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Thread: RAF Uniforms - nationality shoulder titles/flashes

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    Default RAF Uniforms - nationality shoulder titles/flashes

    For some time I have been looking into the uniform of Danish RAF personnel, specifically at what point in time they were allowed to where a shoulder title or flash "Denmark" on the uniform.

    Osprey, Men-at-Arms Series, The RAF 1939-45, states, that this was officially allowed for men serving the RAF by AMO A744 of August 1944. An official request from the Recruiting Office, Danish Nationals, were rejected by Air Ministry as early as 24 Nov 1941. Some servicemen/women seems to have worn them from 1941.

    Would anyone know where to start looking for the AMO A744?

    A possible guess from the NA catalogue would be AIR 20/8649: UNIFORM (Code 76): Dress: shoulder flashes.

    Regards

    Mikkel Plannthin
    Britain's Victory, Denmark's Freedom. Danish Volunteers in Allied Air Forces During the Second World War
    fb.me/britainsvictorydenmarksfreedom
    danishww2pilots.dk - a resource on Danish aircrew during the Second World War

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    What exactly are you looking for Mikkel?

    The Air Ministry Order (AMO) simply gives brief details that the item was allowed to be worn, but doesnt go into anything much more than that. Shoulder titles were worn officially and unofficially throughout the war. Official authority often came about as so many of a particular title was worn.

    In the case of Danes, the titles 'Denmark' and 'Danmark' were both worn, sometimes on their own, sometimes with a miniature Danish flag underneath. But there is a difference to Danes serving in the RAF and Danes serving as Danish Air Force, who would wear the uniform of that air force.

    As with all titles, (RAF) officers would wear theirs on a blue/grey backing, other ranks and NCOs would wear theirs on a dark blue backing over the shoulder eagle, although in both cases the opposite is often seen.

    Many AMO's and dress regulations are held at the RAF Museum, rather than the National Archives.

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    I am looking for the actual document.

    I am well aware of different policies regarding the wear of shoulder titles by Danes in different parts of the British forces. Danes in Royal East Kent Regiment "Buffs" were allowed to wear the title at a very early stage in the war due to this regiment's special attachment to the Danish Royal family. Members of the ATS were allowed to wear the shoulder title at some point during 1942, but this does not seem to be the case - officially - for the Danish members of the RAF.

    Therefore I would be interested in the actual document and preferably any background, e.g. a official Danish request.

    Regards

    Mikkel Plannthin
    Britain's Victory, Denmark's Freedom. Danish Volunteers in Allied Air Forces During the Second World War
    fb.me/britainsvictorydenmarksfreedom
    danishww2pilots.dk - a resource on Danish aircrew during the Second World War

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    Having collected RAF wartime insignia for 30 odd years, shoulder titles are one of the most interesting and varied of the lot. I have several hundred, but pining down details isnt easy. The RAF was swamped with foreign nationals in a way the other forces generally werent, especially in the first couple of years of the war, with men and women joining from every country in the world almost, including Germany. Many airmen from Europe joined the RAF before seperate air forces in the UK began to be re-established, and in many cases titles were adopted by individuals on a whim. In a lot of cases there simply werent enough of a particular country to warrant a title being discussed or authorised, although a 'Luxembourg' title was authorised in 1944 when only three were officially serving. Others I have include 'Isle of Man', 'Switzerland' and 'U.S.S.R.', all never authorised.

    Most were never officially authorised, including some very well-known ones. For example, Indian Airmen first officially joined the RAF in October 1940, but no title was authorised for them until February 1945 although one was worn by Indians in the RAF from the start, both in the UK and Middle East.

    I think you have given yourself your own answer. A title 'Denmark' or 'Danmark' was worn from early 1941, probably by airmen and women on their own initiative or by local permission (a CO of their unit or base). An official request at the same time was denied, possibly because of economy (many badges, both titles and trade badges were rejected essentially as a waste of material), but also because of a small number concerned. As that number grew, a title was finally authorised in 1944, probably because one was being worn by a large number anyway.

    I know of several trade and flying badges which were proposed and rejected, but no title, and in fact have only one recorded example of a shoulder title worn without permission which was withdrawn. This was a 'Gibraltar' title worn by a cadet of 278 (Wembley) Squadron, Air Training Corps. He was a refugee from that country, and sported the title, being featured in an edition of the 'ATC Gazette', which prompted numerous queries about it. Although the Gibraltar title was authorised for wear by the RAF in 1942, no nationality titles were permitted at all for the ATC, and so it was withdrawn. But the RAF as a whole seem to have turned a 'blind eye'.

    The AMO wouldnt give you any information outside a brief description of the title at most. At the National Archives you might find a page or two of correspondance requesting a badge later on, especially as one had openly been worn for several years, but I doubt much more than that. I'd think by 1944, the matter was routinly discussed and quickly authorised for the same reason.

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    Thank you for this comprehensive answer.

