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Canadian Air Force Cap Badge Variations

January 26, 2020

This article was first published in the Military Collector’s Club of Canada Journal, Edition 271, Winter 2017 pp 11-20, it has been re-published here unedited.

By Wayne Logus

I should start by saying I feel the 1920-‘24 era CAF badges represent one of the most beautiful sets ever made in Canada; a sentiment that has been expressed by others.  Despite the design flaw with some of the items in this series which can lead to premature breaking at high stress points (the junction of the Crown in this case) the detail, balance, shape and choice of materials (silver, copper, brass and silk) combine to produce an aesthetically stunning example of the medallist’s art.

I have observed there are two major variations of the CAF badge with the free floating crown for the forage (peaked cap), with motto and either referred to as the “2nd issue” (with motto) or “Type 2”.  The changes are small and subtle which perhaps explains why differences haven’t generally been reported before now.  Since neither show evidence of having a Maker’s Mark, it is difficult to definitively associate a specific manufacturer to each of these examples.  It is possible that there was more than one maker but it is also possible that a single maker simply used two die sets.  It is known that Caron Bros made some of the pilot wings in this series and that Scully did the buttons for the CAF uniform.

In my experience, the second image with the darker brass/copper maple leaf is more common.  As this article will attempt to explain, virtually every component of these two varieties is made from different dies.  To this end, I will arbitrarily define the smaller of the two as “Version 1”.  The reason is that I have an early, Type 1 without-motto version that has the same die pattern on the wings and maple leaf and I conclude is struck from the same die albeit of different materials.  The Crowns vary but they were made and attached separately.  There is also a different dome shape to the two types (with and without motto).

It is difficult to photograph the badges in this series, especially when the silver has recently been cleaned and is highly reflective.  The two examples shown here appear to vary significantly in their finish but that is due to the fact the second has been recently cleaned and the 1st has light surface oxidation.  To the naked eye, they aren’t actually that different.  After many years, an untouched example will eventually and naturally tarnish to a dark dull grey due to oxygen and/or sulphur but this can be restored without loss of the silver, if the correct cleaning procedures are employed.

caf1Two varieties of the 2n issue (with motto) CAF Officer’s 1920-24 cap badge for the peaked cap. The rare and possibly earlier variation 1 is on the left and variation 2 on the right.


Maple Leaf

A stamped central copper or brass maple leaf, motto and wings represent the main, one-piece base component of this badge.  Silver wings and motto overlay the base.  The crown is made separately and consists of a red silk material sandwiched between the base copper and matching silver overlay During construction, it is fastened to the remaining badge and generally found with a brass/bronze support bar for strengthening.

Perhaps the most obvious and distinguishing aspect of the two cap badges presented is this article is brass/copper maple leaf.  The brass base in Version 2 is either stamped from a brass composition or it is a pickled copper.  Variation 1 shows a much more natural, brighter copper finish.

The outline and engraved pattern of the veins in the leaves is different.  In the blow-up picture, note the number and shape of the points at the top of the copper crown.  The location of the maple leaf stem on the banner might be the key in distinguishing the two variations from a distance or in a fuzzy photo.  Version 2 joins at the bottom of the banner whereas Version 1 connects at the top

CAF2Compare the colour, number of points and detail of the vein tooling in the two dies. Version 1 is on the bottom.

Size

The size alone indicates there must be two die variants in this badge and that the differences aren’t simply due to worn, modified or repaired dies.

Description Height (mm)* Width (at motto) (mm)*
Version 1 67 58
Version 2 71† 61

* ± 1 mm.

† In his book, Eagles Recalled, Warren Carroll refers to the height of his similar badge as 72mm but some minor differences can be expected during assembly

Crown

Even to the eye, they look different but descriptively, here are some of the details of these variations:

  • The detail in the tooling of the horizontal line pattern at the very base of the crown differs
  • The number of jewels in the central, vertical portion of the crown are different; 4 ½ on the 1st version and 6 on the 2nd.
  • The widths of the crowns also differ; 21.7mm and 22.9mm respectively.
CAF3

Note the differences in shape, number of jewels and crown base detail. Variation 1 on left

Shape

The 2nd example has a pronounced curve to the badge compared to the first.  This is most noticeable on the maple leaf and CAF monogram.  See the side view photo.

