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  #1  
Old 04-02-23, 01:45 AM
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tcrown tcrown is offline
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Default A Story of the British Parachute Distinguished Insignias

A few years back, I planned a bit of research on the various patches worn by the parachute battalions during WW2 https://www.britishbadgeforum.com/fo...3&postcount=17

After analyzing a lot of photos mainly from the IWM and Para Data collections, I tried to summarize and share my findings. I don’t pretend to provide an exact story of the evolution of the British Airborne Forces insignias but to offer my contribution to research on this topic. An abundant and very well documented literature exists already on British Airborne uniforms but somehow these books lack details about the chronology of the various patches. I’ve tried to fill the blanks with a special focus on the Parachute units.

This first post will cover the 1940 to 1942 period up until the creation of the Parachute Regiment.

1- Initial Regulations in the British Army

ACI 419 issued in May 1940 stated that Divisional Signs or badges will not be worn by British divisions during the war. This coincided with the introduction of Battle-Dress which was to provide an utilitarian uniform with no particular means to identify arms of service.
General Gort, Commander in Chief of the British Expeditionary Force at the time disapproved the decision and objected that Esprit de Corps, particularly in the Infantry would suffer if soldiers in Battle-Dress were not allowed to wear an emblem showing the regiment to which they belong.

ACI 1118 published on 18 September 1940 finally approved certain distinguished marks. For the early parachute troops, this translated into the introduction and approval of a special badge for wear by qualified parachutists through ACI 1589 dated 28 December 1940. As for Regimental flashes or other formation signs, there were none for the only parachute unit at the time – the 11th SAS.

11th SAS Feb 24 1941.jpg
Members of the 11st SAS photographed in Feb 1941 (source IWM)[/SIZE]

2- Introduction of Additional Formation Badges

ACI 2587 dated 27 December 1941 set out formation patches as well as arm-of-service strips, rank badge backing and regimental badges to be worn at the top of both sleeves of the Battle-Dress blouse.
The Army Air Corps had just been formed on 21 Dec 1941 with the intend of overseeing all airborne forces that were under (glider, parachute and air landing activities).

Around the end of 1941, a group of airborne officers led by Gen “Boy” Browning formed the “Dungeon Party”, so named as they were located in the basement of GHQ Home Forces in Storeys Gate London, to create British airborne forces. Gen Browning was acutely aware that the then fledgling airborne forces needed a powerful, unifying symbol, taking advantage of the fact that formation patches had just been authorized to be worn on Battle-Dress. The myth of Bellerophon astride Pegasus was chosen as the symbol of airborne forces. The design of the now famous Pegasus flash was commissioned by General Browning to Major Edward Seago, a reputable artist.

Dungeon Party mid 1942.jpg
The “Dungeon Party” ca mid 1942. Lt Col JA Goshen can be seen on the far right front row. He was the G4 logistics staff officer under Gen Browning (source ParaData)

It is believed that the Airborne signs (both curved and strip) were designed at the same time as the Pegasus patch and started to be issued in the course of 1942.
An interesting photo taken immediately after the return of the raid party to Bruneval aboard Prins Albert, shows that both printed Pegasus and Airborne strip had already started to be issued in early 1942.

John Frost and Lcl John Goshen aboard Prins Albert Portsmouth 28 fev 1942 H 17349.JPG
Lt Col John Goshen, G4 of Airborne Forces Staff, with Major Frost aboard Prins Albert in Portsmouth on Feb 28th 1942 (source IWM)

3 – The Use of Airborne Signs in the Early Days

So far, Airborne forces haven’t been formed into Regiments: Parachutes forces grouped in battalions and their members were still wearing the cap badge of their original regiments which didn’t provide a sense of unity. Having no regimental designation yet established, it is believed that the curved airborne sign was used as a shoulder title for providing a mean of identification on top of the parachute wings. This was also the case for the glider pilots until the creation of the Glider Pilot Regiment with effect from 24th Feb 1942. However, photos of members of the GPR exist indicating that the Airborne strip was worn in 1943 (source IWM H28694 & H28695).

