Category Archives: Insignia

West Yorkshire Rifle Volunteer’s Button

Late Victorian militaria does not come up too often, but occasionally a piece comes out of the woodwork like tonight’s object which is a little white metal button, marked up to the ‘4th Administrative Battalion, West Riding of Yorkshire Rifle Volunteers’:imageThe central feature of this button is a Tudor rose for the county of Yorkshire and the white metal was commonly used for volunteer regiments rather than the brass/gold coloured insignia of regular regiments. The rear of the button indicates that it was manufactured by Firmin of London:imageThe Rifle movement grew out of an invasion scare in 1859 which led to thousands flocking to locally formed Rifle Volunteer Corps. A large number of independent RVCs were raised in the West Riding of Yorkshire, including the ‘Barnsley Rifles’ and the ‘Rotherham Rifles’ and in August 1860 some of these were grouped into the 4th Administrative Battalion, Yorkshire West Riding RVCs, based at Doncaster (dates are those of the first officers’ commissions):

  • 18th (Pontefract) Yorkshire West Riding RVC, 2 March 1860
  • 19th (Rotherham) Yorkshire West Riding RVC, 29 February 1860
  • 20th (Doncaster, Great Northern Railway) Yorkshire West Riding RVC, 5 February 1860
  • 21st (Doncaster Burgesses) Yorkshire West Riding RVC, 5 February 1860
  • 36th (Rotherham) Yorkshire West Riding RVC, 19 October 1860, joined 4th Admin Bn 1862
  • 37th (Barnsley) Yorkshire West Riding RVC, 21 November 1860, transferred from 3rd Admin Bn 1863
  • 40th (Wath-upon-Dearne) Yorkshire West Riding RVC, March 1863, based at Hoyland Nether until 1866

The 20th RVC was recruited largely from employees of the Great Northern Railway (GNR) at Doncaster Works and was commanded by the railway’s locomotive superintendent, Archibald Sturrock. The other units in the battalion were mainly recruited from coal mining and related industries. A Rotherham Rifle Band was formed and by August 1861 it was competing in brass band competitions.

Walter Spencer-Stanhope (1827–1911) of Cannon Hall and Horsforth Hall, a Captain in the 2nd West Riding Yeomanry, who had raised the 36th RVC, was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel commanding the 4th Admin Bn on 11 February 1863. He later became Member of Parliament for the Southern Division of the West Riding (1872–80).

A drill hall was built at Wharncliffe Street, Rotherham, in 1873, prior to which the 18th and 36th RVCs had used the Court House and Corn Exchange in the town.

The RVCs in the 4th Admin Bn were consolidated as the 8th Yorkshire West Riding RVC at Doncaster in 1880, still under the command of Lt-Col Stanhope.

This then dates this little button to before 1880 and after 1860 so we have a nice twenty year window in which it must have been manufactured and used.

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

Coldstream Guards Lapel Badge

I really like regimental lapel badges. They tend to be cheap, they don’t take up any room and they are often very attractive little objects with brightly coloured enamel in their decoration. Careful hunting in junk boxes can reap rewards, such as this little Coldstream Guards badge that turned up last week for £1:imageIt is made of white metal in the shape of a Garter star and has a small half-moon lapel pin soldered to the back:imageThe star is taken from the Order of the Garter, the highest order of British Chivalry and is an eight pointed star, each of its points being a cluster of rays to give a sun beam effect. In the centre of this is the badge of St George, the red cross on a white field surrounded by a navy blue garter bearing the motto ‘Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense’. The design dates back to the reign of Charles I and the use of the badge indicates the high seniority of the Coldstream Guards, second only to the Grenadier Guards in the order of precedence.

All regiments retain close ties with their former members, but this is especially important for Guards and Cavalry regiments where regimental associations open up many doors for former soldiers. Although it is a cliché, the regimental tie and badge are still important identifiers and in social situations allow a subtle way to indicate regimental loyalties. With this in mind, small lapel badges such as this one take on a greater significance. Officially former guardsmen are represented by the Coldstream Guards Association, its website describes their role as:

The Coldstream Guards Association is a community of serving and ex-members of the Coldstream Guards, who are united by the ethos of ‘once a Coldstreamer – always a Coldstreamer’. The Association is open to all who are serving, or have served, in the Regiment, whether officer or enlisted man… It is a place to keep in touch with old friends, meet and understand the next generation of Coldstream Guardsmen and gives you the opportunity to assist in the welfare of the Regimental family where you are able.

