Military Archive Research
by Dr. Stuart C Blank
Member of the Orders and Medals Research Society (OMRS)
Member of the Royal Air Force Historical Society (RAFHS)
Member of the Naval Historical Collectors and Research Association (NHCRA)
Member of the Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS)
Member of the International Bank Note Society (IBNS)
Member of the International Bond and Share Society (IBSS)




Review of
British Army Cap Badges of the Twentieth Century
By Arthur Ward
ISBN 9781861269614
Published by The Crowood Press (
GBP £19.95

The symbolism of British Army cap badges cannot be underestimated. They serve as symbols and unite the regiments and corps of the army. They say, at first glance, what type of formation the wearer belongs to and his rank. These badges help officers lead their troops into battle as they know exactly the wearer’s formations and skills. The cap badges say instantly what the wearer’s role is – is he infantry? if so, what regiment? or is he in the Royal Engineers?, or the Tank Corps or cavalry etc.

The author has given this important topic due care and as a result has produced an extremely useful guide to 20th century cap badges. Cap badges were in use by the British Army prior to the turn of the century but the style of uniforms and headwear were quite different. By specialising in this era the author has been able to produce a superb volume.

Some books on cap badges merely list and identify badges. They often have limited narratives and Ward’s book overcomes this deficiency. He provides a very interesting narrative which is entertaining. He describes the lineage of formations and how the changes in titles have caused alterations in formations’ insignia.

He starts the book with an excellent chapter on the history of the cap badge. In this chapter he also outlines the need for specialisation as this subject is very broad. Even if one specialises in 20th century badges there is a myriad to collect. The same is true for 19th century badges as well. After introducing the topic he then discusses where one can start in this fascinating hobby. Again he gives a number of excellent recommendations which are of particular importance to the collector.

There are chapters devoted to discussing the evolution of cap badges and associated insignia such as shoulder titles, collar badges and other cloth insignia. Although not strictly cap badges these insignia were worn in conjunction with the cap badge. An important point that he notes is that the same cap badges could be worn and the collar badges (or other insignia) denote a further sub-formation. One example the author cites is that during World War 1 the staff selected by the War Office for intelligence duties wore the badge of the Royal Fusiliers and assumed the title of the 20th Battalion of that regiment.

For the collector there are excellent notes regarding spotting reproductions or fakes, and how to preserve and conserve a collection of badges. These are important topics and the author gives outstanding details on these issues. He closes the book with a discussion on auction houses, military fairs and buying online.

The author has produced admirable work on the subject and needs to be commended for his research. He has covered all the important issues and this book will appeal to collectors as well as genealogists tracing their family history.

October 2010