Insignia

Rank & Appointment Insignia

Cap Badges

Crowns

Corps & Services 1939-1945

Mounted Units 1939-1945

Collar Badges

1920-1952

 Metal Shoulder Titles

 Slip-On Shoulder Titles 

Buttons 1939-1945

Formation Patches
C.E.F. Troops  
1st Canadian Army

Canadian Military HQ

1st Canadian Corps

2nd Canadian Corps

Atlantic Command

Pacific Command

1st Canadian Division

2nd Canadian Division

3rd Canadian Division

►4th Canadian Division

►5th Canadian Division

6th Canadian Division

7th Canadian Division

8th Canadian Division

1st Armoured Brigade

2nd Armoured Brigade

3rd Armoured Brigade

Misc. & Foreign 1939-45  
Postwar .

Nationality

Miscellaneous Insignia

Good Conduct Chevrons

Instructors Badges

Tank Badges
Lanyards
NCO Corps Badges
Service Chevrons
Wound Stripes
National Insignia

Special Distinctions

 

Insignia

Definitions:

Regiment or Corps An administrative branch to which units belong, performing specific functions. For example, a Mobile Bath and Laundry Unit belongs to the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps.   His "unit" would be No.2 Mobile Bath and Laundry Unit, but he will wear the badges of the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps since MLBUs did not have specific unit insignia.
Formation A grouping of Units into a larger administrative entity; this could be a brigade, division, corps (not to be confused with the type of "corps" mentioned above), army or army group.  Soldiers within Units also belonged to the Formation to which their Unit belonged, this could be several units simultaneously.  For example, an infantryman in the 1st Battalion of the Black Watch also belonged to the 5th Canadian Infantry Brigade, the Second Canadian Infantry Division, the II Canadian Corps, the First Canadian Army and the 21st Group of Armies simultaneously, though the general rule was that a soldier only wore the insignia of the division (or higher headquarters, if directly attached) to whom he was assigned.
Unit A specific grouping of troops, such as a battalion of infantry, a regiment of tanks, or a squadron of engineers.  Units were divided into subunits - an infantry battalion was composed of companies, a tank regiment was composed of squadrons, and an engineer squadron was composed of troops.  These subunits could themselves be further divided - infantry companies into platoons, and then into sections; tank squadrons into troops, and then sections, etc.   Soldiers in sub-units did not wear specific insignia, and the Unit level was the lowest division of authorized identifying insignia.

Pre-1914

Unit insignia before the First World War was primarily restricted to cap badges, collar badges and devices found on such accoutrements as shoulder belts (as worn in Rifle regiments, for example).  Permanent Force corps and units wore metal shoulder titles on their uniform, following British practice.   These metal titles consisted of an abbreviated form of the parent regiment or corps name, and were worn on the end of each shoulder strap.   Few of the infantry and cavalry regiments of the Militia appear to have had metal shoulder titles, however.

Canadian Expeditionary Force 1914-1918

Units of the Canadian Expeditionary Force also adopted metal shoulder titles, though most infantry battalions of the CEF wore a generic CANADA badge.  Some of the reinforcement units of the CEF did adopt numbered shoulder titles in metal, and the numbered collar badges worn by the CEF were originally intended for wear on the shoulder strap.  Cloth shoulder titles for some units were proposed, but usually rejected for use by Canadian officials (see the book DISTINGUISHING PATCHES by Clive Law for more information on First World War badges).  Infantry units of the CEF came to be identified also by variations on their Formation Patches (or Battle Patches), but these are properly a different subject worthy of discussion elsewhere.

The British allowed for one exception to the general rule that cloth unit titles were not to be worn; Guards regiments were permitted to wear a scarlet crescent with the name of the unit embroidered in white.  One Canadian unit - Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry - was also permitted to wear this form of unit identification.  PPCLI served with the British in France, before joining the 3rd Canadian Division later in the war.

By 1918, the use of cloth unit titles was limited to a handful of units, and in the interwar period, their use was limited to but four units of the Canadian Army.  The metal shoulder title continued to be the sole method of unit identification worn on the Service Dress Jacket and other forms of clothing.

Between the Wars

After the First World War, metal titles were taken into general use in the Canadian Militia in 1927/28 after a poll of the officers taken in 1926. Three such badges were actually instituted as a commemorative device (see the page on "Special Distinctions") and paid homage to the first Canadian attack of the Great War, at Kitcheners' Wood in April 1915.  A shoulder badge in the form of a brass oak leaf was granted to three infantry units of the Militia who perpetuated the 10th and 16th Battalions of the CEF.