Sergeant’s Rank Brassard

A brassard is a piece of cloth that goes over the shoulder and in military terms it is usually used to display rank and unit insignia. This allows more delicate embroidered badges to be separate from items of clothing that would frequently get dirty and need constant laundering, such as overalls. The brassard can be removed before washing and swapped from overall to overall. Tonight we have a fairly modern brassard for a sergeant:imageNote how dirty this brassard is, I removed it from a set of overalls and the oil is probably left over from the original owner’s work. Three white sergeants stripes are fitted to the front:imageInterestingly this was originally a corporal’s brassard that has been modified by adding an extra stripe. The original two stripes are sewn on, as seen on the reverse:imageThe extra stripe though has been glued onto the fabric, indicating that the original owner was promoted and just made the alteration with glue! This seems a fairly hap hazard arrangement, but it looks neat enough from the front and it is only on close in section that you can see how the change was made. A slot is cut in the top of the brassard for a shoulder strap to pass through:imageThis prevents the brassard from slipping down the shoulder. Velcro is fitted to allow the main body of the brassard to be secured around the arm- loops on the front:imageAnd hooks on the rear:imageWhen wrapped around the arm, these mate up to hold it securely:imageCombined with the top fastening this helps hold the brassard nice and secure, whilst still allowing flexibility and easy removal for washing. These sort of objects are very hard to date, but I would guess that this was produced in the 1970s or 1980s. One old soldier recalls regimental variations in brassards:

Household Div use to have brassards for No2 dress shirt (made from No2 dress shirt material) shirts hairy and woolly pulley(made out of denim/lightweights material) and startched to fcuk so they could stand up. Remember, Guards RSMs have a fcuk off big tate and lyle on the forearm on brassards, not cuff too.

Civil Defence Corps Enamelled Badges

Civil Defence services had largely been wound up at the end of the Second World War. In 1949 however they were restarted, the impending threat of nuclear attack from the USSR and it’s vassal states requiring the introduction of some form of local support to civilians in case of war. This new Civil Defence service had a number of pieces of insignia, some of which we have looked at before. The designs of the post war Civil Defence service are different from wartime badges, but are frequently muddled up by collectors and dealers. Tonight we are looking at a number of little enamelled badges:imageThese badges have a central motif of a lion, surrounded by ‘Civil Defence Corps’ on a blue enamelled field. They are topped by a crown; either the King’s crown indicating they are from between 1949 and 1953, or the more bulbous Queen’s crown introduced after Queen Elizabeth II came to the throne:imageThe badges are offered with either lapel or brooch type fittings:imageThe lapel fittings were for men, fashions of the day meant most men wore suits with a button hole on the lapel for these badges. The women have a pin fastener that could be attached to a piece of clothing or a hat easily.

The Civil Defence Corps (CDC) was a civilian volunteer organisation established in Great Britain in 1949 to mobilise and take local control of the affected area in the aftermath of a major national emergency, principally envisaged as being a Cold War nuclear attack. By March 1956, the Civil Defence Corps had 330,000 personnel. It was stood down in Great Britain in 1968, although two Civil Defence Corps still operate within the British Isles, namely the Isle of Man Civil Defence Corps and Civil Defence Ireland (Republic of Ireland). Many other countries maintain a national Civil Defence Corps, usually having a wide brief for assisting in large scale civil emergencies such as flood, earthquake, invasion, or civil disorder.

You will note that the Queen’s crown example above has the letters ‘ICDS’. This stands for the ‘Industrial Civil Defence Service’ and were units based around factories and industry rather than civilian population centres.

The Industrial Civil Defence Service was a similar organisation to the Civil Defence Corps, but separate from it. Every industrial or commercial undertaking which employed two hundred or more people could form a civil defence unit to protect its own property and staff. These units were organised in a similar way to the Civil Defence Corps, with Headquarters, Warden, Rescue, First Aid and Fire Guard Sections. The Fire Guard Section manned fire points and smaller fire appliances. Each unit had its own control post, and groups of units could form a group control post. Group control posts and control posts in larger factories had the status of warden posts in their own right, whereas smaller units answered to their local Civil Defence Corps warden post.

Royal Navy Trade Patches (Part 5)- QARNNS

So far all the badges we have looked at have been blue on a white background. Tonight however we have a selection of badges that are red, including a medical trade badge:imageLeading hand’s rank badge:imageAnd a petty officer’s rank badge:imageThese badges were actually for use by the Queen Alexandria’s Royal Naval Nursing Service (QARNNS), and were worn on the traditional blue nurses uniforms:CaptureIn 1883, a committee determined that improvements were needed in medical and nursing care in the Royal Navy. As such, in 1884, a uniformed Naval Nursing Service was introduced, staffed by trained nurses. These nurses served on shore, initially at Haslar and Plymouth.

In 1902, Alexandra of Denmark, the queen consort of Edward VII of the United Kingdom, became President of the Nursing Staff; in her honour, the Naval Nursing service was renamed Queen Alexandra’s Royal Naval Nursing Service.

Queen Alexandra’s Royal Naval Nursing Service Reserve was established on 13 October 1910.

