Category Archives: Badge

Fifth Army Old Comrades’ Association Badge

We have looked at a number of old comrades badges on the blog over the years and one thing they have all had in common is they have been based around individual regiments. Tonight however we have something a little different. In 1932 a new Old Comrades organisation was set up for veterans of General Gough’s Fifth Army. This is, as far as historians are aware, the only old comrades organisation for an army. They started raising money to found a ward in the army’s honour but failed to raise sufficient funds so instead sponsored a window in the church of St Peter upon Cornhill in London:CaptureAt the base of the window can be seen a leaping red fox. This was the insignia of the Fifth Army and features prominently in the Old Comrades badge:imageThe insignia featured on an interwar cigarette card:fox_cig1fox_cig2My little enamelled badge was made by the famous firm of Frattorini in Birmingham, and has a brooch style fastening on the rear:imageThe Old Comrades association held a dinner and parade in 1937, with General Gough a guest of honour:

On the 19th anniversary of their famous march retreat, officers and men of the Fifth Army, headed by their commander, General Sir Hubert Gough, attended their Old Comrades’ Association Memorial march on the Horse Guards Parade yesterday…After the parade the contingent marched to the Cenotaph, where General Gough laid a wreath in memory of the men who fell during the retreat.

There appears to have been at least two designs of badge for the Fifth Army’s Old Comrades Association. The example pictured above and an alternative which incorporated a large star into its design:495_1393596180_1584_300_300

British Legion Lapel Badge

The British Legion was founded in 1921 by the merging of three existing servicemen’s associations; Comrades of the Great War, The national Association of Discharged Sailors and Soldiers and the National Federation of Discharged and Demobilised Sailors and Soldiers. Although primarily associated with helping wounded soldiers today, the association is also involved in helping ex-servicemen to find employment. This has been part of its remit form the very start and a newspaper article was published in 1921, the year of its founding, outlining some of its work:

Colonel Crosfield, chairman of the Manchester Board of the British Legion, who has just returned from France after taking 200 British unemployed ex-soldiers to that country for work in the devastated areas under the French Government, states that if the work of the men is satisfactory a demand for additional labour may be made.

Colonel Crosfield told a Daily Mail reporter that 100 of the men had been sent to Abancourt, midway between Amiens and Rouen, and 100 to Longué.

“It is really extraordinary,” he added, “that while the cry is constantly for economy and to save money, our Government did not give the slightest help in getting these 200 men off of the labour exchanges. The whole of the expenses had to be paid out of the British Legion Relief Funds.”

Very early on the British Legion adopted a badge of a lion’s head, with a scroll above and below it bearing the organisation’s name. These were made as small lapel badges for members to wear on a civilian suit:imageThe rear of each badge was serialised, the numbers being stamped into the curved lapel fastening:imageThe first year of the British Legion was also the first year that the now famous poppy Appeal was run:

Owing to the enterprise of a French woman, Mme Guérin, Armistice Day (November 11) this year will be celebrated as “Poppy Day” in Great Britain, Canada, the United States and Australia.

Inspired by the poem, “In Flanders Fields”, Mme Guérin was struck with the idea of organising the manufacture of artificial red poppies by women and children in the devastated areas of France, for sale in aid of charities on Armistice Day.

The first verse of the poem is:

In Flanders field the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

Mme. Guérin has travelled during the year to Canada, Australia and the United States, and her scheme has been adopted in those countries.

Over here the British legion have provisionally ordered 3 ½ million poppies for sale in the country in aid of Earl Haig’s Appeal for ex-Servicemen of all ranks. The profits of the sale will be used for the assistance of unemployed ex-servicemen…

The poppies which are made of scarlet cloth, and can be pinned on the coat or put into a buttonhole, will cost either 3d. or a 1s.

There is a legend in France that poppies blow with a richer colour in places where men have diedPoppy-Factory-employees-with-HRH-The-Prince-of-Wales

Boer War Sweetheart Badge

Sweetheart badges from the First and Second World Wars are very common today and have appeared a number of times on the blog. Earlier examples though are much rarer and the concept only seems to have started becoming popular at the turn of the twentieth century. Tonight we have an early example of these badges that dates back, I believe, to the Boer War. This little badge is less than an inch across and consists of a pair of rifles on a ring:imageThe rifles are particularly well rendered and it is clear that they represent the old Long Lee Rifles:yxjthKuIt is impossible to say if it represents the Magazine Lee Metford, Magazine Lee Enfield or the Charger Loading Lee Enfield which were all visually similar, but from the nose it is clear it does not represent the later Short Magazine Lee Enfield introduced into service in 1903. The older Lee pattern rifles were used extensively in the Boer War and as these items of jewellery seem to be most popular during times of conflict then this seems a likely date for the badge. Tokens such as this were given by the departing soldier to a loved one to ensure they would think about him whilst he was away- the significance obviously greatly increasing if there was a chance of him being killed on active service.

