What is this?
This artifact is a single piece of wood, shaped round with the outline of a crown on top. Applied to the front is a relief cast of painted resin showing the likeness of a crown, somewhat, birthing a bare, human arm clutching a hammer. Ouch! The top front reads “Birmingham”.
Is it a family crest of the House Birmingham?
Is it the seal of the Birmingham School of Economics?
Is it the logo for the Birmingham Barons of Alabama, AA team of the Chicago White Sox?
Nope. None of these.
This artifact is a Royal Navy Ship’s Badge.
Well, what’s a Royal Navy Ship’s Badge?
How do you tell twin ship’s apart? Say you are in battle and you’re looking to take out a specific commander but there is a massive fleet of 1000 ship’s in front of you. Sounds extreme but, I mean, I’ve seen Game of Thrones. When Stanis Baratheon is storming the castle at the Battle of Blackwater Bay? All those ship’s? Quite overwhelming. Are you going to waste your time looking for a Joffrey-type or are you going to go for The Hound? If you follow the show you’ll know I switched the roles of the teams; Joffrey and The Hound were on land but I don’t know Stanis’ army so for the sake of the story, perpetuating humor and interest, I put the little king baby on the boat to prove a point. I know taking out Joffrey would be more of a theoretical victory but the end game is a bit of a waste, don’t you think? It took the strength, intelligence and fortitude of a woman to take out The Hound. Think about that! Alright so, you’re the captain of a fleet of ships, you’re going to have to tell them apart somehow. So, the British Royal Navy came up with an strategy to identify their ship’s with badges signifying the ship’s name, it’s crest, motto and battle honors.
It is said that this practice was not put in place officially until the end of the first World War, however, that doesn’t mean that badges found are not older than 1918. This timeline simply indicates that the practice of badge identification was not formalized until then; meaning every ship thereafter would be adorned with an official sign in the form of a badge such as the Birmingham. Displayed on the quarterdeck, the raised deck behind the main mast, the badge display would require the name of the ship, a simple but striking design, a motto appealing to all ranks and a naval crown atop a rope surround.
Two Royal Navy vessels would have had this badge affixed. The first HMS (Her Majesty’s Service) Birmingham was launched in 1913. She was a two-screw, town-class light cruiser and joined the squadron of the Grand Fleet in 1914. She sunk two German UBoats that year and was a vessel in the Battle of Dogger Bank and Heligoland in 1915. The second vessel was another town-class light cruiser launched in 1936. She served in many important moments during World War II including the hunt for the Bismarck, she was a convoy escort from the UK to South Africa and involved in the British operation to occupy Madagascar.