Purple Piping in Engineers Braid

jbo
6th June 2011, 18:48
I spent a few years at sea as a Deck Officer, one thing I have never found a satisfactory answer to is the reason for different coloured piping on officers braid:-

Engineers - purple
R/O's - green
Pursers - red? (memory fading)
Reefer's / Lecky's - yellow? (memory fading even more)

Can anyone explain why there were different colours piping and what was the reason for each particular colour.

Thanks

makko
6th June 2011, 19:00
R/O's and Leckys green.
Doctor/Med staff red.
Ch Stwd/Purser yellow.

It is said that the royal purple was bestowed on engineers after the sacrifice of the engine room staff on the Titanic. However, I believe this may not be true! At a guess, may it have to do with with a colour code in one of the armed forces?

Rgds.
Dave

James_C
6th June 2011, 20:13
MN "branch" colours are based on the same RN colours introduced in the early 1860s, as uniforms began to appear on merchant ships many companies copied the RN style.
After the First World War, MN uniform was standardised with the appropriate colours, diamonds etc at the same time as the UK Merchant service was granted the title "Merchant Navy" by King George V. There's an M notice about it all somewhere. Some shipping companies (e.g. P&O, Cunard) retained their own style of braid.
I'm afraid the Titanic story is a myth.

Mates - no colour
Electricians - Light Green
Engineers - Purple
R/O's - initially 'wavy' braid and thence (1950s onwards) straight with dark green
Pursers - White
Chief Stewards - zig zag
Doctors - Red

joebuckham
6th June 2011, 20:20
MN "branch" colours are based on the same RN colours introduced in the early 1860s, as uniforms began to appear on merchant ships many companies copied the RN style.
After the First World War, MN uniform was standardised with the appropriate colours, diamonds etc at the same time as the UK Merchant service was granted the title "Merchant Navy" by King George V. There's an M notice about it all somewhere. Some shipping companies (e.g. P&O, Cunard) retained their own style of braid.
I'm afraid the Titanic story is a myth.

Mates - no colour
Electricians - Light Green
Engineers - Purple
R/O's - initially 'wavy' braid and thence (1950s onwards) straight with dark green
Pursers - White
Chief Stewards - zig zag
Doctors - Red

following grey funnel line standards

see this site

http://www.pbenyon.plus.com/Uniform/Uniform.html

and pick up on officers uniform

makko
6th June 2011, 20:40
Thanks Jim. In the deepest darkest recesses, a bell rang about the Titanic story! I believe that uniform became compulsory during the First World War due to a German warship taking a merchantman and accusing the crew of being "spies" as they were in mufti.
I never knew the difference between dark/light green - I just thought it was green. In BF, the Ch Stwd used yellow and some used wavy stripes.
Rgds.
Dave

Ian6
6th June 2011, 20:43
P&O certainly had their own uniform, dating back to 1837 long before the official MN uniform, but with the same general colour of braid as already described. The main exception was that P&O Deck Officers had blue braid either side of the gold, a shade of blue lighter than the navy blue of their uniforms. P&O Engineer Officers wore their braid on their sleeves, like the RN and most MN companies but Pursers, Deck and Radio Officers wore their braid on their shoulders.
Ian

Chris Isaac
7th June 2011, 08:12
I would add Refrigeration Engineers who had light blue.

BeerSailor
7th June 2011, 13:02
NZSCo - Braid worn on shoulders, Deck plain, Engineers purple, R/O Light blue,
Elect. green, Purser/Ch St. white.

sailingday
8th June 2011, 15:52
I always thought that purple represented oil, red for blood

Don Matheson
8th June 2011, 20:39
The purple, a more Royal sort of colour, was awarded by King George V to engineers because he could see they were of a more noble breeding that others.

Don

Peter Fielding
8th June 2011, 20:51
I always thought that purple represented oil, red for blood

I've heard of red and green oil for the port and starboard navigation lights, but where is the purple oil for?

