Saturday, October 8, 2011

Duke of Edinburgh’s Own Volunteer Rifles (South Africa) Cap Badge – A Forensic Study

Recently while reading an extensive thread on the British & Commonwealth Military Badge Forum on a member’s example of this cap badge, I remembered that I had the same badge in my limited collection. As an exercise, somewhat analogous to self-administered surgery, I decided to try and evaluate my own badge, as well as in parallel, submitting photographs to the forum for expert opinions. In that way hopefully I will have an objective critique of my analytical capabilities.

Not being an expert either in military cap badges, photography, or computers, did not deter me, as I thought it could prove an interesting learning experience. With acknowledgement to certain members of the forum, I’m taking the liberty to use photographs of some of specimens which they have submitted for appraisal. The principal challenge, however, is the fact that no one can provide an established genuine specimen of the 1898-1903 version of the badge to use as a benchmark. One extremely knowledgeable individual on the badge forum has stated, ‘they have been faked to death and back to life again, I've never seen a genuine one, not that I can remember, anyway !’

The first is an example of a genuine badge, which dates from before 1898 (at which time the royal duke’s coronet was added to the top of the badge). My badge with the coronet, and the others presented, all date from between 1898 and 1903, and are in white metal. In 1903 the badge was further modified to be made only in gilt or brass.

Observing the reverse of the pre-1898 badge, the following features can be seen:
            A crisp clean die strike of the entire body (particularly note lettering and
            belt fittings.
            Clean sharp edges to all elements of the ‘star’.
            A voided center.
            Note clean, straight, attachment of footless copper lugs.
            (Click on any of the images to enlarge)

The reverse of a genuine pre-1898 Duke of Edinburgh's
 Volunteer Rifles cap badge prior to the addition of the Duke's

Looking at the front (obverse) of the badge, one can observe the following details:
            Clarity and regularity of all elements, particularly the lettering and
            belt buckle and tip details.
            Note regularity of the pebbled background of belt surface behind
            the lettering.
            Fine regular detailing of the edging around the elements of the ‘star’.

The front of the same badge showing the crisp definition
of the die strike in all details.

The next badge is allegedly from the 1898 – 1903 period with the duke’s coronet and in white metal. It is the one I have in my own collection, and the only badge in the entire group which I am willing to definitely pronounce as a restrike or copy, for all of the following reasons:
            Lack of a full crisp die strike.
            Center of badge is not voided (Not certain on this feature).
            Slight copper hue discerned on reverse, indicating the badge
            is possibly plated.
            Flaw in die is visible on left upper and lower square elements of the ‘star’.
            North/South, East/West elements of star die cut straight without crisp
            contouring to the pointed ends of all elements of the star.
            The Maltese cross on top of the coronet is either ill-defined or badly worn.

Positive attributes of the badge, however, include the following:
            Inside base of crown has striations.
            Thistle leafs are well defined.
            The background of the belt surface behind the lettering is pebbled.
            Reasonably clear definition in both the lettering and belt details.

The reverse of a 1898-1903 specimen showing
less than a clean crisp die strike

The front of the same badge showing reasonable
definition of detail suggesting a restrike rather
than a totally new copy. 

For direct comparison, the following photograph shows a cap badge from the same period but note the difference in details:
            Although a reverse photograph of the badge is not available, it appears
            to have sharper detailing around all the edges of the badge.
            The center of the badge is voided.
            The details of the belt buckle and tip are well defined.
            The background of the belt surface behind the lettering is not pebbled.
            Inside base of crown missing striations.
            Irregularity in shape and spacing of lettering (between DUKE and OF,
            and in EDINBURGH'S [G H] as examples).
            Thistle leafs not well defined.

Another specimen of the same badge which while
 correctly voided shows other flaws.

The next example is apparently a fairly recent acquisition by a member of the forum, which was presented for evaluation (lack of sharp focus in the photography may be a compounding issue), and displays the following characteristics:
            A shiny, almost anodized, front surface. Does not look like white metal.
            The badge is non-voided (Not certain on this feature).
            The entire area where the coronet is integrated with the rest of the badge
            appear rough and ill-defined.
            It appears to have sharp detailing around all the edges of the badge.
            The holes in the belt appear to be ill-defined.
            The Maltese cross on top of the coronet is either ill-defined or badly worn.

Still another example of the badge with a different
set of design details which render it dubious.

The final badge specimen is I believe post-1903 and executed in brass. Although of later issue and well worn, it has some positive attributes:
            Even though dirty, it appears to have a clean die strike, note letters,
            belt fittings and coronet in particular.
            Appears to have sharp definition around all the edges of the badge.
            Regularity in the spacing of the lettering.
            However, it is not voided, and may have been issued that way, as
            Rosignoli shows it as not voided in his book.

The reverse of a post-1903 version of the badge struck in
brass with a clear die strike, a good indicator of authenticity.

The front of the same badge, while showing both patina and
wear, still has a fairly sharp definition in its details.

It will be very interesting to learn of expert opinions on the badges which have been presented, as to how many details have been identified, and what other additional in-accuracies exist in each badge.

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