Wednesday, August 17, 2011

WWI Royal Naval Division Cap Badges - Genuine or Counterfeit?

In order to provide a quick source of trained manpower to augment the British Army desperately fighting on the European continent in the early stages of WWI,  Reserve Royal Naval personnel were organized into eight battalions. These battalions, with the addition of a Royal Marine Brigade, comprised the Royal Naval Division. The division was first engaged in a delaying action at Antwerp, Belgium, in 1914, and later at Gallipoli. The battalions were named after famous British admirals. As shown, and briefly discussed in another page within this blog, they included the following:
     1st Royal Naval Brigade
        1st (Drake) Battalion
        2nd (Hawke) Battalion
        3rd (Benbow) Battalion
        4th (Collingwood) Battalion
     2nd Royal Naval Brigade
        5th (Nelson) Battalion
        6th (Howe) Battalion
        7th (Hood) Battalion
        8th (Anson) Battalion
     Royal Marine Light Infantry Brigade
Because of the unique nature of the Royal Naval Division, and the distinctive cap badges of the  battalions, they have become a popular and sought after element in the collection of British Regimental cap badges. Only 6 of the badges were identified in Kipling & King's definitive work, the cap badges for the Benbow and Collingwood battalions not being shown. With the limited availability of genuine original cap badges has come the opportunity for unscrupulous entrepreneurs to counterfeit all of the badges. One such example is the badge of the Nelson Battalion.

With acknowledgement and thanks to John ‘Paddy’ Newell, a member of the British & Commonwealth Military Badge Forum, here is a specific case study of the counterfeiting of the  cap badge.  Shown is an annotated image of the badge highlighting specific areas on one of the most common fakes. . On the fakes the pennant at the top is usually unvoided (on the good ones it is separate and more pointed). The sails on the fakes have got additional vertical lines which are not on the good ones and if you look at the left hand side of the ship's hull there is a gap between the bottom of the yard arm and where the planks start and then there are 9 planks, on the fakes there are 8 planks. In addition the mottled finish that should be present behind ‘NELSON’, and the figurehead is not there. (Click on images to enlarge.)

Counterfeit WWI Royal Naval Division Nelson Battalion
cap badge - Note discrepancies in the circled areas

A genuine WWI Royal Naval Division
Nelson Battalion cap badge for comparision

As if this were not enough there is a further compounding of the issue by the recent surfacing of examples which have had a manufacturer's 'plate' (J.R. Gaunt London) added to the back of the badge. Experts are currently trying to evaluate the veracity, or lack there of, of this badge configuration. In some instances the badges have been modified by the removal of the lugs, or no lugs initially, to a pin-back 'sweetheart' pin.

Questionable WWI RND Nelson Battalion
badge converted to 'sweetheart' pin.

Back of same badge showing J.R. Gaunt
'plate' and pin back.

The following pair of photographs are of an established genuine example of the RND Nelson Battalion badge, with lugs and a 'plate' attached to the back.

Genuine WWI RND Nelson Battalion cap badge,

Back of same badge showing both the 'plate' and lugs.


Michael Spencer said...

Distinctive cap badges of the battalions were the reason that they look more attractive and decent at the same time. badges of the US army were also considered as the best design of that time.
WELL ! its good stuff. I really enjoyed it.

Daniel Eastwood said...

Terrific post. Very specific in detail. Thank you!

Daniel Eastwood said...

Terrific post. Very specific in detail. Thank you!

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