    One example of the use of "Denmark" this
    http://allieret.natmus.dk/Images/rekrutteringsofficer-rafpilot.png

    The man on the left is Captain Iversen, head of the Recruiting Office, Danish Nationals (formally army officer) and an to me unknown Pilot Officer of RAFVR. The photo was taken on 5 June 1942 at which point the pilot officer was not officially allowed to wear the flash.

    Regards

    Mikkel Plannthin
    Britain's Victory, Denmark's Freedom. Danish Volunteers in Allied Air Forces During the Second World War
    fb.me/britainsvictorydenmarksfreedom
    danishww2pilots.dk - a resource on Danish aircrew during the Second World War

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    On the same theme but not related to Danes, am I right to suppose that the CANADA shoulder flash was worn only by members of the RCAF? For example, during the Battle of Britain 242 Squadron had quite a few Canadians who had joined the RAF before the war started but so far as I know they did not sport the CANADA flash.


    Rob

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    Mikkel

    Thanks for posting that interesting photo. One note is that the title appears to be on a darker colour material than the uniform. Officers titles were on a blue/grey backing rather than dark blue or black which was intended for 'other ranks'. (there are exceptions here and there, especially on battledress, but generally contrary to the rules) You say he was formerly an army officer. There may of course be a slight possibility its an army title, but more likely one on dark blue/black, indicating he managed to obtain it 'by hook or by crook' rather than it being official issue.

    As for the 'Canada' title, it was worn by members of the RCAF when serving outside that country, although Canadians in the RAF would be equally able to wear it, although I cant think of many cases where ive seen it. Another common one was 'Australia' and I have an example of an RAF 'Australia' title (on blue/grey rather than dark blue which was worn by all ranks on a dark blue uniform).

    Americans in the RCAF would wear 'USA' within Canada, and the dual 'Canada' and 'USA' when serving abroad. There were a number of course who wore the 'Eagle Squadron' badge, although this was specific to certain squadrons and not a general US/RAF title.

    Nationality titles is one area where many a blind eye seems to have been turned. Many unofficial and odd titles seem to have made it through.

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    [QUOTE=Rob Stuart;63113]On the same theme but not related to Danes, am I right to suppose that the CANADA shoulder flash was worn only by members of the RCAF? For example, during the Battle of Britain 242 Squadron had quite a few Canadians who had joined the RAF before the war started but so far as I know they did not sport the CANADA flash.

    The above has always been my belief too. Another poster stated that CANADA flashes were worn
    by RCAF personnel posted overseas.
    Some time during the course of the war the Canadian authorities relented and allowed
    all RCAF personnel to have CANADA on their shoulders. Apparently personnel stationed in Canada
    were feeling discriminated against, because their shoulders stated whether they had served overseas
    or not.
    I do not remember my source for this, but it was quite starteling!

    There was also 1 fighter pilot from Iceland with one Icelandic
    parent and one British parent who served in the RAF, and had ICELAND shoulder flashes.
    He survived and was an airline pilot post war.

    Robert

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    The notion that those of the RCAF back in Canada were given permission to wear the 'Canada' flash is not strictly true. Generally speaking, why would x thousand amount of Canadian personnel want to wear a flash inside Canada that states the name?

    The flash was authorised for wear outside Canada, but also (quoting dress regs) 'The wearing of 'CANADA' arm badges is restricted to personnel who are, or have been on duty overseas, or in Newfoundland. Such personnel of the RCAF will be permitted to continue wearing the 'CANADA' arm badges after return to Canada.' The regs go on... 'The wearing of these badges by any other RCAF personnel is strictly prohibited.' (AFRO 946/41 of 15/8/41)

    Newfoundland then wasnt part of Canada and thus counted as 'overseas' service. I havent seen a lot of evidence that the flashes were worn by many after they returned.

    Titles were generally worn when members of a particular air force served outside their particular country. For example members of the RAAF would wear 'Australia' outside that country but not within, the same for the RCAF, RNZAF etc. The RAF were different in that it generally didnt wear any title when serving overseas. With the onset of war, some serving in North America on the various training plans wore 'Gt. Britain', 'Scotland', 'England' and 'N. Ireland' (ive not seen Wales), plus 'Eire'. But also unlike the other Commonwealth Air Forces there was a huge influx of foreigners into the service, many not having an air force of their own (eg, Jamaica, Channel Islands, Gold Coast, etc) plus the various European countries. Thus some from places like Canada, began to wear the titles to show they were 'foreigners' serving within the RAF. So in those cases 'foreign' titles would be worn within the UK, especially from about 1941 onwards. Ive never heard of a case where a 'foreign' airman was ordered to wear a title, but many where they wore them when there was no authorisation for the badge at all.

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    Hi all,

    Very interesting information. Would anyone have similar details regarding pilots' brevets?

    For example, did RCAF pilots serving with the RAF wear RCAF 'wings' or RAF 'wings'?

    I assume they would wear RCAF wings if they received it while in Canada, and RAF wings if they received it in UK.

    Please let me know if this is correct or not.

    Thanks,

    Fox.
    Author of Crash in Bayeux - The Last Flight of Sergeant Ferguson (ISBN 979-10-91044-13-4) - www.facebook.com/crashinbayeux.

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