One of the updates made to uniforms in the late 1940s was the slow introduction of staybrite buttons. Made of anodised aluminium, these buttons did not tarnish in the same way that brass did and soldiers did not need to spend hours with metal polish shining the buttons up to a bright sheen. Today we tend to associate staybrite with uniforms produced after the ascension of Queen Elizabeth II to the throne, however there was some limited production of buttons and badges with the King’s crown in the late 1940s and first few years of the 1950s. One of the first areas that the staybrite buttons saw extensive use was with the RAF for their other airman’s tunics and it is one of these we are looking at today:
The uniform itself is made of the same heavy dark blue serge as the wartime uniform had been, however the buttons and buckle are all made of staybrite with its distinctive look that, whilst shiny, is very different in appearance to brass. The buttons here all have the King’s crown:
The two hooks for the belt remain in brass, and from the rear the uniform looks identical to its predecessor:
The other obvious clue that this is a post war tunic is the rank insignia on the sleeve for a Senior Aircraftsman which is in the form of a three bladed propellor:
This rank sits above an aircraftman, but is still more junior than the army’s lance corporal rank, equivalent to OR2 in the modern NATO rank structure. It was introduced into the RAF on 1st January 1951 so any uniform bearing this insignia must date to after this point in time. These post war tunics are overlooked by many collectors, and often backdated to wartime specification by replacing the buttons with traditional brass examples. This is rather sad in my view, as there are far more of the brass buttoned examples out there than the ones with staybrite and they are all pushing seventy years old now so are historic in their own right.