Category Archives: Royal Air Force

ATC Metal Lapel Badge

Last year we looked at an example of the plastic Air Training Corps lapel badge here. Tonight I am pleased to be able to bring you the more common metal version of the badge:imageThe design is identical to that of the plastic badge, but thinner and more refined as the materials it is made from are stronger. The back has a standard lapel fitting:imageThe Air training Corps was very popular amongst boys during the Second World War and the Daily Mail reported on 4th February 1941:

Hundreds of school boys between 16 and 18 who have joined the Air Training Corps will have their first training this week.

Each boy has to give up four hours a week to ATC work and, as many are working, classes and drills are to be held at weekends and in the evenings.

Some London boroughs including St Marylebone, began training last Saturday, the day the corps came officially into existence.

Rifle Practice

Squadron Leader A.H. Waite, head of the St Marylebone A.T.C. told me: “We met on Saturday and there were enough boys already enrolled to form four flights.

“The boys took drill and classes in electricity, the internal combustion engine, and map reading. On Wednesday evening we are going to a local rifle range for practice.

Air Commodore J.A. Chamler, commandant of the A.T.C. is visiting Manchester today to meet the Lancashire Committee organising the A.T.C. He will go on to Leeds to meet the Yorkshire Organisers…

Here we see an air cadet, Fred Matthews, wearing the lapel badge on his suit:helstonatcfredmatthews

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RAF Police Cap

All three of the armed services have their own dedicated police forces. These police units all have distinctive insignia and uniform variations to make it easy to identify them. Whilst the army use red cap covers, the RAF police have white topped caps, and it is an example of this we are looking at tonight:imageThis cap is worn by NCOs and is of the same design as a standard RAF parade cap, but with a white vinyl top rather than it being made in blue-grey fabric. The white top gives rise to the RAF Police’s nickname of ‘snowdrops’. The white cap was first introduced at the very end of World War Two, originally as a separate cap cover, becoming an integral vinyl top only later. This cap was produced in the early 2000s, and has a label stuck into the underside of the top with the size, 54cm, an NSN number and the identification of the cap type:imageThe front of the cap has a pair of eyelets to allow a staybrite RAF cap badge to be attached:imageNote the black woven band around the cap, and the blue-grey fabric you can just see above it. This is far more obvious on the rear of the cap:imageThe chinstrap is made of vinyl, secured with two black plastic buttons sewn on either side of the cap:imageA stiff peak is fitted, shiny black on the top and green on the underside:imageNote also the faux-leather sweatband sewn to the interior of the cap. These caps are worn both formally on parades:947107272And whilst on duty:untitledOfficially the cap is only to be worn by NCOs below the rank of Warrant Officer, WOs wearing a standard blue-grey cap. Unofficially however it seems that some senior NCOs, taking advantage of the latitude their high rank entails, are now continuing to wear the white topped cap to make it clear that they are members of the RAF Police, the cap badge being substituted for the correct design for their rank.

30mm Aden Practice Round Shell Casing

The 30mm Aden cannon was a very successful post war aircraft gun, and we covered much of its history when we looked at an example of the links used to join cartridges here. Tonight we have the casing from one of those rounds to look at:imageSadly this is just the casing and is missing the head, but it can be seen that it is a brass case, with a large extraction groove at the base. The primer has been struck as one would expect from a fired round:imageThe markings for the Aden round are marked around the circumference of the case, rather than on the base:imageThe markings indicate that this is a 30mm practice round, manufactured by Radway Green in 1973. I have found this very useful diagram that shows what the various markings mean:GAERGHRE_croppedThe empty brass casings were ejected out of the underside of the aircraft, falling to the ground below. This could sometimes be a little disconcerting to friendly forces on the ground:

Just below its ‘shoulders’, where the leading edge of the wings meets the fuselage, the hunter had two large bulges called Sabrinas (they were named after a popular actress of the time who also had two large bulges just below her shoulders). The Sabrinas were there to accommodate the empty links from the 30mm ammunition belts that fed the Aden cannon. Simply letting the link belts shoot out of a slot behind the aircraft’s nose might have allowed the belts to foul the aircraft’s control surfaces. There were no such fears, however, about the spent shell cases. They were ejected from two holes immediately above each Sabrina- and even a quick three-second burst meant that at least 240 30mm brass shell cases came tumbling down. If just one of those caught you on the head it would be enough to lay you out. As soon as the brass rain started, we were under cover with Alfie quicker than you could day ‘concussion’…

