Navy Net - Royal Navy Community

Register a free account today to become a member! Once signed in, you'll be able to participate on this site by adding your own topics and posts, as well as connect with other members through your own private inbox!

WWII Royal Navy Records



Hopefully I am posting this in the right place

My father was in the Royal Navy during World War Two. Prior to the war he was a cabinet maker. I have applied for his service record and it arrived today.

The significant information is in a typed up list.

HMS Drake, Acting Joiner 4th Class, 28 Sep 1943, 23 Nov 1943
Government Training Centre, Slough, Acting Joiner 4th Class, 24 Nov 1943, 15 Feb 1844
HMS Westcliff, Acting Joiner 4th Class, 16 Feb 1944, 19 Jun 1944
HMS Copra (24 Unit), Acting Joiner 4th Class, 20 Jun 1944, 25 Oct 1944
HMS Copra (24 Unit), Joiner 3rd Class, 26 Oct 1944, 31 Mar 1946
HMS Copra (also lent to Mobile Base Maintenance Unit 19 - (dates not recorded) Joiner 3rd Floor, 1 Apr 1946, 13 May 1946

.....released to shore in Class A on 13 May 1946

Family legend would have it that he didn't do much, if any, time at sea. I have done some googling re the postings listed and I guess that it could be compatible with not going to sea.

I have a couple of direct questions for which I would be grateful for any help.

I always understod that he finished as a petty officer, is that realistic for a joiner 3rd Class?

Although I found out some information about HMS Copra and can see that it wasn't a ship or a base, does the reference to 24 Unit and Unit 19 have any relevance?

Again family legend has it that, at some stage, he was based at Windsor Castle doing repairs. Is that possible?

As I said any help gratefully received.


Hello Suds,

HMS Drake was the RN accounting base at Devonport (Plymouth).

HMS Westcliff was the RN Combined Operations base at Southend.

HMS Copra was the RN drafting and accounting base at Southend.

Correlations between Rate (Rank) and SQ (Specialist Qualification) sometimes overlapped but it was usual for a Petty Officer to have at least a Second or First Class SQ. A Fifth Class SQ would normally have correlated with ordinary rate, Fourth Class with able rate and Third Class with leading rate. The only exceptions were Fourth Class Artificers who had the status of Petty Officers.

Naval personnel were employed on retinues and for specific tasks at a variety of Royal and Government establishments. I don't know if it is still the case but RN stewards have served on the staff at Chequers, the Prime Minister's official country residence, until very recently. It is therefore entirely possible that your father performed repair work at Windsor Castle.




Thanks for your response.

I have attached (hopefully) a photo of my Dad in the Navy (back row, far right). I had it mind that wearing a cap with a peak would indicate a Petty Officer. Have I got that wrong?

An online search regarding the Government Training Centre, Slough revealed the following regarding an officer:

HMS Shrapnel (RN base, Southampton) [at a RN Unit in a Government Training Centre in Slough as technical Officer responsible for the training of Shipwrights for Combined Operations]

I understand that COPRA refers to Combined Operations, so I guess it ties together. Is there any tie up between joiners and shipwrights?

I would still like to hear about 24 Unit and 19 Unit at HMS Copra




  • dad in the navy.jpg
    dad in the navy.jpg
    91.9 KB · Views: 90
Hello again Suds,

Your father is definitely wearing a petty officer's cap. As a Joiner, he would have been an 'artisan' but as a Shipwright, he would definitely have been an 'artificer'. Although this was before my time, I remember being told that artisans were a grade below artificers but perhaps they shared some of the same privileges with regard to accelerated advancement (promotion) and status?

See here on the website for further information:Note that artisans (Plumbers, Painters, Joiners, Coopers), Blacksmiths and Shipwrights shared the same crossed axe and hammer SQ badge.

I'm guessing that the units were mobile groups, similar to Naval Parties (NPs), deployed for tasks wherever the requirement arose.
Last edited:
According to Lt Cdr Ben Warlow's Shore Establishments of the Royal Navy:

HMS WESTCLIFF Southend, Combined Operations Base. Commissioned 17 Nov 1942 - training from EFFINGHAM Dec 1943 when college transferred to US Navy. Admin transferred from Commodore Southend to Commander-in-Chief Nore (Chatham) 15 Oct 1945. Task of UK main holding base for Combined Operations personnel to Rosneath 29 Oct 1945. Paid off 21 Jan 1946, closed 6 Mar 1946.

HMS COPRA Largs/Southend/London, CO Pay & Drafting Office. Commissioned 30 Aug 1943 accounts ex-QUEBEC and DINOSAUR - at Chelsea Court SW7, vacated by 3 Aug 1944. COPRA (Drafting) at Southend by Nov 1943, to Largs 5 Oct 1945. COPRA (Pay) at Largs by Aug 1944... COPRA paid off 30 Jun 1946, Largs (main buildings, The Moorings) vacated 15 Jul 1946, retard party closed 15 Jan 1947...


Hello again

Many thanks soleil. I have applied to the National archive for some of the documents that you have referenced.

Naval Gazer, many thanks for the information provided. I have a letter that my mother wrote to my father in March 1944, it is addressed to HMS Flora, Invergordon.

"During the war, the base (HMS Flora) supported coastal forces craft, minesweepers, harbour defence craft, auxiliaries and the occasional destroyer."

I would like to thank you for the information given here. Any further information would be warmly received.




War Hero
Book Reviewer
Artisans were half way between seamen and artificers and included sailmakers who were still at sea in 1960. I would think that joiners were phased out as shipwrights (who were artificers) took over the role, particularly as they had broader hull repsonsibilities and one would suppose the joiner was limited to woodwork - but with so many wooden boats during the war, including all sorts of MTBs and so forth, during the wear there would have been plenty of work for them. NB the Shipwright category in Gazer's (fascinating) chart starts at apprentice.
Once the battelships went and the Fleet reduced in size post-war the number of sea billets for specialist categories must have been instantly much reduced so a shipwright who could do all those things would have been a better bet.

Artisans would have worn fore and aft rig with red cap badge until rated Petty Officer equivalent when they would upgrade their cap badge to a proper PO's one.

The chippies could be pretty good cabinet makers in their own right. Once when I had to go and see them about a boat I had inadvertently modified I found them making a complete dining suite for one of their number who was getting married and very smart it was too.

HMS COPRA had the entire Combined Ops force on its books which of course included all the base staff who kept the operational side running.
When our seaboat (a clinker-built 27 foot wooden whaler) was damaged on board HMS Torquay, the ship's 'Chippy', a Chief Shipwright by the name of Wilson, instructed his apprentice to repair it. He wasn't very impressed when 'Baby Chippy' responded, "Actually, Chief, I wasn't much good with wood at Fisgard."

HMS Fisgard was the Artificer Apprentice training establishment at Torpoint.
I should have mentioned that Chippy Wilson was a traditional Chief Shipwright who had never acknowledged being re-titled a Chief Marine Engineering Artificer (Hull), i.e. CMEA(H). In the same vein, the Chief Engine Room Artificer (CERA) had never taken kindly to being re-titled a CMEA(P), where the 'P' stood for 'Propulsion', and steadfastly refused to respond to it.


War Hero
Book Reviewer
Which relates to the fact that the chippies, heirs to the ship's carpenter who was a warrant officer like the gunner, were part of the EXECUTIVE branch because they were there long before sooty stokers fouled the snow-white decks.


Hello again

I got a bit excited receiving my Dad's service record the other night started me searching online. The more I searched and received information, the clearer things became.

I'm not sure I'll ever get to the bottom of it (my Dad died in 1962 when I was still a boy). However I think I'm getting a general picture. My Dad was 35 and married when he volunteered so maybe he was protected a little. He had been working for many years as a cabinet maker and was, by all accounts, highly skilled, so I guess there would be many uses for him in the Navy. It looks like all his service life was spent in Combined Operations, I presume from todays discussions and revelations, working on wooden boats of one sort or another.

I spoke to my brother earlier and he recalled that our Dad was demobbed from HMS Foliot and when I looked that up it had another Combined Operations connection. If it comes to pass I would still be keen to learn of anything specific that he was involved with. The reference to HMS Copra Units 19 and 24 still intrigues and may lead somewhere.

