Arm Badges of the 14th Hussars / The 14th/20th King’s Hussars / 20th Hussars

The 14th/20th King’s Hussars preserved, longer than any other Cavalry Regiment, the wearing of sterling silver arm badges by all full rank N.C.O’s, though to the 8th Kings Royal Irish Hussars must go the credit of preserving this custom, but only for Staff Serjeants and WO’s, longer still, until their amalgamation on 24th October, 1958.

It was in late I956, or early I957 that the Serjeants of the 14th/20th Kings Hussars decided that sterling silver was too expensive a metal for their arm badges thereby ending a custom that had existed since 1867 and preserved by the Regiment, as opposed to Ordnance, since 1924.

The origins of, and the reasons for, Arm Badges in certain Line Cavalry Regiments are, it seems, still obscure and unknown but in 1860 Serjeants of the 14th Light Dragoons were permitted to wear an embroidered badge above their rank chevrons, (Historical Record of the 14th (King’s) Hussars” by Col. H. B. Hamilton) This was in the form of a silver eagle though since it was embroidered and worn only until 1867 it would, perhaps, be safe to presume that no example exists today.

In 1867, the embroidered badge was replaced by a sterling silver badge; it is shown at the top left of the accompanying illustration. It bears the Birmingham hall-mark for 1867 and the name mark ES and S which denoted the makers, Edward Stillwell and Son of 25 Barbican, London, a firm which seems to have obtained the initial Government contract for most, if not all of, the six or seven metal Cavalry Arm Badges authorised in that year. There is nothing to suggest otherwise than that the die remained the same until 1914 and it will be noted that the shield is more circular than those of the badges appearing below it in the illustration. It is true that some doubts as to the form of the shield fo these early years has been caused by a photograph of circa 1874 (A King’s Hussar 1893. Compton ‘C.U. Library’), which shows an almost circular shield, but now that an actual specimen has turned up, it seems safe to assume that the circular background can be dismissed as arising from the retouching of an obviously retouched photograph.

A badge was also sanctioned for Corporals and Lance Serjeants as early as 1867 and an official reference can be found to one in 1881 (Clothing Regulations 1881 (WO. Library)). The 14th Hussars was the only Regiment for whom a metal arm badge was approved and issued by Ordnance for ranks of Lance Serjeants and Corporals (Clothing Regulations 1881 (WO. Library)). This badge is the badge illustrated at the top right of the illustration; the shield is in white metal (German silver) and the eagle is of brass, silver plated and oxidised. The eagle of this badge was officially described as being of oxidised German Silver (Clothing Regulations 1881 (WO. Library)) and no mention was made of the eagle being of brass. The matter is of some importance since the continual polishing of the badges meant that these two badges were always worn in their basic metals, namely all silver for the Serjeants and all German silver or a brass eagle on a German silver shield, for Lance Serjeants and Corporals. It seems likely that the eagle in the cheaper badge was always, in practice, of brass for all badges since the one under discussion has always contained a brass element for the lower ranks. The eagles for the two badges at the top of the illustration are from an identical die, though the shields, being of the same degree of ovalness are not from the same die.

In 1915 the majority of the Ordnance issue silver badges and the Corporals’ German silver badges, being public property, were returned to Ordnance and in May 1915 (Historical Record of 14th (Kings) Hussars. Brown and Bridges. (C U. Library). The Regiment held the last Full Dress Cavalry Parade of the British Army on 1st January, 1915. It seems unlikely, therefore, that the arm badges would have been handed in before that date.) it was resolved by the Officers of the Regiment – His Majesty’s request to this effect coming later – that the eagle cap badges would, in any event, be discontinued.

The eagle cap badge was not restored to the 14th/20th Kings Hussars until 1931, though, whilst it is doubtful if the 14th Hussars even wore an arm badge again after 1st January, 1915 it is quite clear from the badge the left of the second row of the illustration that the 14th/20th Kings Hussars were wearing the eagle arm badge again by as early as 1924 for this badge (the claw and sceptre have been broken off in use) is hall-marked Birmingham 1924 with name mark of Firmin and Sons Limited. This badge would have been purchased by the Regiment, or by the Serjeants’ Mess, for although these badges were listed in the Priced Vocabulary of Clothing and Necessaries as still upon issue by Ordnance up until 1929 it seems, beyond doubt, that they were not available and never issued from Ordnance after 1914.