The rear of the badge has a simple wire pin fastening that allows it to be worn on a lapel or scarf:imageThis badge then is a nice survivor from over 110 years ago and as is so often the case was bought for a couple of pounds from a seller who had no idea of its significance.

Perspex Sweetheart Brooch

Sweetheart badges have turned up on the blog in the past, but these have usually been made of metal, often enamelled. During the Second World War there was a craze for clear Perspex sweetheart badges. Originally these had been hand made by airmen for their girlfriends using pieces of scrap Perspex from aircraft canopies. Looking at surviving examples though it is quite clear that there was also commercial production of these badges as they appear in standard designs with similar metal decoration stuck to them so these badges are perhaps unlikely to be craft produced. Tonight we have an example of these commercial sweetheart badges with this broach that takes the form of a Perspex ‘V’ with a metal RAF Eagle applied to the front:imageOther examples I have found online share the eagle design, but with different designs of Perspex backing. The ‘V’ design was very popular during the war, the letter standing for ‘victory’ and mirroring Churchill’s famous hand gesture.

The rear of the badge has a very simple catch made of a bent pin and a piece of wire as a hook:imageThis is very simple and suggests that this was probably quite a cheap piece of jewellery when it was originally produced. As ever this little badge came out of a rummage box for just a pound- these little objects are still out there for collectors to find at pocket money prices!

Wren Petty Officer’s Badges

Last year we looked at a wartime Petty Officer’s badge in red thread here. That example was for a male PO in working dress and recently I have been lucky enough to pick up an example of the same badge, but in blue:imageThe blue colour indicates that the badge was for a member of the Women’s Royal Naval Service, whilst the king’s crown indicates that this is a badge from the Second World War. The badge has clearly been worn on a uniform at some point, but it still retains the paper backing to protect the rear of the stitching:imageIn the same purchase of the petty officer’s badge, this trade badge of an ‘S’ inside a star was included:imageThis is a Wren’s trade badge for the supply branch and many Wrens were drafted into this branch to manage the navy’s stores in warehouses ashore, freeing up men for service aboard ship. It is likely that this pair of badges has been together since the war. Again this patch has been worn, but retains its backing:imageOne Wren Petty Officer describes some of her duties in wartime:

In April 1942 I joined the WRNS and was sent to Alton where we had a 6-month course at a place called Surbiton Towers. We learned morse code and had to read it at 25 words a minute, four-letter code. We had to pass at over 90% before we were allowed to be considered competent and sent to a wireless station.

I was sent to Scarborough with a number of other Wrens. It was a new underground station and we worked shifts 8 — 1, 1 — 11 and 11 — 8. I remember one time when all the lights fell down and as we were underground, we were in the pitch black. However, up there, we didn’t really come into contact with the War as there was no bombing etc…

Then I went to a holding depot in Rochester and was sent to Greenwich Royal Naval College where I was a writer keeping records etc. From there I was sent to Chelsea Embankment and as I was a writer, I got interested in running the WRNS quarters. I became Petty Officer Quarters Assistant. I loved that — it was a very interesting job. I went to Parkstone Gardens, Chelsea. I had to see that they had their meals which was a very busy job. I think we had about a shilling a day for each Wren — of course, a shilling would buy quite a lot then but you still had to make sure that nothing was wasted. I also had to see that the quarters were clean and well run.

When we were in London with the bombing, we really sort of treated it as routine. We had wire netting on the windows. On the siren sounding, we had to go to the basement. Quarters were almost empty during the day as staff were out on duty. When I was in charge of the register at Chelsea, they were allowed to go and sleep elsewhere as long as they were registered and it was considered better to disperse them so as to avoid the problems of direct hits. If they were able to go home or to someone they knew that was all right. I went home of an evening and I think that was reassuring for my Mother

Here we see Wren Constance Hale with the petty officer’s badge clearly visible on her sleeve:PearnConstanceWRNSPettyOfficerHMSPhilante

RNAS Sweetheart Brooch

My thanks go to my father, Alan Hallett, for permission to bring you tonight’s object, a little Royal Naval Air Service sweetheart badge from the First World War:imageThe badge is made of white metal, possibly silver or silver plate, and is in the form of an eagle with outstretched wings with a naval crown above and the initials ‘RNAS’ beneath. This badge was adopted by the RNAS on its foundation in 1914 and was used throughout the Great War until the service was merged with the Royal Flying Corps to become the RAF. The same design of eagle with outstretched wings was adopted as a cloth patch worn on the shoulders of airman’s tunics. This bird has often been described as an albatross, but original dress regulations for the RAF indicate that it is indeed an eagle and as the albatross is a bird of misfortune to sailors it is unlikely one would have been chosen as the badge of the RNAS.

