1914 On War Service Badge

During the Great War there was a general clamour for all men to be in uniform and fighting for their country. In reality however, some men needed to remain behind to run essential war industries and these men greatly resented being branded as cowards by others as they were not wearing a military uniform. To overcome this problem and allow them to be easily identified as being on essential war work, a number of different lapel badges were issued that could be worn as a clear outward symbol that a man was doing his part for the war effort. Those working for the ship building trade, or making munitions for the Admiralty were amongst those on essential war work and the Admiralty issued them with a small circular badge. In the words of the Admiralty, these were for ‘workmen whose services are indispensable for rapid completion of HM ships and armaments’. In the centre was a crown and on the blue ring around the outside are the words ‘On War Service 1914’:

These badges were open to abuse, and the wearing of one without reason was seen as being a problem. Therefore each badge was serialised on the reverse and so if the authorities wished to check they could ensure a man wearing such a badge was legally entitled to do so. Initially Admiralty badges were unnumbered, however in 1916 the badges were recalled and reissued with numbered examples. The numbers of men working in war related industries was such that a simple number was not sufficient so they also had a letter prefix, here the letter ‘B’:

Manufacture of the badges was passed out to a variety of companies, some producing more examples than others so today on the collector’s market examples produced by some firms are rarer and thus command higher prices than others.

The criterion for issue of the Admiralty’s badge was strict- it should only be issued to essential war workers and not distributed unnecessarily. Any men who could be spared to join the armed forces should not be issued with the badge and if a man were to cease working on essential war work or leave his employer than the badge was to be forfeit and returned to his employer. The passing of a badge to an unauthorised man was strictly forbidden.

This is my first World War One War Service badge, however there are a number of other official patterns to track down so it will be interesting to try and find some of the other common designs to accompany this one.

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