Category Archives: Insignia

73rd Independent Infantry Brigade Patch

I am not really a collector of patches or insignia, however is 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:imageA few minutes research indicated that it is the brigade patch for the 73rd Independent Infantry Brigade. The brigade 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)

Commanders

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:imageThe 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.

RN Ratings’ DDPM Slide

It would be fair to say that there must be hundreds of different designs of rank slide to collect for the British military forces. Each regiment has a full set of ranks, each with the regiment’s name embroidered below, unique designs exist for cadet and university units and the RAF and Royal Navy have their own designs. On top of this, these rank slides can be found in a variety of camouflage colours and in gold on black for the RN. Tonight we are looking at a small selection of rank slides for ratings in the Royal Navy:imageThese are all on the now obsolete desert DPM fabric and follow the traditional badges for Royal Navy rates, embroidered in khaki for a subdued design. The lowest RN rate is that of Able Seaman, for many decades there was no badge at all, however today ABs wear a rate slide with the words ‘ROYAL NAVY’ embroidered on it:imageThe next rate a sailor can aspire to is that of ‘Leading Hand’, equivalent to a corporal in the army. This rate is indicated by a traditional fouled anchor:imageThe leading hand is the last of the junior rates, the next rate is the first rung on the ladder of ‘senior rates’ and is the Petty Officer. This rate is represented by a pair of crossed fouled anchors, with a crown above:imageThe Petty Officer is equivalent to a sergeant in the army. Here we can see an RN Petty Officer in a hospital in Afghanistan wearing the rate slide shown above:tfh4mechbde2010041015A Chief Petty Officer has a badge consisting of a fouled anchor, surrounded by a rope ring and a laurel wreath with a crown above:imageThe most senior RN rate is the Warrant Officer and he wears a badge with the coat of arms of the monarch on it. It is worth mentioning here the quality of the embroidery on this rate badge for a very intricate design:imageThese rate badges, like most others, are very cheap and available in large quantities, most can be found for no more than a couple of pounds and they make a good starting point for the young collector of militaria.

Shallow Water Diver’s Patch

Unlike the Royal Navy where diving is a specialist trade, in the army it is an additional qualification on top of soldier and trade skills and divers are not employed in the role on a full time basis. Despite this the training and requirements are just as rigorous and the award of a shallow water diver’s badge at the end of the training is treated with great pride. The badge is in the form of an old fashioned diver’s helmet, embroidered in yellow or gold thread on a suitably coloured background. This example is in yellow on a khaki piece of felt:skmbt_c36416121312260_0001Army divers train at the same facility as the Royal Navy, at the Defence Diving School at Horsea Island and high levels of fitness and teamwork are essential. Once they have completed their training they can expect to be employed in a number of tasks such as underwater demolitions, underwater concreting, searching and recovering equipment and people and underwater engineering tasks. The training is spread over four different courses:

  • Army Diver Selection Course (SEL).

The aim is to select those Officers and Soldiers suitable for training as Army Divers. DTU(A) assess physical fitness, diving aptitude, ability to learn new information and attitude towards military Diving. Only those who are selected can apply for the next course.

  • Army Diver Class 2 Course (AD2).

The aim is to train Officers and Soldiers, who have successfully passed an Army Diver Selection Course, in the use of SABA MOD 1, in-service self contained equipment, in techniques that will allow them to operate at depths of up to 30m, as a member of a Unit Diving Team. The 5 week course includes first aid, underwater search techniques, demolitions, minor repair, object recovery and removal and fast water search.

  • Army Diver Class 1 Course (AD1).

The aim is to train Class 2 Army Divers in the use of the Open Space Diving System (OSDS), in-service surface demand equipment, in techniques that will allow them to operate at depths of up to 50m, as a member of a Unit Diving Team. The 6 week course includes underwater engineering, concreting, hydraulic tools and decompression diving.

  • Army Diving Supervisor Course (ADS).

The aim is to qualify Class 1 Army Divers as Army Diving Supervisors or a percentage of personnel for training as SABA supervisors by means of assessing them in the following supervisory roles over 5 weeks; local agency tasking in both OSDS and SABA, fast water tasks and deep diving tasks.

Here we see a pair of army divers at Horsea, note the shallow water diving qualification badge on the sleeve of the left hand diver:surg-lt-jamie-vassallo-being-prepared-for-army-diving-session

Scottish SFOR Brassard

In 1996 NATO set up a multinational peacekeeping force to help enforce the peace in the former Yugoslavia, the force was called the ‘Stabilisation Force’ which was shortened to ‘SFOR’. The British were one of the major contributors to the peacekeeping force, with the operation being given the British code name of ‘Operation Lodestar’. Amongst the regiments deployed to Bosnia were several Scottish units, wearing brassards such as this one:imageThe brassard is made from green cotton, with an elastic strap on the rear so it can be worn over the shoulder:imageSewn to it are a pair of badges, the official NATO patch for SFOR, with the initials in Arabic and Cyrillic letters:imageAnd an embroidered Scottish saltire:imageAmongst the Scottish units deployed, were the Gordon highlanders who found that alongside traditional military operations, they were to assist the local humanitarian effort:

Babanovici – The orphanage, run by Scots VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) volunteer, Sarah Cumming, 21, from Forfar, is in one of the most poverty stricken areas of war-torn Bosnia. In a predominantly Serb area, Sarah runs one of the few inter-ethnic facilities in the area, taking in kids from all backgrounds and religions, Bosniac, Serb and Croat, trying to encourage peace and harmony in tomorrow’s generation.

“It’s was a real uphill struggle” says Sarah. “We didn’t even have enough paper to give every-one a jotter. The kids shared pencils, rubbers – even the very basic stuff you take for granted in the UK was impossible to find out here”.