RAF Association Banner

Tonight’s object proved one of the more challenging pieces to photograph for you as it is an eight foot long RAF Association banner:imageThe RAF Association was formed in 1929 to offer welfare and support to serving and ex members of the RAF. Originally it was an old-comrades association, but during the Second World War its remit was expanded due to the huge numbers of men (and women) in the RAF and the Association was steered into becoming more of a welfare charity after 1945 with welfare officers, employment officials and legal advisors appointed to help ex-airmen. The RAF Association set up branches across the country to support members on a local level and this banner comes from the Airedale and Wharfedale branch of the RAFA and would have been used at fund raising events to advertise the branch. The banner is made of a loose weave fabric and seems to have been craft-produced, albeit by an experienced seamstress. The letters are formed of tape, machine sewn to the fabric:imageTapes are sewn to either end to allow the banner to be tied up to display it:imageAn RAF roundel is sewn onto the banner, here made of three separate (almost) circles of fabric:imageThe RAFA logo is a professionally produced badge, that has been stapled to the banner:imageAs can be seen the printing on this badge has discoloured badly over the years. It is difficult to date these sort of hand-produced items, but my guess is that it would date from the 1960s or 1970s. The RAFA has continued being a successful charity right up to the present day, and according to their website :

 In a typical year, these are just some of the ways that we help our servicemen and women, past and present. You can find out more information about all of this great work on this site.

  • – Over 65,500 members offering friendship and support to one another
  • – Over 540 volunteer welfare officers with professional accredited training
  • – Our network of volunteer welfare officers make over 102,200 welfare visits and calls offering personal support to meet each individual’s and family’s needs
  • – We give expert advice and professional assistance on War Pensions and the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme, achieving more than £540,000 in pension and compensation payments
  • – We help 2,500 people enjoy a much needed Wings Break
  • – Our Storybook Wings initiative has supported 2,300 RAF children who struggle when their parent is not at home – whether on deployment or working away during the week
  • – We fund the refurbishment of 30 comfortable contact houses on stations where, for example, a separated parent can spend a precious weekend with their children
  • – We assist around 50 RAF veterans or their widows/widowers to lead safe, independent lives in our sheltered and supported housing
  • – Through the RAF Families Federation we give RAF personnel and their families the chance to influence future policy
  • – We distribute more than £1.8m in welfare grants to serving and ex-serving personnel
  • – We work with Alabaré and The Soldier’s Charity to help homeless ex-military personnel to rebuild their lives

RAF Regiment CS95 Shirt

Over the years we have looked at quite a few badged CS95 shirts in both standard woodland DPM and desert DPM. I am very fond of these shirts, they are normally cheap, plentiful and offer a real variety of different insignia to collect. Looking forward, it would not surprise me if these start to inch up in desirability and price as time moves on- there are no more of them being produced anymore. Looking back at previous trends is not a great way to predict the future, but until thirty years ago collectors were not interested in badged battledress blouses from World War Two- indeed many examples were cut up to leave just the insignia to go in a collector’s scrap book. Today though, original badged battledress is highly prized and easily fetches twice what an un-badged example might. With this in mind, I suspect that going forward many collectors will find a new interest in CS95 clothing, especially if it is badged nicely and to one of the more desirable regiments or units.

Tonight’s example is a standard green DPM shirt:imageThis example though is badged to the RAF Regiment and has a nice array of insignia. We have covered the shirt a number of times so tonight I am focussing on the badges. Above the breast pocket is a large ‘Royal Air Force’ tab:imageWhilst a semi-circular shoulder title is sewn to each shoulder, just below the seam:imageOn the opposite sleeve is a tactical recognition flash:imageThis is the insignia of No II Squadron, RAF Regiment. This unit can trace its history back to 1922, when it was No 2 Armoured Car Company, RAF. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall this unit has been very busy:

  • OPERATION RESOLUTE – YUGOSLAVIA 1996

In July 1996 II Squadron assumed responsibility for the defence of divisional assets in the Former Yugoslavia Republic (FYR). During the deployment the Squadron expanded its role in the theatre.

  • OPERATION HELVIN – ALBANIA 1997

In 1997 the stability of Albania was shattered by civil unrest. II Squadron was tasked to supply a flight, to extract British nationals from Tirano Airport.

  • OPERATION BOLTON – KUWAIT 1998

Relieving 34 Squadron RAF Regiment in June 1998, II Squadron assumed responsibility for the defence of the RAF detachment at Ali Al Salem.