Don Matheson
8th June 2011, 20:54
The purple oil must be for the throne in the toilet!

alex page
9th June 2011, 02:45
RN dentist was orange
Alex

japottinger
15th June 2011, 17:00
Albiet standard MN braid with diamond Clan Line had a curl as in RN

jim garnett
1st July 2011, 06:50
Mine was, always too oil stained to make out what colour it was.I had 53 items of gear,a sweat rag and a pack of cards.Happy days.
Jim garnett

Ron Stringer
1st July 2011, 09:43
.I had 53 items of gear,a sweat rag and a pack of cards.Happy days.
Jim garnett

Sailed on a tanker with a 1st-trip junior who received quite a bit of stick because he refused to join in the many card games that the other engineers got involved in. Much money changed hands and they all claimed that either he was too scared to lose all his pay or that his keeness to hang on to his money came from the fact that he was Scottish.

This went on for several weeks and things began to get a little sour. Eventually, one night in the officers' smoke room there was a poker school going when he came off the 4-8. He sat down and was immediately picked on again. With a bit of a sigh of frustration, he got up and went to sit at the table where they were playing cards. "Go on, you can deal - show us what you can do."

He picked up the pack and then put on a show of absolute brilliance - as good as any TV magician that I have seen. He shuffled and reshuffled the cards at lightning speed more times than I could count. He fanned them and split them and flowed them seamlessly together almost faster than the eye could follow. As a finale he did the trick where the cards are moved in and out like an accordion between his hands with his arms spread apart.

Then he put the pack down on the table, and said, "Right gents, what shall we play?"

Oh to have had a camera and to have been able to capture the looks on their faces! A couple even picked up their beers and got up from the table.

I turned out that his dad was a Glasgow bookie and junior had learned to play cards with the best. For reasons that he never disclosed, he did not play cards at sea - at least not during the time I sailed with him. Mind you, nobody picked on him again or demanded that he join their card games.

chadburn
1st July 2011, 16:25
In a similiar vein, we had a Junior Eng on the Egton who would not touch the drink and of course he rarely went ashore until one day he suddenly decided to "go for it" and drunk us all under the table, it appeared that his Parent's owned an Off-Licence and he had plenty of training stowing bottle's of drink into his above the shop bedroom. The Purple denotes the colour of the Engineer's face when the compressed air is about to run out due to over exuberant engine movement's by those up top who should have had the Jetty brought to them.

NoR
1st July 2011, 18:20
When I first went to sea sparkies had a sort of wobbly gold braid bit like RNVR. No colours

Duncan112
1st July 2011, 21:31
The Purple denotes the colour of the Engineer's face when the compressed air is about to run out due to over exuberant engine movement's by those up top who should have had the Jetty brought to them.

How true, "Take your pick Captain, one start or two toots on the whistle"(Jester)

loco
20th August 2011, 04:33
I think Shaw Savill had a variation on the standard braid. For mates, an uncert 3/0 had one stripe, certificated 3/0 two, 2nd Officer two full width stripes with a half width one between them, then C/O three and Master four as normal.
Not having been on the passenger ships, I think those that had served on them also had a diamond above the stripes.

Martyn

Chillytoes
3rd September 2011, 11:10
James C has covered the details of the "Titanic purple" story quite well. It is amazing how these urban legends grow up and remain alive despite all evidence to the contrary.
The whole issue of Merchant Navy uniforms, braid etc is explained in Bartlett's "History of the Merchant Navy", and Course's "The Merchant Navy - A Social History". The RN use of distinguishing colours associated with braid is set out in Penn's "Up Funnel, Down Screw!" So, why do so many of us miss these and other sources that clearly dispel such misinformation?
It's interesting that as is pointed out above, that until 1919 there was no specified uniform for Merchant Navy Officers. Indeed, there was no "Merchant Navy". The accepted term was "Merchant Service". In Course's book he says - "The long delayed recognition of the Merchant Service for its lengthy and loyal service to the nation came in the last days of the 1914-18 war when a standard uniform was prescribed by the Mercantile Marine (Uniform) Order, 1918 (September), and authorised by an Order in Council on 13th December, 1921. Provision was made to prohibit its improper use by the British Mercantile Uniform Act, 1919, by which fines were imposed for the unauthorised wearing and imprisonment for bringing it into contempt." (Bet you didn't know that!) The next paragraph ends with the sentence - "Then, in 1922, King George V conferred the honour on the Merchant Service of the title 'Merchant Navy' in recognition of it sharing the hazards of the Royal Navy in the 1914-18 war."
But it was all a long time ago and no-one really cares today, except us burnt-out old gits!