The situation was much different for the glider or airlanding troops as they had been transferred or converted into airborne forces by formed regiments with their own designation. They already had their shoulder titles, although unofficial. So, for these airborne troops who were not parachutists, the Airborne strip was introduced in early 1942 which was to be worn below the Pegasus patches. The Airborne strip would later be officially authorized by ACI 2816 on 31 Oct 1942.

Airborne Patches Aug 1942 H22753.JPG
Printed Airborne shoulder titles issued to Parachute forces and to Glider pilots in 1942 (source IWM)

It seems that Airborne shoulder titles had been issued at the same period to qualified and active parachutists as we can see in the following photographs. ACI 2587 of 27 Dec 1941 didn’t authorize regimental designations except for the Household Cavalry and the Foot Guards. The designation ‘Airborne’ was added to the exceptions for the members of the Airborne troops.

25 March 1942 3rd Bat Inspection CH 5187.JPG
Inspection by HM the King of 3rd Parachute Battalion on Mar 25, 1942 (source IWM)

21 May 1942 Bulford H 19952.JPG
Inspection by HM the King of members of the 5th (Scottish) Parachute Battalion at the time in formation, with Brigadier Flavell and Maj Gen Browning on May 21, 1942 at Bulford (source IWM)

As usual, I would value any opinion on this topic. I plan to address the introduction of the ‘Parachute’ shoulder title in another post.
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  #2  
Old 04-02-23, 11:43 AM
Mike B Mike B is online now
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tcrown - Many thanks.
I always appreciate other folks sharing research, whatever the subject
This looks interesting, any more information would be much appreciated too.
I am sure other forum members will agree, and forward their thanks ...
Mike
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Old 04-02-23, 12:42 PM
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I look forward to it!

Thanks for sharing.

Chris
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Old 04-02-23, 02:26 PM
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NORMANDIE18 NORMANDIE18 is offline
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Very interesting ! Thanks for your research.
Normandie18
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  #5  
Old 04-02-23, 05:28 PM
Arnhem Jim Arnhem Jim is offline
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Default Early British Airborne Forces history

tccrown,
Most impressive research, particularly to those with specific interest in the formative years of British Airborne Forces. Certainly intend to add to my personal data base of knowledge on the subject. Well done! thank you very much for sharing.
Arnhem Jim
Arizona Territory
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Old 05-02-23, 01:33 AM
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tcrown tcrown is offline
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Thanks for your encouragements, guys.
Feel free to re-use my work but please credit the forum.
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Old 05-02-23, 10:05 AM
Colin S Colin S is offline
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Great stuff which will be of great help to other forum members. Thank you for sharing your information, which has confirmed some of my knowledge and added valuable extra information.

I look forward to the next instalment.
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Old 05-02-23, 08:17 PM
Mike B Mike B is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tcrown View Post
Thanks for your encouragements, guys.
Feel free to re-use my work but please credit the forum.
Of course - quite right. But also credit to you
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  #9  
Old 11-02-23, 10:26 PM
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tcrown tcrown is offline
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Default British Parachute Distinguished Insignias - Part2

4 – The Creation of the Parachute Regiment

Special Army order 128 dated on 31 August 1942 detailed the formation of the Glider Pilot Regiment with effect from 24th Feb 1942 and the Parachute Regiment with effect from 1st Aug 1942. With a Regimental designation, unofficial shoulder titles would start replacing gradually the ‘Airborne’ titles with ‘Parachute’ titles.

