South African Navy Petty Officer’s Ball Cap

Whilst I have focussed on the South African Army up until now, I am starting to add a few items of pre and post-apartheid South African Naval uniform to my collection. The South African Navy was the most powerful naval force in Africa at one point, but decades of sanctions followed by the parlous state of the post-apartheid economy mean it is far smaller today than it was at its height. Following the end of apartheid the symbols and heraldry of the new state were updated to reflect the nation’s new start. Gone was the lion holding four bound rods on top of badges and insignia and in its place was a stylised secretary bird. The secretary bird is a large bird of prey that is indigenous to southern Africa. It has appeared in cultural symbols since at least 3,200 BC in Egypt. The secretary bird has traditionally been admired in Africa for its striking appearance and ability to deal with pests and snakes. With its wings outstretched, it represents growth, and its penchant for killing snakes is symbolic as the protector of the South African state against enemies.

Today we are looking at a ball cap, issued to a Petty Officer of the South African navy. This is a working cap, used to keep the sun out of the wearer’s eyes when on board ship, but not for use on the parade ground where more traditional caps are retained. It is made of black fabric, with a deep peak:

A velcroed size adjuster is provided at the back, note also the embroidered ventilation holes:

The badge is embroidered on the front in gold and silver thread and features a fouled anchor within a ring and with the bird of state above:

The cap itself has a label inside dating it to 2004 and showing it was made by ‘South African Cap Manufacturers’:

Caps are produced for all ranks, with appropriate badges embroidered on the front. Here we see a South African Navy officer volunteering ashore and wearing the ball cap with the badge of rank clearly visible:

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