Second World War

Chris Brooker passes on the following information: 

On the outbreak of WWII Ordnance was told they could issue any collars and metal titles they had in stores but could not place orders for any additional titles. Photos of metal titles worn on the Battledress are scarce (and look really odd), in October 1941 metal titles were ordered withdrawn for the duration of the war. However from September 1942 until December 1942 this order was rescinded for officers service dress (presumably in Canada only) and a number of collars and titles were produced. (These are generally of specific pattern) After 1941 ONLY cloth insignia was worn on the Battledress, possibly with the exception (there is ALWAYS an exception) of the Guards regiments the officers of which wore bronze rank pips of regimental pattern).

When Battle Dress was introduced to the British Army just prior to the Second World War, the original intent was to have minimal insignia, with only ranks and removable unit identification being permitted.   The first insignia worn were removable khaki "slip-ons." (The official name was "worsted titles.")  This policy was doomed from the start, as these slip-ons interfered with the rank insignia worn by officers, and were sometimes sewn to the battle dress sleeve instead.  In the absence of slip-on titles, many units continued the use of the metal shoulder titles worn with Service Dress, and there are many photos of this practice from the 1939-1940 period.

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Metal Shoulder Titles were worn on prewar Service Dress and sometimes continued to be worn on Battle Dress early in the war.

By 1943, the policy regarding security was eased by the British, and Canada followed suit.  Many British units had adopted coloured shoulder "flashes", and these are evident during the fighting in France in 1940, despite being against official policy. (Similar flashes had been worn in the First World War, often on the back of the tunic rather than the sleeves.)  These "flashes" differed from "titles" in that they were usually geometric in nature, without printing, and the colour and shape alone identified the unit.    Canadian units never adopted similar flashes.

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The "worsted title", or slip-on, was the officially sanctioned form of Unit Insignia until midway through the war.

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Examples of British "shoulder flashes".  The Government tartan patch cut into the shape of a star was worn by the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) while the inverted blue triangle was worn by the Royal West Kents.  While Scottish units seem to have retained the tartan shoulder flashes for the duration of the Second World War, most regular infantry units adopted Unit Titles with names or abbreviations on them.  Canadian units did not adopt similar "flashes".

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The need, or desire,  for unit identification was seen to outweigh the security risk this insignia caused, and the British began to issue a wide variety of coloured cloth insignia for wear on Battle Dress, designating both Formation and Unit.  These badges took the form of "titles", usually being a crescent shape (for units) with letters spelling out the unit's name or abbreviated title.   Formation patches are also a study unto themselves, but usually consisted of an image that was related to the unit, and varied from simple geometric shapes, to flora or fauna from the division's home counties, to plays on words involving the commanding general's last name.

The British army orders for various types of cloth distinguishing items were issued in 1940, 1941, 1943. In the 1943 ACI order, Unit Titles were first officially authorized for widespread wear. Prior to that only guards regiments and a few other units were officially permitted to wear cloth titles.   Canada, from 1939, had granted permission to only four units -  the Governor General's Foot Guards, the Canadian Grenadier Guards, PPCLI and the Canadian Provost Corps - to wear cloth shoulder titles.

Canada allowed other units to wear cloth shoulder titles and introduced Formation and Unit insignia of its own.  The 2nd and 5th Divisions combined the two, for a time, and the formation patches also identified the units in those divisions.  Other divisions, while authorizing separate Unit and Formation patches for the infantry, armoured and artillery units therein, issued combined formation/unit patches to men of the supporting arms.  By 1945, however, official policy was to have "plain" formation patches for all arms and units, and even the troops of the supporting arms (signals, service, medical, etc.) wore distinctive lettered patches on the upper sleeves in addition to plain formation patches.  These patches could technically be likened to the Unit Titles worn by infantry battalions or tank regiments, however they were not unit-specific and generic to the corps - i.e. Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps troops wore the same RCOC badges no matter which unit they belonged to (be it No. 2 Infantry Workshop, No. 3 Mobile Bath and Laundry Unit, etc.   Completely specific Unit Titles were common only to infantry, armoured, and artillery Units.

The variety of materials used to construct these badges is a study in itself.  While the Canadian Army followed the British in terms of policies regarding the new badges, they did not follow the rules on details of construction, materials or colours.  While British shoulder titles for infantry regiments, for example, were "supposed to be" in white letters on a scarlet background (and many British infantry units ignored this restriction), Canadian regimental shoulder titles were usually done in unit colours.  While two rifle regiments adopted titles consisting of red letters on a rifle green background, many more adopted wildly varying designs and colours.

Canadian shoulder flashes were constructed in Canada, but also produced locally wherever he was stationed - in the UK before D-Day, and in Holland after VE Day.  Canadian badges are identifiable by their "weave" - the quality of the stitching.  Different materials were used for backings, including Melton and felt.  

