Thursday, May 26, 2016

Royal Naval Division Cap Badges - An Addendum

Throughout its illustrious history the Royal Navy has served ashore at various times and places, and in many capacities, ranging from small landing parties to the Naval Brigade Siege Artillery, 24 Pdrs from HMS Shannon under command of CAPT William Peel, present at the Relief/Siege of Lucknow and Cawnpore during the Indian Mutiny in1857. A naval contingent also transported and served the modified 4.7in Naval guns which aided in lifting the Siege of Ladysmith during the Boer War. But to this author’s knowledge, it was not until World War I that an entire military division was raised within the Royal Navy, and rushed to the European continent in the Fall of 1914, to defense the nation of Belgium, in stemming the invasion of that country by the German Army.

First named the Royal Naval Division, and later re-designated The 63rd (Royal Naval) Division, it was also referred to a “Churchill’s Private Army”, because of Sir Winston’s influence and direction in raising the Division, as First Lord of the Admiralty. It was basically comprised of two Naval Brigades and a Royal Marine Brigade. The Division saw early immediate and intense action in the defense of Antwerp, Belgium (obviously a vital port city) in the late fall of 1914. As if that baptism of fire wasn’t enough, it was subsequently engaged in another of Churchill’s “endeavors”, the invasion of Gallipoli in 1915, as well as gaining the Battle Honour “Somme 1916”.

The first four battalions initially raised in the major naval depot ports of Chatham, Portsmouth, Plymouth and Deal, and named accordingly, were quickly expanded to eight, and renamed after famous Admirals of the Royal Navy. Those names being; Drake, Benbow, Hawke, Collingwood, Nelson, Howe, Hood and Anson.

This article is intended to provide further detailed information on the insignia worn by the officers and personnel of the Royal Naval Division and the Royal Naval Air Service Armoured Car Squadrons. Because of the fame and unique hybrid (both Army and Royal Navy) nature of the uniforms and insignia of these units, the collection of these insignia has always been, and remains very popular. Unfortunately, as has been addressed frequently in this blog, that very popularity has driven the unscrupulous endeavors of counterfeiters. Hopefully the additional limited knowledge and guidance provided in this article will assist both novice and advanced collector, in avoiding some of those potential “rocks and shoals”.

For the reader's convenience, examples and detailed forensic analysis of the six officially authorized cap badges of the RND battalions can be seen at; .

The Formation Badge of the Royal Naval Division, which was retained when the Division was re-designated The 63rd (Royal Naval) Division is depicted here:

 Another reason for writing this article, is that personnel of these units would have been armed to a limited extent with the .455cal. Webley Self-Loading Pistol, Model 1913 Mk I(N), which was the very recent subject in another entry on this blog page. See; .

Three immediate and vital pieces of information. The unique cap badges specific to the various named battalions were not wore by officers, warrant officers, and Chief petty officers of the Division, who retained either subdued embroidered bullion or metal cap badges. Secondly, there may have been proposed designs for a cap badge for the Benbow and Collingwood Battalions, But NONE were ever officially authorized or worn. Shoulder titles were issued for these two battalions.  Thirdly, the crowned oval badge containing the letters R.N.A.S. and the profile of a Rolls Royce Amoured car, has frequently been misidentified as a cap badge, it is a collar device (“dog”), and worn as a pair on the lapels of personnel of the Royal Naval Armoured Car Squadrons. It is NOT a cap badge. The devices were worn by all ranks.

 The author is again greatly indebted to John 'Paddy' Newell, an established and recognized expert on the insignia of both the Royal Naval Division and the Royal Naval Air Service Armoured Car Squadrons, for providing exemplars from his personal collection of some of the scarcer badges and insignia of both units. In the case of the Royal Naval Division, it should be stated that all personnel, both Royal Navy and Royal Marines, were either reservists or volunteers. This fact explains the appearance of the letters “RNV” on some of the cap badges.

The following series of photographs depict in order;

The Royal Naval Division, Officers Cap Badge (KC)(Bronze)(1st Pattern)

The Royal Naval Division, Officer's Cap Badge (KC)(Bronze)(1st Pattern Variant; almost appears painted)

The Royal Naval Division, Officers Cap Badge (KC)(Bronze)(2nd Pattern)

The Royal Navy, Officer's Cap Badge (KC)(Bullion)(1901-20)

The Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, Officer's Cap Badge (KC)(Bullion)

The Royal Naval Division Chief Petty Officer's Cap Badge (KC)(Bronze)

The following are extremely scarce variant collar devices worn as an alternate on the khaki officer's service dress of the Royal Naval Air Service Armoured Car Squadrons:

Both sets of devices can be observed being worn on the lapels of the group of officers in the following photograph (Apologies, because unfortunately attribution can't be established. Will remove if so requested):

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