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
Heraldry in War – Formation Badges 1939 – 1945
By Lieut.-Colonel Howard N Cole
Naval and Military Press (
ISBN 9781845749569
RRP £12.95

One often comes across photographs of World War 2 British army personnel in their uniforms. These uniforms usually have various insignia on them - other than those denoting rank and medals / awards. Each World War 2 British Army formation from Brigade size upwards had its own distinctive badge which was worn by its members.

This book aims to list, identify and catalogue these formation badges. It does however admit that it may not be a complete catalogue of all the formation badges worn during the Second World War but it must be almost complete. Personally I feel that this admission is made for the off-chance that one or two badges may not have been included. Formations came and went during the War so it is possible that the author may have missed a badge. Even with this admission, the book is an outstanding reference work and should not be discounted. It certainly has the vast majority and all the significant badges are catalogued.

The catalogue has illustrations of the badges listed and presents descriptions of them. This aids the identification of the unit behind the badge thus enabling further research into the unit’s activities. The book also contains a list of abbreviations (mainly of formations’ initials), details of arm of service stripes, vehicle arm of service markings and a descriptive index to the badges catalogued.

It starts with the larger formations and generally works progressively towards smaller units. The larger formations section is divided into Higher Formations (e.g. SHAEF), Home Commands, Overseas Commands, Armies, Corps, British Armoured / Infantry / Airborne Divisions, Anti-Aircraft Formations, County Divisions, Home and Overseas Districts, Overseas Forces and Garrison Headquarters, Occupation Forces, Units involved in the Far East campaign and Indian Forces.

Also contained are details about smaller formations such as the Armoured and Tank Brigades, Infantry Brigades and Brigade Groups, Combined Operations Units, Royal Marine units and Special Forces, Miscellaneous Units (e.g. the British Film and Photographic Service), Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers, Royal Signals, Royal Armoured Corps, Royal Army Service Corps (and sub-units), Training Establishments and Home Guard Units.

Insignia of foreign units such as those worn by personnel from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, East and West Africa, American and Allied Contingents (Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, the Netherlands, Poland, Yugoslavia and Italy) are also considered.

One cannot stress sufficiently the high quality of this publication. It is a marvellous reference work and it must be virtually complete – a significant achievement in its own right. If you are in the position where you need to identify a badge or need to know the correct badge used by a formation then this is the book to use. As a catalogue of British and Allied badges you cannot surpass this excellent work.

March 2011