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RFA Signaller -blue cloth bands on tunic lapels?


charlie962
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I've just finished reading Ivor Hanson's Plough & Scatter about his time in the RFA as a Signaller. At the end of 1918 he mentions this:

                      (p316 dec1918)  Curiously, he fingered the blue baize bands fixed on my tunic lapels, which is the distinguishing mark of Signallers overseas.

 

What did these look like please?

Charlie

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16 hours ago, charlie962 said:

I've just finished reading Ivor Hanson's Plough & Scatter about his time in the RFA as a Signaller. At the end of 1918 he mentions this:

                      (p316 dec1918)  Curiously, he fingered the blue baize bands fixed on my tunic lapels, which is the distinguishing mark of Signallers overseas.

 

What did these look like please?

Charlie

 

Lapels do not lend themselves to that kind of distinguishing mark and they are not the common place used by the Army to fix such additions. I do not of course know for sure, but it seems more likely that he meant the ends of his shoulder straps a place where baize strips in various colours and for various purposes were often affixed.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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frogsmile, I agree it is odd, which is why I posted it. But if he really meant shoulder straps, even then I wasn't aware that RFA signallers wore that distinguishing mark ?

Charlie

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33 minutes ago, charlie962 said:

frogsmile, I agree it is odd, which is why I posted it. But if he really meant shoulder straps, even then I wasn't aware that RFA signallers wore that distinguishing mark ?

Charlie

 

No, I don't know if the RFA signallers wore that mark either, although it sounds credible, as the incidence of cloth badges grew significantly between 1916 and 1918.

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12 minutes ago, Stoppage Drill said:

Confusing the words "lapels" with "epaulettes" is a fairly common error.

 

Yes, that seems the most likely scenario to me.

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One wonders, though, why a piece of distinction cloth on the shoulder was deemed necessary when signallers had a descriptive sleeve badge ?

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Easier to recognise quickly rather than looking for badge worn on only one lower left sleeve, particularly in bad light.

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59 minutes ago, Stoppage Drill said:

One wonders, though, why a piece of distinction cloth on the shoulder was deemed necessary when signallers had a descriptive sleeve badge ?

 

I imagine because of the rigmarole of transferring the arm bands between jackets, whereas baize shoulder flashes were cheap and could be fitted to all jackets semi-permanently.  Also because by the end of the war the arm bands were perhaps becoming increasingly associated with the RE Signal Service, which had grown exponentially.  Those would be my theories anyway.

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46 minutes ago, clive_hughes said:

Here's a link to a picture of Frank Richards DCM MM, an infantry (RWF) signaller but with the distinctive blue cloth fixed (somehow) to his tunic epaulette.  I suspect "lapel" was a misnomer for "epaulette".

 

http://mdonovan.free.fr/rwf/fr/frankdcmg.jpg

 

Clive 

 

 

 

Brilliant Clive, I should be very surprised if that is not what was described by the OP's RFA gunner.  I imagine that there was probably an Army Administrative Order decreeing the flashes some time between 1916-18.  A lot cheaper and easier to supply for the increasing numbers.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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1 hour ago, Stoppage Drill said:

Good pic of Big Dick.

Must admit that I had - wrongly - imagined the cloth to be in the form of loose slides.

 

Must admit, so had I.  :-)

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Some 30+ years ago I owned this SD jacket. It seems to have done the rounds since, but it's exactly as it was when it left my possession and shows the original blue signaller patches. I'm assuming the dealer won't object to my using his image but if he does, Mods can always take it down:

http://www.dearoldblighty.com/viewphoto.php?x=8

Edited by wainfleet
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wainfleet- can't get link to work? ok now find if I click back to shop and search down I find the blue shoulderboard uniform- Many thanks.

I was just expecting to see slip-on ribbons?

Charlie

Edited by charlie962
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On 1/15/2017 at 17:34, Stoppage Drill said:

Good pic of Big Dick.

Must admit that I had - wrongly - imagined the cloth to be in the form of loose slides.

 

The Frank Richards photo is a mystery. He may be wearing a photographers' prop. The essential problem is that he is wearing his DCM, MM and his 1914 star with clasp.

 

Being a coal-miner, he was released very early; 26 Nov 1918 from 2nd RWF, demobilised, and handed in his kit 5 December.

 

I am not sure when the earliest  1914 star medals [as opposed to ribbons] were issued but do know the clasp was much later.

 

I also feel that I am as close to understanding Frank as anyone living, apart from Margaret Holmes, his daughter. I have had the privilege of preparing his correspondence with Robert Graves for publication. I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT HE HELD ON TO HIS SD JACKET AFTER THE WAR, it is so out of character. So here is a photo taken in uniform complete with clasp but not BWM or VM. That, to an expert, would provide a time frame for the photo. Somebody, somehow, persuaded him to put on a jacket, attach his medals, and pose. But the jacket is no evidence worth considering as an authentic 2nd RWF signaller's. He had no family [or rather, he was not in touch] so who had the lerage to get him to pose? We shall never know.

