Researching the 8th Vanguard badge gave insight into the newer, official, current Vanguard symbol and its meaning as well as earlier ships of the same name. Mentioned in the booklet “The Nine Vanguards” published by Robert Dinwiddle & Co Ltd, it suggested that each ship had a fresh badge design. The badge of Nelson’s Vanguard (the 5th Vanguard) is described as “the sternworks of a ship of the line, all proper” - no evidence of such an image exists.
The sixth Vanguard, built in 1835 is mentioned as “a sailing ship appearing over a distant horizon”...of which there does exist a small, possibly unique embossed piece of paper, cut from a letter written in the distant past.
Depicted in the photograph in an oval is a ship on the horizon, framed by British flags, the naval crown and the words “HEAVE ROUND RODNEY VANGUARD IN SIGHT”.
Held within the Admiralty library, there are no indicators as to how old the piece is, where it came from or who created it - it may have been designed for the 6th Vanguard or could have even been a precursor to the Nelson image, for the dreadnought.
Knowing that the badge for HMS Vanguard in the First World War was unofficial and that it was highly unlikely to have remained in the format it is recognised in today had the ship survived, does it mean anything less? Whilst the Nelson badge was never formally approved, the range of items the image appeared on certainly proved it was a widely accepted emblem. This can no more be true than reflected in the Vanguard Memorial Window, a stained glass window forever on display in Rochester Cathedral, Kent, erected in 1920 - after the formation of the Ship’s Badge Committee. Whilst the Committee was formed 4 years previously and would not have approved unofficial badges to previously lost ships, the Nelson image - the HMS Vanguard badge - was adopted into relatives hearts. A design always to be associated with the 8th Vanguard regardless of its officiality.