Lanyards and the Artillery
There has long been a tale about Gunners wearing a white lanyard for cowardice, allegedly for deserting their guns. Of course, this story is nothing more than a piece of leg pulling; the information that follows is historical facts.
Lanyards associated with dress came into use in the late 19th Century, when field guns such as the 12 and 15 pounders used ammunition which had fuses set with a fuse key. The key was a simple device, and every man had one, attached to a lanyard worn aroundhis neck. The key itself was kept in the breast pocket until needed. The lanyard was simply a piece of strong cord, but it was gradually turned into something more decorative, smartened up with 'Blanco', and braided, 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 In about 1903 these were withdrawn and replaced by jack-knifes, which were carried in the left breast pocket of the service dress attached to a lanyard over the left shoulder.
In the war years that followed, the lanyard could be used as an emergency firing lanyard forthose guns which had a trigger mechanism, allowing 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 probably took place at 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 lanyard was simply tucked into the breast pocket without the jack-knife, though many may remember that it was often kept in place with the soldiers pay book! On the demise of Battledress, the lanyard disappeared for a short tie, but returned as part of the dress of the Royal Regiment Of Artillery in 1973. It may surprise some readers that this particular piece of leg pulling is repeated in various forms. The Gold stripes in the Gunners stable belt stem — like the blue scarlet — the colours of the uniform at the same time the stable belt was introduced.
It was not a question, as the jokers would have it, of yellow stripes for cowardice! Equally silly is the suggestion that the Gunners grenade has seven flames as opposed to the sappers nine because we lost 2 guns at the same point in history! For those still plagued by jokers, the simplest answer to this kind of leg pulling is to invite the joker to present his evidence. No change to any of the army's dress regulations can take place without a formal order, and let us be realistic! it is ludicrous to suppose that the Army Board in its wisdom would countenance the idea of a 'Badge of shame' to be worn by any branch of the service. It would guarantee that no one would ever join it! 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!