Saturday, November 5, 2011

How to Identify and Date Canadian Paratrooper Wings by 'Tonomachi' from The British & Commonwealth Military Badge Forum

The following thread recently appeared on The British and Commonwealth Military Badge Forum authored by ‘Tonomachi’. With sincere thanks and full acknowledgment to the author for a superior effort, I would like to re-publish it here, as a service to fellow collectors who may not be active members of the forum (click on any image to enlarge) .

'Tonomachi' states:                         
“I have been collecting WW2 era worldwide paratrooper wings for going on about 30 years now to include Canadian paratrooper wings. I understand that the “standard” WW2 era Canadian paratrooper wing continued to be issued after the war so it is difficult if not impossible to determine when it was worn unless you took it off of a uniform yourself. I’m no expert on the subject but I was wondering if other collectors could share their knowledge on maybe clues to determine if a particular wing was worn during the war. I have noticed some things while collecting Canadian paratrooper wings over the years. I have attached scans of my collection and would like to hear from others regarding these observations. The first WW2 era Canadian paratrooper wing I bought some 30 years ago is listed in the attached scans under Wing 1A. I don’t remember the name of the seller in Canada I obtained this from but he told me that it was WW2 worn as he took it off a WW2 era uniform himself. He told me that the way in which you can tell if a particular Canadian paratrooper wing was worn during the war is by the straightness of the wings which should not angle upward in a V shape and the maple leaf should not protrude below the level of the base of the wings. Wing 1A is like this and it was padded at one time. I have noticed over the years while coming across WW2 period photographs that most Canadian paratroopers have their wings sewn on with the wings straight and level with the ground. However in maybe 10 percent of the photographs they have that V shape. So my question is did the standard issued wing come with this V shape but maybe most troopers sewed them on with the wings outstretched to maybe give it that look similar to an aviators wing?

In another thread on this forum it indicates that if the backing cloth is white instead of black you probably have a WW2 era Canadian paratrooper wing. Wing 1A has black backing cloth so does this mean it is post war? Wing 1B has white backing cloth yet the wing tips were sewn on in the V shape so is this a WW2 era wing? I also noticed between Wings 1A and 1B the different shade of yellow of the maple leaf. Could this be another indicator or is it just maybe a fading of the color due to expose to the sun or the manufacture having a different shade of yellow thread that was used for a particular batch of wings.

I noticed that there are differences with the amount of trimming that was done to the standard Canadian paratrooper wing before it was sewn onto the uniform. For instance I have seen examples of Wing 1C (lots of trimming) and 1D (no trimming) over the years (also 2A & B versus 2C). I understand that 1D is usually always the way in which post WW2 era wings were worn but 1C was more likely worn during WW2 due to the excessive trimming. So does the way in which it was trimmed have any indication of it being a WW2 era worn wing?

I have noticed that in most if not all of the unpadded 1D wings there is always extra stitching in-between the sides of the chute and the shoulders of the wings. If the wing is padded to give that relief look then it is necessary to have this extra stitching. However for unpadded wings that lie flat the extra stitching isn’t necessary yet it seems to always be there with the 1D post war wings. Could this be an indicator of a post war wing?

In yet another thread there is discussion of a WW2 era Canadian paratrooper wing having dark colored rear catch threads visible only within the rear light colored embroidery being an indicator that it is a WW2 era worn wing. If you look at Wings 2A and 2B one has the dark catch threads (2B) and the other (2A) does not. So does this mean that Wing 2A is post war and Wing 2B is a WW2 era worn piece?

What about the type of padding material found under these wings. I have only come across one Canadian paratrooper wing for sale with the padding exposed. It was made of crumpled up and very brittle clear cellophane. This particular wing did not have an added backing material to hold the padding in place before it was sewn onto the uniform. So my guess was that the padding was simply placed under the wing while it was being sewn onto the uniform like Wing 1A. Could this be another indicator that post war padded Canadian paratrooper wings always have a backing material to hold the padding material in place prior to it being sewn onto the uniform? Does the type of padding material give you a clue? Does the clear cellophane padding material I saw years ago mean it was a post war worn wing?

Lastly the type of Canadian paratrooper wing might be an indicator. I’ve come across three types of wings (1A – 1D, 2A – 2C, & 3). I was told that 1A – 1D are Canadian manufactured paratrooper wings while 2A – 2C are British manufactured Canadian paratrooper wings. Wing number 3 is what I have been told is a Canadian SOE wing because there is a period photograph of a Canadian SOE paratrooper wearing this particular wing. I personally don’t think that these wings were manufactured just for members of the Canadian SOE as I have seen one amongst a grouping of insignia belonging to a former Canadian member of the First Special Service Force. Could this also be another indicator that the British made wings are more likely WW2 era worn than the Canadian made wings which continued to be issued after the war? I’ve also seen a theater made Canadian paratrooper wing sewn on a WW2 era uniform once which I don’t have a photograph of it. I don’t know how many are out there but does a theater made piece indicate WW2 period worn?