The British introduced "canvas" badges during the war; these were cotton badges that were printed on, rather than embroidered, and badges and patches of most Canadian units to serve in the UK were also produced in this manner as well, beginning in about 1943.  Canada adoption of these badges was also owed to a lack of British manufacturing ability and the increasing difficulty of obtaining Melton wool during a time of strict rationing.


Examples of the different quality encountered in badges.  At top is a printed "canvas" title.  Compare to the title at bottom, a British manufactured cloth title.  The crude embroidery and overall shape can be compared to the Canadian-manufactured badge in the middle.

The replacement of crudely embroidered badges with the canvas badges was a tradeoff, as the canvas badges tended to fade quickly and were not as durable.

Artifacts and photo by Bill Alexander.

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The end result was that there was no one standard for badges; the "canvas" badges (as they are referred to today by collectors) faded quickly (see below) and were not terribly well liked.  Badges from Canada featured smaller, neater embroidery compared to the broad "Aldershot" weave of British badges.  British-made badges tended to show a great variety of quality and colour, also.  There seems to have been little effort made to standardize which badges could be worn and which could not.

The question of "when" the Canadians started issuing their own distinctive cloth badges for Battle Dress is an interesting one.  One 1942 Canadian Army Routine Order  lists the slip-ons, and a few "patches, Shoulder" for ten units appearing to be 3rd Division units, except the GGFG who had permission to wear such a title from 1939 on.  Official orders, however often came about after badges were already being worn for a long time, or vice versa an example would be paperwork in the possession of Bill Alexander, detailing the acceptance of canvas titles for the Perth Regiment, dated April 1944.  The badges were not actually worn until March 1945 at the earliest.

To add to the confusion, the Canadian Army had two administrative divisions - the army at home, and the Canadian Army (Overseas), and both had different regulations regarding insignia.  While the "worsted" or slip-on titles were officially supposed to be worn by 2nd (reserve) battalions in Canada, they too eventually went over to Unit Titles.  Clive Law (Service Publications) has found this relevant item in the National Archives:  When Military District 3 in Canada asked units in their districts for proposals for Unit Titles the CO of the 2nd Bn Midland Regiment replied:

1.      Permission is requested for the 2nd (R) Bn Midland Regt to wear the popular name of the Unit as a shoulder Flash as described in the attached sketch.
2.      The Unit esprit de corps is good and the Unit has a good reputation so that it would be a privilege to wear the Flash.
3.      As there is no privilege without a corresponding obligation, it would be incumbent upon each member of the Unit to conduct himself in a manner which will enhance the reputation of the Unit.
4.      Re. the informality of the wording of the Flash, it is requested that the Unit be permitted to express this measure of originality.

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PRINTED INSIGNIA

Cotton printed badges, also known to collector's as "canvas" badges, were introduced during the war as an economy measure.  These badges tended to quickly fade and were not as durable as the Melton badges.  Compare the unissued canvas titles at left with the example at right.  The Division patch is also in "canvas."

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Bill Alexander adds the following:

There are several types of construction used in cloth flashes. Titles with backing materials are both Canadian made and British made. However there are titles made on felt with no backing, and which appears to have a glue substance or residue on them. In collecting circles these are sometimes know as glue-backs (very inventive). They are also a British manufacture only. These were made for all the Canadian units which drew on the British supply system in WWII. Thus you will not find the glue-backs for units which only served in Canada.

Canvas is the same. Canvas was an economy measure title only made in UK for troops in the supply line there. Thus you will find a canvas Vet's Guard because they sent a company for protective duties over-seas. As well, the 13 Brigade units made it to Britain and had patches made before they were disbanded and used as re-enforcements. These are also somewhat scarce compared to other units. Brooker goes to some length to suggest that there are early manufacture and late manufacture. There are certainly different types of canvas titles but I don't know how to clearly identify which was made when. I have seen canvas with a buff backing material and the more common black linen type material.

The ordnance issue of printed patches and flashes was consistent with British Army practice. The first issue was made in 1943, and the final issue was made in 1945. There were no Canadian system issues of the printed flash in the post war era.

The patches and flashes which were produced were only for those Canadian units and formations that were posted to the United Kingdom at some point. For example, all CASF units that were posted to the UK had a canvas flash produced. This included the Veterans Guard and components of the 13 Inf Bde that had been in Kiska and were then transferred to Britain. (The Veterans Guard were sent to release trained soldiers from certain duties, which made the younger soldiers available for active service.)

