Officer's Side Cap Id Help

Officer's Side Cap Id Help

Joined: August 4th, 2004, 3:23 am

April 19th, 2009, 3:06 am #1

This side cap came up for discussion a few years ago but since then this forum has added many new and knowledgeable members, so I'm hoping someone can help id this cap. Previously discussed was the "orange" colored piping. Since that time a seam has opened up slightly and the piping in actuality is yellow not orange. Over the past decades the exposed piping has faded/changed to an orange color. The front cap buttons are the early (1920's-30's??) type where the crown and eagle are seperately applied and not part of the button stamping. Typical velvet officer's cap sweatband. All insignia and the cap are period and I'm certain it is not a "badged up" item. Only officer's side cap of this nature I have ever seen. Any thoughts, answers or solutions as to the origin/use of this cap would be greatly apprecited. Thanks!

Paul O



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Joined: February 28th, 2004, 3:00 pm

April 19th, 2009, 11:26 am #2

Hi Paul

An interesting cap, and one I hope will generate some replies. A couple of observations. The bottom button appears to be a Queens Crown variant, or at least a different one to the top one. Is this so? In my experience the three piece button is not the norm for the 20s/30s, (examples of quality tunics of that period I've seen do however have more upswept wings on the eagle), although it is common on Air Rank side caps and some Air Rank tunics, as a better quality button. As this is seemingly an Air Rank cap that would fit.

The piping its odd, and interesting (nice to get the additional info on the colour). I cant remember if I contributed before, but the only explanation I have are a film/theatre prop, possibly someones attempt at an Air Rank cap thats not quite right, or a foreign air force. There have been plenty over the years, some from countries no longer extant (like Ceylon for example). Unfortunately I dont have a definitive answer, but I hope someone can add more.
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Joined: August 4th, 2004, 3:23 am

April 23rd, 2009, 3:37 am #3

Hi Alex,

The buttons are actually a match and are both KC. The angle of the photo makes the bottom button look a little different. Both are backmarked ARMFIELD B'HAM. I take the later to stand for Birmingham.

I do not believe that this cap was made for a theatrical production. Too finely made and having a little familiarity with the entertainment industry, don't believe anyone would have gone to the expense to make this cap simply as a prop. It is made as well and like every other officers' side cap I have ever owned or handled. Also the insignia seems original to the cap and not added or "badged up".

Could it be a prototype that was an attempt to further distinguish some ranks from others, such as for a Group Captain? Or is it from another country's rank system that flew for the RAF in WWII? Possibly, Dutch, Norwegian or Czech? There is still a part of me that feels, due to it's construction and age, that it pre-dates WWII. All just guesses at this time. It just may remain one of those unexplained or unidentified items that pop up now and then.

Again, your thoughts and knowledge, as well as those of my fellow forum members, is always greatly appreciated.

Cheers,
Paul


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Joined: August 23rd, 2003, 10:11 pm

April 23rd, 2009, 5:12 pm #4

Although the Dutch did have an SD uniform very, very similar to the British SD. I believe it was first issued shortly after the war.
The one item certainly different were the buttons, which were slightly larger but flatter than the RAF SD buttons. They sported the Dutch lion on a checkered-like background, as seen in the Rathbone Museum:


A sidecap would almost certainly have had these buttons and not the RAF buttons. It would of course also have had a Dutch badge.

As for the piping, I don't know...

Sherlock Holmes worked by eliminating the impossibilities until only one other option was left. You should see my 2 cents in that light

Cheers, Toine
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Joined: August 2nd, 2005, 1:10 am

April 24th, 2009, 12:34 am #5

This side cap came up for discussion a few years ago but since then this forum has added many new and knowledgeable members, so I'm hoping someone can help id this cap. Previously discussed was the "orange" colored piping. Since that time a seam has opened up slightly and the piping in actuality is yellow not orange. Over the past decades the exposed piping has faded/changed to an orange color. The front cap buttons are the early (1920's-30's??) type where the crown and eagle are seperately applied and not part of the button stamping. Typical velvet officer's cap sweatband. All insignia and the cap are period and I'm certain it is not a "badged up" item. Only officer's side cap of this nature I have ever seen. Any thoughts, answers or solutions as to the origin/use of this cap would be greatly apprecited. Thanks!

Paul O



I have also studied the two pictures showing the buttons and, like Alex, I am of the opinion that the two buttons are not the same. The lower item is definately a Queens crown as shown by the shape of the crowns "arches". The eagles on both buttons are also different, the lower one having a much stubbier and less graceful appearance than the one above. They are actually the type of buttons worn on Officers Mess Dress (ie of two part construction and more domed than normal buttons). I agree that the construction is of good quality and the badgeing does seem to be original.
To add further discussion points to the puzzle;

1. Possibly a pattern piece - never accepted into use. The piping used to indicate "Field" Officers (Squadron Leader to Group Captain (Or Major to Colonel)) from the 1920 period when such Officers all wore patent cap peaks with one row of "Scrambled Egg" Air Officers would have worn a miniature Air rank cap badge and not the Eagle and Crown and as we know had light blue piping.