Pat McCardle
3rd September 2011, 18:16
The Purple denotes the colour of the Engineer's face when the compressed air is about to run out due to over exuberant engine movement's by those up top who should have had the Jetty brought to them.[/QUOTE]

Marvelous(Jester)(Thumb)

James_C
4th September 2011, 12:48
Provision was made to prohibit its improper use by the British Mercantile Uniform Act, 1919, by which fines were imposed for the unauthorised wearing and imprisonment for bringing it into contempt." (Bet you didn't know that!)

Chillytoes,
That same prohibition still exists in the latest (1995) version of the Merchant Shipping Act. To quote from the "Merchant Shipping Act 1995" part 57:


Uniform.

(1)Subject to subsection (3) below, if any person, not being entitled to wear the merchant navy uniform, wears that uniform or any part thereof, or any dress having the appearance or bearing any of the distinctive marks of that uniform, he shall be guilty of an offence.

(2)A person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) above shall be liable, on summary conviction,(a)except in a case falling within paragraph (b) below, to a fine not exceeding level 1 on the standard scale;(b)if he wears it in such a manner or under such circumstances as to be likely to bring contempt on the uniform, to a fine not exceeding level 1 on the standard scale or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one month.

(3)Subsection (1) above shall not prevent any person from wearing any uniform or dress in the course or for the purposes of a stage play or representation, or a music-hall or circus performance if the uniform is not worn in such a manner or under such circumstances as to bring it into contempt.

(4)If any person entitled to wear the merchant navy uniform when aboard a ship in port or on shore appears dressed partly in uniform and partly not in uniform under such circumstances as to be likely to bring contempt on the uniform, or, being entitled to wear the uniform appropriate to a particular rank or position, wears the uniform appropriate to some higher rank or position, he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 1 on the standard scale.

michael charters
4th September 2011, 18:56
why the green briad for us Leckies? Oxidised copper?

Peter Fielding
4th September 2011, 21:28
why the green briad for us Leckies? Oxidised copper?

I always understood it to be green for Earth.

sparkie2182
4th September 2011, 23:04
There is an earth wire?

chadburn
5th September 2011, 16:27
Where on earth is it?

McCloggie
5th September 2011, 16:52
The others in the RN were pink for Medical Services Officers and grey for the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors.

McC

slick
6th September 2011, 07:26
All,
I have had pass my way Merchant Navy Cap badges with the Departmental Colours under the Naval Crown.
I don't know the thinking or reason for that, any offers?

Yours aye,

slick

Dickyboy
6th September 2011, 07:58
It was quite handy to know the colours as a seaman....

No Colour = Okay to talk to.
Purple = Sometimes worth talking to
Dark Green = Rarely spoken to
Scarlet = When in pain, spoken to.
White = Never spoken to.
:) :) :)

michael charters
9th September 2011, 21:45
It was quite handy to know the colours as a seaman....

No Colour = Okay to talk to.
Purple = Sometimes worth talking to
Dark Green = Rarely spoken to
Scarlet = When in pain, spoken to.
White = Never spoken to.
:) :) :)

this was so true of the Merch, never understood the class distinction
We were told not to mix with the Crowd. I would never had got my work done with out the Bosun and his seaman,

R58484956
10th September 2011, 15:37
On the QE today the senior IT man wears 2 1/2 rings with purple in between, the ER store keeper is a 2 ringer with purple in between, god knows what rings the mechanics wear. Some of the silver ringers try and get them to look like gold rings. One of the senior officers mentioned to me that being nearly every crew member has braid, he is surprised Cunard do not give it to passengers to denote what type of cabin they have. Heard one mate when in the lift tell
some lady in answer to her question " Madam I am the senior navigation officer on this vessel with a captains certificate to take over if necessary"
I leave you with my thoughts.

