|A very personal perspective
To those who have never served in the armed forces of the United Kingdom the concept of battle honours might seem outdated, pointless, even arrogant. Each of the three services(though technically the Sovereign) awards battle honours to units in recognition of their achievements at a specific engagement or series of engagements. Battle honours must have been recorded by individual units of the Army from the end of the 17th Century but seem to have become formalised around the 1780's when regiments were authorised to carry battle honours on their colours. There are ships of the Royal Navy that carry battle honours dating to the Armada of 1588 and the earliest Army battle honour dates to TANGIER 1662. The Royal Air Force also award battle honours but at two different levels- one authorised to be emblazoned on the relevant squadron colours where the unit played a significant part in an action, and where it didn't play a significant part, battle honours are awarded but not emblazoned on its colours!
Royal Navy warships wear the White Ensign and as such don't have separate 'Colours' as do Army units. The term 'Colour' in the military sense comes from the fact that colours where used to identify the uniforms and flags carried by different regiments. Whilst Army units carry their battle honours proudly on their colours each RN ships has a battle honours board - a large wooden scroll, mounted in a prominent position within the ship, that lists each of that vessel's honours.
The nature of conflict at sea is often reflected in the understated battle honours of long, arduous and costly campaigns such as ATLANTIC 1939-45, MALTA CONVOYS 1941-42 or ARCTIC 1941-45, though just as with the other Services, individual battles such as BISMARK 1941 have been recognised. Naval battle honours are awarded for victories, loss against overwhelming odds and only where the enemy consists of naval units.
Royal Navy units engaged directly in the conflict of 1982 earned the campaign battle honour FALKLAND ISLANDS 1982. Army units such as the Scots Guards earned the campaign battle honour and battle honours for specific engagements in that campaign (e.g. MOUNT TUMBLEDOWN).
The Royal Navy, as the Senior Service, is intensely proud of its history and tradition. Sailors will serve on a variety of ships so the loyalty is to the Service rather than one unit of the Service (submariners and Fleet Air Arm types might disagree) but few sailors of any generation will fail to recognise the famous names, ships and engagements that have set the standard for others to follow. It's a hard hearted matelot who doesn't see a ship's battle honours board without some acknowledgement of a challenge laid down; of an obligation not to let down a reputation so hard earned. At the end of 1982 the updated battle honours board appeared unannounced in the Wardroom flat on ALACRITY. I found myself pausing to reflect on the men of HMS ALACRITY who fought ashore during the Boxer Uprising (CHINA 1900) and those of the Blackwood Class Sloop HMS ALACRITY (KOREA 1950-53) making some of the earliest contributions to the first United Nations war in Korea. The emotions I felt in reading FALKLAND ISLANDS 1982 and understanding that we had added something to the history of the name ALACRITY and through that, to the Royal Navy itself, are still difficult to explain but go beyond simple pride.
As I have had the privilege of serving with a Royal Marine Commando Unit on active service, I feel I should note here that unlike Army infantry battalions, the Colours of a Commando Unit carry only one battle honour. It is same as they wear on their badge - GIBRALTAR. If you know the Royal Marines then you know that this the extreme case of less being more.
Of the eight Type 21 Frigates, Alacrity had the fewest battle honours. The list held by members of the Type 21 'Club' is impressive and reflects the history of the Royal Navy from the Armada of 1588 to 1982.
Lagos 1759, Trincomalee 1782, Camperdown 1797, Egypt 1801, Lissa 1811, Pelagosa 1811, Ashantee 1873-74, Jutland 1916, Atlantic 1939-44, Bismark 1941, Diego Suarez 1942, Arctic 1944, Falkland Islands 1982
China 1900, Korea 1950-53, Falkland Islands 1982
Martinique 1762, Droits de L'Homme 1797, Copenhagen 1801, Belle Poule 1806, Belgian Coast 1914-16, Atlantic 1939-43, Norway 1940, Arctic 1942, Malta Convoys 1942, North Africa 1942-43
Finnisterre 1747, Lagos 1759, Jutland 1916, Atlantic 1940-44, Arctic 1942, Falkland Islands 1982
Armada 1588, Lowestoft 1665, Four Day's Battle 1666, Orfordness 1666, Solebay 1672, Banky Bay 1680, Guadeloupe 1690, Marbella 1705, Ostend 1804, Atlantic 1939-44, Bismark Action 1941, Malta Convoys 1942, North Africa 1942-43, Falkland Islands 1982
Toulon 1793, Camperdown 1797, Copenhagen 1801, Buenos Aires 1807, Black Sea 1854-55, Jutland 1916, Atlantic 1939-40, Norway 1940, Falkland Islands 1982.
Copenhagen 1801, Cape Tenez 1805, San Sebastian 1813, Black Sea 1854-55, Atlantic 1940-43, Norway 1940, North Sea 1942, Libya 1942, Malta Convoys 1942, Sicily 1943, Falkland Islands 1982
Martinique 1794, Arctic 1942, North Africa 1942, Falkland Islands 1982
Martinique 1762, Droits de L'Homme 1797, Copenhagen 1801, Belle Poule 1806, Belgian Coast 1914-16, Atlantic 1940, Arctic 1942, Malta Convoys 1942, North Africa 1942-43.