I am not really a collector of patches or insignia, however if a likely candidate comes up for a pound or two I will often take a punt and hope I have picked up something military later. Last week I found this little patch in a box for £1 and despite not having a clue what it was it came home with me:A few minutes research indicated that it is the brigade patch for the 73rd Independent Infantry Brigade. The brigade was activated during World War II, in late March 1941, and initially consisted of infantry battalions raised for hostilities-only and, aside from a few Regular and Territorial soldiers, was composed almost entirely of conscripts and wartime volunteers. In December 1942 the battalions were posted elsewhere and the brigade ceased to be an operational formation, although the headquarters remained in existence until 19 July 1943, when it was finally disbanded.
The brigade served under various commands throughout its short existence: GHQ Home Forces from 19 June and 2 July 1941, the Devon and Cornwall County Division between 3 July and 30 November 1941, VIII Corps between 1 December 1941 and 12 December 1942, and Southern Command from 13 December 1942 and 18 July 1943.
Order of battle
The 73rd Brigade was constituted as follows during the war:
- 18th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (from 27 March 1941, left 17 May 1941)
- 9th Battalion, King’s Own Scottish Borderers (from 3 April 1941, left 17 May 1941)
- 6th Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers (from 3 April 1941, left 17 May 1941)
- 7th Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment (from 19 July 1941, left 21 September 1942)
- 6th Battalion, Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry (from 19 July 1941, left 9 December 1942)
- 8th Battalion, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment (from 19 July 1941, left 11 December 1942)
- 2nd Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment (from 22 September 1942, left 8 December 1942)
The following officers commanded the brigade during the war:
- Brigadier W. Robb (from 24 March 1941 until 18 June 1941)
- Brigadier J.A. Campbell (from 18 June 1941 until 10 October 1941)
- Brigadier A.de L. Cazenove (from 10 October 1941)
The patch is printed rather than embroidered, and the edges have been folded underneath to prevent them from fraying:The badge itself is described by the Imperial War museum as:
Fifteen gold bezants (small circles) on a black shield with a gold border superimposed on a vertically positioned white sword with gold hilt, point down, all on a blue ground.
The badge is based off the coat of arms of Cornwall, with the sword representing Excalibur from the legend of King Arthur.
The range of different enamelled home front lapel badges form the Second World War is astonishing with badges issued for olunteer workers, the ARP, nursing and many more areas of voluntary service. Tonight we are looking at a small pin badge for the RAF Comforts committee:This badge has an RAF eagle in the centre, with a light blue band around saying ‘RAF Comforts Committee’ and the title ‘volunary worker’ in a scroll beneath. The back of the badge has a pin fastening and a maker’s mark indicating it was manufactured by Thomas Frattorini the largest badge maker in the country:The following excellent description comes from a collector on Flickr, called Stuart- Sadly I do not have a full name to afford him the full credit he deserves:
The Royal Air Force Comforts Committee (RAF Comforts Committee) was formed by the Air Council in October 1939 to determine the type and quantities of ‘knitted comforts’ required for the RAF as well as arrange for their collection, storage and distribution through their depots. Local knitting parties or groups were organised mainly by the Women’s Institute (WI) and the Women’s Voluntary Service (WVS) according to guidance issued by the Committee. Anyone who could knit was roped into these knitting parties and that included many men too (it was commonplace back then for men to be competent knitters). Groups needed to be registered with the Comforts Committee to ensure they got supplies of free wool and badges/certificates. As the war drew to a close in 1945, knitted comforts were also made for needy children in the liberated countries and distributed by the Red Cross.
The main forms of knitted RAF Comforts were mittens, pullovers (preferably with polo necks), woollen helmets (balaclavas) and gum-boot stockings (of oiled wool). Other items such as ordinary socks and gloves were knitted in smaller quantities as required by the RAF and only to supplement regulation uniform issues. The official colour was a grey/blue but by 1941 there was a shortage of wool as it was required in ever increasing quantities and so wool of many shades of blue and sometimes other colours were supplied for the knitted comforts. The RAF had issued a standard book containing instructions for knitting parties with approved patterns.This badge issued by the RAF Comforts Committee was given free to each registered local knitting party but only the first badge (usually the party leader), additional badges required were supplied according to the amount of work done by an individual and at the cost of 1/- (one shilling) each, accompanied by the certificate. All this would have been monitored by the Comforts Committee.
Barbara Longley knitted for the Comforts Committee as a child:
I used to knit for the Royal Air Force Comforts Committee. They’d send 2lb of wool, from Berkeley Square in London, with a pattern book to make pullovers, scarves, helmets, gloves and socks. When I’d knitted the garments I used to send them to London and back would come another 2lb of wool. I’ve still got my RAF Comforts badge and personal message from Marshall of the RAF.
