View Full Version : 1920s RAF trade shoulder flashes

Richard Hards
20th May 2014, 12:54
I'd appreciate any comments about the trade shoulder flashes in these two photographs.

http://www.rafcommands.com/galleries/var/resizes/members/Aboukir.jpg?m=1400531578 (http://www.rafcommands.com/galleries/photos/452)

http://www.rafcommands.com/galleries/var/resizes/members/Top.jpg?m=1400531541 (http://www.rafcommands.com/galleries/photos/451)

They both show my grandfather (third from left in the back row in the group picture) and I believe they were taken while he was stationed at Aboukir Aircraft Depot between May 1923 and October 1925.

During this period neither his rank or trade "Ftr A.E." changed, but in the photo on top of the pryamid he has what appears to be the same shoulder flashes as several of the men who appear in the group picture.

The flash looks like an eagle, but is dark on a light background and a different shape to any other images I have seen

There's quite a variety of cap badges, bright buttons and dull buttons in the group picture too,

There are quite a few more of my grandfather's photographs, covering his RAF service from 1918 until 1955 in this Flckr album here https://flic.kr/s/aHsjpyTwm4


20th May 2014, 13:15
Richard, Hi, - and welcome.

Very interesting! Now, the pic was taken sometime during the winter period (3 months?) – because they are all in ‘blues’ (or it might have been ‘khaki’?). But that shoulder flash seems to be like the ones we wore when we were in KD (Khaki Drill – in the non-winter period). That is, the background is light – light KD material? But the eagle (we always knew by a different name!!) looks dark – in our case the rank badges (including the shoulder flash) were embroidered in red. It might be that the film type then being used (panchromatic? – the pic experts will, no doubt, soon proclaim!) accentuated the difference between the two colours. When in doubt on uniform matters I first go to Malcolm Barrass’ RAFWEB for information. But, to my surprise, he makes no mention of KD insignia!! Something new!
Peter Davies

20th May 2014, 13:59

Thank you Peter for the plug. I do have images of KD badges but haven't got round to adding them yet.

The shoulder badges were not trade badges they should have been worn by every non-commissioned airmen, so it's a bit strange to see some not wearing them.

They were either light blue embroidered on a blue-grey or black background or red on a khaki background.

As Peter states they appear to be in 'blues' but with KD badges as I wouldn't expect KD badges to appear to different to the Khaki uniforms


Richard Hards
20th May 2014, 15:04
Hello Peter and Malcolm,

I had checked Malcolm's excellent site… they may turn up there sometime soon… ?

That's an excellent point about the colour recording of the film (panchromatic is the broader range film type, orthochromatic was the earlier type that didn't register the red end of the spectrum so well and was much more common at this time) I'll have to try and figure out what effect it would have had.

Apart from the colour, the shape of the "eagle" looks quite different.

I'll post an enlargement this evening, it's quite sharp on the chap kneeling on the left.


20th May 2014, 15:18
There y'are Richard!!
Told you the experts would be along shortly!! The 3 x 'Chiefies' had (medal ribbons) been in WW1. And what has the Sgt (kneeling, front, left 1) got on his right sleeve cuff?
Peter Davies

20th May 2014, 19:21
Hi Richard
Just a thought, but as I don't know when the blouse type battledress was introduced, are we looking at No 1 dress( the man in front of the tree with the lapels) and most of the rest in the 20's equivalent of battle dress? It might explain the variations in buttons and badges. The man kneeling with the dog seems to have a Warrant Officers cap badge but we ought to be able to see his rank badges which should be on his sleeve at cuff level and the rank would explain the absence of shoulder flashes which I don't think were on Warrant Oficer's tunics. The terrain doesn't look what you might expect for the Middle East but could possibly be India?

Richard Hards
20th May 2014, 20:46
Here's a closer view of the four chaps in the front row (and the dog). http://www.rafcommands.com/galleries/var/resizes/members/crop.jpg?m=1400609801 (http://www.rafcommands.com/galleries/photos/453)

I was not aware that these shoulder flashes should have been worn by all the non-commissioned men. The thing that strikes me about them is the "eagles" look much more angular, more stylised, less realistic than the example on Malcolm's site.

It occurs to me that those more familiar with the medals might be able to use the ribbons on the chap with the beer to hazard a guess at the effect of using orthochromatic film.

When it comes to location Dick, having studied grandad's service records I'm pretty confident it's Aboukir. He'd come from Baldonnel (which fits with what looks quite bit like Guinness in the glass!) and went afterwards to Khormaksar, Aden (which I think had even less vegetation). The bush behind them doesn't look terribly Irish to me, but I could see it being somewhere around here https://flic.kr/p/9jgcag He did get to India, but not 'til 1945

Regarding the chap on the left, the large white blob below his stripes is physical damage to surface of the picture, the "doughnut" on his cuff looks more like a blemish caused when the print was made.

I don't recognise the badges on shoulders of the chap with the dog, but he clearly doesn't have anything on his cuffs.

20th May 2014, 21:00
1918 pattern Sh*** hawks



Richard Hards
21st May 2014, 07:54
That's the ones Ross, thanks.

If I can find [Hint: HELP;) ] a decent colour image of the medal ribbon, I'll see if I can convert to ortho. black and white and see what it looks like.


21st May 2014, 13:20

As a WW1 vet, he would most likely be wearing the WW1 Trio - which looks like this


1914/15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal

I cant place the fourth medal (yet)

Richard Hards
21st May 2014, 19:38
Thanks Jagan, I thought they probably were, but I'm very ​happy to be guided by experts.

I've added a closeup of the ribbons http://www.rafcommands.com/galleries/var/resizes/members/colour%20ribbons.jpg?m=1400700939 (http://www.rafcommands.com/galleries/photos/454) with a bit of modern colour.

Orthochromatic film certainly did do some strange things to colours.

Reds do seem to appear darker, and blues lighter than we would expect with modern black and white film.