2. An unaccepted pattern for wear with mess Dress - maybe for all officers below Air rank.

The sweat band seems to have little staining as would occur in regular use, especially as "Brylcreme" and its like was worn by many men in the 20s and 30s.

Perhaps an email to the RAF Museum may help.
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Joined: August 4th, 2004, 3:23 am

April 24th, 2009, 2:15 am #6

Hi Dave,

Thanks for your input. I think that the two theories you espouse make sense and are, I think, very plausible. Couple of points, as I hold the cap in question in my hands I assure you that both buttons are absolutely identical KC buttons, both also being backmarked ARMFIELD B'HAM. I think the QC button confusion is caused by my less than professional photo skills which have caused a picture distortion due to camera angle and flash. Secondly, the sweatband, does show use and wear staining, although light. The sweatband is constructed of the typical officer side cap velvet material.

Also working with Toine's Sherlock Holmes quotation,"by eliminating the impossibilities until only one other option was/is left" I have done a little further internet research on the Armfield firm. They were in fact, among other items, button manufacturers. Originally established in 1763. On the site I discovered the following interesting information,"The factory was bombed in 1940 destroying the companies ability to manufacture buttons". Thus lending credence to your theory and mine that the cap predates WWII.

Dave,thanks for taking the time to comment. Also, do you have the e-mail address for the RAF Museum? Again, your thoughts and theories are appreciated.

Cheers,
Paul
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Joined: August 2nd, 2005, 1:10 am

April 24th, 2009, 2:32 am #7

Thanks for the response, I bow to the fact that the buttons are the same. The email address for the RAF Museum is london@rafmuseum.org Best of luck.
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Joined: April 17th, 2007, 12:40 pm

April 24th, 2009, 12:42 pm #8

The bombing of the factory doesn't neccessarily mean it is pre-war; most tailors had stocks of buttons and thus, even though a company may not be making new ones, they may have still been added to uniforms for some time afterwards.

One thing does occur, though, and that's that I've never come across a RAF side cap worn prior to WWII.

The other possibility is that it is a foreign made RAF example, e.g. made in India. I've come across a lot of slightly odd, iffy, and non reg items made in various colonies
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Joined: January 28th, 2004, 10:21 am

April 24th, 2009, 12:58 pm #9

Yep - have to add that Steve is correct on this one, the 'side hats' didn't appear until late 1939.

In fact in 'Fighter Pilot' written by Sq/L Paul Richey in 1940/41, whilst he was recuperating from being shot down in the battle for France whilst with nos 1 Sq, it is mentioned that they were first issued with these just prior to shipping out to France.

Hope this helps

Kind regards

Nigel Carver
O/C RAF at War
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Joined: February 28th, 2004, 3:00 pm

April 24th, 2009, 2:10 pm #10

Its very true that the side cap or 'Cap, Field service' was an item of clothing first introduced in December 1939, although thats on the assumption this is an RAF worn cap. As I mentioned there were a number of Air Forces, some no longer extant, which it may belong to, whose dress regulations Im not certain of. As many, such as the Ceylon Air Force and Indian Air Force were in hot climes, it might well have been worn prior to WW2, even though English made.

However the details are of interest. One thing that struck me was the fact that although appearing to be an Air Rank cap, the badge clearly isnt. However, when first introduced the new dress regulations stated that the badge was to be, '...An eagle and crown in gilt metal for officers of all ranks, showing the eagle flying from front to rear...'. There is no mention of a special badge for officers of Air Rank, even though such a badge was worn full sized on the service dress/peaked cap. So if it is RAF its quite possible it is indeed a very early Air Rank cap. I can't find anything on the colour of the piping, but its a possibility that the initial caps for officers of Air Rank had gold piping (possibly only as a trial), replaced within a very short time by the more familiar Air Rank cap we know now. Certainly, of the photos I have of Dowding wearing a side cap during the Battle of Britain he seems to be wearing the miniature version of the Air Rank Badge (as does the King during the same period), meaning the cap for Air Rank officers with standard badge (as Paul has) seemingly lasted only 6 months at most. If an Air Rank officer had Pauls cap, and new regulations came in stating that the cap to be worn by officers of Air Commodore or above was to have a new badge (the miniature AO badge) and blue not gold piping, it would mean more than just a badge replacement, but a whole new cap.

The buttons are interesting. Paul did say initially they were both Kings Crown. Regulations specify that they were 'No. 5' for the Side Cap (No. 1 was for Service Dress jackets and Greatcoats at 9/10ths inch in size; No. 2 was for Service Dress jacket pockets, as well as the shoulders of the khaki Service Dress at 7/10ths inch; and No. 3, which was for Greatcoats at 6/10ths inch. All are described as 'gilding metal, die struck, fire gilt'. No mention is made of a No. 4). The No. 5 button is described as 11/20ths inch, 'Gilding metal shell, eagle and crown of fire gilt'.

Note there is no mention of wearing the No.5 button on Mess Dress, only the Side Cap. The Mess Dress had by this time been abolished, although the buttons would almost certainly have been the same as those specified for the side cap in December 1939. Earlier dress regulations mention size rather than a number.

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