A collection of brightly painted relief commemorative metal ship badges on wooden plaques, all with nautical themes. They represent, respectively, the Royal Canadian battleships HMCS Saguenay, HMCS Skeena, HMCS Prince Robert, HMCS Warrior, and HMCS Vancouver. The collection is from the personal effects of Rear Admiral Frank Houghton (1897-1981), and are associated with his career. Houghton served in the Canadian Navy through both world wars before retiring in 1950, and was honored for his service with the Order of the British Empire (CBE).
Ships of the Royal Canadian Navy followed the tradition of the British Royal Navy and other navies of the Commonwealth by having heraldic shields, or badges, associated with them. Canadian badges typically are in a circle or horse-shoe shape surrounded by gold rope, enclosing a pictorial logo and name of the boat, often including an image of three maple leaves in a row above the main design, surmounted by a naval crown. They are often cast in relief in mixed metal or bronze, brightly hand-painted, and mounted on a wooden shield plaque. They were used to decorate the ship, though some were also made for commemorative purposes, or as presentations or souvenirs.
During the first four decades of the 20th century, the selection of a badge design was an informal process, usually left to the captain and crew, which resulted in whimsical designs featuring cartoon characters such as Bugs Bunny. After World War II, the navy decided to make the badges both more dignified and meaningful in relation to Canadian history. Lieutenant Commander Alan B. Beddoe oversaw the process, producing dozens of badges for ships and establishments of the RCN. An article published in Crownset Magazine in 1956 explains the design, use, and placement of Canadian naval badges:
“From the final drawings patterns are made in aluminum (formerly in wood) from which copies of the badge are cast in bronze for the ship and her boats. Enameled in bright colours they make a very pretty touch in an otherwise drab setting of battleship grey. … As much as they were enjoyed in days gone by, it is hardly likely that Pluto and his cartoon pals will ever again decorate the ships of the Royal Canadian Navy. The style has now definitely been set for the graceful little badges that will adorn the quarterdecks of Canadian ships through the years to come. Artistically they are smart, heraldically they are correct and they have a meaning. background and tradition of which every man in the Service can well be proud.”
Rear Admiral Frank Houghton was among the early Canadian naval cadets, beginning his training in 1913. He served as First Lieutenant in the HMCS Skeena, a river class destroyer, in 1933, and from the end of that year through most of 1934 as commanding officer of the HMCS Vancouver. He served as commanding officer of the destroyer HMCS Saguenay, also a river class destroyer, from 1938 to 1939. During World War II, he was Commanding Officer of the HMCS Prince Robert for six months in 1942. After the war, he was the first Commanding Officer of the HMCS Warrior, the Royal Canadian Navy’s first light fleet carrier from 1946 to 1947. From 1947 on, he served at Navy Headquarters in various administrative positions, being promoted to Rear Admiral in 1948. After his retirement in 1950, he was general manager of the International Grenfell Association. Houghton also authored children’s books.
Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light wear and abrasions to painted surface and wooden plaques.
Blatherick, John. “Awards to the Royal Canadian Navy: H.” Awards to the Royal Canadian Navy. 20 July 2001. http://www.rcnvr.com/H%20-%20RCN%20-%20WW2.php (15 November 2011).
“Canadian Navy Badges.” ReadyAyeReady.com. http://readyayeready.com/badges/index.htm (16 November 2011).
“Heraldry on the High Seas.” Crownset Magazine. April 1956. Online at ReadyAyeReady.com: http://readyayeready.com/badges/heraldry-on-the-high-seas/index.htm (16 November 2011).