As readers will be aware, over the last six months I have slowly been putting together a little collection of Republic of Ireland kit. My aim has always been to have just enough to put together one good impression of an Irish soldier. You will have seen a reconstruction of an Irish soldier on UN peacekeeping duties a few weeks back. The reason I used the UN beret with that impression was that at the time I did not have an Irish cap badge. For something that is used by almost the whole Irish Defence Force, these cap badges are not that easy to find in the UK so I was very pleased to find a somewhat battered example in a junk box for £2:
The official description of the badge is:
As a component of rank insignia and which is specified in the Third Schedule as the form of the cap badge, shall be comprised of a sunburst – An Gal Gréine, surmounted by an 8-pointed star, a point of the star being uppermost, bearing the letters “FF” (in Gaelic characters) encircled by a representation of an ancient warrior’s sword belt on which the words “Óglaigh na hÉireann” are inscribed.
The cap badge was first designed in 1913 by Eoin MacNeill, one of the founding members of the Irish Volunteers and the design was used throughout the Irish rebellion and then by the Irish Army during the Irish Civil War. The letters ‘FF’ in the centre of the badge refer to Fianna Fáil – “Fianna of Inis Fáil”, i.e. Army of Ireland. Around the edge is inscribed “Óglaiġ na h-Éireann” – Irish Volunteers.
The rear of the badge has two lugs that allow a split pin to be passed through to secure the badge to a cap. Sadly as mentioned above, this example is pretty rough and these lugs are badly damaged:
My plan is to find the correct black beret and then sew the badge to it with a few discrete loops of cotton.
In the Army, the badge is worn by all ranks on all head-dress. Enlisted and non-commissioned ranks wear a “Stay-Brite” anodised aluminium brass replica (this example). Some enlisted ranks, particularly older soldiers, wear the original Brass Badge which, although no longer official issue, is considered a symbol of lengthy service. Commissioned Officers and Senior NCOs, such as Sergeant Major and Battalion/Regimental Quartermaster, wear a larger dark bronze version. This tradition is assumed to have begun on the death of Michael Collins during the Irish Civil War when officers dulled their badges with boot polish in Commemoration of the General. The bronze badge was introduced in 1924.
In the Naval Service, the “Stay-Brite” version of the badge is worn by Seamen and Leading Seaman on their cap and on the operational beret.