Units which did not have a canvas title include:

Argyll Light Inf (Tank)

Brockville Rifles

Les Fusiliers de Sherbrooke

Les Fusiliers du St Laurent

Garrison Battalions

Grey and Simcoe Foresters

Halifax Rifles

Irish Fusiliers of Canada

Kent Regiment

King's Own Rifles of Canada

Manitoba Mounted Rifles

Manitoba Volunteer Reserve

Middlesex and Huron Regiment

Midland Regiment

New Brunswick Regt (Tank)

19th Alberta Dragoons

Oxford Rifles

Pacific Coast Milita Rangers

Pictou Highlanders

Prince Albert and Battleford Volunteers

Prince of Wales Rangers

Prince Rupert Regiment

Princess of Wales Own Regiment

Queen's York Rangers

Regt de Chateauguay

Regt de Gaspe Bonaventure

Regt de Joliette

Regt de Levis

Regt de Montmagny

Regt de Quebec

Regt de St Hyacinthe

Regt de Saguenay

Royal Canadian Army Veterinary Corps

Royal Rifles of Canada

St. John Fusiliers

Sault Ste Marie and Sudbury Regiment

Scots Fusiliers of Canada

2nd Armoured Car Regiment

2nd/10th Dragoons

16th/22nd Saskatchewan Horse

Victoria Rifles of Canada

Voltigeurs de Quebec

Winnipeg Light Infantry

Also the Canadian Forestry Corps, though no embroidered shoulder title was worn either.  Instead, the formation patch was worn as both a unit and a corps identifier; canvas versions of this patch did exist.

Among units to serve extensively in Europe, the following did not have printed flashes:  Canadian Intelligence Corps, 1st Canadian Armoured Carrier Regt, and Canadian Army Women's Corps, The Dufferin and Haldimand Rifles, Edmonton Fusiliers, Essex Regt (Tank), 15th Alberta Light Horse, 1st Special Service Force, 14th Canadian Light Horse/Hussars (served as VIII Recce Regt, which did have a canvas flash).

Should one find any of the above in canvas they should be treated with great suspicion. Several years ago bogus canvas flashes and formation patches appeared on the market. These included some of the French Canadian regiments and others such as 56 Recce. (The latter was a Canadian contingent sent to the mid-east in 1956 to act as peacekeepers.) There were also bogus formation patches made up.

There are at least two exceptions to the rule. One is the Kiska force patch, found in a form of printed title. It is quite different in material and production than the UK printed material. The other exception is the Canadian Technical Training Corps, which has authentic printed titles.

As to production, the Canadian printed flashes and patches were silk screened on a cotton material. Different weights of cotton, both facing and backing are found. The first issue, generally speaking, tends to be of a heavier construction than the latter issue. Backing is usually black in colour but is also found in khaki. I don't know much about ink or types of ink used. Printed flashes were not durable and quickly deteriorated in the elements. Sun and water bleached them out. Most soldiers preferred the melton title for best battledress.

Webmaster's note: Another interesting variant pointed out by Bill Alexander and Ed Storey was the "BeVo" style flash locally made in Belgium or Holland for the 1st Canadian Armoured Carrier Regiment.  BeVo is a term used by collectors to refer to a style of silk embroidery common in German badges.  The name itself comes from the BeVo-Wuppertal firm (though they were not the only firm to produce this type of embroidery during the Second World War, the name has stuck among collectors.)  Be stands for Beteilingung, or "partnership" in English, Vo is short for Vorsteher.  The firm BeVo-Wuppertal came into being when the firms of Lucas Vorsteher and Ewelda Vorsteher amalgamated; both came from the Wuppertal-Bermen area.

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Artifacts and photo courtesy Ed Storey

Bill Alexander on print runs:

I don't know of specifics on the numbers produced, but I do know that the RCOC were aware of war establishments and numbers of personnel in various corps and regiments. There was a scale of issue per man and this would be multiplied by some number based upon war establishments, plus an anticipated attrition rate, to arrive at the number produced. It is obvious that small units like Film and Photo Unit or Canadian Chaplain Service didn't have the same needs and thus, smaller runs. The apparent scarcity of other regimental titles like Le Regiment de Hull, may be explained by the fact that they may have only had one run of titles. The Kiska units apparently arrived in the UK well after the first printed titles were issued, and then were broken up for reinforcements. They probably had far fewer made than other units, perhaps only one batch.

Another issue is the silk screen process. Screening produces the crisp printed titles, but the screens wore out. Some variations in titles may be explained by the need for new screens. Changes in official designations would also require the change in screens and a new run. The 49th /Edmonton Regt vs 49th/ The Loyal Edmonton Regt , the different Royal Montreal Regt MG and no MG and Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa MG and no MG are good examples.

Finally in reference to ink, a collector can find significant variations in shades of yellows (in particular) and other colours that appear to be original printings, but different batches. Other differences in tone may be fading. Printed titles, exposed to light, change very quickly. Sometimes these are presented as "run variations", but are not.

Notes

Information on this page supplied in large part by Bill Alexander, Chris Brooker, Dwayne Hordij, and Clive Law (Service Publications).


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