CAF4Compare the curved dome shape of both the maple leaf and monogram on the two examples (Variation 1 on the left).

CAF Monogram Overlay

In comparing the central portion of two badges, the first thing one observes is the increased curve or dome shape.  This is probably, in part responsible for the difference in the measured heights of the two “CAF” monograms 18.0 mm for Version 1 and 19.5 mm for the 2nd version.

Moto

The motto, “SIC ITUR AD ASTRA” was added to the insignia in late 1920, creating what is commonly referred to as “Type 2” to identify this series of CAF insignia for the 1920 to 1924 period.  The motto is also found on the smaller field-cap badge and collars for both the Officers and enlisted men.

In addition to the different in the overall width of motto, the following aspects of the two designs are noted:

  • The lettering is slightly different and raised more on the 1st version.
  • The background mottling has a different pattern (high resolution is need to see this in detail).
  • The shape of the ribbon banner is different; see the area above “SIC” in the attached.
  • The thickness of the banners is significantly different too, about 10% less in Version 1.
CAF51st version on the left, note the sharper detail, greater letter height and the higher arch in the ribbon above the “S”.

Wings

I will admit, the dies on the silver wing overlays are very similar indeed.  However, one notes a different number of veins in some of the feathers (left side, 2nd row) and a difference in the height of the two tallest feathers (photos)

CAF7

In the 1st version, the points of the feathers are more pronounced (lower image).

CAF8It require a bit of imagination to see the difference in the tooling of the veins of the two wings. The little dots at the tip of the feathers only appear on variation 2 (top).

It is interesting to note that the wings of the first variation, to my eye, are identical to the wing dies most commonly found on the 72mm, peaked cap NCO version of this badge.  I have yet to come across a die variation of the enlisted version of the 72mm badge.

Additional

Another most interesting observation and one I believe to be new to the literature and fellow collectors is in a very minor detail in the obverse of the copper stamping of my 2nd variation.  I actually didn’t notice this until I was looking at high resolution photographic images.  Along the area of the motto strip, there are some very light marks.

CAF9

Initially, I had assumed there were random scratches (see arrow in photo) in the base but on closer inspection, I believe these are actually Roman Numerals about 3mm in height, carved into the soft copper.  I propose this is some reference mark from the original craftsman.  The marks don’t immediately stand out in my example as overtop, is another, smaller scratching.  These are purposefully done as there is a small mound of copper at the base of each scratch indicating consistency in the direction the lines were etched.

CAF10Small marks cut into the copper base in the motto area of the 2nd variation of the CAF peaked cap badge.

I believe the underlying letters are, either “XXI” or “XXII” (part of one scratch-line overlaps) and the smaller overlay is “W”.  Interestingly, the “W” is also scratched into the brass support for the Crown; again something one could mistake for random scratches (see image).  One might speculate that at some point, the badge was repaired and, like a watchmaker, the jeweler added his mark to indicate the repair.  I have also seen a clear “W” mark on the back of another enlisted badge for the peak cap further adding to the proposal it has been intentionally made.

CAF11

A similar “W” in the brass support as also etched into the base copper/brass motto

The 1st variety discussed in this article had no such marks.

I have a photograph of badge of this type held by another collector with similar markings but a very clear “XXIV” scratched in.  I’m sure neither of us noticed it at the time I took the photo many years ago.

Two possibilities come to mind;

  1. The Roman numerals refer to the year of manufacture, i.e., 1921 (or 1922), or
  2. Each of these extraordinary fine quality badges were numbered individually in a similar, Roman numeral style as found in the RCNAS badges.

Recently, another example of this badge was sold at auction and based on the marking on the reverse of that example; the argument for individual numbering of each badge is given the more likely scenario.  This photo appears to illustrate the Roman numeral, VIII.  Due to space limitations, the engraver separated the “V” from the “III” in the central portion of the motto.

CAF12

So, my fellow collectors go to your stash of early CAF Officers (Type 2) peaked hat badges and check to see if you can detect any Roman numerals scratched onto the back – or the brass support bar.  Kindly take pictures and drop a line to the Journal or contact me directly: zorgon@telus.net.  Together, we should be able to determine if these marks are date or sequence marks.

From → Badges, Uncategorized

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