Gorget patches (collar tabs, collar patches) are an insignia, paired patches of cloth or metal on the collar (gorget) of the uniform, that is used in the military and civil service in some countries. Collar tabs sign the military rank (group of ranks), the rank of civil service, the military unit, the office (department) or the branch of the armed forces and the arm of service.
Gorget patches were originally gorgets, pieces of armour worn to protect the throat. With the disuse of armour they were lost. The cloth patch on the collar however evolved from contrasting cloth used to reinforce the buttonholes at the collar of a uniform coat. (This is perhaps most evident in the traditional commonwealth design for Colonels, which has a button and a narrow line of darker piping where the slit buttonhole would have been.) The patches were introduced as insignia during the South African War (1889-1902). They have been used ever since.
In Australia traditional gorget patches are worn by Army colonels and general officers. In the St John Ambulance Australia First Aid Services Branch gorget patches designate State Staff Officers and National Staff Officers from those who are officers of a division or region.
In Bangladesh army officers of the rank of Colonel and above wear ‘Gorget Patches’. They are red in color.
With the restoration of historical nomenclature to the Canadian Army, reinstated insignia include traditional gorget patches for colonels and general officers.
In the French Army collar patches were used on tunics and greatcoats since the eighteenth century. Usually in contrasting collars to the collar itself, they came to carry a regimental number or specialist insignia. With the adoption of a new light-beige dress uniform for all ranks in the 1980s, the practice of wearing coloured collar patches was discontinued.
Collar patchs/ gorget patches (de: "Kragenspiegel", also "Kragenpatte(n))", are to be worn on the gorget (on both collar points) of military uniform in German speaking armed forces.
In India coloured patches are used by Senior Ranking officers all the Armed Forces. The Army like many other armies in the world assigns a red Patch to a Full Colonel ranking officer to signify that he is a Commanding Officer. He has a Crimson Patch with a Golden Lining. The Brigadier is basically a Single Star General and therefore has one golden star on his patch instead of the golden line The Chief Of Army Staff of the Indian Army has four stars on his Red patch. Only a Field Marshal has five stars. Two men have been Field Marshals. One has been Marshal Of the Air Force, who sports a light blue patch with 5 stars. If there is ever an Admiral of the Fleet in India he might get 5 stars on a dark blue patch.
All senior ranking police officers of the Rank of Senior Superintendent of Police or Senior Deputy Commissioner of Police (both ranks being equivalent with Deputy Commissioner's are only in towns which has moved over to a commissioner system of policing this rank being equivalent to a full colonel in the Army) get a dark blue patch with a silver lining this remains same for the next promotion which is Deuty Inspector General or Additional Commissioner of Police. However, the next senior officer the Inspector General or Joint Commissioner of Police has a silver design of a long leaf rather than a simple silver lining on their patch which remains the same all the way up to the Director General of Police or Commissioner of Police.
Since the late nineteenth century the Italian Army has made extensive use of coloured collar patches to distinguish branches of service and individual regiments.
In the Russian Empire collar patches sign rank according to the Table of ranks. In the USSR in 1924-1943 served as the primary insignia of military ranks. When the shoulder straps were restored in 1943, collar tabs remained as an insignia of the branch and the arm of service. Since 1932 they were also used as an insignia in some civil services. The state of affairs is the same in the modern Russian Federation.
In the Sri Lanka Air Force gorget patches sign military rank.
In the Swiss army collar patches denote the rank and the arm of service.
In the United Kingdom gorget patches are worn by British Army general officers or senior officers according to branch or arm of service; their counterpart police ranks wear similar gorget patches of silver-on-black. Officer cadets in the Merchant Navy, Army and the Royal Air Force also wear patches.
The patches were introduced for British Army staff officers in India in 1887 and there was then a proliferation of them. Different colours were introduced to indicate the branch of service and by 1940 there was: bright blue (engineers), dark blue (ordnance), pale blue (education), scarlet (general staff duties), cherry (medical), maroon (veterinary), purple (chaplain), green (dental) and yellow (accountants). During World War I all staff officers from 2nd Lieutenants upwards wore gorget patches and hatbands of these colours, making them conspicuous when in the trenches and leading to the nickname of "the gilded staff". In 1921 coloured collar patches were restricted to full colonels and above.
- Major R. M. Barnes, page 278 "A History of the Regiments & Uniforms of the British Army", Sphere Books 1972
- Gorget Patches at Mike Comerford Ordnance Insignia of the British Army. Retrieved 21 June 2013