James_C
10th September 2011, 16:18
I know a couple of lads who're with P&O Cruises and there's no end of grief between the Hotel/Entertainment departments and just about everyone else (i.e. the Professional seamen - Mates/Engineers et al).
A lot of it boils down to said Hotel/Entertainment staff thinking they can order people around/overrule others because (for example), the Events Manager has 3 stripes, despite having no place onboard in the safety manning scale, no 'legal' status, no ticket etc.
This being an issue that seems to be common with almost all cruise companies.

alan ward
12th October 2011, 20:43
I've heard of red and green oil for the port and starboard navigation lights, but where is the purple oil for?
The purple vein

jim garnett
16th October 2011, 05:13
I always thought that the reason we had a uniform and braid so we felt really posh and then the company wouldn't have to pay us too much money.I believe during the war when naval officers addressed MN officers they addressed them as men of the merchant service and gentlemen of British India Co.This may also be one of those marine myths;but then again perhaps I'm a bit cynical in my old age.
Jim Garnett

alan ward
17th October 2011, 14:20
I never had any trouble with anyone because of their different departments.I met wonderful men of all departments and utter p***ks
in them as well.We could hurl mud around for eternity about arrogant this and arrogant but most of these arguments are started through a lack of self confidence and an over sense of self-importance

Norm
24th October 2011, 08:33
I always thought that uniforms were for eating your meals in ( except in the duty mess), as I never wore mine on any other occassion. I also thought that the braid was so you could find your seat at table. Compare the rank with the napkin rings and you saw where you should sit.
14 years on FPSO's and not a uniform in sight.

Norm
24th October 2011, 08:37
I have a theory that leccies green is the colour of the flash made when copper DC contactors open. Serving my time mainly with heavy DC gear I saw plenty of green flashes. AC made a blue flash.

Union Jack
24th October 2011, 09:35
I never had any trouble with anyone because of their different departments.

Interesting amongst all the "fun" here that the Royal Navy dispensed with colours between stripes in April 1956 (except for the Medical, Dental, and Wardmaster (later Medical Services) branches) precisely to encourage the spirit of "all of one company".

Jack

R58484956
24th October 2011, 16:17
Recently I saw on a Cunard ship at least 8 persons with FOUR rings on their sleeve. In the old days only two people. The ER storekeeper wears TWO rings with purple, but does not have a ticket.

sparks69
24th October 2011, 21:45
Years ago I was attending a Tanker Safety Course somewhere on the Solent. Those attending included a Ship Master from Mobil Tankers and a "Senior Officer" from a well known passenger company. There was a heated discussion about the wearing of uniforms and braid etc. The Senior officer asked how did a visiting Pilot know who was the Master when nobody was in a proper uniform to which the Master from Mobil replied that he was the only one on the ship wearing a baseball cap with the words CAPTAIN !

stewart4866
25th October 2011, 00:21
Years ago I was attending a Tanker Safety Course somewhere on the Solent. Those attending included a Ship Master from Mobil Tankers and a "Senior Officer" from a well known passenger company. There was a heated discussion about the wearing of uniforms and braid etc. The Senior officer asked how did a visiting Pilot know who was the Master when nobody was in a proper uniform to which the Master from Mobil replied that he was the only one on the ship wearing a baseball cap with the words CAPTAIN !

Nice one[=P]

alan ward
28th October 2011, 16:18
Never wore mine ashore through choice,a walk to the agents once in amsterdam and once in Port Elizabeth because I only had half an hours break.

rodfair
22nd April 2012, 20:45
On the QE today the senior IT man wears 2 1/2 rings with purple in between, the ER store keeper is a 2 ringer with purple in between, god knows what rings the mechanics wear. Some of the silver ringers try and get them to look like gold rings. One of the senior officers mentioned to me that being nearly every crew member has braid, he is surprised Cunard do not give it to passengers to denote what type of cabin they have. Heard one mate when in the lift tell
some lady in answer to her question " Madam I am the senior navigation officer on this vessel with a captains certificate to take over if necessary"
I leave you with my thoughts.

