By David Bilton
Pen & Sword, 2021
Not quite hot on the heels of David Bilton’s previous book The Badges of Kitchener’s Army (Pen & Sword, 2018) comes the second of a planned series of four books which, when complete, will form a comprehensive reference of the badges used by the infantry and supporting arms during the war.
The book follows the same format of its predecessor. A brief introduction sets out how the fledgling IWM sent out questionnaires during Third Ypres about badges being used by different units. What is perhaps surprising is that they received any responses at all! However, examples provided show how some went into quite a lot of detail. These responses have been combined with other documentary sources, plus the recollections of veterans, to compile this tome.
Division, brigade, and company patches became a common and accepted method of identification but with no official method or guidance as to their use, it varied amongst the units. They even provoked strong reactions from some commanders, with examples of those who saw them as unnecessary and against regulations – perhaps seeing themselves as different to the new army units which seemed to embrace them.
The bulk of the book then shows the insignia which were used. The regular battalions are presented in order of Army precedence, and some entries are more comprehensive than others. That for The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), for example, is pretty sparse, as the two regular battalions of the regiment did not really use any badges (The C/O of the 1st Battalion even stating that ‘no fancy badges are worn by this battalion’). Others were more creative; the Rifle Brigade entry for example stretching to several pages of examples.
Naturally the book by its nature requires illustration, but the sheer volume of pictures is to be applauded, ranging from examples of the insignia to photographs of soldiers displaying the patches on their uniforms.
Overall this can only be described as another valuable addition to the bookshelves of the First World War anorak.
Buy this book from Amazon here: