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The Ships Crest

This was taken from the Devonshire Magazine Spring Cruise 1950.
Thanks to Jerry Judge RMB of this commission for loan of magazines

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
H.M.S. “Devonshire,” At Sea.
22nd March, 1950.

Dear Sir,
Devonshire CrestMay I call attention, through your Magazine, to the present poor Heraldic state of the ship?
As you may have observed, our badge is a lion rampant. Looking round the ship, it is apparent that here uniformity ends.

On the forebridge the lion is golden on a red ground. On whalers and pinnaces he is red on a silver ground. On tompions and bollards he is uncoloured.

His position also varies. On the bollards on the after screen he is often almost on all fours. On the boat’s life-buoys he faces his opposite number across the centre of the buoy.
All this, Sir, is very wrong. A badge is granted by a special Admiralty committee, on which is a representative of the Heralds’ College. It should no more be varied than should the White Ensign.

All H.M. ships, all regiments in the Army, and all R.A.F. squadrons have their own badge, and I submit that ours is a good one, and should be looked after accordingly.

What is our correct badge? The answer is in the Ship’s Book, kept by Captain’s Secretary, where the Admiralty have provided an official coloured drawing of the badge. In Herald’s language (blazoning) it would be described somewhat as follows:—
“Argent, a lion rampant gules, crowned or, and with tongue and claws azure.”

In other words, our lion is red on a silver ground. He is rampant, that is to say, prancing on hind legs with fore legs and tail in the air. And he faces towards our left as we look at him. He wears a gold crown, and—quite a touch—has a blue tongue and blue claws.
Various implications follow. Obviously the forebridge and lifebuoy lions are wrong in colour. Also rampant lions do not look towards each other, but to our left. On a lifebuoy, both must look the same way. On the bows of a boat, the port lion will look for’ard, and the starboard lion aft. On bollards and tompions the lion should definitely ramp, as opposed to slinking along on all fours.
So much is correct heraldry, and could be got right.

Looking into the private life of our lion, I think he is probably quite a distinguished fellow. In olden days lions were not given to every Tom, Dick and Harry for their coats of arms. Still less often did the Heralds award red lions rampant, and—especially——crowned lions.
The earliest lion is found on the seal of Phillip 1, Duke of Flanders, in 1164, and subsequently lions were usually a mark of royalty or of a powerful and noble person.
For instance, there are the lions of the King of England, which appear in two quarters of the Royal Standard. Lions also appear in the arms of the Kings of Scotland, Norway and Denmark; also in certain ancient families such as Bohun and Percy.

At a guess, I would say that our lion may once have belonged to the Earls of Devon; thence to Devonshire, and eventually to H.M.S. “Devonshire.”

Incidentally the carved wooden shield to be seen on the after screen in harbour is not a ship’s badge, but a coat of arms. It has a ship above, our lion below, and beneath that the motto: “ Auxilio Divino,” meaning “By God’s Help.” Again guessing, I should say that this shield probably shows the arms of Torquay, whose citizens have adopted this ship.

In conclusion, Sir, may I ask you to use your great influence, especially with Putty, to get all our lions into the correct rig; all fallen in in the right posture, and all facing the proper way?

I am, etc.,
Yours faithfully,
P.M.O.

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