If you mean the QE2. After the ship was re-engined, or engined as some call it. There was such a raft of stores related to the new plant, plus the usual nut/bolts both english metric BA etc over 60 different kinds of lamps plus all the spares with associated with 24 room service pantries 4 kitchens etc etc. They took over two of the car carrying holds to become the Tech stores. Over 10,000 sf of stores. Then you had the other stores carried in the steering gear, working alleyway etc.
The first Officer storekeeper was an Engineer with a Seconds ticket.
The Senior IT guy was actually an Electronics Officer who was seconded from the Radio Dept when the created the Electronics dept rather than just Electricians.

pandokerry
23rd April 2012, 01:38
On one cruising season from Sydney with P&O I was given a copy of Womans Weekly(?) with a main article on cruising, the female author wrote about the officers on board and the colour of the braid, I don't remember it verbatim, but the gist of it was;-
White - .. if you like money... you may end up being rich...
Red- for danger
Green- for go
Blue - ?
"But ladies if you come across a purple stripe watch out, because you are up against a true professional. The difference is that while the rest think they are God's gift to women, this guy knows he is!"
Kept the article for years!
Kerry

Varley
23rd April 2012, 10:34
If you mean the QE2. seconded from the Radio Dept when the created the Electronics dept rather than just Electricians.

"Just" Electricians? No lights, no electronics (or no point in having them anyway).

marinemec2004
28th May 2012, 15:39
In a similiar vein, we had a Junior Eng on the Egton who would not touch the drink and of course he rarely went ashore until one day he suddenly decided to "go for it" and drunk us all under the table, it appeared that his Parent's owned an Off-Licence and he had plenty of training stowing bottle's of drink into his above the shop bedroom. The Purple denotes the colour of the Engineer's face when the compressed air is about to run out due to over exuberant engine movement's by those up top who should have had the Jetty brought to them.

Excellent! Love it!!!!!! Stick it to em(==D)

Shipbuilder
28th May 2012, 16:46
On my first trip in 1961 in Blue Star, the deck officers had straight stripes with the curl in the top one (3/8th inch), but all the engineers and electricians had the normal straight ones with diamonds where applicable. Why did they have two types of braid in Blue Star, or was it peculiar to that particular ship (Rhodesia Star). Or was it just their personal choice? I never found the braid rules to be enforced very much in quite a few companies and have sailed with 3rd engineers with 4 stripes and mates with 4 as well. Also, 3rd mates with two and 3rd R/Os with two!
Bob

spongebob
28th May 2012, 23:23
My experience was that we found a variety of department and rank insignia on board Union co vessels as crew transferred from other companies and took time ,if ever to change their braid.'
NZ Shipping Co wore shoulder epaulets only, even on their doeskin No ones, others had the plain sleeve stripes, others like the RN style, while most had what was the Merchant Navy standard .

Bob

orcades
31st May 2012, 18:28
As an engineer that sailed on the Orient Line in the early fifties we wore our braid on our shoulders, and had our own distinctive company hat badge, those really were the days.

Rod F
2nd October 2012, 10:02
I would add Refrigeration Engineers who had light blue.

Hi Chris - I sailed with you on a Clan Boat many years ago.

I recall Captain 'Curly' Rose asking the Ch. Lecky if he had found the earth on the board. Lecky replied, 'Yes Sir, found it last night so I put it in a flower pot on the boat deck'

Steve Oatey
3rd October 2012, 18:19
That is where he would plant his "bulbs".

djh204
5th November 2012, 23:48
I spent a few years at sea as a Deck Officer, one thing I have never found a satisfactory answer to is the reason for different coloured piping on officers braid:-

Engineers - purple
R/O's - green
Pursers - red? (memory fading)
Reefer's / Lecky's - yellow? (memory fading even more)

Can anyone explain why there were different colours piping and what was the reason for each particular colour.

Thanks

The colour purple was awarded to the Engineers on all merchant ships durinng the second world war for thier bravery by standing by thier posts not being able to fight back & going down with thier ships.

John Rogers
6th November 2012, 00:25
On cruise-ships they have the Environmental Officer who also wears purple, I also saw a ships officer wearing green. Medical department Red for blood,ours not theirs.