The Corporals’ badge in the second row, upon the right, is identical in all respects to the silver badge and is struck from the same die; it is however, entirely of brass with the shield gilt and the eagle silver plated and oxidised. It seems, therefore, that the lower ranks badge became in 1924, for the first time all brass once the final polishing by the wearer had taken place. It should be noted that these two badges had become more elliptical but both retained the rope edging to the shield. This denotes a new die and would arise from the fact that the Ordnance issue lie of pre-1914 would have, almost certainly, been in the keeping of Bent and Parker Limited whereas the 1924 badges were made by Firmin and Sons Limited. The badges in the third row are of the patterns which came in in 1946, the silver badge upon the left being hall-marked Birmingham 1946 and bearing, still, the name mark of Firmin and Sons Limited. The Corporals’ rank badge is still entirely of brass, the eagle being simply lacquered black which lacquer would have disappeared at almost the first polish. Both badges are from an identical, but new die – the 1924 die would, most likely, have been destroyed in the 1939 war – and it should be noted that the rope edge has been replaced by a plain edge.

These pattern badges remained in wear until early 1957 when they were replaced by the two badges shown in the bottom line of the illustration. These are again from a new die; the shields of both are identical and are in white metal, but whereas the eagle of the Serjeants’ badge upon the left is also in white metal unoxidised, the eagle of the lower ranks badge is of brass lacquered black. The shield of this latter badge however, reverted to gilt once more in 1960.

Oxidisation of silver is nothing more than a violent tarnish and thus is not durable against wear and polishing; even less is lacquering. As worn, therefore, the Serjeants badges have always been entirely of silver (or more latterly white metal) and the Corporals badges, probably, started as brass eagles upon a white metal shield then, after almost one hundred years, once more have reverted to this combination, though having been entirely brass between 1924-1957 and 1960 to the present day.

Up until 1939 the eagles of the silver arm badges as well as being oxidised were, when issued, gilt at the crown, orb, sceptre, beak, legs and the trefoil of the wings. From 1946 there was, possibly, no gilt upon the eagle.

All of these badges are die struck, the shield and eagle being separate. The shields have no back plates of silver soldered on to them as have many of the older arm badges. The 1867 and 1924 badges are hall-marked upon the face, as will be seen from the illustration, but the silver 1946 badge is hall-marked upon the back.

At the present day the white metal eagle is worn by full ranks from Cpl. to W.O. 1. both inclusive and the brass eagle is worn by Lance and Local ranks from, and including, Lance Corporal.

It seems clear that silver badges bearing hall-marks for years different to those illustrated will be found to exist–though it is believed not between 1867 and circa 1889 – but the value of the badges illustrated (see PDV) lies in the hall-marks of the 3 separate periods into which the study of all metal cavalry arm badges must be divided, namely those beginning 1865 – 1867, 1919 – 1920 and 1945 – 1946.

The 14th Kings Hussars and the 14th/20th Kings Hussars have it would seem, consistently taken greater pride in the quality of their arm badges than any other Cavalry Regiment and seem to have remained free, unlike many other Regiments, from cast badges. The arm badges of this regiment have always been very difficult for collectors to obtain but nevertheless have remained completely free of collectors’ casts and forgeries, and thus no descriptions of such can, or need, be mentioned in this article.

The 20th Hussars, who became “A” Squadron of the 14th/20th Hussars upon 1st October, 1922, never wore an arm badge and thus the decision to adopt the 14th Kings Hussars arm badges upon amalgamation was an obvious one.

To complete the arm badges of these Regiments there are, illustrated in the top line of the photograph, the white metal crossed kukris worn since 1943 by the Regiment at the very top of each sleeve in all orders of dress, except mess dress, by all ranks. They recall the Regiment’s tanks with the 43 Lorried Gurkha Brigade in Italy during the Second World War.

Neither the 14th nor the 14th/20th King’s Hussars have since 1867 it seems, worn an embroidered arm badge in any order of dress.

The arm badges have always been worn upon the right sleeve only above the chevrons and in warrant ranks below the badge of rank. A coloured back cloth never seems to have been worn.

The arm badge is not always worn by the Bandmaster in the Frock Coat. The black pouch, when worn by Serjeants and Warrant Officers, bears the full ranks arm badge but the white card cases of the musicians bear still, to this day, a large brass Victorian pattern Royal Crest.

In another article upon arm badges it has been suggested that larger kukris than those illustrated and a large black eagle, without any shield, have been worn at one time, the latter as a Serjeant’s arm badge, but nothing to support these can be found. The eagle badge illustrated in that article appears to be that formerly worn by Officers upon the khaki side hat at the time of the Boer War.

 

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