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Location of rank insignia


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I happened to be watching an episode of Blackadder Goes Forth last night and was rather fascinated with the uniforms. Now, notwithstanding the fact that the BBC may not invest TOO much effort in ensuring the accuracy of their wardrobe department, I did find myself confused over the positioning of the officers' rank insignia. Permit me to clarify:

Captain Blackadder wears three pips on his forearm (correct to my knowledge) and also appears to have a wound stripe above them (a nice extra touch I thought).

General Melchett wears the crossed sword/baton, crown and pip of a full general, but wears them on his shoulder epaulettes.

My understanding was that officers' rank insignia were worn on the shoulders only after WW1 to signify the weight of responsibility that rank carries (wheras NCOs wear them on their upper arms to represent the muscle required for ORs). I believe having them on the forearm gave enemy snipers something easy with which to identify officers and this was changed in time for WW2.

Also, can anyone explain what the strip/line/braid is that goes from one edge of the forearm rank box round to the other side (round the circumference of the forearm). They seem to differ in number on various photos I've seen and I have no idea what they are supposed to signify.

Despite trawling the net, there doesn't seem to be any website dedicated to uniforms of the time which might offer me my answers. Does anyone know of any that I may have missed?

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I can't remember where I found the below chart, so apologies if I've "lifted" it from someone's website. Cuff ranks won't be found on ranks above that of Colonel - higher rank being indicated on shoulders, caps and collars. The "bars" are just part of the badge , indicating the grade of rank.

Guards officers always wore the rank on the shoulder, not on the cuff and the rest of the army began to wear them the same during the war (on what was commonly called a "wind up" jacket). The cuff-ranking seemed to enjoy a rennaisance towards the end of the war also.

Dave.

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If you mean the small red and blue stripes just above the braiding on his right cuff they're overseas-service chevrons. I had a thread about them here and spotted them in Blackadder Goes Forth only a few days later. I think the BBC certainly used to take care with costume. My father-in-law, a driver in the Royal Norfolk Regiment in WW2 despite being a Derbyshire lad all his life, loved Dad's Army and was always delighted by the attention to detail with the uniforms and equipment. Whether that's still true with so many productions made on commission by third parties I couldn't say.

Keith

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I can't remember where I found the below chart, so apologies if I've "lifted" it from someone's website. Cuff ranks won't be found on ranks above that of Colonel - higher rank being indicated on shoulders, caps and collars. The "bars" are just part of the badge , indicating the grade of rank.

Guards officers always wore the rank on the shoulder, not on the cuff and the rest of the army began to wear them the same during the war (on what was commonly called a "wind up" jacket). The cuff-ranking seemed to enjoy a rennaisance towards the end of the war also.

Dave.

Thanks Dave. It would seem that the amount of braid I was referring to simply increases with rank. I thought it might have suggested years served or something.

And thanks also for explaining why no one above colonel wore insignia on their forearm. You know, the years I've been reading about this (and other) conflicts and I've never come across explanations for some of the most simple things. Seems to me this place is the fount of all (WW1) knowledge.

Cheers!

Steve

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If you mean the small red and blue stripes just above the braiding on his right cuff they're overseas-service chevrons. I had a thread about them here and spotted them in Blackadder Goes Forth only a few days later. I think the BBC certainly used to take care with costume. My father-in-law, a driver in the Royal Norfolk Regiment in WW2 despite being a Derbyshire lad all his life, loved Dad's Army and was always delighted by the attention to detail with the uniforms and equipment. Whether that's still true with so many productions made on commission by third parties I couldn't say.

Keith

Thanks Keith. I think Croonaert has answered my question about the braid.

Having just watched some of the Blackadder tribute shows over Christmas, it's obvious how much respect the cast and crew treated the subject in the 4th series, and you can understand them wanting to get it right.

Cheers!

Steve

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Hello all

Incidentally the cuff rings went right round, as in the RN.

The only insignia error I spotted in BGF was that Brigadier (sic) Smith, the spy played by Bill Wallis in the episode "General Hospital", wears the post-1920 insignia (crown and three pips) rather than the correct crossed sword and baton of a brigadier-general.

Ron

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Concerning officers (up to rank of colonel) both ways of wearing the rank insignia were practised. Either on shoulder straps or cuffs. As for generals, I've only seen them wearing insignia on their shoulders.

Actual amount of land retaken is... Seventeen square feet, Sir

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The writers seem to have inflicted Captain Darling on the Coldstream Guards. The Guards regiments did not wear rank insignia on the cuff, nor did generals and staff officers.

Ron

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Think The Guards have ther own insignia and do not use the standard rank 'pip', Star of The Order of the Garter for Coldstreamers. They look to be correct in the series along with the buttons in twos.

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  • 3 weeks later...

In 1920 brigadier was abolished and replaced by colonel commandant and colonel of the staff with three pips and crown. In 1928 those ranks were replaced by brigadier retaining three pips and crown.

Generals only wore their rank on the shoulder straps.

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