Origins of the Lanyard

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Origins of the Lanyard

by The Royal Artillery Institution

 

There has long been a tale about the Gunners wearing a white lanyard for cowardice, allegedly for deserting their guns,

but the story is nothing more than a piece of leg-pulling. However, it is time to put this particular story to rest.

 

Lanyards came into use in the late 19th century when Field Gunners manned the 12 and 15 Pounder equipments,

ammunition for which had a fuze set with a fuze key. The key was a simple device, and every man had one, attached

to a lanyard worn around the neck. The key itself tended to be kept in the breast pocket until needed. The lanyard was

simply a piece of strong cord, but in time it was a typical soldier's reaction to turn it into something a bit more decorative.

It was smartened up with white ink or even blanco, and braided, gradually taking its present form.

 

Prior to the South African War, Gunners were issued with steel folding hoof picks, carried on the saddle or in the jacket.

In about 1903 these were withdrawn and replaced by jack-knives, which were carried in the left breast pocket of the

Service Dress attached to the lanyard over the left shoulder.

 

During the two World Wars, the lanyard could be used as an emergency firing lanyard for many of the guns, because

they had a firing mechanism which operated like a trigger. The lanyard could be attached to the trigger mechanism and

allowed the Gunner to stand clear of the gun's recoil.

 

The question of which shoulder bore the lanyard depends on the date. There is no certainty about this, but the change

from the left shoulder to the right probable took place at about the time of the Great War, when the bandolier was

introduced, because it was worn over the left shoulder. But there are some who insist that 1924 was the date of change,

when the sloping of rifles over the left shoulder would soil the white lanyard.

 

Eventually, in 1933, the end of the lanyard was simply tucked into the breast pocket without the jack-knife, though

many will remember that it was often kept in place with the soldier's pay-book! On the demise of Battledress, the

lanyard disappeared for a short time, but returned as part of the dress of the Royal Regiment of Artillery in 1973.

 

For those still plagued by jokers, the simplest answer to any leg-pulling is to invite the joker to produce evidence:

no change can take place to any of the Army's dress regulations without an appropriate order,

and since no such evidence exists, the joker's story falls flat on its face.

 

. One might even ask why other arms and corps wear lanyards -

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!!!

(Info. From 36 Regt RA - Keith Holderness Website)

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This (The 39ers Club) is a personal web site and has no official status. The contents and design of this site is by me and no other. I WISH TO THANK ALL THOSE WHO HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO MY SITE.

I myself served with the Royal Regiment of Artillery from 1954 till 1976 of which a considerable amount of that time was spent with - 39 Regt RA or 40 Regt RA - Sennelager or Gutersloh, West Germany