An outline of the history of the Writers Branch.

For centuries, English warships sailed the seas with hardy sailors, who not only fought with their vessels, but went about day to day duties. By and by most of the men were illiterate, with only the officers on board the ones who could read and write.  Most of the ships business was carried out ashore by civilian clerks.

Up until 1867, the royal navy never considered the idea of passing part of the clerical duties afloat to naval ratings. Civil clerks had always been the backbone of naval administration.  However clerical work meant a degree of education far beyond that of the 18th and 19th century sailor.

As we know the amount of clerical work we do was increasing, putting more pressure on the admiralty to employ more clerks.

By 1867 the position was out of hand so much so that the admiralty decided to drastically limit the entry of the clerks.  To offset this reduction, a new sea going rating of writer was established.

At first the introduction of writer ratings did not provide an answer to the Admiralty's dilemma.  Men with even the small amount of education necessary were hard to find, and few were willing to take the rate of pay      being offered elsewhere. Few were unwilling to give up working in the counting houses and the stool in the merchant office for life in the navy.

In 1873 the admiralty attempted to overcome this difficulty by introducing boy writers onboard ships.  With pay of about 1 shilling a day, these boys were drawn principally from Greenwich school.

At 18 these boys, after being trained in navy ways were eligible for advancement to 3rd class writers ranking, as able seamen, and then rising to petty officer status after 5 years’ service, and to chief petty officer status after 10 years service.

In 1890 the writers were given the six-pointed star as their distinguishing badge.

When the Royal Australian Navy was formed, it adopted most of the structure and traditions of its parent force, the royal navy.

In 1916 paymaster Lieutenant Commander R.C. Negus, RAN. Was ordered to organised a training office in HMAS CERBERUS. This is the first record of a supply and secretariat department building being organised.

For many years the training of writer sailors was not conducted as formally   as it is today. After basic training, writers were categorised as probationary writers.  Training was then carried out as on the job training.

In 1935 eight writers, including a gentleman by the name of Alfred Bede Calder, who i must say, only passed away in 2014. Joined the navy.

Captain S. Trivett decided that writers should be given some professional training before taking up practical work.  At the outbreak of ww2, training reverted to learning on the job.

Following WW2, in 1946, a formal supply and secretariat school was set up in HMAS CERBERUS.  Newly promoted warrant officer, Alfred Bede Calder was appointed for instructional duties.

The supply school was selected.  The school was positioned alongside the drill hall.  The building was built in 1925, and is still in use to this very day.  The supply school was transferred to this area block a, accommodation in 1979.

Finally, I would like to relate some notes i have recently read on the royal navy writers association web site:

Being a Writer [maritime logistic – personnel] in the RAN is about as far away from a “desk job” as you can get.  That’s not just because you will be travelling the world.  As your ship’s professional administrator you will take on many responsibilities that go with:

Handling compliance and governance.

Pay support

Personnel. administration

Travel and leave

Some career issues for your shipmates

It will be your job to make sure the ship's clerical systems run smoothly.

As the ships trusted expert, you will advise everyone from the newest recruit to the captain on personnel matters.

When the ship goes into action you will work alongside your crewmates as part of the SMET; Flight Deck or Standing Sea Fire Party or other numerous ancillary duties contributing to Navy's mission to fight and win at sea.


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