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The Rag

Our History

The Army & Navy Club in Pall Mall 1890 The Morning Room of the Army & Navy Club painted by Alfred Smith

Founded in August 1837, the year Queen Victoria acceded to the Throne, the Club was formed to meet the needs of the many army officers wanting to join a Service Club, most of which were already full. The great Duke of Wellington said he would become neither a patron nor a Member unless membership was also offered to officers of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. Hence, the "Army Club" became the Army and Navy Club.

The Club's distinguished forebears include Lieutenant General Sir Edward Barnes, the first President who, as Adjutant General, fought, sword in hand, at the Battle of Waterloo, and Admiral Sir Philip Durham, one of Nelson's "Band of Brothers" who commanded HMS Defiance at the Battle of Trafalgar.



1837 – 1852         Field-Marshal The Duke of Wellington

1837 – 1854         General Viscount Beresford

1902 – 1910         HM King Edward VII

1910 – 1936         King George V

1936                     King Edward VIII

1936 – 1952         King George VI

1952 -                  Queen Elizabeth II


1845 – 1850         Field-Marshal HRH Adolphus Frederick, Duke of Cambridge 

1850 – 1904         Field-Marshal HRH George, Duke of Cambridge

1904 – 1942         Field-Marshal HRH the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn

1942 – 1974         Major-General HRH the Duke of Gloucester

1978 -                   Prince Edward, Duke of Kent


Why 'The Rag'?

Shortly after opening, the Club acquired its famous nickname, when Captain William (Billy) Higginson Duff, a colourful character with a brief and undistinguished military career was offended by the spartan nature of the fare offered to him on returning from a spree.  He described the Club as a ‘Rag and Famish affair’ which was intended as a great insult, since the ‘Rag and Famish’ was a squalid gaming house ‘for broken down gamblers who played for coppers’.  The Members were amused rather than insulted by this and formed a ‘Rag and Famish’ dining club.  The name was gradually adopted as the Club’s nickname, eventually being reduced to ‘The Rag’



The Army & Navy Club House drawn by J. Marchant