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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.
 

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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.
 

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I know this is a rather old thread, but the whole subject is well covered in a recent book “Heraldry Of The Oceans. The Garb Of The Merchant Seafarer.” by Alastair Arnott. ISBN 978 0 7524 9341 1.
Its all there, braid, colours cap badges, livery etc.
 

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Malim Sahib Moderator
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I know this is a rather old thread, but the whole subject is well covered in a recent book “Heraldry Of The Oceans. The Garb Of The Merchant Seafarer.” by Alastair Arnott. ISBN 978 0 7524 9341 1.
Its all there, braid, colours cap badges, livery etc.
I remember having a flick through it and there are some errors in that book also.
 

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Albiet standard MN braid with diamond Clan Line had a curl as in RN
I sailed all my time with Clan Line, Union Castle & King Line. I always understood that BOT certified officers wore a curl on their braid and uncertificated officers wore just plain stripes. Diamond braids and wavy lines are perhaps individual company uniform. Mind you, I never saw anything in writing, one way or the other.
 

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Malim Sahib Moderator
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I sailed all my time with Clan Line, Union Castle & King Line. I always understood that BOT certified officers wore a curl on their braid and uncertificated officers wore just plain stripes. Diamond braids and wavy lines are perhaps individual company uniform. Mind you, I never saw anything in writing, one way or the other.
Diamonds were the official MN braid and made a legally recognised uniform by an Order in Council issued in 1921.
Curles were adopted by individual companies as a preference.
 

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Bill,
Thanks for reminding me of Talbot-Booth. I do have a copy (3rd Edition), but it deals with a whole lot of other stuff - about 7 pages on uniform - while Arnott's book deals specifically with uniforms, braid, etc. in 118 pages.
On another note, in Talbot-Booth there is very little space devoted to engineers, something like 12 lines, whereas there are 14 the surgeon and 29 devoted to pursers. I don't have the time to try and count the number of pages devoted to the deck, mates and seamen, 'native crews', etc, etc
 

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Braid colours

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
Pursers were white, Doctors Red, Electricians Green,Sparkys
originally no colours but a zig zag braid. One reason given for the Engineer Officers purple was for bravery on the sinking of the Titanic, but open for discussion.
 

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Pursers were white, Doctors Red, Electricians Green,Sparkys
originally no colours but a zig zag braid. One reason given for the Engineer Officers purple was for bravery on the sinking of the Titanic, but open for discussion.
Sorry to say, Clifford, but that is unfortunately a myth. As related in Talbot-Booth (above) the colours associated with department comes from the "fighting navy" norms. Howver, not many people know that and I have been guilty of relating the Titanic reason for our (engineers) braid!

Best regards,
Dave
 

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If people really must attribute the adoption of all colours of distinction cloth by the Merchant Service to a particular event then maybe they should choose something like the sinking of the Lusitania.
It was at that point when the world realised that Merchant Seafarers were well and truly on the front line of a war and subject to all the hazards so pertaining. It was therefore right and proper that they should be treated the same, with the same insignia, as their fighting brethren.
Albeit it took another seven years for something like that to happen.
 

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Pursers were white, Doctors Red, Electricians Green,Sparkys originally no colours but a zig zag braid.
Under the official uniform configuration dated 1919 and until 1963, Radio Officer's braid was as shown in the Talbot-Booth do***ent (copy attached) posted by Bill Morrison in #63 this thread. Thereafter the R/O's braid was as per the attached do***ent (02).

Other braid patterns and colours, combinations of which existed in several forms and were used by various shipping companies, is not official Merchant Navy uniform but may be more correctly described as Company livery. Entitlement to use such livery is not subject to any official rules or regulations and is entirely the prerogative of the issuing Company.
 

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Malim Sahib Moderator
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If people really must attribute the adoption of all colours of distinction cloth by the Merchant Service to a particular event then maybe they should choose something like the sinking of the Lusitania.
It was at that point when the world realised that Merchant Seafarers were well and truly on the front line of a war and subject to all the hazards so pertaining. It was therefore right and proper that they should be treated the same, with the same insignia, as their fighting brethren.
Albeit it took another seven years for something like that to happen.
The specific event which served as the genesis for the formalisation of uniform was the demise of Charles Fryatt in 1916.
Prior to that nobody in either authority or the public were particularly concerned about the loss of merchant seamen (something which carried on into the next war), passengers were a different matter of course.
 

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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
As far as I recall pursers had white backing to their braid.
 

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Purple cloth signifying engineers is often erroneously thought to be an award for the bravery of engineers on the Titanic. However even if so, why would it have been purple? Apart from being the colour that senators edged their togas with in ancient Rome, why purple? Whats so special about purple?, and if it is so special then the deck officers would have had it first.
 

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#77
When the Royal Navy introduced the idea c1860s Deck department were assigned Blue distinction cloth, which was in use for some years into the 20th century.
There were obviously only so many distinctive colours of cloth available and for some reason now lost in history Their Lordships allocated purple to Engineering.

The Merchant Service adopted the colours as they were already in use by the RN.
 
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