So what do others think of these as indicators that the particular Canadian paratrooper wing was worn during the war:
1. Straight level wings with the maple leaf not protruding below the base of the wings.
2. White rear backing material
3. Dark colored catch threads visible inside of the rear light colored embroidery
4. Padding without extra cloth material to hold in place prior to sewing on uniform
5. Type 2 (British), Type 3 (SOE) or theater made wing

I’m sure there are no stead fast rules while trying to make a determination if a particular wing was worn during WW2. These are just clues which may or may not be correct but I was wondering what other collectors thought about them. I don’t know how accurate this information is and if I’m wrong I would like to know. I have also attached a few scans of bullion Canadian paratrooper wings in my collection that is another headache while trying to determine if they were worn during the war. I’ve never seen a period photograph of someone wearing a bullion wing during the war so are they all post war? Does anyone have a set of indicators that a particular bullion Canadian paratrooper wing was worn during the war?”

In addition the following expert knowledge was provided on the subject by ‘Bill A’, one of the major moderators on the forum:
“To start, from the bottom up. Bullion wire wings were worn during the war, but as each wing was hand embroidered it will be very difficult to determine if certain bullion wings were a wartime issue. Your wing #6 appears very similar to one in Ken Joyce's Into the Maelstrom pg 72. #4 and #5 are not similar to the examples in the reference. #4 in particular looks like it is a post war type.
#3 is identified as a private purchase English made pattern, wartime period.
#2 B It has characteristics that Joyce indicates as his Type 5, page 69. He indicates that pattern was British made, Second World War issue.”

In further discussion 'Tonomachi' additionally states:
"I've added three other Canadian paratrooper wings from my collection to this thread after Jim Baker posted his wing which I feel is a post WW2 era wing. I believe these three wings are all post WW2 era pieces but I could be wrong. Wing 7 and 8 look similar but Wing 7 is embroidered on a dark green colored material while Wing 8 is embroidered on a black colored material. It is hard to see the color difference in these photographs. The black backing cloth of Wing 8 has a tighter weave than the black backing cloth of Wing 7. Their maples leafs are different as well. If you use a black light on Wing 7 and 8 the parachutes glow which some say indicates that synthetic threads were used in the embroidery which would point to post WW2 construction. Wing 9 which is the same wing that Jim Baker posted above does not glow under a black light however I still think it is post WW2. Again if I'm wrong please share your information so we can all learn how to tell the differences between WW2 and post WW2 wings."


Anonymous said...


My name is Ken Joyce and I authored "Into the Maelstrom" by Service Publications of Ottawa. This book covers all of the main WW 2 variants of the badge. However I have been asked to compile a small book on Canadian badges up to the creation of the Airborne Regiment in the 1960's. The post 1945 badges seem to cause people the most problems. We have decided to do this and hopefully it will be available soon via Service Publications in Ottawa. I intend to use period photographs/documents to illustrate the time period in which each badge was worn. I could use high resolution photos of badges if you want to help out. I can be contacted via the Wehrmacht Forum British section under the name Force 136. Thanks Ken

Unknown said...

my uncle was a canadian paratrooper ww2, he had a patch with a half a wing,and a pegasus pach what does this mean?

Arnhemjim said...

Am not certain if you have a photograph or only the insignia. If your uncle wore square blue on maroon Pegasus formation badges on the shoulders of his battledress it was standard for the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, being attached to the British 6th Airborne Division. Unlike the majority of nations of the former British Commonwealth, to the best of my knowledge the Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air Force did not use a single wing brevet for Parachute Jump Instructors (PJIs) during WWII or post-war. For a period of time a flaming torch with a single wing to the right (similar to the U.S. brevet for the same qualification, but with white flame and different shaped wing) was wore to designate a Pathfinder qualification. Personal opinion would be if he wore the Pathfinder brevet, he would also have worn the standard Canadian Parachutist brevet, i.e. pair of wings, parachute, and maple leaf, as shown in this article and also in this blog. Military Mode Publishing ( has recently published an excellent book on WWII Canadian Airborne Insignia, but would depend on your level of interest and resources, as it is not cheap. Hope this is of some assistance.
Arnhem Jim

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