Grouping from Pte Charles Myatt 1 Bat 1 Det Mortars T Coy.jpg
Unissued grouping from Pte Charles Myatt who joined 1 Bat T Coy in Aug/Sept 1942. Note the non conforming private purchase Pegasus patch as well as standard trimmed Para wings (source Paradata)

Many members of the Parachute forces continued to wear the Airborne shoulder titles and the conversion to ‘Parachute’ shoulder titles remained somewhat limited in 1942. The 1st Parachute Brigade was soon deployed to North Africa in November and at the time the wearing of distinctive formation badges on Battle-Dress was strictly prohibited while in campaign overseas.

NA 492 15 Jan 1943 DSO to Lt Col Frost from Gen Anderson.JPG
Lt Col JD Frost receiving DSO from General Anderson on 15 Jan 1943 near Souk el Khemis (source IWM)

NA87 1st Parachute Brigade disembarking at Algiers Nov 1942.JPG
Members of 1st Para Brigade at Algiers Nov 1942 showing no distinctive insignias as per regulations (Source IWM NA87)

2nd Brigade which was still in formation in the UK in early 1943 was inspected by HM the King on April 2 in Bulford, just before being deployed to North Africa later in the month.
All members of the three battalions were wearing the ‘Airborne’ shoulder titles as evidenced in the following photos.

4th Para Bat inspected on 2 Apr 1943 Lt Col Dene Brigadier Down H28678.JPG
4th Para Battalion inspected on 2 Apr 1943 by HM the King along with Lt Col Dene & Brigadier Down (source IWM H28678). Note the blackened webbing, something specific to the 4th Battalion.

5th Scottish Para Bat inspected on 2 Apr 1943 H28674.jpg
5th (Scottish) Para Battalion inspected on 2 Apr 1943 by HM the King along with Brigadiers Down & Hotchinson (source IWM H28674)

6th Welsh Para Bat inspected on 2 Apr 1943 Lt Col Pritchard H28681.JPG
Lt Col Pritchard presenting 6th (Welsh) Para Bat to HM the King on 2 Apr 1943 (source IWM H28681)

5 - The Official Regimental Designation

With ACI 905 dated 12 June 1943, the text of Regimental designations was officially approved, and shoulder titles would be formally authorized. The text ’Parachute Regiment’ became the official designation of the Regiment. The Army instruction also defined the colours of background and lettering of the Regimental shoulder titles as respectively Cambridge blue and dark blue, colours that would be common for all formations belonging to the Army Air Corps.

The new blue ‘Parachute Regiment’ titles were issued to the Brigades that were in the UK about to form the 6th Airborne division (3rd and 5th Brigades).

Most of the members of both Para Brigades in the 6th Airborne Division not only worn the blue Parachute shoulder titles but also the Airborne strips which became no longer a unique attribute of non parachutists within Airborne forces.

Group of soldiers from the 7th Parachute Battalion ca 1944.jpg
A group of soldiers from the 7th Parachute Battalion ca 1944 (source Para Data)

Some of the few who adopted the unofficial Parachute title in late 1942/early 1943 converted to the official Parachute Regiment titles and Airborne strips as we can see below:

Pvt Ron Tucker 9th Bat 1943.jpgPvt Ron Tucker 9th Bat 1944.jpg
Two photos of Pvt Ron Tucker from 9th (Essex) Battalion (3rd Brigade).
The battalion was formed in Dec 1942 and Pvt Tucker worn the unofficial maroon Parachute title for a while before adopting the official Regimental title probably in the second half of 1943 (source batterie-merville.com)



Lc Col Pine-Coffin #1.JPGLc Col Pine-Coffin #2.JPG
Lt Col Pine-Coffin on 2 Oct 1942 shortly after being appointed CO of 3rd Battalion (source IWM) Lt Col Pine-Coffin on 19 May 1944, inspecting 7th Battalion as CO (source IWM H38604)

As usual, I would value any comment or opinion on this topic.

I will focus next time on the 1st AB Div. Para Brigades and how they dealt with their insignias once back in England.
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  #10  
Old 12-02-23, 09:20 AM
Mike B Mike B is online now
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Excellent - keep it coming tcrown
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