The RSN carried on and kept embroidering during WWII

7th May, 2020

Today, the day before the 75th VE Day anniversary celebrations (‘Victory in Europe Day’), we would like to share with you some insights in to the commissions received around this period in the RSN Workroom, today the ‘Embroidery Studio’.

To mark this important day there had been many events planned across the country which have now unfortunately been cancelled, but this does not stop the RSN from sharing some wonderful history and stories of our activities during the war period when our work did not stop due to working with the military.

We will also be sharing more stories over the course of the weekend on our Facebook  and Instagram social media pages so make sure you catch us there for more wonderful insights and pictures from our history!


What did you do in the War, RSN?

RSN Workbook entries from the 1940sLooking back through the Workroom’s order books gives us a fascinating insight into the RSN’s range of jobs, and just how busy it was, during the Second World War.

Work was commissioned by or for individuals, the armed forces and allied forces, for companies such as J&P Coats (now Coats Group, largest supplier of threads), Wm. Briggs Ltd. (the main creators of transfers for embroidery) and Good Housekeeping magazine, as well as for the War Office.



Regimental badges

In conjunction with the War Office, the RSN produced the badge of each regiment, which was then sent to Wm. Briggs Ltd. who translated this into an iron-on transfer which could be used on any piece of material. When we launched the badges we suggested the design could be used for the Radio Times cover. The idea behind this was that those with someone fighting in the war could make the relevant badge, but we also know that some of those fighting chose to work the badges themselves. When originally launched at the beginning of the war they included just the main British Regiments, but by the end of the war they included almost all the allied regiments plus the new corps which were established during the war.

RSN Workbooks from the 1940sWe can see in the Work books, orders for groups of these badges for Wm. Briggs, ‘Order 54.K.39 To supply 20 badges or crests for the various regiments Emb in Clarks stranded’ (now known as Anchor) which were requested in December 1939, another 20 in early January 1940 and a dozen more in February 1940. By 1942, the orders in the Work book were now for US Army Signals Badge, the Physical Training Corps, the Reconnaissance Corps and the Royal Armoured Corps.

The Clarks thread that was used for the regimental badges was produced by J&P Coats who were another regular customer of the RSN during the war, as we made the original samples for their kits. The Work book entries include the J&P Coats code number, the item, and often its technique plus the request for the methodology, such as ‘GS2844 Tea cloth cross stitch and all instructions’ or ‘GV3883 Luncheon set and all instructions’.


Serving the armed forces

The war period began with the repairing of flags and standards and continued with the making of new flags, e.g. for the Grenadier Guards after their Henry VII and James I standards were badly damaged in a fire, and a banner for the Land Army. Our customers, however, were not just from this country. We also made flags and banners for an international clientele including the Dutch Ministry of Defence; the Dutch Indian Regiment, a banner for Mysore State and flags for the Royal Norwegian Air Force, the Free French force and the Queen of Tonga.

As the war progressed, new units were established and some of those turned to the RSN for help with their insignia. During 1942, we were heavily involved with creating wings for the newly established Army Observation Post Squadrons (later Army Air Corps). What is particularly significant is that it is clear from the Work books that individual AOP officers often purchased their own wings so we have the names of many of the first participants in this corps.

RSN Workbook entries for miltary wings, 1940sBefore our current lockdown, here in 2020, we were working with the Army Flying Museum to track the details of some of these people and we hope to be able to give more details to you in the future, including Captain Tetley Jones 651 AOP Squadron who, by his second order of wings, was Major Tetley Jones, then with 653 AOP Squadron. The AOP Squadrons recruited people who already had flying experience to fly slow, low level aircraft on behalf of the artillery to help them fix on the position of the enemy. As they were so comparatively slow and low flying, by the time faster fighter aircraft had seen them, they had already overflown them. Altogether, the RSN made nearly 200 pairs of wings for the AOP in 1942-43.

We were later asked to work badges and shoulder sashes for the ATS, the Red Cross, the Queen Alexandra nurses, and even the Psychological Warfare Division, as well as pennants for staff cars including Colonel Goldman of the USA, the car of the Free French and even a tank flag for the 2nd Armoured Battalion of the Grenadier Guards.

Please do follow us on on our Facebook  and Instagram social media pages tomorrow and over the weekend for some uplifting stories including: our most regular customer of the 20th Century; collecting lace for the war effort; and an actress ‘embroiderers’ on the big screen!