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Honor Harrington's Universe

Ranks and Uniform information
from David Weber's Tech Bible

The following was posted by Chris Maurer (SwordOath1) to the alt.books.david-weber newsgroup on December 23, 1998.

Re: Honor Harrington Uniforms (Final Update)
Author: SwordOath1 <swordoath1@aol.comspamzap>
Date:   1998/12/23
Forum:  alt.books.david-weber

Since DW has stated that the Mattingly covers accurately represent Manticoran uniform, I decided I would impose on him a bit. He's been kind enough to correspond with me electronically since I got parked in the body shop (and guess what? I get to go home in just seven more weeks! [For a while, anyway]), so I asked him. He e-mailed me the following (partly, I think, because he said someone else had also e-mailed him some questions about it which he regretted that he had been too busy to answer), which is from his tech bible for the series, with the understanding that I would share it with the rest of the group rather than "give those shameless vigilantes at ROMANCE reason to charge you with snerking." At any rate, here it is.

BTW, DW cautions that it is NOT complete in all details; that these are the ones he wrote down to remind himself about points he was afraid he might forget or confuse even more than it is a general description. I suspect he may have fleshed it out a bit more since he started letting other writers play in the Honorverse, however, since this is also from the Sacred Tome that he shares with said other writers to give them the background they need.



(C) Officer Corps & Rank Structure:

    Throughout its history, the RMN has maintained that the proper place for a naval officer to learn his trade is in space. While the Academy is grueling and demanding, a line officer's career truly begins only after graduation, when he may expect to spend at least the next four or five Manticoran years (7-9 Terran years) almost continuously in space in one shipboard assignment after another. By tradition, initiative and independence are encouraged, although, in fact, some senior officers seem to have forgotten that. The hard core of the RMN's officer corps, however, consists of seasoned, highly-experienced ship-handlers who are intimately familiar with their weapons, their personnel, and their mission.

    Unfortunately, the RMN is the product of an aristocratic society whose traditional power relationships have changed but slowly over the past five centuries. This system has many good points, including stability, a sense of order, and a feeling of mutual obligations between the classes; it also, however, is prey to the forces of patronage and favoritism, and the Navy has not escaped unscathed. Scions of the aristocracy or those with friends in high places can expect first consideration for choice assignments and are routinely promoted over the heads of those without patrons. The potential for damage this represents would be difficult to over estimate, but the worst abuses of the system are smoothed away by the practice of "half-pay." An officer who has "made list" (that is, has been added to the list of permanent captains) may retain his commission and his seniority while on inactive duty at half-pay. Actually, the pay is considerably less than half, for he loses his various duty allowances and dependent support allowances. Officially, this system was instituted to maintain a large reserve of experienced officers in case of emergency; actually, it is used as a parking orbit for incompetents with powerful friends. Patronage will get an officer a chance to prove his ability and, if he shows himself capable, will get him choice assignments. If, however, he proves himself incompetent he will be promoted to "list" and then quietly shuffled off into the ranks of the half-pay officers and, in all probability, never employed again. Unfortunately, this is also the way an occasionally capricious Board of Admiralty deals with competent officers who have irritated the Powers That Be, and more than one highly qualified captain or admiral has languished on half-pay while praying for a change in political fortune to get him back onto a command deck.

    Traditionally, 90% of all officers are Academy graduates, but that percentage has dipped during the recent decades of expansion, with a higher percentage of "mustangs" (an ancient term whose origin is lost in obscurity) or non-commissioned personnel promoted to commissioned rank.

    The commissioned ranks are supported by warrant officers and non-commissioned officers who, like the true heart of the officer corps itself, are lifers. The enlisted/noncomissioned rates, from most junior to most senior are:

3rd class
2nd class
1st class
PO 1st
Chief Petty Officer
Senior Chief Petty Officer
Master Chief Petty Officer
Senior Master Chief Petty Officer
    Sleeve Insignia
1 stripe*
2 stripes
3 stripes
1 chevron
2 chevrons
3 chevrons
3 chevrons/1 rocker
3 chevrons/2 rockers
3 chevrons/3 rockers
3 chevonrs/3 rockers/crown*
    Ground Forces Equiv
P 1/c
Platoon Sergeant
Staff Sergeant
Master Sergeant
Sgt. Major
Batt. Sgt. Major
Rgt.Sgt. Major**

*The SMCPO is distinguished from the MCPO by the large crown insignia superimposed upon the uppermost of the three rockers. All branch insignia are centered above the stripe(s) and/or chevron(s) and below the rockers for CPOs and above.

**Regimental Sergeant Major is the highest noncom rank of the RMMC. The RSM attached to the staff of a brigade or division CO becomes the brigade/divisional SM. The senior SM of the Corps is referred to Sergeant Major of the Corps (and addressed by ALL RMMC personnel, regardless of rank, as "Gunny." He is attached to the Commandant of the Corps, who always represents the RMMC at the JCS level.