Incidentally the reference in my Dad's last posting to: ....Joiner 3rd Floor, 1 Apr 1946, 13 May 1946 is not a typographical error (at least not on my part). That's what it says on the record I received. Could it really mean that or should I just read it as Joiner 3rd Class?

I'd like once again to thank you for your kind help.

suds Posts: 2 Joined: Sep 11th, '11, 13:47
From Ben Warlow's Shore Establishments of the Royal Navy:

FOLIOT Tamerton Foliot, Plym, Accom Camp. Commissioned 27.07.1942 - Paid Off 31.03.46 - became FOLIOT IV Camp for personnel on special service, there was also a Foliot Keyham Office (FKO) in North Yard, Devonport. See also BRADFORD (FOLIOT). Nominal Depot Ship: MAY QUEEN (1902) passenger launch 27.07.42 - lost in collision 17.11.43. Passenger Launch 421187 from 17.11.43 to 03.46.

FOLIOT I Plymouth, Landing Craft accounting Base and Special Service HQ Camp by 03.1944. On 06.05.44 LC accounting and maintenance organisation transferred from ALBATROSS. Hutted camp Paid Off 15.03.46. Establishment Paid Off 31.03.46 - camp became overflow for RN Barracks at Tamerton Foliot (hutted accommodation) and Calstock. Probably same as FOLIOT above and new name used when other parts FOLIOT formed.

FOLIOT II Efford, Plymouth, Repair Base Listed 07.1943 - not listed by 12.44

FOLIOT III Bickleigh, Plymouth, Landing Craft Base 07.1943-10.46. Holding Base for Combined Operations personnel.

FOLIOT IV Granby Barracks, Plymouth, 02.04.1946 ex FOLIOT/FOLIOT I. Paid Off 12.08.46. Also Foliot Keyham Office (FKO) in North Yard, Devonport. In one list as Coastal Forces Base.

The reference to "Joiner 3rd Floor" is mystifying. I can only surmise that the writer meant "Joiner 3rd Class" but had a sudden rush of blood to the brain.
Shipwright Joiners were the same as a normal shipwright they classified themselves as specialists by preference .
In my younger days I had the priviledge to be a shipwrights mate on a destroyer 1959-60 they were both CPO's but one was a 3rd class and the other was a 2nd class. They were both joiners but fully integrated with boat and wood /metal structure repairs .I filled in as Plumber and go-for.
In those days you could join the RN as an artificer as direct entry tradesman .If you had qualified as a civilian journeyman the RN
would allow you to join usually as a Petty Officer 4th Class ;Especially useful for specialists needed in Depot ships and ashore
as instructors

Happy days




Thank you Greenie, that's interesting and, I guess, explains how my Dad came to be a PO.

All this historical exploration has led me further onwards. I ventured into the loft and pulled out a box that hasn't been opened for many years. There were a couple of things of relevance and maybe interest on here.

I could start by saying that my Dad was a Liverpudlian and a sportsman, in his day he was a good footballer (he played for Liverpool schoolboys). It seems he was always involved in organising teams.

So, in the box in the loft, I found three things that I've scanned and hopefully attached.

A letter dated 7 Jan 1946 addressed to HMS Foliot IV, presumably that is the one that my Dad was in.

A teamsheet for a match on 15 November 1944. The team is described as No 24 M.B.U, Football Team and in another place on the sheet as No 24 Mobile Unit. This presumably explains the HMS Copra 24 Unit that is on his service record. By the way it looks like they were a good team, I'm not sure if it will show up but my Dad has hand written underneath BMU 24 - 8 BMU 2 - 1

A leter from my Mum to my Dad in August 1944

It might not be readable but the address is:

MMU 24 Tent 89
HMS Flora IV
Devonport Park

I wonder if my Mum has got that wrong and she should have been writing to HMS Foliot IV. Well anyway, it evidently got there because my Dad kept it.

I seem to have gone on a bit, hope you don't mind




  • Letter to Dad in the Navy.jpg
    Letter to Dad in the Navy.jpg
    99.6 KB · Views: 17
  • Dad's Football Team.jpg
    Dad's Football Team.jpg
    101.2 KB · Views: 19
  • Letter to Dad from Mum.jpg
    Letter to Dad from Mum.jpg
    99.7 KB · Views: 18
Thread starter Similar threads Forum Replies Date
MoD_RSS Royal Navy blows up WWII mine Current Affairs 1
soleil "Veteran WWII Submariner Visits Modern Royal Navy" Submariners 2
RoboScorpion Question: What did WWII Royal Navy engine room crew wear? History 10
soleil New Memorial to Royal Marines KIA on Crete (WWII) is planned The Corps 1
Guns Royal and Percy fighting in WWII conditions Current Affairs 8
soleil The Not Forgotten Association - 'Forgot You Not' Gift Box For WWII Veterans History 1
Naval_Gazer Queen approves posthumous VC for WWII Australian minesweeper sailor International 1
harbour_cotter HMS TRADEWIND WWII SUBMARINE Submariners 2
MoD_RSS Speech: British High Commissioner addresses opening of exhibition dedicated to WWII veterans MoD News 0
Sumo Looking for info on WWII Pongo History 12
MoD_RSS News story: MOD in search for family of WWII RAF Airman from Wales MoD News 0
Guns RAF WWII bombs - the gifts that still give. Current Affairs 4
B Minesweepers in WWII History 5
J Help! Mentioned in Despatches Info WWII The Fleet 5
U HMS Victory (RNB) WWII Bulldog Mascot History 13
J New WWII RAF documentary History 0
F Father was signalman in WWII ... The Fleet 3
soleil BBC News: "How Germany's Feared Scharnhorst Ship Was Sunk In WWII" History 1
soleil BBC2: The Most Courageous Raid of WWII - 01 November 2011 - 2100 The Corps 10
soleil Faber & Faber: "Ian Fleming's Commandos - The Story Of 30 Assault Unit In WWII" The Book Club 2
MoD_RSS Intelligence unit deployed to Afghanistan as movie about WWII predecessor hits the sc Current Affairs 0
finknottle Cameron WWII 'junior partner' gaffe The Gash Barge 23
scouse Fw: Virtual tour of a WWII submarine... Submariners 6
Naval_Gazer WWII mine blown up in Weymouth Bay Current Affairs 8
sgtpepperband Sunk Australia WWII hospital ship Centaur: first images History 1
I WWII Merchant Navy badge History 3
WhizzbangDai Japan gains largest warship since WWII, and exped capability The Fleet 2
scouse WWII Pilots FAA The Fleet Air Arm 22
I WWII Mess Roll History 6
buggerit84 Sikhs in WWII History 10
P A/B F Cheadle - Casualty from WWII History 10
T How To Research A WWII Bootie The Quarterdeck 3
5dits WWII torpedo boat to be restored History 1
C WWII Fleet ranks. History 6
C WWII rank. The Fleet Air Arm 13
exspy Why Have so Few Post WWII RM Novels Been Written? Social & Reunions 10
redshank Relative in WWII RN submarine Submariners 7
MoD_RSS The Secretary of State has appointed Sir Mark Walport as the Royal Society’s Trustee for the British Museum. MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Statutory Instrument on Royal Navy Police enforcement powers MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Private International Law Bill gains Royal Assent MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Red letter day for Royal Navy in Scotland MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Royal Navy warships monitor significant Russian presence close to UK waters MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Security Minister speech to the Royal United Services Institute MoD News 0
MoD_RSS World-class autonomous minehunters to protect Royal Navy MoD News 1
AccessHeritage Royal Navy's Use of The Infernal Machine History 19
MoD_RSS Royal Navy warship sails into Arctic Circle for High North operation MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Royal Mail to collect COVID-19 test kits 7 days a week MoD News 0
MoD_RSS Immigration Act receives Royal Assent: free movement to end on 31 December 2020 MoD News 0
MoD_RSS UK Royal Navy concludes first joint exercises with Egypt MoD News 0
Rai999 Permanently medically unfit ( Royal marine commando Joining the Royal Navy 4
Similar threads

New Posts