Monday, September 12, 2011

WWII Parachute Regiment Cap Badge - A Forensic Study

The WWII cap badge of the Parachute Regiment of the British Army is another famous, and much sought after cap badge by collectors. In addition, because of its fame, the regiment has seen wide popularity with re-enactment groups throughout the world. As a consequence of these two factors it is the frequent and continuous target of both restrikes and fakes by replicators seeking monetary gain.

Another compounding element is that the cap badge incorporates a crown and Imperial lion (sometimes referred to as 'dog and basket'). When the regiment was originated in 1940, under the reign of George VI it was the king’s crown. In white-metal. ‘Royal Crest. In white-metal. Sealed (pattern) 25th March 1943’, according to Kipling and King (Vol. II, pp. 72-73).  With the ascension of Elizabeth II to the throne in 1953, the badge underwent a transition to a queen’s crown. ‘A St. Edward’s crown in the Royal Crest. In white-metal. Sealed (pattern) 28th September 1954’, again according to Kipling and King (Vol. II, pp.72-73). There are obviously genuine issued configurations of both available on the militaria market. However, because most of the re-enactment groups focus on WII, the king’s crown version suffers, by far, the most fraud abuse.

In addition there is the currently issued queen's crown badge in  anodized 'staybrite' aluminum, as well as a matte black subdued tactical version which dates from the regiment's tours of duty in Northern Ireland in the late 1960's into the 1970's.

Before it’s forgotten there is also a WWII issued economy silver-gray colored plastic (bakelite) version of the badge. This badge uses bendable flat metal spades as fasteners. This analysis however, will be confined to the white-metal badge.

After observing whether the badge has a king’s crown, one of the first things to check is whether the badge has two lugs and a split pin(s) as a fastener or uses a slider. It is commonly held among knowledgeable collectors that WWII vintage (1943-1945) badges were manufactured with lugs, not a slider. There is definite consensus on this detail, but not unanimity.

Another issue which to my knowledge has not been fully resolved is whether there was an authorized manufacture and issue of brass badges which were then nickel plated. Examples of this configuration, with varying stages of wear exist. The vast majority of badges were manufactured in white-metal.

I am greatly indebted and wish to sincerely thank Jim McLean, a member of the British & Commonwealth Military Badge Forum, for sharing both his extensive knowledge and excellent photography. He has conducted an in-depth systematic forensic analysis that gives a side-by-side comparison of a genuine badge to one of the commonly known, and widely distributed  fakes.

First an overview direct comparison of a genuine badge with a fake. At initial glance the differences may not be immediately apparent. (Click on any of the images to enlarge.)

The first clue is the degraded clarity (crispness) of the die strike itself in the fake, as can be seen in the photograph of the reverse of both the genuine and fake badges.

The most glaring error is a die flaw in the left wing of the fake as seen in the following photograph. Also note the straight perpendicular transition of the top of the wing in the genuine badge, as compared with the angle in the fake.

Next compare the shape of the winglets that are closest to the canopy. Note both the curvature and depth of definition in the genuine badge.

The following photograph compares the Royal Crest ('Dog and Basket') as presented on two genuine examples to a fake. Specifically note the difference in height, proportions and scale of the fake versus the genuine badges.

The final point of comparison is between the parachute canopy shroud lines on a genuine versus a fake badge. In addition note the difference in the shape and size of the bases of the badges.

Personally I have collected memorabilia from the Parachute Regiment and Airborne Forces for over four decades, and have been 'burned' in the arena more times than I choose to remember, on a broad variety of Parachute Regiment and Airborne Forces insignia. I have seen specific special forces insignia books intended for collectors where the 'genuine' specimen of this specific badge, presented on a page in the book, was a fake.  Given the excitement and crowds (and sometimes time constraints) of a large militaria or gun show, or even major auctions, it's a challenge to maintain cool detached objectivity. If you have a photographic memory be sure and scan this page, otherwise like most of us you may want to take notes, and carry them with you.

