Organization of the RN Signal Department, 1913

This overview of the way in which the Signal Department in a Royal Navy warship was arranged is taken from the British Admiralty's Handbook of Signalling, 1913.

63. It is not practicable to produce an organization which will be exactly applicable to every ship under all conditions of service, but the following general principles may be taken as a guide.

2. The Signal staff is divided into two sections:- Watchkeepers and Daymen.

The Watchkeepers, as far as practicable, keep four standing watches. Circumstances may sometimes require them to keep three watches, but in peace routine this should only be for short periods. Experience has shown that the best results are obtained by keeping four watches and calling up the watch below in times of unusual stress.

3. The remainder of the staff (with the exception of certain ratings told off for special duties) comprise the Daymen and are divided into two watches. They should be available for work from "Hands fall in" (in harbour), or time of scrubbing decks (at sea), until 10 p.m., or as requisite, one watch only being on deck during meal hours and dog watches. Both watches for the remainder of the time, when pressure of work requires it.

4. In war routine, the staff is put into three standing watches. It must be borne in mind that early daylight is a most likely time for flag signals to be hoisted. This especially applies to vessels spread. Great care should therefore be taken, when in war organization, to ensure a sufficient number of hands being available at this time.

5. The following are the main points in the peace organization of first class ships: Other vessels should follow roughly the same lines, taking into consideration the number of ratings borne and the service on which the vessel is employed.



Watchkeepers Chief Yeoman For Flag Captain
4 Yeomen Yeomen of Watches
4 Leading Signalmen Leading Hands of watches
4 Signalmen 2nd Hands of watches

Special Duties
Distributing Office (when this system is in vogue) 1 Yeoman or Leading Signalman In charge of Distributing Office.
1 Leading Signalman 2nd Hand of Distribution Office
2 Signalmen Loggers

NOTE:- The Distributing Office staff for other ships can be modified as necessary according to circumstances.
. 1 Leading Signalman To attend on Signal Officer

Remainder of the staff form the Daymen, with a Leading Signalman in Charge.

Battle Cruiser or Cruiser.
1 Chief Yeoman For Flag Captain
3 Yeomen For three watches at sea. In harbour, two work watch and watch in charge of deck from 6 am to 10 pm, or as requisite. The 3rd (Day Yeoman) in general charge of Daymen.
4 Leading Signalmen Leading Hands of Watches
4 Signalmen 2nd Hands of Watches

Special Duties.
Distributing Office As for Battleship (Flagship)
To attend on Signal Officer Ditto

Remainder of the staff form the Daymen. The senior rating taking charge at sea in place of the Day Yeoman.


BATTLESHIP (Not Flagship).
1 Chief Yeoman In charge
3 Yeomen As for Cruiser Flagship
4 Leading Signalmen Leading Hands of watches
4 Signalmen Second Hands of watches

Remander of staff form the Daymen.

Battle Cruiser or Cruiser (Not Flagship).
2 Yeomen Watch and watch from 6 am till 10 pm or as requisite, unless circumstances require them on deck at night
4 Leading Signalmen Leading Hands of watches
4 Signalmen Second Hands of watches.

Remainder of the staff form the Daymen, with a Leading Signalman in charge.


Chief Yeoman. (Flagship).

66. To be entirely responsible for keeping the Captain generally informed, and for all instructional work.

NOTE- When immediate action is required, and the Chief Yeoman of Signals is not on the bridge, the Yeoman of the watch is responsible that the Captain is informed.

Chief Yeoman (Other Ships).

67. In charge of the Staff.

Yeoman of Watch.

68. The senior hand in each watch, whatever his rating may be, is termed the Yeoman of the watch. He is responsible for the general conduct of signalling on the bridge; distribution, dress, and behaviour of men on watch; also reporting immediate signals or occurrences (and in ships with no Distributing Office for reporting all signals). He should, as far as possible, avoid making or reading signals himself, but should supervise. All signals made or received should pass through his hands. He is also responsible for the safe custody of the signal books during his watch.

Leading Hand of Watch.

69. In Harbour:- Generally to assist the Yeoman, and in his absence to perform his duties.

At Sea:-
(a) To keep watch on the Navigation Bridge from the time the signal is made to unmoor or shorten in until the ship moors or anchors again.
(b) Never to leave the Bridge until properly relieved, unless ordered by the Officer of the Watch to do so.
(c) To report to the Officer of the Watch all signals and other matters which concern him.
(d) At Night, to look out for the Executive Signal and to report it instantly to the Officer of the Watch.
(e) Above all, the Leading Hand should exercise his faculties as a look-out. He should be the first to sight and report Land, Lightships, Buoys, Lighthouses, Prominent Navigational marks, Ships and Boats of all descriptions, floating objects, etc; his telescope or glasses should be constantly in use to look out for the above, and he should regard it as a reflection on his ability if anyone sights anything before he does. There is no objection to his asking the Officer of the Watch from time tot time if there is anything special for him to look out for.
(f) To report large steamers, and to make himself acquainted (by referring to the Mercantile Navy List, Funnel and House Flag Book, Lloyd's Shipping News, etc) with the identity of passing steamers, but this is not to be done at the expense of keeping a constant good look-out.
(g) To look out for Coastguard Stations hoisting the "Demand", to watch for Steamers dipping, and to see the ensign is dipped in return.
(h) To be thoroughly acquainted with the lights displayed by the different descriptions of Fishing Vessels, and to know what nets to look out for and their probable direction.
(i) Generally speaking, he should seek to make himself a thoroughly reliable assistant to the Officer of the Watch.
(j) In the event of the Navigating Officer or Captain being on the Bridge, he should, in the absence of the Chief Yeoman, report all signals to them as well as to the Officer of the Watch.

Second Hand of Watch.

70. Generally assist the Yeoman in looking out, and with semaphore work.

Leading Hand of Daymen.

71. In charge of stores, repair and cleaning work, and placing and returing of cones, lights, etc.

The Rating attached to the Signal Officer.

72. Should write up Admiral's Log and Salute Book, and assist Signal Officer.

Distributing Office.

73. The object of the Distributing Office is to relieve the Signal Bridge from the responsibility for reporting routine and other non-immediate signals. It has been found convenient to work the Distributing Office from 6 am till 10 pm, during which time all logging, filing, reporting, etc, is done there.

2. Signals requireing immediate action, movements of ships, unusual events outside the ship, etc, are reported direct from the bridge, but all other signals are sent to the Distributing Office for the necessary action to be taken.

3. The duties of the Distributing Office staff should be as follows:-

The Yeoman and Leading Signalman (or the two Leading Signalmen) work watch and watch while the Distributing Office is open, the senior rating being responsible for the organization, conduct, etc.

The Loggers are responsible for the logging and filing of signals.

Four messengers should be detailed for distributing signals. These should be provided from other departments.

Station Board.

74. A station board should be made out for "Stations for going in or out of harbour", "General Evolutions", "Dressing Ship", "Cleaning Quarters", "Signal Exercise", "Action Stations", etc, and should also show the organization of watches and Daymen, the latter being numbered.

Stations should be assigned as far as possible to standing numbers, and should not be detailed haphazard.

Last Updated: 11 February, 2000.

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