Category Archives: Insignia

Air Defence Cadet Corps Lapel Badge

In the past we have looked at the lapel badges worn by the Air Training Corps during the Second World War. Before this organisation existed, it was preceded by the Air Defence Cadet Corps, which had been set up in 1938 by Air Commodore Chamiers. It was his aim to provide a pool of trained young men who had an interest in aviation that could be called upon by the RAF In time of war. The organisation caught the spirit of the time and rapidly expanded.

Each squadron’s aim was to prepare cadets for joining the RAF or the Fleet Air Arm. They tried to give the cadets as much Service and aviation background as possible as well as giving instruction in drill, discipline, how to wear the uniform and how to behave on RAF stations. The training the cadets received also meant development of personal physical fitness. PT, games and athletics, especially cross country running and long route marches, soon became standard squadron activities. Cadets were also encouraged to take part in activities such as shooting, camping and, of course, flying.

The organisation adopted a badge with a stylized bird with outstretched wings and a lapel badge was issued for wear by those out of uniform:imageThe rear of this badge had the typical half-moon fastener that allowed the badge to be secured in a button hole:imageThe work of the organisation was invaluable and in 1940 it was taken under the control of the government being renamed the Air Training Corps in which form it continues to the present day.

Derek Wilkins was one of those who started his wartime career with the ADC:

As a boy I was interested in aviation and so joined the Air Defence Cadet Corps (then the Air Training Corps) at the outbreak of war in 1939. As well as the normal military basic training we followed the aircrew syllabus of navigation, meteorology, signals, armament, aircraft recognition etc, giving us a head start over other pilot training aspirants.

All RAF aircrew were volunteers, so at the age of 17 I presented myself at RAF Uxbridge for stringent medical and aptitude tests. A year later I received my call-up papers and reported to the ACRC (Aircrew Reception Centre) at Lord’s Cricket Ground to be inducted and inoculated.

Badges on Battledress Book review

It is said that every author has a ‘Magnus opus’ in them; that one masterpiece that eclipses all their other work and stands as the crowning achievement of their career. Badges on Battledress is that book for Jon Mills, an author we have reviewed several times before on the blog.imageBadges on Battledress is a two volume book covering the cloth insignia worn on Battledress uniforms from the start of World War II until the uniform was dropped on the 1960s. These badges were both officially sanctioned and privately purchased and were worn on the sleeves by numerous different units of both British and Empire forces. Between the two volumes this topic stretches to fill over 1200 pages and these books are likely to remain the definitive work on the subject for decades to come. Over 6000 images fill the volumes, a mixture of modern photographs of the badges themselves and period photographs showing troops wearing some of them. The quality of the images is excellent throughout as you would expect from a book of this sort.imageAccompanying the images is a well written text that provides background on the units wearing the badges, if possible details of when and where badges were introduced as well as a wider information on the official machinations surrounding military insignia, the manufacturers of the badges and other anecdotes as they apply to military insignia. This makes for an enjoyable read, with individual badges signposted in the text by the use of numbers that point the reader directly to the specific badge. If there is any shortcoming with the book it is this as sometimes a number refers to an example hundreds of pages away from the text or indeed in the other volume. I am unsure if there is actually any way round this, and when doing specific research it is not a problem, however if you are just browsing the text it can be a little distracting. There are also occasionally slight problems with the numb reign itself where the text is a digit or two out from the images referenced- again this is very forgive able given the size and scope of the book and it is easy to work around as it is pretty obvious the text is referring to the next badge along.imageThe book also covers the post war period, with insignia worn by the army, WAC and TA throughout the 1950s and 1960s. This is the first work to cover this subject since Cole’s short book published over sixty years ago. The books do not cover the Home Guard (which Mills has already covered in his book on the Home Guard) or the cadet forces, but the books are already massively long without these units so this is an entirely sensible choice and perhaps we will be lucky enough to get an accompanying volume on cadet insignia in a few years time.imageIt is fair to say that these volumes will be the definitive text on this subject for many years to come. They are not cheap, costing £150 plus postage for the two volumes, but their size and scope make them exceptional value for money and if you are a badge collector, researcher of just find the subject of military heraldry interesting I would urge you to pick up a copy. I suspect that these will not be reprinted and once the original print run has sold out I would suspect the secondary prices will climb to ridiculous levels so buy while you can. Copies can be purchased direct from the author by emailing

West Yorkshire Rifle Volunteer’s Button

Late Victorian militaria does not come up too often, but occasionally a piece comes out of the woodwork like tonight’s object which is a little white metal button, marked up to the ‘4th Administrative Battalion, West Riding of Yorkshire Rifle Volunteers’:imageThe central feature of this button is a Tudor rose for the county of Yorkshire and the white metal was commonly used for volunteer regiments rather than the brass/gold coloured insignia of regular regiments. The rear of the button indicates that it was manufactured by Firmin of London:imageThe Rifle movement grew out of an invasion scare in 1859 which led to thousands flocking to locally formed Rifle Volunteer Corps. A large number of independent RVCs were raised in the West Riding of Yorkshire, including the ‘Barnsley Rifles’ and the ‘Rotherham Rifles’ and in August 1860 some of these were grouped into the 4th Administrative Battalion, Yorkshire West Riding RVCs, based at Doncaster (dates are those of the first officers’ commissions):