In addition to the above guidance, the following specimen has recently been presented on the British and Commonwealth Badge Forum. It appears to be a variant from the three more commonly seen patterns. The crown and lion are of a different configuration, the shroud lines of the chute are different, and the short curved wing feathers are different. Please note the slight die flaw in the first (upper left) short feather, the irregular third gore from the left of the canopy, and the apparent lack of precise definition in the shroud lines. Also note the discernible difference in the shape of the left and right wing roots off the canopy. Personally have severe doubts about this badge.

Compare the badge with the following example which has the impeccable provenance of having been given to a senior member of the forum by his grandfather, who was a serving member of the regiment in World War II.

In addition the following two genuine early WWII Parachute Regiment cap badges manufactured by Ludlow London are excellent examples of the voided version of badge, and offer a paradigm to collectors attempting to validate the authenticity of questionable examples which may have come into their possession, or which may be under consideration for acquisition. It was even pointed out by one of the owners that not only being from the same manufacturer, that they may have been struck from the identical die.


Hearts and Daggers said...

Hi Jim, i'm now following your blog and find it very interesting. I thought you might be interested in seeing a 1st pattern parachute regiment badge. got it from a good friend of mine whos been collecting para stuff for years, regards

Anonymous said...

Many thanks Jim,

Your study gives me a more clear and complete idea of what I already had felt. I had empirically noted the die flaw on the left wing but not other details. I had bought a very cheap copy just to have on a maroon beret for reenactment and I was looking for an original that I've eventually found. Perhaps not a WW2 period one but at least a real army issue for a quite reasonable price. Many thanks

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

You have forgotten to mention the wing tips.

Anonymous said...

dear Jim. Very usefull and nice site! good photos and disciptions. Can I please send you a picture of an airborne cap badge and use your expertise? Its said to be found at Oosterbeek 2 weeks ago. Please let me know. regards, Raf

Andrew Senior said...

Hi Jim,iam a former Para iam looking for a oringinal WW11 Para cap badge to buy.Good you give me any info please.
Andy Senior.

Arnhemjim said...

Hello Andrew Senior,
Recommend that you regularly monitor the British and Commonwealth Military Badge Forum (, as Para cap badges come up on there fairly frequently. A WWII Parachute Regiment cap badge just sold there yesterday. Given the membership you have a high probability of getting a righteous badge the first time at a fair price. Hope this helps.

Unknown said...

Hi. I have one of these badges that is obviously not a fake. It was one of my late fatherÅ› WWII souvenirs. He was in the 509th U.S. Airborne and Battle of the Bulge. I would like to know how much it is worth. Thank you. Pamela

Arnhemjim said...

Hello Pamela,
Thank you for your inquiry. With regard to the value of the WWII (1940-1945) British Parachute Regiment cap badge you have, it can range as a function of several factors. As you probably already realize these include, physical condition, material (white metal or sterling), provenance (attribution/papers/photos), date of manufacture, manufacturer, and slider or lug fasteners, being some of the main elements. Depending on the combination of these factors, the current value as of Feb 2017, can range from $20.00 USD to $85.00 USD, perhaps higher for a unique example. As hopefully you understand, without either examining the actual badge, or a good set of images, it would be very difficult for me or any other individual, to place your example more precisely within that price range. As it came from your dad’s belongings, the sentimental value may well exceed any price achieved at auction or open market (e-Bay). Hope this has been of some limited assistance.

Elkie said...

Hi Jim,
Hoping you might be able to tell me whether my lapel badge is real or not. Main glaring issue being imperial lion is facing to the right where as all the examples I have seen face left! Inherited this along with an enamelled parachute regiment lapel pin (with lion facing left) plus other military World War II memorabilia. Army canteen has ‘1518’ written on base which I believe is a Territorial Army regiment, could possibly be parachute regiment I don’t know for sure. Elderly gentleman inherited this from was in the Territorial Army and his father served in World War II. Don’t know any more details though.

Arnhemjim said...

Hello LK,
Like you I searched the Internet for images of British Parachute Regiment enameled lapel pins and did not find any examples with the head facing, i.e. left orientation of lion’s head on body as you look at the badge. If the badge is enameled and WWII vintage (King’s crown), or for that matter post-1953 (Queen’s crown) I’m not certain as to an explanation. The only plausible answer I can think of is that the designer based their effort on a collar dog facing that way, which as you probably already know come as a pair in left and right orientation. With regard to the canteen, I also have to apologize, not being able to translate the ‘1518’ to a specific unit.

