Researching a soldier

Tips for interpreting photos of British soldiers of WW1: overseas service chevrons

Does your photo show one or more small chevrons, pointing up towards the elbow, on the man’s right sleeve? You are looking at an “overseas service chevron”.

overseas_service_chevrons3

First authorised

The stripe was first authorised under Army Order 4 of 1918, which was published on 20 December 1917:
His Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of chevrons to denote service overseas undertaken since 4th August 1914.”

Who was eligible?

The Army Order listed eligible categories of servicemen and women, who would wear the chevrons subjects to conditions shown below. The eligible categories were:

  • Officers and soldiers of the Regular Army, Special Reserve and Territorial Force, and officers Naval ratings and Royal Marines of the Royal Naval Division;
  • Officers, soldiers and followers of the Indian Army and Indian Army Reserve;
  • Officers and soldiers of Oversea Forces;
  • Native troops in East and West Africa;
  • Members of Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service, retired members of the Army Nursing Service, members of Queen Alexandra’s Military Nursing Service for India, the Territorial Force Nursing Service and Oversea Nursing Services;
  • Members of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps;
  • Civilians attached to British forces in an official capacity;
  • Native Labour Corps;
  • Chinese Labour Corps;
  • Members of officially recognised Voluntary Aid Detachments;
  • Personnel working under the Joint War Committee of the British Red Cross Society and the Order of St John of Jerusalem, and under the St Andrew’s Ambulance Association, if under the direct authority and supervision of the War Office;
  • Personnel of the Women’s Legion employed under War Office authority.

How did a man or woman qualify?

The Army Order specified the conditions for qualification:

  • the date for the award of the first chevron will be the date the individual left the United Kingdom in the case of those who proceeded from home; and the 5th August 1914 in the case of those serving abroad on that date. In the case of oversea troops the date of leaving their own country, or where employed in local operations, the date of crossing the frontier or that on which they commenced to take part in active operations.
  • Additional chevrons will be awarded for each successive aggregate period of 12 months’ service outside the United Kingdom; the case of overeat troops, away from their own country or within a sphere of active operations.
  • The qualifying service for additional chevrons need not be continuous. It will include periods of leave up to one month where the individual returns overseas at the conclusion of such leave.
  • Periods of absence without leave, in prison or detention, in hospital due to sickness due to avoidable causes, or in captivity as a prisoner of war, will be excluded when calculating the twelve months required to qualify for an additional chevron.
  • Draft conducting officers and others sent overseas on duty of a temporary nature … are not eligible for the award.

The chevrons

The Army Order stated “Chevrons of two colours -red and blue – have been approved. The first chevron, if earned on or before 31st December 1914, will be red; if earned on or after 1st January 1915, it will be blue; and all additional chevrons after the first will be blue”.

overseas_service_chevrons2

“The chevrons may be worn in plain clothes by retired officers, ex-officers, pensioners, ex-soldiers and others who would, had they remained in the service or continued in any of the employments detailed above, have been entitled to wear them on uniform clothing, should they wish to do so, but no issue shall be made from government stores”.

“It is an offence under the Defence of the Realm Regulations for any unauthorised person to wear a chevrons or chevrons”.

“There will be no posthumous award to deceased officers or soldiers”.

More tips on interpreting photos of men in uniform


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