JT McRae
6th November 2012, 02:58
Sorry djh204, the purple piping was worn by engineer officers well before WW2.
Not 100% sure of the dates but the RN engineer officers were wearing it by the late 19th century and the merchant marine engineers followed on some time after that.

James_C
6th November 2012, 11:22
The colour purple was awarded to the Engineers on all merchant ships durinng the second world war for thier bravery by standing by thier posts not being able to fight back & going down with thier ships.

To repeat a post of mine from earlier in the thread:

"MN "branch" colours are based on the same RN colours introduced in 1864. As uniforms began to appear on merchant ships, many companies copied the RN style.
In 1922, MN uniform was standardised with the appropriate colours, diamonds etc at the same time as the UK Merchant service was granted the title "Merchant Navy" by King George V. There's an M notice about it all somewhere. Some shipping companies (e.g. P&O, Cunard) retained their own style of braid.
I'm afraid the common Titanic story and that of the 2nd World War is a myth, as Engineers began to wear purple braid from as far back as the 1860s, formalised in 1922.

Mates - no colour
Electricians - Light Green
Engineers - Purple
R/O's - initially 'wavy' braid and thence (1950s onwards) straight with dark green
Pursers - White
Chief Stewards - zig zag
Doctors - Red"

makko
6th November 2012, 14:32
"Chief Stewards - zig zag
"

Jim, is it not also yellow for chief stewards?

I only ever saw surgeon red once and that was when we received a visit from some officers off a cruise ship in Vancouver.

Rgds.
Dave

A.D.FROST
6th November 2012, 15:28
Black & Blue and red all over,worn underneath a boiler suit after a crank-case inspection.(Wave)

Mad Landsman
6th November 2012, 19:30
I only ever saw surgeon red once and that was when we received a visit from some officers off a cruise ship in Vancouver.
Rgds. Dave

It depends what Country provides the ship's officers.

Italian distinction cloth uses different colours and if the Officers are Italian or paid by a nominal Italian company then they will use their colours.

It can be confusing to see Hotel staff wearing red distinction cloth and the Surgeon (and his staff) wearing White.

While boarding a Costa ship one time I was talking to a man who I assumed to be a Purser or Chief steward but his badge said something like Medico or Chirugo, which threw me for a while.

Binnacle
6th November 2012, 21:41
James_C #56 has accurately described the Mercantile Marine Uniform as prescribed in the Order in Councils, however several members seem to be confusing this with company livery which can easily be identified by the absence of MM cap badge.
Livery is a distinctive uniform worn by servants, employees, officials etc. There is no restriction on the amount of livery braid worn by a cinema commissoner, bus conductor or merchant ship's officer, only subject to the whim of the employer. As few ships remain under the British flag I presume the uniform rules, if any, of the flag state are applicable and the MM badge will be conspicuous by it's absence.

Mad Landsman
6th November 2012, 23:04
James_C #56 has accurately described the Mercantile Marine Uniform as prescribed in the Order in Councils, however several members seem to be confusing this with company livery which can easily be identified by the absence of MM cap badge.
Livery is a distinctive uniform worn by servants, employees, officials etc. There is no restriction on the amount of livery braid worn by a cinema commissoner, bus conductor or merchant ship's officer, only subject to the whim of the employer. As few ships remain under the British flag I presume the uniform rules, if any, of the flag state are applicable and the MM badge will be conspicuous by it's absence.

Having come upon this thread, and read through it, I thought that the topic was Distinction cloth rather than braid.
Distinction cloth being the coloured cloth, originally velvet, worn between the braid to show department - Originated by the RN I believe then adopted by, and now used exclusively by, Merchant marine, of whatever company or flag.

Fred Field
24th March 2013, 13:08
I cannot remember where I saw it written but I believe, in the beginning, RN engineers 'braid' was purple and they were not considered officers. When they became officers the purple was placed between the gold or underneath if only one 'ring' was worn.
The Mercantile Marine Act specified the same colours as the RN.
BP Tanker Co, in addition to Clan Line, wore the RN 'curl' for, as I understood it, wartime services.
I understand that in the RN the Surgeons wear scarlet, Dentists orange, and the Wardmasters? pink to satisfy a requirement that as non-combatants they are identifiable as such.