Another   innovation   was   the   removal   of   the   coloured   lace   worn   by   all   specialist   officers   on General,   Supplementary   and   Special   Duties   Lists.   Only   Medical,   Dental   and   Constructor   Officers were   to   have   this   indication   of   their   specialisation.   In   future   there   would   be   no   visible   distinction between   other   officers. Although   not   totally   welcomed   by   all,   experience   showed   that   this   change helped to further reduce some of the prejudice still evident in some wardrooms. Implementation: As   from   1   January   1957,   "Commissioned   Officers"   were   accorded   the   title   of   "Sub-Lieutenant", and    "Senior    Commissioned    Officers"    became    "Lieutenants".    In    consequence    the    associated stigma   of   the   "half   stripe"   was   removed   and   Special   Duties   List   Officers   were   to   wear   the   full single   or   two   full   stripes   as   worn   by   other   officers   of   these   ranks.   The   specialist   qualifications   of each officer on the SD List was indicated as part of their new rank title. For example: Seaman - Commissioned Boatswains became Sub-lieutenants (B). Engineer - Senior Commissioned Engineers (E) became Engineer Lieutenants (E). Supply - Commissioned Writer Officers became Supply Sub-lieutenants (W). New   promotions   to   Sub-Lieutenant   received   a   Commission   signed   by   the   Queen   but   existing Branch   list   Officers   retained   their   original   Admiralty   Warrant   as   their   authority   to   "observe   and execute   'Regulations   for   the   Government   of   Naval   Service'".   As   part   of   the   naval   reorganisation, Schemes   of   Complement   were   altered   to   provide   more   appointments   afloat   to   give   these   officers greater    opportunity    to    extend    their    responsibilities    and    hence    to    improve    their    promotion prospects.   By   the   1970's   the   SD   Officer   had   been   fully   accepted   in   most   Wardrooms   for   his   true value   as   a   professional   colleague   and   messmate   who   took   part   in   all   ship   activities   on   equal footing. Final Phase of Transition 1970 to 1985: During    this    period    very    extensive    administrative    changes    within    the    RN    including    the amalgamation   of   the   Electrical   and   Engineering   Specialisations.   These   have   allowed   alterations to   complement   requirements   ashore   and   afloat. After   suitable   training   Special   Duties   list   Officers can    now    be    employed    as    Head    of    Department    instead    of    General    List    Officers.    Revised promotion   policies   allow   promotions   for   Lieutenant   Commanders   to   Commander   on   the   SD   List so   culminating   the   aspirations   of   previous   holders   of   Warrant   Rank.   With   very   few   exceptions,   no officer   from   Warrant   Rank,   or   its   later   equivalents,   previously   had   any   reasonable   chance   of attaining   this   rank   unless   already   transferred   to   the   General   List.   At   last   due   recognition   of experience and a high degree of professional competence had been achieved. (with thanks to: www.naval-history.net/) More History: Petty   Officers   and   Chief   Petty   Officers   could,   with   the   approval   of   their   Commanding   Officer, become   a   CW   candidate   (an   'SD   candidate').   Potential   SD   Officer   candidates   were   generally between   the   ages   of   28   and   35,   though   most   were   in   their   early   30s   when   promoted   to   Acting Sub-Lieutenant   on   the   Special   Duties   List.   Unlike   General   List   and   Supplementary   Llist   officers, SD   officers   retained   their   former   rating   branch   specialisation;   for   example   the   Supply   Officer (Cash)    would    typically    become    a    Lieutenant    (SD)(S)(W),    the    (W)    indicating    that    he    is    a commissioned   officer   from   the   Writer   branch   of   ratings.   SD   officers   were,   of   course,   promoted from   all   branches.   Once   confirmed   as   a   Sub-Lieutenant,   an   SD   officer   was   promoted   Lieutenant after   three   years;   promotion   to   Lieutenant-Commander   (SD)   was   by   selection   and,   from   these,   a very   small   number   were   promoted   to   Commander   from   1966   onwards.   Retirement   was   generally compulsory   at   age   50   although   those   promoted   to   Commander   (SD)   were   able   to   continue   to   the age   of   53.   A   few   SD   officers   were   selected   for   transfer   to   the   General   List,   seniority   being adjusted   on   transfer,   so   as   to   level   the   promotion   opportunities   (generally   these   officers   were earmarked   as   likely   to   reach   the   rank   of   Commander).   In   the   1970s,   to   make   up   for   certain branch    shortages,    some    Chief    Petty    Officers,    age    over    35    were    selected    and    promoted Temporary   Acting    Sub-Lieutenant    (SD),    a    few    of    whom    were    later    promoted    to    Temporary Lieutenant (SD). Prior   to   the   introduction   of   the   Special   Duties   List   in   1956,   some   senior   ratings   were   selected   for promotion   to   Warrant   Officer   on   the   Branch   List,   with   subsequent   possible   promotion   (from   1864) to   Commissioned   Warrant   Officer;   from   1946,   officer   rank   was   achieved   by   commission   rather than   by   warrant.   Of   the   old   "standing   officers"   (the   Master,   Boatswain,   Gunner   and   Carpenter) from   the   days   of   sail,   the   Cook   was   the   first   to   lose   his   status   as   a   full-blown   Warrant   Officer   and head   of   his   own   department;   indeed,   an   order   of   1704   helped   him   in   his   downward   career   as,   in future,   in   the   appointment   of   Cooks,   the   Navy   Board   was   "to   give   the   preference   to   such   cripples and   maimed   persons   as   are   pensioners   of   the   chest   at   Chatham".   Warrant   Officers   lived   in   a separate   mess   -   the   gunroom   -   from   Wardroom   officers   and,   by   the   1800s,   wore   one   thin   stripe   of gold   sleeve   lace   with,   from   1864,   for   supply   branch   officers,   the   white   distinction   cloth   below. The Warrant   Officer's   dress   uniform   was   instituted   in   1787.   In   all   other   respects   they   were   treated   as for   commissioned   officers. A   Commissioned   Warrant   Officer   wore   the   same   sleeve   lace   as   a   Sub- Lieutenant - one gold stripe proper; these officers lived in the Wardroom mess.
Royal Navy, Special Duties Commanders Association
© Tony Dyer 1990 - 2017