There were a plethora of charitable women’s groups involved in war work during the Second World War. Whilst the best known and certainly the largest was the Women’s Voluntary Service many other groups existed, often based around an existing faith organisation. One of these groups was the Catholic Women’s League that had been founded in 1906 and had operated canteens, provided catholic nurses and worked with refugees. During the Second World War this charitable work continued and a special enamelled badge was issued to members who had contributed their time and energy:As can be seen this badge is small and circular with the letter ‘CWL’ for Catholic Women’s League in the centre beneath a stylised dove. Around the edge it reads ‘For War Service at Home’. The rear of the batch has a simple pin fastening:The Catholic Women’s League is still proud of the work its members did during the Second World War and this descrition of that service comes from one of their official leaflets:
With the outbreak of World War Two, the work of the League continued in canteens both at home and abroad. A Mass Hut was opened at Harrogate, with all the furnishings provided by the League.
Members went into uniform, under the auspices of the Council for Voluntary Welfare Work (CVWW), in the Far East, Middle East, Europe and Iceland. The Rome Club, in the grounds of the Old Scots College, was visited frequently by Pope Pius XII.
In the UK this canteen and recreation hall was run by the League at St Peter’s Hall in Westminster in 1939 with soldiers relaxing beneath a large shrine to the Virgin Mary:The league also worked abroad as seen below with one of the League’s mobile canteens in service at Geldrop, Holland:
On the 16th December 1914 the Great War truly reached the shores of great Britain when three English seaside towns, Whitby, Scarborough and Hartlepool, were bombarded by the naval guns of the German high Seas Fleet. Although by later standards the bombardment was relatively minor, the fact that 137 people were killed and 592 injured brought shock and anger to the country, who had not expected civilians to be in danger on their own soil.
Hartlepool was the most significant target hit, due to its extensive docks and factories and the town was defended by three BL 6 inch Mk VII naval guns on the seafront: two at Heugh Battery and one at Lighthouse Battery. The guns were manned by 11 officers and 155 local men of the Durham Royal Garrison Artillery. They were warned at 04:30 of the possibility of an attack and issued live ammunition. At 07:46, they received word that large ships had been sighted and, at 08:10, a bombardment of the town began. The batteries remained confused by the approaching ships until shells began to fall. Two shore guns fired at the leading ship, while the third fired at the last, smaller, vessel. The gunners were hampered by a rising cloud of smoke and dust around them, affecting visibility. They found their shells had no effect on the armoured sides of the ships, so instead aimed at masts and rigging. The accuracy of the third gun was sufficient to oblige Blücher to move behind the lighthouse to prevent further hits. Two of her 6-inch guns were disabled, while the ship’s bridge and another 8 in gun was damaged. The Hartlepool attack killed 86 civilians and injured 424. Seven soldiers were killed and 14 injured. 1,150 shells were fired at the town, striking targets including the steelworks, gasworks, railways, seven churches and 300 houses. Once again people fled the town by road and attempted to do so by train. Eight German sailors were killed and 12 wounded. At 08:50, the German ships departed.
Tonight’s object commemorates that attack and the soldiers who fought back against it. This enameled badge seems to date from about 1916:It measures about 1 ½” high and the centre of the badge has the Royal Artillery’s Cap badge superimposed on the flag of St George:The dates suggest that the badge itself dates from 1916, two years after the actual incident. Around this central motif is a message ‘Thank Offering to the Hartlepool Hospitals, In Memory of December 16th 1914’. At the top of the badge are the phrases ‘Ye did it to mine, ye did it to me’:The back of the badge had a pin fastening, but this is now broken off:This little badge is a reminder of a traumatic incident at the start of the Great War that helped shape the attitudes of those in the country to the war.
My thanks go to Edward Corry for tonight’s objects. Insignia of special forces units has always held an allure for certain collectors, with the SAS being perhaps the most famous elite regiment in the world. As befits an elite unit, they have many unique items of military heraldry that are coveted by many but awarded to few. Tonight we are looking at a small selection of these.
Firstly we have the distinctive SAS parachute qualification badge:This badge, embroidered on dark blue felt, was designed by Lieutenant Jock Lewes in World War two and is based upon the ancient Egyptian Ibis wings, which he had observed in the Shepheard’s Hotel, Cairo when stationed there. They were designed to be worn on the right shoulder after qualification- moving to the left breast over any medals after an ‘active service’ jump. These badges remain in use to the present day, with various subtle changes that I must confess rather pass me by. Thanks to the help of a couple of friends and the chaps on the British Badge Forum, the consensus seems to be these are either very late WW2 or immediate post war in date. The back of the badge has had a large safety pin sewn to it, presumably to allow it to be removed for laundering:Accompanying the wings is a pair of captain’s rank slides, embroidered with ‘SAS’:These are each made from a single piece of cloth, with a seam up the back:Again these are hard to date, but others with more expertise than me have suggested they are possibly made in theatre in Malaya, but again these are not easy to date.
The next badge is a World War Two printed Combined Operations Patch, depicting the anchor of the navy, eagle of the air force and Tommy Gun of the army:This badge is made of red cloth, with the design printed over it. The badge was designed by a Lieutenant D A Grant RNVR, who submitted this drawing to the War Office:Again this is an iconic design that has been in use in multiple forms up to the present day. These badges make a nice little set and my intention is to get them framed so I can enjoy them rather than leaving them sat in a drawer.