The rear of the badge has a simple pin attachment to allow it to be worn pinned to a piece of clothing:imageThe quality of this badge is superb and was probably bought as a gift for a mother, wife or sweetheart by someone serving in the RNAS.

By the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, the RNAS had 93 aircraft, six airships, two balloons and 727 personnel and a fierce rivallry with the Royal Flying Corps. The Navy maintained twelve airship stations around the coast of Britain from Longside, Aberdeenshire in the northeast to Anglesey in the west. On 1 August 1915 the Royal Naval Air Service officially came under the control of the Royal Navy. In addition to seaplanes, carrier-borne aircraft, and other aircraft with a legitimate “naval” application the RNAS also maintained several crack fighter squadrons on the Western Front, as well as allocating scarce resources to an independent strategic bombing force at a time when such operations were highly speculative. Inter-service rivalry even affected aircraft procurement. Urgently required Sopwith 1½ Strutter two-seaters had to be transferred from the planned RNAS strategic bombing force to RFC squadrons on the Western Front because the Sopwith firm were contracted to supply the RNAS exclusively. This situation continued, although most of Sopwith’s post-1915 products were not designed specifically as naval aircraft. Thus RNAS fighter squadrons obtained Sopwith Pup fighters months before the RFC, and then replaced these first with Sopwith Triplanes and then Camels while the hard-pressed RFC squadrons soldiered on with their obsolescent Pups. On 1 April 1918, the RNAS was merged with the RFC to form the Royal Air Force. At the time of the merger, the Navy’s air service had 55,066 officers and men, 2,949 aircraft, 103 airships and 126 coastal stations.

Early War Dispatch Rider’s Trade Badge

Tonight we have an example of an embroidered dispatch rider’s trade badge from the beginning of the Second World War. This badge has a winged motorcycle wheel and the letters ‘DR’ for dispatch rider:imageInterestingly this badge is not actually an official piece of army insignia. The only official dispatch riders in the army were part of the Royal Signals, everyone else should have worn a badge marked ‘MC’ for motorcyclist. In reality ‘dispatch rider’ was a universally recognised term and soldiers doing this job in other regiments wanted to be recognised as such so resorted to unofficial insignia of which this is a common type. These badges were purchased from military outfitters and this particular design seems to have been the most popular with examples being sold in relatively large quantities for an unofficial trade badge. Unlike the official badge, this design has a more elaborate style of wheel and wings that sweep up at a sharper angle.  It is still a rare badge, but not as uncommon as one might expect from its history. The badge was worn on the lower left sleeve, sewn to the battledress.

The badge itself is embroidered onto a piece of khaki fabric, and the rear of the badge shows the various threads from this process:imageDouglas Seed was a dispatch rider with the Royal Signals:

On the 13th. November 1941 I received my calling up papers instructing me to report to the Royal Corps of Signals at the British Rail holiday camp in Prestatyn in North Wales.

After six weeks parade ground training I was posted to Colwyn Bay for more training this time as a dispatch rider.

On the 6th March 1942 I became a dispatch rider group D class with an increase in pay, moving then onto Largs in Scotland to become a part of 78dr section 1st Army Signals. When it was approaching embarkation time I had to show a despatch rider from another unit the daily run to Glasgow which was part of the sections duties. Of we went over the moors the other motor cycle behind me complete with a pillion passenger, when out of nowhere a figure without any thought for his own safety jumped into the road waving his arms for me to stop. I applied my brakes, the rider behind me did not stop and consequently hit my rear mudguard jamming it tight against the wheel. I went one way the bike went the other way. Not only did I tear my breeches but I set light to a box of Swan Vestas matches that were in my pocket. After the mudguard was freed and the fire extinguished I asked why was I stopped and was told there was ice on the road. A kind thought! As it was I suffered a burn, grazes and a badly scratched helmet, not to mention my pride. Soon after this incident I with the rest of the section embarked on the SS Stralallan in convoy on our way to North Africa.ABL-WLC