    The commissioned ranks, from most junior to most senior, are:

Lieutenant (jg)
Lieutenant (sg)
Lt. Commander
Captain (jg)
Captain (List)
Rear Admiral
Vice Admiral
Fleet Admiral
Admiral of the Fleet
1 white pip
1 gold pip
2 gold pips
3 gold pips
4 gold pips
4 gold pips
1 gold planet
2 gold panets
1 gold star
2 gold stars
3 gold stars
4 gold stars
4 stars around
 1 planet
    Cuff Rings**
1 white
1 gold
2 gold
3 gold; 1 half & 2 full
3 gold
4 gold
4 gold
4 gold; 3 full & 1 broad
2 broad gold
3 broad gold
4 broad gold
4 broad gold
5 broad gold
    Ground Forces
2nd Lieutenant
1st Lieutenant
Lt. Colonel
No Equivalent
Major General
Lt. General
Field Marshal
Marshal of the

*All collar insignia are repeated on both sides of collar.
**Cuff rings NA to ground forces

    In addition to the ranks listed above, there is an additional division, based on seniority, within each of the flag ranks below Admiral of the Fleet. These are based on the two historical fleet districts, with the junior half of the list assigned to the Gryphon District and the senior half to the Manticore District. Originally, an admiral was actually assigned to the district in question; today it is simply an indication of relative seniority, with a Rear Admiral of Manticore being senior to a Rear Admiral of Gryphon. The Naval Ensign displayed in each district is differenced by a colored border-green for the Manticore District and red for the Gryphon District - so a Rear Admiral of Manticore is usually referred to as a Rear Admiral of the Green, and his flag displays his rank stars on a green field. A Rear Admiral of Gryphon, on the other hand, is referred to as a Rear Admiral of the Red and his flag displays his rank stars on a red field. Commodores display their single planet on a broad pendant with the black field of the RMN Ensign.

(D) Uniform:

    The RMN uniform is black and gold. Officer's undress uniform consists of a black, double-breasted tunic (which seals up the right side and has relatively long skirts which fall to the upper thigh), a white blouse, and black trousers. The tunic collar is "Prussian" in style-high and round but loose enough for comfort-and the blouse collar is a turtleneck. Trousers are fairly loose and straight cut to just below the knee, at which point they flare out and are bloused into low-topped space boots. The tunic's tailoring is slightly wasp-waisted (with unfortunate consequences for the portly), and bears thin gold piping up either side of the cross-over front panel. Trousers are untrimmed.

    Cuff stripes are bands (usually referred to as "rings") of gold braid. A "normal ring" is two cm wide; half stripes are one cm wide, and broad stripes are 3.8 cm wide. Naval reserve officers's rings use gold lace rather than solid bands to differentiate reservists from regulars. In addition to the cuffs, a matching number of thin gold stripes are carried on the tunic's shoulder board "epaulets." Epaulet stripes run front-to-back, not side-to-side, and work in from the outer end of the epaulet. The background color of the epaulet is red, not black.

    The left shoulder of the tunic normally bears the name and hull number of the wearer's current ship (i.e., HMS Fearless, CL-56) in an "upside-down" horseshoe arrangement immediately below the shoulder seam. The right shoulder bears the gold-and-scarlet Manticore badge of the RMN. Collar insignia are worn on the tunic's collar, not the blouse's, but the same insignia are worn on an embroidered patch on the left chest of the blouse, immediately above the pocket. Medal ribbons and qualification badges are worn on the left breast of the tunic. In addition, starship commanders wear one star, embroidered in gold thread, for each hyper-capable command they have held, above their other ribbons. The beret breaks to the right and bears the Kingdom's coat of arms-a golden crown supported by a rampant manticore, sphinx, and gryphon (also gold), all on a scarlet field-as a flash on the left side of the band. Starship commander's berets are white; all others are black.

    Dress uniform is similar to undress but is more sharply tailored, made of more expensive (and less utilitarian) materials, uses gold bullion for its insignia and bullion thread for cuff bands, and has gold piping up the outer trouser seams. In addition, the tunic bears false buttons up either side of the double-breasted flap, and the epaulets bear the appropriate collar insignia "inboard" of the gold stripes.

    Mess dress follows dress in overall concept, but for officers below the rank of commodore the tunic is replaced by a short-waisted coatee which ends at belt level. Senior grade captains and flag officers wear a longer tunic-indeed, almost a frock coat-and a golden sash. In addition, jacket and trouser seams are picked out in gold piping and a dress sword is a non-optional portion of the uniform for all officer ranks. Mess dress's tunic collar is much tighter than for dress uniform and detested accordingly.

    Enlisted undress uniform is considerably simpler than officer's uniform, consisting of a tailored, one-piece coverall in standard Navy black and gold. Name and rank insignia are worn on the left breast. The same basic uniform is worn by noncoms, but the trouser seams of noncoms' uniforms are picked out in piping color-coded by branch: red for tactical, green for medical, yellow for communications, white for engineering and electronics, brown for logistics, etc. Additional specialist insignia (such as a missile for gunnery noncoms) is worn on the upper left sleeve as a shoulder patch under the unit name for all ratings and noncoms.

    Dress uniform for both enlisted and noncomissioned ranks is a simplified version of officer's dress uniform, with the addition of trouser piping color-coded as for undress uniform. There is no "mess dress" uniform for enlisted or noncomissioned ranks.


Merry Christmas, all.

Chris Maurer
"It is a fundamental law of defense that you always have to use the most powerful weapon that you can produce."--Maj. Gen. James Burns

This post to the alt.books.david-weber newsgroup can be found at Google Groups as [search string].
If that does not work, go to Google Advanced Groups Search, enter Author: "SwordOath1", From Date: "23 Dec 1998" and To Date: "23 Dec 1998" (without quotation marks).

© Bo Johansson 2003-05-31

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