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.


7 comments:

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
http://www.heartsanddaggers.co.uk/1stpatternbritishww2parachuteregimentcapbadge.html

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...

A VERY GOOD PAGE WELL DONE & VERY USEFUL BUT WHY DO PEOPLE STILL SPEND GOOD MONEY ON PARACHUTE REGT. BADGES ON EBAY WITH SLIDERS IT MAKES ME CRY WITH DISPAIR EVERY TIME...

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 raftimmermans@hotmail.com

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.
Thanks
Andy Senior.

Arnhemjim said...

Hello Andrew Senior,
Recommend that you regularly monitor the British and Commonwealth Military Badge Forum (http://www.britishbadgeforum.com), 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.
Regards,
Jim

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