By far the biggest users of plastic cap badges in World War II were the Corps units, such as the Royal Army Service Corps, Royal Corps of Signals and the subject of today’s post, the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. These units were all very large when compared to the size of infantry regiments and so the initial investment in tooling up moulds to make plastic cap badges from was well rewarded by the large number of badges that would be needed. This also ensured the maximum saving in brass, as these units would have eaten up far more of this precious resource in cap badges than any infantry unit. The badges were generally copied directly from the standard brass badges, albeit thicker to allow the necessary depth of material to keep the badge’s strength and give enough material to attach the fixing lugs to. The badge of the RAOC consisted of the traditional badge of Army Ordnance, a shield with three cannons beneath three cannon balls. This design had been in use since at least the eighteenth century, but once the RAOC had received Royal status the badge was redesigned to place it within a garter bearing the Royal motto “Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense” with a crown above and a scroll bearing the Corps’ motto beneath:
The back of the badge should have a pair of brass tabs to allow it to be attached to a cap, however as is often the case, these have snapped off after eighty years. The maker’s name is moulded into the rear of the badge, in this case the initials F&G can be seen at the top, this being the initials for Fraser and Glass who made a total of 310,090 RAOC badges for the army:
It is fair to say that the plastic badges were never very popular in service, men preferred the robustness of the brass examples and parade staff didn’t like the fact that they could not be polished (although a shine could be achieved using boot polish!). At the end of the war they were quickly dropped and replaced by brass again before staybrite started to see service at the end of the 1940s. The badges were equally ignored by collectors for the next fifty years, tales abound of baskets of these badges sitting unwanted in militaria shops waiting forlornly for purchase. Today however, they have been re-evaluated and become very popular amongst collectors. The corps badges such as this one are still easy and cheap to find, however badges made in smaller numbers have become highly desirable and fetch many times more than their metal equivalents on the collectors’ market.