A local historian has solved the minor mystery of the unusual ship’s badge carried by the WWII minesweeper HMS Sidmouth. 

Visitors to Sidmouth Museum may have noticed the badge on display there, depicting a puma-like wild cat with gold spots holding a golden mace in its paw. 

Little was known locally about the origins of the badge, until Andrew Rugg-Gunn did some research for a talk he was giving about the history of HMS Sidmouth’s involvement in WWII. He presented the talk at Sidmouth Conservative Club on Wednesday, January 11, in an event organised by Sidmouth Royal Naval Old Comrades Association. 

He described the ship’s role in the raid on Dieppe, its work in the Channel, and particularly its important participation in D-Day, when HMS Sidmouth cleared one of the main routes into Juno Beach, which was assaulted by the Canadians. 

He also explained that the HMS Sidmouth badge was linked with Viscount Sidmouth, Henry Addington, who was prime minister from 1801 until 1804. Andrew's research led him to the Royal Navy Historical Branch and its Ships’ Names and Badges Committee, who told him the cat was part of the Addington family’s full coat of arms. 

The coat of arms depicts two stags on either side of the Addington escutcheon or heraldic shield, on top of which there is a crown. The cat forms the crest of the coat of arms, sitting above the shield. 

In heraldic language, the crest is described: “Cat-a-mountain sejant guardant Proper bezanty, the dexter forepaw resting on an inescutcheon Azure charged with a Mace erect surmounted with a Regal Crown Or within a Bordure engrailed Argent”. 

Less formally translated, this means: “A wild cat, sitting and looking forwards, in its natural colour with gold spots/coins, the right forepaw holding a blue shield, upon which is an upright mace topped with a golden royal crown within a silver indented border.” 

The mace represents the Speakership of the House of Commons, a position occupied by Henry Addington from 1789 to 1801.   

Andrew’s talk was attended by about 20 people, and Sidmouth RNOCA has thanked the Conservative Club for permitting use of its premises for the event, and for its general support throughout the year.