Question: What did WWII Royal Navy engine room crew wear?

I'm interested in what WWII Royal Navy engine room crew used to wear during everyday (wartime) operations (i.e. not "dress uniform" if that's the term).

The few images I can find on-line suggest probably a boiler suit (coveralls) or maybe separate shirt and trousers. I'd expect boiler suits to be navy blue but obviously colour photos are few and far between...

I would expect they'd have worn some sort of vest/undershirt underneath a boiler suit, and if so what colour(s) might that be?

How about caps? In some photos I've seen, engineers are wearing caps - some white, maybe with "tally", others just dark 'flat cap' style - but in other pictures they are not.

For some reason, my mind also conjures up pictures of engine room crew wearing neckerchiefs of some sort, though this might just be my brain getting confused with steam train drivers! :?

Logic suggests they'd be issued with sturdy boots or shoes, too...

So if anyone can provide me with any definitive answers, I'd be hugely grateful. Or, indeed, any picture resources on-line or in print...

Thanks very much in advance!!!


War Hero
Book Reviewer
My recollection post WW2 is that the stokers often wore a POs or Officer's white cap cover turned back in front, This died out when plastic caps came in, for obvious reasons.

Otherwise I should think blue ovies and steaming bats. Officers, white ovies. Wheel spanner down the side pocket, angle torch clipped to the top pocket, heavy duty leather gloves, and beads of perspiration.
Re: Question: What did WWII Royal Navy engine room crew wear

A further observation would be that in the engine rooms which were very hot very few would wear a vest, and in fact many barely buttoned up their overalls and various sweat catchers were worn either on the head or round the neck. Boiler rooms were very different because with the open face admiralty 3 drum boiler of the period the boiler rooms were pressurised and all the air consumed by the boiler was pumped through the boiler fooms by very large steam turbine driven fans. This meant that in the artic they were bl**dy cold and you tended to wear a bit extra. I have stood watch with a POME in a greatcoat, because he was restricted in his movement to a small area with all the boiler controls within reach which was right under one of the fans. In the tropics boiler rooms were reasonably comfortable.


War Hero
I have pictures of my dad in overalls. They wern't too dissimilar to the 'Billy and Johnny' overalls issued these days and many wore either a snake belt or their pussers issue moneybelt round their midriff. His boots were standard issue with an armoured toecap and in his time as an enginer room stoker, he would wear a cloth round his neck tucked into his collar (for buffing brightwork as well) and on the upperdeck his pussers cap, jaunty angle with the bow at the front. Everywhere he went, he carried his personalised 10" wheelie, rolling the thing both under and over his index finger. The overalls were (as he used to tell me) falling to bits onaccount of the many boil outs he would conduct to wash them every middle watch.

Good, interesting stuff coming in - thanks all.

But I'm having trouble with some of this slang:
"Steaming Bats"
"10'' Wheelie"
"Billy and Johnny" (Reference to Hale & Pace's bib & brace overalls?)

Anyone care to enlighten me? :)

A couple of other things:
1) Did they routinely used to wear any "accessories" or fashion/personalisation items (badges, lapel pins etc)
2) Did they have name tags on their overalls like they seem to do today?

Re: Question: What did WWII Royal Navy engine room crew wear

All very interesting....... :razz:

Maxi...... Piccies please :) ...just to help this enquirer understand what you're describing, you understand ;)

Now stokers and their tats is another fascinating area for discussion! :lol:
Re: Question: What did WWII Royal Navy engine room crew wear


Steaming Bats - boots with steel toe-caps and non-slip soles.

Possible corruption of "steaming boots" ie boots for wearing when working on a steamer.

10" wheelie - spanner for opening valve wheels.


Lantern Swinger
Steaming bats == non slip(hopefully)steaming boots
10" wheelie == wheel spanner, a piece of kit that allows you to open or close a tight (and usually hot) valve, by giving extra leverage on the valve handwheel.

Pic of wheelspanner on website wheel spanner.JPG

Steaming hat-- the most disreputable cap you owned, some limited head protection when crawling about in a machinery space and also used when held in the hand to search for invisible steam leaks.Also known as a "bashed goss" : goss being ERAs slang for cap.

Now go onto British Pathe website

Search for
Engine room british warship

You will be able to download two engine room filmclips about HMS Rodney WW2
Pathe reference numbers are 1978.12 and 1994.01

I have also posted a pic in this website photos section of a WW1 throttle jockey. Nothing changes.
( Main Engines Steam valve engine room artificer

Dependent on the weather of where the ship was operating ,on watch garb could be overalls, underpants, socks , steaming hat in the tropics
to buttoned up layers of everything including waterproof souwester if in North Atlantic winter conditions.
Temperatures from comfortable to roasting-- especially if sootblowing between the boiler uptakes -- well over 100 degF.

I have had half a ton of water come down into the boiler room via a ventilation trunking that copped a large wave on its upper deck intake.


War Hero
Re: Question: What did WWII Royal Navy engine room crew wear

The films of the time and shortly thereafter give a good idea of what MEs wore - in the machinery spaces. Example, the Chief Tiff in the Cruel Sea ( most likely the senior engineer in a corvette), steaming (uniform) cap and old reefer jacket over number 8s or overalls was then de riguer for any self respecting ME Senior Rate.

Today, some of the old and bold SRs and those affecting to be so still have a steaming cap which makes one look like a U Boat C/O at both watches. The current Slops peaked caps don't lend themselves to looking 'vintage'.....or even smart.

Talking of history, Thingy, I thought that you'd put your particular fetish back in the closet so far as these pages are concerned. Disappointed but not surprised to see it make a return and no amount of winky / lol emoticons make it cute.
Re: Question: What did WWII Royal Navy engine room crew wear steaming cap was a relegated cap adorned with the old 'metal' po's cap badge and a white cloth cover...which had the odd regulation FFO spot stain thereon..... That with a pair of well dobyed faded ovies (soft and comfortable) chinky nix and steaming bats, not forgetting my trusty mini wheel spanner, made up my Boiler Rm watch below attire...That was in the early 70's...doubt much had changed from WW11 attire as the RN still had a few steam ship around in my time....
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