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2 hours ago, Muerrisch said:

 

The Frank Richards photo is a mystery. He may be wearing a photographers' prop. The essential problem is that he is wearing his DCM, MM and his 1914 star with clasp.

 

Being a coal-miner, he was released very early; 26 Nov 1918 from 2nd RWF, demobilised, and handed in his kit 5 December.

 

I am not sure when the earliest  1914 star medals [as opposed to ribbons] were issued but do know the clasp was much later.

 

I also feel that I am as close to understanding Frank as anyone living, apart from Margaret Holmes, his daughter. I have had the privilege of preparing his correspondence with Robert Graves for publication. I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT HE HELD ON TO HIS SD JACKET AFTER THE WAR, it is so out of character. So here is a photo taken in uniform complete with clasp but not BWM or VM. That, to an expert, would provide a time frame for the photo. Somebody, somehow, persuaded him to put on a jacket, attach his medals, and pose. But the jacket is no evidence worth considering as an authentic 2nd RWF signaller's. He had no family [or rather, he was not in touch] so who had the lerage to get him to pose? We shall never know.

 

My understanding (which might be wrong) is that Robert Graves was deeply engaged in assisting with the publication of Frank Richards's work, rather than just editing his prose.  I wonder, then, if there might be details about 'publicity' activity, photos, etc. in Graves's own papers?  Also, we know that commanding officers of infantry battalions were asked to complete questionnaires about cloth badges by the embryo collection of records for what later became the Imperial War Museum.  I wonder what the CO of 2 RWF reported and whether it mentioned signallers.

whatever the case, what we see in the photo seems a reasonable interpretation of what is described in the book queried by the original poster.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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On 18/01/2017 at 14:14, charlie962 said:

wainfleet- can't get link to work? ok now find if I click back to shop and search down I find the blue shoulderboard uniform- Many thanks.

I was just expecting to see slip-on ribbons?

Charlie

 

It was working when I posted it but for some reason it doesn't now. As you say, click on Shop, search for London tunic and it comes up.

 

These blue patches are stipulated in an Army Order of 1917. I was shown this years ago but I don't have a copy of AO or a note of the order number. I've seen at least two other jackets with these patches, one to the Queens and one to the RWF.

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On 1/19/2017 at 16:01, wainfleet said:

one to the RWF

I owned that tunic once. One of my top two collecting regrets ever to have sold it, but was absolutely brassic at the time!

 

Would love to know where it is now...

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8 hours ago, Cymro said:

...but was absolutely brassic at the time!

 

Something to do with cabbages?

Boracic Lint = skint.  Rhyming slang.

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On 1/24/2017 at 20:43, squirrel said:

Something to do with cabbages?

Boracic Lint = skint.  Rhyming slang.

Spot on.

 

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  • 2 years later...

I ended up on this thread having done some googling about this strip, My guy has a Strip across his lapel, he appears to be RFA too, so perhaps this is whats meant by the above writers memory

soliderlogo.png

Edited by empirestate89
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3 hours ago, empirestate89 said:

I ended up on this thread having done some googling about this strip, My guy has a Strip across his lapel, he appears to be RFA too, so perhaps this is whats meant by the above writers memory

soliderlogo.png

Beat me to it empirestate89; I was just about to post a link to your image 

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*edit* Empirestate and GWF beat me to it! 

 

 

Edited by Toby Brayley
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On 15/01/2017 at 17:13, FROGSMILE said:

 

Brilliant Clive, I should be very surprised if that is not what was described by the OP's RFA gunner.  I imagine that there was probably an Army Administrative Order decreeing the flashes some time between 1916-18.  A lot cheaper and easier to supply for the increasing numbers.

 

I remain hugely sceptical of the merit of using the Frank Richards portrait as evidence of blue additions sewn on to jacket shoulder straps. Setting aside the magic of identifying colour blue on a black and white image, note that FR was a hard-bitten unsentimental ex-soldier who had been demobbed very soon after the war ended and at least two years before the clasp to his 1914 star came in the post. And he wears the clasp in the photo.

Could he have retained his jacket, and would he? Both unlikely in my opinion. Through editing his letters and editing OSND I feel that I have a claim to insight.

 

I theorise that, in the interval between the physical receipt of his clasp and the other campaign medals he was persuaded by somebody [perhaps his landlady] to "get his photo taken" and somewhat unwillingly turned up, was issued a prop, and pinned the medals on. It his very unlikely that the persuader was Graves, because OSND was merely jottings in a notebook until the early thirties, some ten years hence.

 

We will never know, but a properly briefed jury could well agree with me.

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