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A Crowning Tradition – RCR Field Officer’s Rank Badges

November 16, 2017

By Richard J.S. Law

For the better part of The Royal Canadian Regiment’s first decades it sought to maintain its identity and affiliation to Queen Victoria, the reigning monarch at the time of the Regiment’s designation as a Royal regiment. As a result of her death, the Regiment’s badges were often a point of contention with higher headquarters and the heraldic authority in England whether the retention of the VRI and a Victorian crown, or rather St Edward’s crown, was appropriate. Although the matter was first born upon her passing in 1901, it continued to be battled until 1919 when King George V granted The Regiment the privilege of wearing the VRI in perpetuity; however, the matter of a “proper” depiction of a Victorian crown continued to be debated well into the Cold War era.

Between 1901 and 1919 the Regiment’s badges changed to have King Edward VII and King George V cypher’s centrally located on the cap badge and buttons, both of which depicted a Tudor crown. Although these were produced and worn, anecdotal and photographic evidence supports that the Regiment stubbornly wore the VRI unofficially throughout the period.

medland

Major Bill Medland DSO wearing the St Edward’s Crown rank badge. Image courtesy of MilArt Archives.

Once authority was granted to retain the VRI in perpetuity, the Regiment sought to have a proper crown replace the Tudor crown. Between 1926 and 1927 it was noted that the original crown used on badges as of 1894 was in fact a Hanoverian type crown which was not British at all and dated to King William IV. From this, the Regiment adopted what was believed to be a St Edward’s crown. The Government produced one type while the Regiment produced a different badge which bore a St Edward’s crown closely resembling the one currently found on the regimental badges. It should be noted that the St Edward’s crown was the coronation crown and only used during the coronation ceremony in Westminster Abbey, Sovereigns would then replace it with their own State crown using the stones from their predecessor’s State crown.

crown rank

The rank badge in question, worn by Field Officers.

This pattern of crown was subsequently adopted without authority as a rank badge for field officers in the early post-Second World War time-frame. This Regimental quirk was noticed in 1949 at which point The Regiment was asked to substantiate their use of a non-approved badge. In October of 1949 The Regiment argued that the 1927 authority from NDHQ to change the crown on the cap badge and buttons also implied all other badges worn and that “the privilege of wearing this type of crown is now part of the established tradition of the (sic) Royal Canadian Regiment”. Additionally, it was mentioned that there would be no financial impact to the Crown as officers purchased their own accoutrements directly from the mess. With that, the Judge Advocate General, the Quartermaster General, the Adjutant General, the Chief of the General Staff, and the Minister of National Defense all signed their support to amend CAO 84-1 “to permit the Royal Canadian Regiment to wear a special type of crown for their badges of rank” with an effective date of 5 December 1949.

As the badge did not exist in Canadian stock, the Quartermaster General requested the Officer Commanding the Regiment to supply a sample in July of the same year. The badge was described as measuring 15/16-inch-wide by 1 1/16-inch in height and further differences noted as: “The RCR crown is not pierced and no crimson velvet is therefore worn.”

rank

Plate No. 6 from the 1960 RCR Regimental Standing Orders, note the St Edward’s Crown rank badge in the upper left corner.

This badge was worn on all orders of dress less mess dress and on shoulder cords with full dress or undress blues. They were worn until the unification of the Canadian Forces in 1968 at which point stars and crowns were replaced by bar-type ranks. With the re-introduction of the Canadian Army’s identity in 2014, The RCR had discussed potentially returning to a traditional crown as many units were offered the opportunity to return to some of their traditions. However, due to a lack of source documentation the Regimental Executive Committee opted to retain the CAF issued crown supplied by Logistik Unicorp.

Sources:
1960 Regimental Standing Orders, Chapter 6

LAC R112 Vol 29711 – File Cover 5250-0603/R1 Dress Instructions Royal Canadian Regiment

HQ 1730-603/R1 Vol 3 – RCR Field Officer’s Badge of Rank, St. Edward’s Crown, 23 Jan 53

Memorandum, Headquarters Central Command, Officers Rank Badge – The Royal Canadian Regiment, 30 Nov 49

From → Badges, Uniforms

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