  • 18th (Pontefract) Yorkshire West Riding RVC, 2 March 1860
  • 19th (Rotherham) Yorkshire West Riding RVC, 29 February 1860
  • 20th (Doncaster, Great Northern Railway) Yorkshire West Riding RVC, 5 February 1860
  • 21st (Doncaster Burgesses) Yorkshire West Riding RVC, 5 February 1860
  • 36th (Rotherham) Yorkshire West Riding RVC, 19 October 1860, joined 4th Admin Bn 1862
  • 37th (Barnsley) Yorkshire West Riding RVC, 21 November 1860, transferred from 3rd Admin Bn 1863
  • 40th (Wath-upon-Dearne) Yorkshire West Riding RVC, March 1863, based at Hoyland Nether until 1866

The 20th RVC was recruited largely from employees of the Great Northern Railway (GNR) at Doncaster Works and was commanded by the railway’s locomotive superintendent, Archibald Sturrock. The other units in the battalion were mainly recruited from coal mining and related industries. A Rotherham Rifle Band was formed and by August 1861 it was competing in brass band competitions.

Walter Spencer-Stanhope (1827–1911) of Cannon Hall and Horsforth Hall, a Captain in the 2nd West Riding Yeomanry, who had raised the 36th RVC, was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel commanding the 4th Admin Bn on 11 February 1863. He later became Member of Parliament for the Southern Division of the West Riding (1872–80).

A drill hall was built at Wharncliffe Street, Rotherham, in 1873, prior to which the 18th and 36th RVCs had used the Court House and Corn Exchange in the town.

The RVCs in the 4th Admin Bn were consolidated as the 8th Yorkshire West Riding RVC at Doncaster in 1880, still under the command of Lt-Col Stanhope.

This then dates this little button to before 1880 and after 1860 so we have a nice twenty year window in which it must have been manufactured and used.

Early War Dispatch Rider’s Trade Badge

Tonight we have an example of an embroidered dispatch rider’s trade badge from the beginning of the Second World War. This badge has a winged motorcycle wheel and the letters ‘DR’ for dispatch rider:imageInterestingly this badge is not actually an official piece of army insignia. The only official dispatch riders in the army were part of the Royal Signals, everyone else should have worn a badge marked ‘MC’ for motorcyclist. In reality ‘dispatch rider’ was a universally recognised term and soldiers doing this job in other regiments wanted to be recognised as such so resorted to unofficial insignia of which this is a common type. These badges were purchased from military outfitters and this particular design seems to have been the most popular with examples being sold in relatively large quantities for an unofficial trade badge. Unlike the official badge, this design has a more elaborate style of wheel and wings that sweep up at a sharper angle.  It is still a rare badge, but not as uncommon as one might expect from its history. The badge was worn on the lower left sleeve, sewn to the battledress.

The badge itself is embroidered onto a piece of khaki fabric, and the rear of the badge shows the various threads from this process:imageDouglas Seed was a dispatch rider with the Royal Signals:

On the 13th. November 1941 I received my calling up papers instructing me to report to the Royal Corps of Signals at the British Rail holiday camp in Prestatyn in North Wales.

After six weeks parade ground training I was posted to Colwyn Bay for more training this time as a dispatch rider.

On the 6th March 1942 I became a dispatch rider group D class with an increase in pay, moving then onto Largs in Scotland to become a part of 78dr section 1st Army Signals. When it was approaching embarkation time I had to show a despatch rider from another unit the daily run to Glasgow which was part of the sections duties. Of we went over the moors the other motor cycle behind me complete with a pillion passenger, when out of nowhere a figure without any thought for his own safety jumped into the road waving his arms for me to stop. I applied my brakes, the rider behind me did not stop and consequently hit my rear mudguard jamming it tight against the wheel. I went one way the bike went the other way. Not only did I tear my breeches but I set light to a box of Swan Vestas matches that were in my pocket. After the mudguard was freed and the fire extinguished I asked why was I stopped and was told there was ice on the road. A kind thought! As it was I suffered a burn, grazes and a badly scratched helmet, not to mention my pride. Soon after this incident I with the rest of the section embarked on the SS Stralallan in convoy on our way to North Africa.ABL-WLC

Coldstream Guards Lapel Badge

I really like regimental lapel badges. They tend to be cheap, they don’t take up any room and they are often very attractive little objects with brightly coloured enamel in their decoration. Careful hunting in junk boxes can reap rewards, such as this little Coldstream Guards badge that turned up last week for £1:imageIt is made of white metal in the shape of a Garter star and has a small half-moon lapel pin soldered to the back:imageThe star is taken from the Order of the Garter, the highest order of British Chivalry and is an eight pointed star, each of its points being a cluster of rays to give a sun beam effect. In the centre of this is the badge of St George, the red cross on a white field surrounded by a navy blue garter bearing the motto ‘Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense’. The design dates back to the reign of Charles I and the use of the badge indicates the high seniority of the Coldstream Guards, second only to the Grenadier Guards in the order of precedence.