  • OPERATION AGRICOLA – KOSOVO 1999

II Squadron secured Pristina airfield by actively patrolling the towns and villages surrounding it, controlling the main roads on the approach to the airfield and policing and controlling inter-racial factions.

  • OPERATION MAIDENLY – SIERRA LEONE 2001

In June 2001, II Squadron was tasked to conduct an estimate of the defensive requirements in Sierra Leone for a Special Air Operations detachment.

  • OPERATION SILKMAN – SIERRA LEONE 2001

II Squadron contributed to the ongoing public information and capability demonstration within Sierra Leone, designed to reassure the law abiding locals of the continuing UK commitment to ensuring the stability within the region.

  • OPERATION RESINATE (SOUTH) – KUWAIT 2001

II Squadron assumed the duties of Resident Field Squadron in Kuwait.

  • OPERATION TELIC/ROW – IRAQ 2002

II Squadron deployed and found itself deployed across a 900 Km frontage in 3 countries: Jordan; Saudi Arabia; and the Iraqi Western Desert.

  • OPERATION TELIC – IRAQ 2004

II Squadron was deployed in defence of Basra International Airport.

  • OPERATION TELIC – IRAQ 2005

Once again II Squadron deployed as the Resident Field Squadron at Basra International Airport.

  • OPERATION HERRICK – AFGHANISTAN 2006

II Squadron assumed the duties of Resident Field Squadron at Kandahar International Airport.

  • OPERATION TELIC – IRAQ 2008

II Squadron deployed for its last time as the Resident Field Squadron at Basra International Airport.

  • OPERATION HERRICK – AFGHANISTAN 2010

II Squadron once again assumed the duties of Resident Field Squadron at Kandahar International Airport.

  • OPERATION HERRICK – AFGHANISTAN 2011

II Squadron assumed the duties of Resident Field Squadron at Camp Bastion.

Here we can see an example of the II Squadron RAF Regiment TRF badge being worn by a parachutist:no-2-sqn-raf-regt-2

RAF Ground Tradesman’s Smock Liner

Continuing this blogs ever increasing coverage of quilted liner clothing, tonight we have another variation on the smock liner:imageThis example is actually an RAF Ground Tradesman’s smock liner and would have been worn by RAF ground crew servicing aircraft in cold conditions- air bases in Britain and West Germany were notoriously cold places in winter so extra layers would have been very much appreciated.

One of the dangers around aircraft is that small pieces of debris can fall out and are then sucked into engines with disastrous results- even something as innocuous seeming as a button could potentially destroy a jet engine worth many millions of pounds. Because of this risk, this smock liner is secured up the front by sewn in pieces of Velcro rather than the buttons seen on many army smock liners:imageApart from that there is very little difference between this and other examples of the liner. It is made of the same quilted green nylon, with polyester batting between the two layers of fabric. The same green mesh is used to aid ventilation in the particularly sweaty parts of the body, here the arm pits:imageIt is the sewn in label that here indicates that this is RAF issue and for ground crew:imageThe liner was made by Dashmore Clothing and they seem to have had a number of large MoD orders for uniforms in the mid to late 1980s and then disappeared again from military procurement.

This is another great variant of the quilted liners and joins my growing collection of different types- there are still more out there to find so I am sure this is not the last you will be seeing of the ‘Chinese fighting suit’ on the blog…you have been warned!

RAF Olive Green Foul Weather Trousers

It is not perhaps surprising that, considering how exposed many airfields can be, the RAF had some of the best waterproof clothing of the Cold War. Tonight we are looking at a pair of RAF issue foul weather trousers in olive green:imageThey are made from a double layered nylon with an elasticated waist. The fly has no buttons that could fall off and cause a problem if they were to be sucked up by an aircraft engine, instead a press stud and Velcro are supplied:imageTwo openings are provided to allow access to the pockets underneath the trousers:imageThese garments were introduced in the 1970s and were originally issued in four of the numbered non-metric sizes (0-3). By the time my pair were manufactured modern metric sizing had been introduced, as seen on the label:imageIn time these trousers were also adopted by the army and the description on the label changed to ‘Trousers, Foul Weather, OG’.

A Velcro tab is provided at the bottom of each trouser leg to allow it to be sealed against the elements:imageThese trousers were very good for their era- comfortable to wear and actually waterproof! They were sought after at the time, especially by those not technically due to be issued them! Today they are definitely a little harder to find than other items of army waterproof clothing. These were a lucky £1 find last week. My thanks go to Stephen Madden for his encyclopaedic knowledge of Cold War uniforms which was a great help in the preparing of this post.