The cap badge is a symbol that is revered in the British Army, each recruit taught how to read them. And with each regiment and corps of the British Army issued with its own distinctive device, there is a lot of reading to be done. Such devices were worn in headgear for centuries, but it was only with the adoption of a recognisable cap by the army in the late nineteenth century – rather than a spiked helmet or tall shako – that these small transportable and easily lost metal items were worn. They have been worn ever since. The fact that the badge means more to the average soldier that is understood is seen through the existence of large numbers of home-made items - trench art - that were emblazoned with the regimental badge. In the First World War this would be embroidered items and pieces of scrap metal with buttons and badges attached. During the Second World War the advent of new materials meant the opportunity to create new objects.
This cap badge was hand made, cut from scrap perspex ('plexiglass') that was widely used in aircraft during the war. Perhaps this was recovered from an enemy aeroplane, or fashioned from a scrap piece lying around the workshops of the Corps of Royal Engineers. Who can tell? But what we can be sure of, is that the soldier who carried out the work felt a strong enough bond to his Corps that committed him to hours of patient work, Never underestimate the power of the humble cap badge.
Peter Doyle has written two books on cap badges, written with friend and co-author Chris Foster. The first, British Army Cap Badges of the First World War was published by Shire last year (click here for details); the second volume in the series, British Army Cap Badges of the Second World War is due out in February (and is available for preorder).