All regiments retain close ties with their former members, but this is especially important for Guards and Cavalry regiments where regimental associations open up many doors for former soldiers. Although it is a cliché, the regimental tie and badge are still important identifiers and in social situations allow a subtle way to indicate regimental loyalties. With this in mind, small lapel badges such as this one take on a greater significance. Officially former guardsmen are represented by the Coldstream Guards Association, its website describes their role as:

The Coldstream Guards Association is a community of serving and ex-members of the Coldstream Guards, who are united by the ethos of ‘once a Coldstreamer – always a Coldstreamer’. The Association is open to all who are serving, or have served, in the Regiment, whether officer or enlisted man… It is a place to keep in touch with old friends, meet and understand the next generation of Coldstream Guardsmen and gives you the opportunity to assist in the welfare of the Regimental family where you are able.

Sergeant’s Rank Brassard

A brassard is a piece of cloth that goes over the shoulder and in military terms it is usually used to display rank and unit insignia. This allows more delicate embroidered badges to be separate from items of clothing that would frequently get dirty and need constant laundering, such as overalls. The brassard can be removed before washing and swapped from overall to overall. Tonight we have a fairly modern brassard for a sergeant:imageNote how dirty this brassard is, I removed it from a set of overalls and the oil is probably left over from the original owner’s work. Three white sergeants stripes are fitted to the front:imageInterestingly this was originally a corporal’s brassard that has been modified by adding an extra stripe. The original two stripes are sewn on, as seen on the reverse:imageThe extra stripe though has been glued onto the fabric, indicating that the original owner was promoted and just made the alteration with glue! This seems a fairly hap hazard arrangement, but it looks neat enough from the front and it is only on close in section that you can see how the change was made. A slot is cut in the top of the brassard for a shoulder strap to pass through:imageThis prevents the brassard from slipping down the shoulder. Velcro is fitted to allow the main body of the brassard to be secured around the arm- loops on the front:imageAnd hooks on the rear:imageWhen wrapped around the arm, these mate up to hold it securely:imageCombined with the top fastening this helps hold the brassard nice and secure, whilst still allowing flexibility and easy removal for washing. These sort of objects are very hard to date, but I would guess that this was produced in the 1970s or 1980s. One old soldier recalls regimental variations in brassards:

Household Div use to have brassards for No2 dress shirt (made from No2 dress shirt material) shirts hairy and woolly pulley(made out of denim/lightweights material) and startched to fcuk so they could stand up. Remember, Guards RSMs have a fcuk off big tate and lyle on the forearm on brassards, not cuff too.

Civil Defence Corps Enamelled Badges

Civil Defence services had largely been wound up at the end of the Second World War. In 1949 however they were restarted, the impending threat of nuclear attack from the USSR and it’s vassal states requiring the introduction of some form of local support to civilians in case of war. This new Civil Defence service had a number of pieces of insignia, some of which we have looked at before. The designs of the post war Civil Defence service are different from wartime badges, but are frequently muddled up by collectors and dealers. Tonight we are looking at a number of little enamelled badges:imageThese badges have a central motif of a lion, surrounded by ‘Civil Defence Corps’ on a blue enamelled field. They are topped by a crown; either the King’s crown indicating they are from between 1949 and 1953, or the more bulbous Queen’s crown introduced after Queen Elizabeth II came to the throne:imageThe badges are offered with either lapel or brooch type fittings:imageThe lapel fittings were for men, fashions of the day meant most men wore suits with a button hole on the lapel for these badges. The women have a pin fastener that could be attached to a piece of clothing or a hat easily.

The Civil Defence Corps (CDC) was a civilian volunteer organisation established in Great Britain in 1949 to mobilise and take local control of the affected area in the aftermath of a major national emergency, principally envisaged as being a Cold War nuclear attack. By March 1956, the Civil Defence Corps had 330,000 personnel. It was stood down in Great Britain in 1968, although two Civil Defence Corps still operate within the British Isles, namely the Isle of Man Civil Defence Corps and Civil Defence Ireland (Republic of Ireland). Many other countries maintain a national Civil Defence Corps, usually having a wide brief for assisting in large scale civil emergencies such as flood, earthquake, invasion, or civil disorder.

You will note that the Queen’s crown example above has the letters ‘ICDS’. This stands for the ‘Industrial Civil Defence Service’ and were units based around factories and industry rather than civilian population centres.

The Industrial Civil Defence Service was a similar organisation to the Civil Defence Corps, but separate from it. Every industrial or commercial undertaking which employed two hundred or more people could form a civil defence unit to protect its own property and staff. These units were organised in a similar way to the Civil Defence Corps, with Headquarters, Warden, Rescue, First Aid and Fire Guard Sections. The Fire Guard Section manned fire points and smaller fire appliances. Each unit had its own control post, and groups of units could form a group control post. Group control posts and control posts in larger factories had the status of warden posts in their own right, whereas smaller units answered to their local Civil Defence Corps warden post.