The poverty is real enough. In an area still littered with the ruins of burnt-out houses, destroyed by war, there is little no industry. In a country where the average income is £120 per month, it’s barely half that in Babanovici. “Seeing the British was like a miracle,” Sarah adds. “We were in the classroom, when we heard the sound of heavy trucks outside. When I looked out the window, there were our guys, coming up the hill on a patrol”.

Lt. Tom Hawkins, 24, from Stirling, takes up the story: “We were on a routine route clearance through Babanovici when a very animated local lass came running up babbling in a strange tongue. Luckily, we had a few cunning linguists in the patrol who were able to identify the language as a strange Scottish dialect….and that’s how we met Sarah”. b02141bA quick inventory check later and the Highlanders sprang into action. Calls to SFOR headquarters in Sarajevo resulted in the delivery of footballs, while the Ops room donated a selection of pens, pencils and notebooks. Most highly prized of all, though, were 2 computers, seized in a raid on arms smugglers. “It’s great to be able to do something to help these people” says Tom. “Frankly, it makes a long tour away from home worth it when you see the faces light up at the gift of such simple items”.

For Sarah, it’s a chance to properly do the job she came out to do. “I can’t thank the Highlanders enough,” she says. “Without them, I’d be trying to teach with one hand tied behind my back. These kids will always remember the soldiers from Scotland – and, just maybe, that will help them live together in peace”.

RAF Sergeant’s Arm Band

RAF mechanics have always spent a lot of time wearing overalls, the nature of the work they do servicing oily engines makes them a necessity. As might be expected, these overalls are washed regularly and thoroughly which makes any form of rank insignia sewn onto them subject to a lot of wear that can either destroy stitching or indeed destroy the embroidery itself. These days removable cloth rank slides are common across all the services and uniforms, but for many years removable arm bands were used with the rank insignia sewn onto them. Tonight we are looking at one of these armbands, which probably dates form the 1950s or 1960s:

image

As can be seen the front of the armband is made of green denim, with a set of blue RAF sergeant’s stripes sewn on centrally:imageNote the button loops above and below the insignia. The rear of the arm band is made of a contrasting khaki cotton:

imageA set of Newey studs is provided to adjust the armband to size, with three pairs of male studs and a single pair of female studs to allow three different sizes depending on how thick your arms are. The studs are made of brass, with the Newey patent number stamped on:image

RAF Officer’s Shoulder Boards

When the RAF was formed in 1918 it adopted the same cuff rings for officer’s rank insignia as the Royal navy, albeit without an executive curl. Whilst rank was displayed on the cuff for service dress, on the great coat stiff removable shoulder boards were used:imageThese are made of blue grey cloth, covering a stiff liner, with a small brass king’s crown button:imageThe rank of flying officer is indicated by a single thin strip of braid:imageThe reverse of the shoulder board is made of a leatherette type cloth, with a single pin to secure the brass button’s shank:imageA thin strip of this leatherette cloth is secured as a flap on the back of the board, which allowed it to be secured through corresponding loops on the shoulders of a greatcoat:imageThis shoulder board is for one of the most junior officer’s rank, the full range of officer’s ranks is illustrated by this diagram from the RAF:486348b7_f6ae_fdfd_508a59bb08eb2b08From the most junior rank to be found on a shoulder board to the most senior, here King George VI inspecting an American bomber base at Alconbury in 1942 can be seen wearing officer’s shoulder boards on his great coat:image

Embroidered Officers’ Rank Badges

When battledress was introduced just before the war it was intended that the only insignia worn upon it would be rank, in a dull khaki embroidered form. As early as December 1939 this policy was being questioned when the War office recorded that the Deputy Chief of the General Staff had inspected experimental insignia including:

A coloured backing to the badges of rank to be worn by officers only, in order to enable them to be more easily distinguished from other ranks than is present the case with the regulation plain worsted rank badges.

Clearly at this stage the designs needed more work as:

The patterns seen by D.C.G.S were considered to be too colourful and likely to make the officers too conspicuous and it was arranged that other samples be produced…

It was not until 1941 that an order was sent around determining the colours to be used for the backing of officers rank badges. The colours chosen were often quite bright, but the small amount visible helped reduce the dangers to an officer. I have a number of these rank badges in my collection:imageL to R, Khaki (general use), Dull Cherry (RAMC), Scarlet (Infantry), Light Blue (Army Air Corps, Glider Pilot Regiment, Parachute Regiment, Army Educational Corps), Dark blue (Royal Engineers, Royal Corps of Signals), Yellow (Royal Armoured Corps, Royal Army Service Corps, Royal Army Pay Corps).

A full list of colours was set out in ACI 1118 dated 18th September 1940:

Staff – Red

RAC – Yellow

RA – Red

RE – Blue

R Signals – Blue

Infantry (Except Rifles) – Scarlet

Infantry (Rifles) – Rifle Green

Reconnaissance Corps – Green

RAChD – Black (later Purple)

RASC – Yellow

RAMC – Dull Cherry

RAOC – Dark Blue

CMP – Red

RAPC – Yellow

AEC – Cambridge Blue

AD Corps – Green

AMPC – Red

Intelligence Corps – Green

APTC – Black

General List – Scarlet

These badges were to be worn on battledress only, being banned from greatcoats form the start, in 1942 this prohibition was extended to service dress as well. A number of variants can be found with these rank badges, examples can be found with or without padding underneath:imageVariations in the design of the embroidery also exist, as seen in the various designs employed on these Major’s Crowns:imageOther regiments had their own variations, the Kings Royal Rifle Corps having black pips on a red background for instance. The Foot Guards and Household Cavalry never adopted cloth rank badges, sticking to their metal versions in regimental styles.