Sunday, August 7, 2016

A "Significant" WWII Parachute Regiment Colour Sergeant’s Best Battledress Blouse & Other Airborne & Special Forces Insignia

Periodically, even less frequently in recent years, significant examples of WWII British Special Forces uniform items and insignia briefly come on to the public market. Suffices when the items have established provenance they are also commanding “respectable”, i.e. exorbitantly high prices.

They not only provide continuing incentive for the discerning collector, but also serve as a baseline for calibrating authenticity in detail, affording at least a limited defense against the growing plethora of fraudulent items flooding the militaria market place. The first item shown is the probable inspection best WWII Pattern ’37 battledress blouse of a Colour Sergeant and breveted parachutist of the Parachute Regiment. Initially the blouse looked too good to be a righteous original. To this author the buttons and the name markings inside just seemed unusually pristine. However, following an extended discussion on the British and Commonwealth Military Badge Forum, with persons directly knowledgeable with the specific item and its background, reasonable provenance has been tentatively established. This author still has some doubts about the nomenclature; "NO 1 PARA REGT". Also concerned about the lack of a first initial in the name. In any event, asking price is only fit for e-Bay, and certainly well beyond the reasonable means of even the affluent advanced collector. Given those caveats the author at this time categorically states that this article should not be construed in anyway as further establishing the authenticity of this uniform. If it has been "constructed", someone has gone to an inordinate effort in a highly skilled manner.






Particular interest should be paid to the impeccable placement of the insignia, as well as both the detailed precise embroidery and color of each element of insignia. If provenance can be further established the blouse deserves a place in the Airborne Assault Museum, Imperial War Museum, Duxford, however I doubt their budget could accommodate the current asking price ($7500.00 USD).

The second grouping of rare WWII British special forces insignia includes two original examples of the “salamander in the ring of fire” of No.1 Commando. The first one from a private collection, the second from the holdings of the Imperial War Museum. This insigne has been frequently counterfeited. The knowledgeable viewer will notice the relative regularity of the embroidery stitching on the back. The author would like to express both acknowledgement and gratitude to JON and the British and Commonwealth Military Badge Forum for the following images.

No.1 Commando Formation Badge
(Front, Embroidered Version, Private Collection)

No.1 Commando Formation Badge
(Rear, Embroidered Version, Private Collection)

No.1 Commando Formation Badge
(Front, Embroidered Version, IWM Collection)

No.1 Commando Formation Badge
(Rear, Embroidered Version, IWM Collection)

The remaining items include two genuine Combined Operations Formation Badges; the first being red embroidery on dark blue, and the second executed in gold bullion.

Combined Operations Formation Badge
(Front, Embroidered Navy Version)

Combined Operations Formation Badge
(Rear, Embroidered Navy Version) 

Combined Operations Formation Badge
(Front, Gold Bullion Version)

In addition to the above No. 1 COMMANDO Formation Badge, and Combined Operations Formation Badges, the mini collection included an early COMMANDO title, Special Air Service cap badge and collar dog, and two early parachute brevets. The early white on black COMMANDO shoulder titles, with and without serifs on the letters, were used from the inception of the units until 1943, when they were replaced with the red on dark blue designations.

Very Early COMMANDO Shoulder Title
(Embroidered Version, Front) 

Very Early COMMANDO Shoulder Title
(Embroidered Version, Rear)

A WWII Special Air Service beret badge and collar dog and
a pair of WWII parachutist brevets from the same collection

The reverse of the same group of insignia

In addition to these insignia the following Airborne Forces Formation badges (Pegasus and Bellerophon), No.2 Commando, 1st Special Service Brigade, and Combined Operations Formation badges obtained from the collection of the Imperial War Museum,  have been recently presented to the membership of the British & Commonwealth Military Badge Forum for the inspection and evaluation by the membership. Suffices they provide an additional set of examples for purposes of comparison of both the printed and embroidered variants. All are believed to be genuine. Readers may want to refer to the following article in this blog for a set of detailed authenticity check-points on this formation badge; http://arnhemjim.blogspot.com/p/british-militaria.html .

Airborne Forces Formation Badge
(Printed Version, Front)

Airborne Forces Formation Badge
(Printed Version, Back)

Another example, Same badge, Front

Another example, Same badge, Rear

Airborne Forces Formation Badge
(Embroidered Version, Front)

Airborne Forces Formation Badge
(Embroidered Version, Rear)

Another embroidered example, front

Another printed example, front

Headquarters Signals, Special Service Brigade

Headquarters Company Special Service Brigade

No.2 Commando Officer's Cap Badge

Combined Operations Formation Badge
(Front, Embroidered Army Version)

Combined Operations Formation Badge
(Back, Embroidered Army Version)

Combined Operations Formation Badge
(Front, Printed Navy Version)

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