Anonymous said...

Reference Elkie's question is he referring to collar dogs? As a pair they would both face inwards, hence one facing right and the other left.

Thinking. . . said...

Hi Jim,
I enjoyed reading your blog.

About 5 years ago, I found a brooch at a small antique store in Dublin, Ireland.

I knew nothing about it, nor did the shopkeeper. I've looked online for information and found some, but nothing like it.

I had it appraised in NYC and was told the body was lead and silver with 10kt gold plated and paste diamonds.There are no markings. Since I have not found another similar, I would like to send you a photo to see if you have seen something like this before or have more information? It's obviously a special piece, so I would love to learn more.

Thank you,

Thinking. . . said...

I posted photos here:

Arnhemjim said...

Hello Lisa,
Am a longtime member of The British and Commonwealth Military Badge Forum, so was able to readily retrieve your images of the sweetheart brooch, and enlarge them offline. They present a very intriguing dichotomy of both materials and design characteristics. As you are already aware the brooch is a “replica” of the regimental cap badge of the British Parachute Regiment, post 1953 (Elizabeth II Queen’s crown versus George VI King’s crown). In addition to detailed modifications from the issue badge, the reinforcements in the casting reverse side in both the wings and major body of the badge (basically behind the parachute canopy) is very interesting.

Certainly the use of lead silver alloy provides both strength and significant weight to the piece. As indicated above you are correct in identifying the piece as a sweetheart brooch, particularly with the use of faux diamonds in the wings. Without knowing the precise dimensions, but based on the number of “gemstones” would adjudge the brooch to be about half the size of the actual cap badge.

Personally cannot understand why someone would take the effort to cast the badge out of lead silver alloy, then plate it in 10 kt gold. The original badge is issued either in sterling silver (hallmarked, for officers) or in white metal for other ranks. The white metal version being die-struck. Further can’t understand the embellishment of the wings with paste diamonds, other than the incurred expense of that many diamonds (34 if my count is correct), regardless of total carat weight and quality.

The shape, proportions, and details of both the crown and parachute canopy deviate significantly from the original standard badge, indicating an intentional level of artistic license.

As you may have already done, my Internet search only found the following similar examples; ,
Given the prices of these brooches may well be the explanation for the choice of materials.

Unfortunately am unable to cast anymore light on certainly a unique piece of very high end costume jewelry.

Best regards,
Arnhem Jim

Thinking. . . said...

Thank you so much for your information! I truly appreciate your expertise.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to your article I have just found out my treasured Para cap badge is a fake :-( every bad point you mentioned about fakes I found on mine, the poor crispness, the flaw in the die cast etc mine has it all. I'm a bit worried now that my Para beret is a fake, which I bought for £800. Many thanks for your expertise Arnhem Jim.

Arnhemjim said...

To Anonymous,
Please try not to feel too badly. I have personally been "burned" several times (more than I would like to remember), so I know exactly how it feels. In a few cases when I certainly should have known better, but the enthusiasm of that "special find" overwhelmed my better judgement. If it's any conciliation, consider the following set of circumstances. Having purchased items decades ago, as genuine military surplus, you have seen them subsequently reproduced by entrepreneurs exploiting the market demand. Now people look at the items in your collection, which are righteous, and question how something that rare (now frequently reproduced), could be in virtually new condition, and not be a copy. One of the main reasons I started this blog was to provide my limited knowledge and experience to help others avoid some of the pitfalls I've climbed out of.

Best regards,
Arnhem Jim

Rob Buckman said...

Jim: Very interesting post about Para cap badges. As a member of the Royal Engineer, we work with the Para's and SAS a lot in Germain in the late fifties. One story told me my by a Para Sargent who been through the war was, that to original cap badge had a special feature. The wings were deliberately design so the Para could use them to start any German military and a lot of civilian vehicles if separated from their unit, or on the run and needed transport. How true this story is I don't know, but knowing the amount of secret escape equipment the Para's and SAS were equipped with it wouldn't surprise me. Rob Buckman.

Post a Comment

Post a Comment