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Canadian Air Force Wings Variants

March 2, 2020

By Wayne Logus

There are a surprising number of subtle variations found in the circa 1920 Canadian Air Force (CAF) pilots’ wings.  To the author’s knowledge, a thorough review has never been written on these rare wings. It is hoped that this exploration will provide at least a starting point for discussion.  Over the years, the author has acquired several examples and can offer some comments, based on the ones he owns or has seen.

 Recognition must be given to the previous reflections by Warren Carroll both in his book, Eagles Recalled and an article in the CSMMI (Canadian Society of Military Medals & Insignia).  Readers who knew Warren may recall additional anecdotes or personal information he had on these wings and add their comments.  The following paragraph is mainly derived from his previous observations.

 The history of the CAF insignia is actually pre-dated by the style of the RCNAS (Royal Canadian Naval Air Service) wings and cap badges which were designed and manufactured as early as 1918 in Britain.  It is believed these patterns were later licensed to Canadian Manufacturers (perhaps this is how the Montreal based CAF “CARON BROS” stamped pieces appeared).  It is probable that both the patterns, and in some cases even the dies and pre-existing components, were carried over from the RCNAS to CAF insignia.  This conjecture is confirmed, in part, by the fact that some of the earliest manufactured CAF pilots’ wings and Officer’s cap badges still bare the faint impression of the RCNAS anchor on the reverse.

 With the above in mind, it is interesting to look in detail at the construction of the original CAF pilots’ wings manufactured between 1919 and 1924.  The reader will recall that silver overlays of the wings and the CAF monogram were fastened (in various ways) to the die-stamped copper base which contained the central maple leaf.

Characteristics of the wings:

Front

  1. Pattern of etching on the wings; lines  vs. waves.
    Note: Wavy etching only found usually with die break on lower right wing

    1) examples of line etching in wing

    Notice line etching

    2) examples of wavy etching in wing

    Example of wavy etching

  2. Style and shape of maple leaf; deep etching or shallow etching vein etching; deep etching ⇒ stubby stem. Short and Long Maple Leaf stem variants.
    3) deep etching

    Example of deep etching.

    4) shallow etching

    Example of shallow etching.

    5) Short and Long Maple Leaf stem variants

  3. Style of CAF monogram interior lines; parallel or tangential lines in “C”
    6) examples of horizonal parallel engraving in C of monogram

    Horizontal engraving in C of monogram.

    7) examples of perpendicular line engraving in C of monogram

    Examples of perpendicular line engraving in C of monogram

Reverse

  1. With or without CARONBROS Maker-Mark
  2. Threaded post or pin-back. I suggest that pin-backs can either be original (top image in or possible later, jeweler replacement (lower image).
    8) Threaded post backs

    Threaded posts

    9) pin back versions

    Pin back

  3. Uncommonly, a faint impression of the anchor derived from earlier RCNAS dies. One wonders if the die wasn’t hammered out to remove the deep, sharper indentations found in the earlier RCNAS badges?  It may be appropriate to give the designation of any CAF wing variant which has any impression of the anchor, the designation of “Die 1 (modified)” to indicate the CAF die came from the original RCNAS die.
    10) faint anchor outline

    Faint anchor outline.

    11) very faint anchor

    Very faint anchor outline.

  4. Although not yet reported to my knowledge, one could keep an eye out for Roman numerals etched on the reverse.

In reviewing old photographs, some earlier writers have mentioned that there seems to be photos which show three wing angles to these pilot’s wings.  The author has noticed photos of and reference to wings which have a very steep angle (dip or droop) to the wing portions and Carroll has a photo of one in Eagles Recalled (p 73) held at the Canadian War Museum.  Since the author has not seen one in person, he cannot provide comment on this rare variant.

In an article in the MCCoC Summer Journal, edition 273, 2018, the author reported on how one image of AVM A.E. Godfrey shows a wing which appears to have an intermediate droop associated with it and how this was most likely the result of him wearing a broken wing hence giving the appearance of having an intermediate droop.  It is my experience that about 1/4 to 1/3rd of CAF pilot wings found today have been broken at the structurally weak spot where the wing sections join the Maple Leaf portion of the copper base structure. If repaired, they may not align properly and are sometimes found strengthened across these weak spots by various methods.

12) CAF Godfrey's droop wing, courtesy DHH-DND

CAF Godfrey’s droop wing, courtesy DHH-DND.

All the examples in the author’s collection have wings that are approximately flush with the lowest portion of the maple leaf stem. In some cases, there may be a gap of about 2mm between an imaginary line along the lowest portion of the wings and the base of the stem.  Accordingly, it is proposed that there are really only two major styles of wings; the rare example with the very noticeable droop and the ones discussed here, which are basically flat.  Poor repair jobs can give the appearance of more significant droops.  The two die varieties of the base copper stamp explain the subtleties of most variations.

If the original dies were in fact made in Britain and later licensed or sold to a Canadian Manufacturer, it is possible that some components, such as a CAF monogram, silver wings or even the stamped copper bases, were exchanged as part of the deal so theoretically, one might find complete wings comprised of different or mixed components.

The keen collector will keep an eye out for the earliest CAF wing versions with the wing overlays wired or riveted as opposed to being soldered.

Sources:
1. Carroll, W (1997). Eagles Recalled (pp. 48-51, 71-73) Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
2. Carroll, W (2009). Royal Canadian Air Service – In Search of a Photograph – Part 2 (p1292-1293, 1307). In, CSMI Journal, Fall 2009. Econoprint Inc., St. Catharines Ontario, Canada
3. Logus, W (2018). AVM A.E. Godfrey and the CAF pilot’s wing Droop Enigma (pp.8-14) Military Collectors’ Club of Canada, Edition 273 – Summer Journal 2018

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