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Stars, Stripes and Chevrons

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  • Muerrisch 9

Stars, Stripes and Chevrons Chapter 5

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1908 to Declaration of War 1914.

Regular Army

The Terms of Engagement for infantry remained seven years with the colours and five on the First-Class Army Reserve (other arms differed slightly, and the Brigade of Guards greatly so), but there was substantial flexibility for the army and the individual. Reserve service (usually Section B) provided half pay, and in difficult times many men extended liability for further periods of four years in Section D. Reserve service did not attract GCBs, but the individual retained existing ones if recalled to the colours. GCB pay, but not the badges, had ceased for many, being replaced by arm of service proficiency pay. Soldiers who had chosen reserved rights and continued with service pay continued to receive GCB pay for a short while. The six periods remained unchanged; some units allowed soldiers to add more, but not according to the book. Five-point stars continued for distance judging and had also cropped up over a long period denoting various levels of skills-at-arms, such as over crossed rifles and crossed swords.

The Militia.

The experience of the Boer War had demonstrated that the auxiliary forces, however valiant their contribution, had not been fit for purpose, leading to widespread reform. A reserve was needed capable of rapid reinforcement of an Expeditionary Force, equipped accordingly and tolerably well-trained. It is a simplification to say that the Militia became the Special Reserve (SR) in April 1908 because some individual units merged or ceased to exist, and individual militiamen had no obligation to enlist. Nevertheless, for practical purposes the militiamen on existing terms who did not volunteer for the SR were allowed to wither on the vine.

The SR.

Initial training was for six months or so. In each unit there was a substantial cadre of regular soldiers of all ranks, the junior ones sporting their GCBs and stars in regulation fashion. Special Reservists could not qualify. It is possible that they could earn the distance judging star, but no regulation has been traced.

The Volunteer Force.

As with the Militia, the VF ceased to exist in April 1908. Volunteers were invited to join newly constituted units of the Territorial Force (TF) whose prime responsibility was home defence.

The TF.

Regulations for the TF were published on 1st July 1908. Drab SD was compulsory, and as a second garment, units could choose the frock (or equivalent) or the full-dress tunic. The regulations heralded a major change in the various badges under consideration. There was to be no lozenge or any other badge for annual efficiency. The five-point star for continued efficiency was to be worn as hitherto, but qualification was reduced to four years. (paragraph 557). As an aside, one expects that if VF men transitioned virtually seamlessly into the TF they would be allowed to retain their existing badges at least until the old uniform wore out.

Subsequent issues in 1910 and 1912 were unchanged.


The Officer Training Corps (OTC)

Founded under the same innovations as the SR and the TF, the corps was designed to produce partly trained young officers for the army in time of war. There was a senior and junior division, the former essentially based on universities, the latter on Public Schools. We do not have their clothing regulations. They were dressed in SD. The OTC was a rationalisation of the existing (since 1860 in some cases) units. Haldane’s intention had been that a substantial number of OTC men would be commissioned in the SR or the TF on leaving school or university but by 1912 of the 18,000 or so who had completed their service in the OTC only 283 had joined the Special Reserve. Cadets were trained towards one of two qualifications: Certificate A, to fit them for promotion from second lieutenant to lieutenant in the TF [16% attained this certificate], signified by a red four-pointed star of the existing design on the upper right arm; Certificate B, to fit them for further promotion to TF captain, a gold four-pointed star (only 2%). AO 100 of 1908 refers.

Lord Reith, of subsequent BBC fame, was proud to qualify for the gold star in his youth.

Past membership of an OTC also had some benefit in the SR: efficient membership shortened probationary training to six months, Certificate A to five months and B to three months.


Members occasionally wore, probably outside regulations, the lozenge badge of the defunct VF. We do not know what it signified, but probably efficiency as previously in the VF.



OCF Gold Star






OCF Red Star


image.png.7fc47607b2996b35a814c113683be84b.png           image.png.c43983c3348479d897136813e2335d95.png



OCF Red Star                  London University OCF 1910 with lozenge.



Cavalry Scout, Mess Kit,  Distance Judging         



1st Devonshire c. 1908, crossed rifles with star as best shot in company, crossed rifles in wreath crown above for best SNCO shot in battalion, crossed rifles and star as SNCO of best shooting company




Irish Guards bandsman with five GCB.



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We are of course dissatisfied with some of the images. Rather than interrupt the series to rectify these [where possible] we will drive on and return to the problem at the end. There are two chapters remaining.

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