In 1914, with the outbreak of the First World War, QARNNS was significantly expanded, with many volunteers from the British Red Cross and civilian hospitals; similarly, during the Second World War, many volunteer QARNNS nurses were deployed overseas.

In 1949 a nursing branch of the Women’s Royal Naval Service was formed; however, in 1960 these nurses were integrated into QARNNS, creating a single nursing service. In 1982 an integrated service was formed, allowing men to serve as nurses in QARNNS. The first man to join was Senior Nursing Officer Rajendrasen Purusrum, who was commissioned on 1 March 1983.

Although fully affiliated to the Royal Navy from 1977, QARNNS was technically a separate service until 31 March 2000, when it officially became part of the Royal Navy.

Queen Alexandra was President until her death in 1925. The following year she was succeeded by Queen Mary. Princess Alexandra became Patron in 1955.

The trade badge at the top was to indicate a QARNNS Auxiliary and the design was first introduced in the mid-1960s. The ratings badges were introduced in 1985, the service having its own distinctive rank insignia prior to that point. It was found that those outside the QARNNS did not recognise what the ranks and rates meant so there was a slow move over to more conventional badges. The officers were to follow, with ranks renamed in 1982 when men were permitted to join and in the mid-1990s with the use of conventional rank insignia, but surmounted by a red double ‘A’ badge to indicate their status as nursing officers.

Territorial Army Lapel Badge

During the late 1930s local Territorial Army units started pressurising the War Office for some form of recognition for those who had joined their ranks. It was suggested that members either be given a certificate they could frame and hang at home, or some sort of lapel badge that could be worn with civilian clothes to show the commitment of the man to the force. The War Office gauged the opinions of TA units and in 1935 it was clear most were in favour of the badge. It was finally in March 1937 that the War Office granted permission for a badge to be issued.

The design settled on was a based around the letters ‘TA’ with a kings crown above and a lion springing forward below:imageThis design was the brainchild of a Mr Coombes of the Royal Mint and was to be made of sterling silver. The badge was approved by the King in March 1938 and the order for the first 250,000 was placed on 19th March 1938.

The badges has a lapel fitting on the back and a number can be found stamped on them here:imageEach badge was uniquely numbered and a register was maintained by local TA associations. It was expected that if a man left the TA, the badge would be returned and struck off the list. Sadly it is unclear if these registers still survive, as it would be very interesting to be able to identify the original owners of these badges.

Naturally the badges numbered ‘1’ and ‘2’ were presented to the King and Queen as honorary colonels of the TA.

The design was to be used for many years and examples can be found from the post-war period with a Queen’s crown at the top, these post war examples can also be found with a pin fastener rather than the lapel fastener. The badge was also used in printed form on a variety of leaflets and posters:imageBill Spry was a member of the TA during the 1930s:

I joined the T.A in 1932 at the suggestion of my uncle, Lionel Simpson, who was already a member. After an interview at the H.Q in Park St. Drill Hall, I was given a sealed envelope to take to a doctor’s house in Cathedral R.C Cardiff for my medical examination. The door was answered by a maid, she took the envelope and told me to return the next day. I did so and she gave me a sealed envelope back which I handed in to the H.Q office. I was told that I had passed the medical! I had to add a year on to my age to join, (I was fifteen) and for my first year was rated as “Boy Spry”. I also gave my name as “William James” Spry which I thought was correct, whereas it is actually “James William” Spry. Any eventual discharge papers included these particulars and caused me quite a few problems. My first camp 1932, was in Monmouth under canvas, very wet, very miserable, ablution and toilets in the open air. We slept in bell tents my place was under the flap so that anyone entering or leaving had to step over me. In the Mess tent eight men were assigned per table. Food was supplied in one big dish for each table. The senior men then divided the food onto plates. Guess who got the smallest portion and the stringiest piece of meat! In spite of this I got the prize for the “best recruit”. Incidentally, my pay as a “boy” was eight pence per day. The following year 1933, the annual camp was in Penally, near Tenby, in huts and fine weather. Each man was issued with three heavy blankets, (no sheets). Each morning these had to be folded neatly and laid out with the rest of the kit in the proscribed manner. Returning to my hut one morning I saw with dismay that one of my blankets was missing, stolen. I reported this to my sergeant. He said “No problem, go and take someone else’s”. I said that I couldn’t do that. He replied “That’s an order, do it”.

Waiting until the hut was empty I took the blanket from another bed and put it on mine. Returning to the hut later that day I was pleased to see that the bed I had robbed was back to three blankets! I attended camp each year until 1939. In 1933 I was rated signalman, pay 3/6d f.d. In 1934, I was promoted to lance corporal, 1935 Corporal, 1936 lance sergeant. Our uniform included bandolier, breeches and spurs (very smart). This was because until 1931 horses had been used to pull the cable wagons and the army had not got around to changing our uniforms.