The British Army has a venerable history. At its heart is the regiment, and with it the distinctive ceremonials, regimental colours, mottos and mascots intended to propagate espirit de corps, marrying the British Soldier to his parent unit, thereby creating loyalty in battle. While much of the mechanics of espirit de corps is intangible, pervading the ether of regimental depots, or is unapproachable, reverential, like the colours laid up in churches and cathedrals up and down the country, there remain those small metallic reminders of centuries of proud history, regimental cap badges.
Drawing on a badge tradition that stretches back to the identifying devices of the mediaeval feudal system, and springing from a long line of eighteenth and nineteenth century military fashions, the cap badge represents a distillation of the military history of the regiment or corps. In the age of uniform khaki, the language of the cap badge was there to be read by recruit and civilian alike; it remains today as one of the most potent symbols of military engagement through the centuries.
Yet soldiers are also individualists; and while the cap badge was there to show a sense of inclusion in a wider group, it was also there to be polished, bent, modified and added to. This soldier from the Royal Field Artillery, his cap fashionable moulded has done just that; his distinctive artillery gun badge has been shaped to his taste, and displays just that little bit of swagger. Let us hope he survived.
Peter Doyle has written two book on British Army Cap Badges with Chris Foster. Both are available on Amazon, for the First World War (here) or Second World War (here). Both have been critically acclaimed.