In devising insignia of rank for the civil and military branches of the Imperial Service in my SF RPG setting, Flat Black
, I want to have a tang of the British Empire, but also give the idea that the system was set up in comparatively recent time (the Empire is only 110 years old, in a setting in which individual careers can last ninety years) by tidy-minded systematisers. I was going with the following, but I have decided to revise it thoroughly.Distinction lace (cuff stripes)
Officers in the Imperial Navy and Imperial Corps of Marines, and Imperial civil servants of equivalent rank wear stripes of distinction lace on the cuffs of their uniform jackets, on slip-ons on the epaulettes of short-sleeved uniforms etc. as appropriate, which indicate their comparative rank. Naval ratings, marines other ranks, and local employees on Imperial projects do not wear them, and neither do employees of the Eichberger Foundation and its subsidiaries. Students and cadets are not yet commissioned, and wear no cuff stripes. Instead they wear a white cloth "label" secured with an embossed button (like a midshipman's gorget tabs, but worn at the cuff, not at the collar).
My original, more British-flavoured idea is illustrated by the "cuff distinctions" row in the image above. Cadets at the service academies and students at Imperial universities wear labels fastened with silver buttons. On graduating they replace the silver buttons with gold ones. Midshipmen, ensigns, and probationary whatevers wear a label with a gold button on their prentice cruises etc. On completing probation they replace the label with a branch-of-service insignia: the image illustrates the gold star of line officers in the Navy. The first actual stripe comes at O-3, which is about the minimum rank at which an Imperial servant might get unsupervised command of, say, a commando platoon on detached service, or a building project.
The "tidier" system that I am considering to replace that is inspired by the insignia of the Portuguese navy, and is more consistent with the system shown in the "epaulettes & slides" row of the illustration above. The labels would be worn with gold buttons by cadets and students, or perhaps by seniors at the universities and academies. Officers from O-1 upwards would wear one narrow stripe of lace for each "pip" in the insignia illustrated for their rank in the "epaulettes & slides" row, in addition to which ranks O-4 to O-6 (senior officers in the Navy, field officers in the Marines) would wear a medium-width stripe, ranks O-7 to O-9 (admirals in the Navy, generals in the Marines) would wear a broad stripe, and ranks O-10 to (theoretically) O-12 would wear an ornate band or two medium stripes.Epaulettes and slides
The system of stars ("pips"), crowns, swords and batons etc. is not used by civil servants, and I am in two minds as to whether even in the Navy and Marines it ought to be used by specialist officers not in the military chain of command. These are the symbols that are worn on the rank patches on combat uniform (and equivalents) by the Navy, Marines, and Home Office police.
I have revised the system from what is illustrated. Unfortunately I lack the means to illustrate the revised system with the skills I have. Fortunately the revision changes details only, not the system.
Though it uses familiar British symbols (square "stars", crowns, crossed sword-with-baton…) the system is not similar to the British system. It's more like a generalisation of the systems used by several European armies
. There are four categories each of three ranks, with one, two, or three stars for each rank. The category of junior officers (company officers) has no categorical distinction, just the one, two, or three stars. The category of senior officers (field officers) is distinguished by a national symbol (in this case, the Imperial crown) with the stars underneath it. The category of generals is distinguished by a crown with a crossed baton and sword underneath it, one to three stars under that. And the category of marshals is distinguished by a crown above a crossed sword-and-baton on a wreath of laurel leaves, with stars below that.Ratings & other ranks
Insignia for naval ratings and marines (other ranks) are as illustrated, except that the E-7 to E-9 insignia need to be re-drawn. I'm not sold on the large crown, large crown in wreath, arms of the sovereign progression. I would prefer a something, something in wreath, something in wreath surmounted by a crown progression.
Note that the marines have two insignia at grade E-3. The ᴛ insignia is for experienced privates who have completed two years of training and 11–15 years as commandos and then been re-trained as medics, sappers, fitters, riggers, armourers, MPs etc., but who do not command teams. The single chevron is for lance-corporals who do have command responsibility. I am in two minds as to whether the NCOs in evac, engineer, recovery, provost &c. platoons ought to wear a ᴛ over their chevrons.
Note that in the Navy the grade E-1 is for astronaut apprentices, who work in the orbital docks building and refitting ships, installing and testing the types of equipment that they will later get to maintain and repair. A rating with less than about five years of experience is not considered sufficiently useful to deserve a berth in a warship. Apprentices do not wear naval ratings' uniforms and are not attached to the crews of warships.
Note that warrant officers in the Imperial system are senior NCOs, equivalent to USN chief petty officers and USMC staff NCOs. They are not equivalent to American warrant officers.