Sunday, August 28, 2011

WWI Royal Naval Division Cap Badges - A Forensic Analysis

With acknowledgment and  sincere thanks to John 'Paddy' Newell of the British & Commonwealth Military Badge Forum for an in-depth forensic analysis. This post presents a one-on-one comparison of genuine versus counterfeit cap badges of the WWI Royal Naval Division Battalions Anson, Drake, Hawke, Hood, Howe and Nelson. Using these annotated photographs provides approximately a 95% confidence level in recognizing a genuine cap badge. Paddy had even taken the time and effort to highlight the specific differentiating features, but due to my technical limitations (read computer illiteracy) combined with the blog page design I'm unable to provide that feature at this time and apologize. This is a significant study and contribution. Contemplate for a moment if a team of knowledgeable individuals (no single person could do it, not even in a lifetime!) could compile an equivalent forensic analysis on the entire contents of both volumes of Kipling & King.

Anson Copy
Anson Copy
Letters on ANSON scroll are a lot thinner on the copies, most noticeable on the “N”s.
Upper ends of Nil Desperandum scroll are semi-circular on the copies, more elongated on genuine badges and sharper curves. However a word of caution on this badge. I have had correspondence that questions whether these features, rather than a restrike/reproduction, are from a legitimate die set of an alternate manufacturer. Further information from knowledgeable individuals would be sincerely appreciated.

Anson Genuine
Anson Genuine
Upper band of coronet almost touches the band above the jewels on the genuine badges, much larger gap between the 2 bands on the copies. Upper band above jewels is more finely notched than on the copies.


Drake Copy
Drake Copy

Not marked on badge but there are only 7 lines of longitude on copies, 8 lines on genuine badges. Less detail on white metal ships on copies. Pennants are more voided on genuine badges.

Drake Genuine

Drake Genuine (reverse)
Drake Genuine
DRAKE tablet lettering much thicker on genuine badges. Scroll ends are also more detailed on genuine badges. Gap between AUXILIO and DIVINO on genuine badges. British Isles more clearly defined on genuine badges.



Hawke Copy
Hawke Copy

Talons of the bird do not touch the letters R & I on the STRIKE scroll. Shape of bird’s head on copies more like a pterodactyl, genuine heads are smaller and more rounded. Left wing on copy has 2 rows of feathers, genuine birds have 3 rows.

Hawke Genuine
Hawke Genuine
Lettering on HAWKE tablet much thicker and fills the whole tablet.
Talons of the bird touch the letters R & I on the STRIKE scroll.
Fleur De Lys on genuine badge is more clearly defined.

Hood Copy
Hood Copy
On copies the bird appears to be standing on a diagonally notched rod.
Lower scroll ends on STEADY scroll are shorter on copies.
Birds eye on copies is much larger than on genuine badges.

Hood Genuine

Hood Genuine (reverse)

Hood Genuine
Lettering on STEADY scroll thicker on genuine badges, most noticeable on A & D.
On genuine badges the bird appears to be standing on a rope of 6 distinct sections.
Note difference in the size and shape of talons. 

Howe Copy
Howe Copy
About 75% of copies have no voiding on sails and so are very easy to identify as fakes.  Of the other 25% of copies there is too much voiding. Pennant ends are attached on genuine badges but totally voided on these copies.

Howe Genuine
Howe Genuine
Lettering on HOWE scroll thicker on genuine badges.
Upper band of jewel band is more finely notched on genuine badges.

Nelson Copy
Nelson Copy
Vertical lines on the left hand side of the 3 sails, no such lines on genuine badges.
8 planks on left hand side of ship on copies. NELSON tablet on copies has smooth background.


Nelson Genuine
Nelson Genuine
Upper pennant voided on genuine badges. 9 planks on left hand side of ship on copies. NELSON tablet on genuine badges has rough (seeded) background. Lettering on NELSON scroll thicker on genuine badges, most noticeable on Ns & O.


The author is learning that the complex nuances of this series of badges are greater than initially thought. For example the following is a series of photographs of the Howe badge.


Viewing from left to right the first badge is a genuine die-struck Gaunt marked Howe badge, the next badge is believed to be an un-marked die-cast (not struck) example, also believed to be righteous. The third badge is considered suspect for the following reasons; the two small circled areas and the comparatively thicker font in the letters "HOWE".

If any readers have either differing or concurring opinions, and wish to provide comment, you are strongly encouraged to do so.













Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Vintage W. Britains Toy Soldiers – Netherlands Infantry, an interesting set from 1939

In the year 1939, with the shadow of war descending on Great Britain and the Empire, W. Britains produced three set of toy soldiers ironically using a combination of two previously issued sets. They were Set No. 432 German Infantry with Steel Helmets (the bodies) and Set No. 1435 Italian Infantry with Steel Helmets (the heads), two of the major protagonists in the war that would shortly occur.

The three sets, in order of rarity were Set No. 1837 Argentine Infantry with Steel Helmets (Con Casco, the most rare), Set No. 1850 Netherlands Infantry with Steel Helmets, and Set No. 1856 Polish Infantry with Steel Helmets. Further irony can be seen in the fact that Poland and the Netherlands were among the first nations to succumb to the German ‘blitzkrieg’, and Argentina remained sympathetic to the Nazi cause.

Although not quite as rare as the Argentine set, the Netherlands Infantry remained unlisted in any W. Britains catalog, making it somewhat unique. Recently I was successful in bidding on a set of the Netherlands Infantry, boxed and in near mint condition. The only ‘blemish’ was the beginning of a touch of ‘lead rot’ on the very top of one of the rifleman’s helmets. Needless to say this was very quickly and carefully arrested. The low humidity of the Arizona climate is beneficial to certain ailments of toy soldiers as well as human beings. Not necessarily the ‘holy grail’, however the set is by far the rarest set in my collection (James Opie rarity index of 92 out of 100 on a logarithmic scale). For purposes of comparison also shown are two views of a museum mannequin in the authentic uniform and equipment of the Dutch Army circa 1939. Note that Britains did take 'slight' liberty in replicating the actual shape of the helmet, but the color of the grey, and correctness in the balance of the uniform are fairly accurate.


The final irony is that they represent an army that albeit briefly and unsuccessfully engaged German troops, four years before the ‘Red Devils’ had another go at them in Arnhem and Oosterbeek. (Click on the image to enlarge, and you can zoom in to actual size.)
W. Britains Set No. 1850 Netherlands Infantry
Steel Helmets Slope Arms circa 1939
Netherlands Army
Infantry Service Dress circa 1939 
Netherlands Army
Infantry Service Dress circa 1939
(back view)
A vintage photograph of the Royal Netherlands Army Bicycle
Band circa probable mid 1930's (wearing M34 helmets)

As an interesting adjunct, appearing at the 2011 Edinburgh Military Tattoo was the Royal Netherlands Army Bicycle Band (Fanfarekorps Koninklijke Landmacht Bereden Wapens), dressed in the identical 1940 Service Dress Uniforms. It is certainly challenging enough to play a musical instrument while mounted on horseback, but try playing a bass tuba while riding in formation on a bicycle. Needless to say their performance was one of the most unique and popular of each performance.