Higher formation insignia of the British Army

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The Supreme Commanders on 5 June 1945 in Berlin: Bernard Montgomery, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Georgy Zhukov and Jean de Lattre de Tassigny.

This page displays the formation signs of higher formations (above division) of the British Army during the First and Second World Wars, and after. For completeness it also shows those signs of Commonwealth and Empire formations which fought alongside the British, and multi national formations they were a part of. In addition to the field forces, lines of communication and home rear echelon formation signs are also shown.

First World War[edit]

Armies and Corps used the pre-existing scheme of red and black or red and white for army and corps respectively, with a number applied as an identifier. When this insecure method of identification was banned by order in 1916, other signs were used, but the army and corps colours continued to be used in some cases. These designs were used as vehicle signs and on notices, and not sewn directly on to the uniform. Army and Corps command personnel wore armbands when required (red-black-red for army or red-white-red for corps) to which was added the relevant sign.[1]

Army[edit]

Corps[edit]

Commonwealth and Empire[edit]

Second World War[edit]

World War II British battledress arm of service (corps) colours

By the start of the Second World War, the British Army prohibited all identifying marks on its Battle Dress uniforms save for drab (black or white on khaki) regimental or corps (branch) slip-on titles, and even these were not to be worn in the field. In May 1940 an order (Army Council Instruction (ACI) 419) was issued banning division signs worn on uniforms, even though some were in use on vehicles in France.[28]

In September 1940 the order was replaced with ACI 1118, and formation signs were permitted to be worn on uniform below the shoulder title by those troops in independent brigades, divisions, (field) corps and command headquarters. Below this, troops of the British Army wore an 'arm of service' stripe (2 inches (5.1 cm) by 14 inch (0.64 cm)) showing the relevant corps colour (for the higher formations, these were most often the supporting arms, for example Engineers, red and blue, Service Corps, blue and yellow, RAMC dark cherry, and so on, see right).[29]

Until D-Day these signs were only to be displayed or worn in Britain, if a formation went overseas all formation markings had to be removed from vehicles (tactical signs excepted) and uniforms. This order was obeyed to varying degrees in various theatres of war. However all 21st Army Group formations wore their signs when they went to France.[30]

In the British Army, ACI 1118 specified that the design for the formation sign should be approved by the general officer commanding the formation and reported to the War Office.[31] A further order of December 1941 (ACI 2587) specified the material of the uniform patch as printed cotton (ordnance issue), this replaced the embroidered felt (or fulled wool) or metal badges used previously. In other theatres the uniform patch could be made from a variety of materials including printed or woven cotton, woven silk, leather or metal embroidered felt (or fulled wool).[32]

General Head Quarters and Theatre[edit]

Army group[edit]

Field Marshal Montgomery (left), Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham (centre) and the Commander of the British Second Army, Lieutenant General Sir Miles Dempsey, talking after a conference in which Montgomery gave the order for the Second Army to begin the Operation Plunder. Note the formation patches for the 21st Army Group and the 2nd Army

.

Army[edit]

Portrait of General Slim as commander of the Fourteenth Army, commissioned by the Ministry of Information.

Commonwealth and Empire[edit]

Commands[edit]

U.K., Commonwealth and Empire[edit]

Commands were notionally of Army level, some choosing army command colours (red and black) and in the U.K. in the early years of the war could command one or more corps as 'Corps districts'.[45] In Southern Command (United Kingdom) the colouring of the shield and sometimes the stars was varied according to the wearers arm of service, 18 second world war varieties are known including the headquarters, and the Auxiliary Territorial Service.[46]

Shown below are the commands on the territory of the United Kingdom, Commonwealth or Empire nations.

Corps[edit]

The corps formation sign would be worn by headquarters and any attached troops, that is, those not in a division, independent infantry or armoured brigade, an Army Group Royal Artillery or a lines of communication formation. After the B.E.F.'s return from France, existing and newly formed Corps (I - XII) were allocated districts, and known as 'Corps districts', under the existing Home Commands, as shown below. They were replaced by military districts during 1942 and 1943.[52] Not shown are VI Corps, based in Northern Ireland and VII Corps based around Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire, neither had a formation sign as a real formation and both were disbanded before the end of 1940.[53][54]

The appropriate arm of service strip would be worn below the sign on a uniform (see above), with the exception of some (service) corps in I Corps, which altered the colours of the diamond as appropriate. For example, engineers (two diagonal blue stripes on the diamond),[55] signals (a blue diamond),[56] artillery (diamond halved vertically, blue and red)[57] and service corps (diamond halved horizontally blue on yellow).[58]

Commonwealth and Empire[edit]

The Canadian and Australian uniform signs shown below are the headquarters signs. Canadian attached troops indicated their (service) corps with the addition of letters (for example R C E for the Royal Canadian Engineers or a maroon stripe for the Royal Canadian Medical Service).[64] Australian attached troops indicated their (service) corps by replacing the black and white triangles with their corps colour (I Corps), or central triangle (II and III Corps) and replacing the black triangle with the green or red of the field corps, for example purple for the Royal Australian Engineers or brown for the Australian Army Medical Corps.[65]

Districts[edit]

Military districts, the level below area commands were constantly changing, the signs below do not show a 'snap-shot' in time for any command area.[71] Being local formations, the signs reference local attributes such as history, geography, industry, regimental affiliations and heraldry.[72]

Britain[edit]

India[edit]

Mediterranean and Middle East[edit]

Lines of Communications[edit]

Depending on the theatre of operations these units could be under command of the Theatre, Army Group or Army. The Australian signs show the headquarters design for that formation, attached troops wore an additional colour/shape combination (for example, Service Corps sections wore a white on blue design in the centre of the patch).[85]

Post War[edit]

Armies and Commands[edit]

Corps and Districts[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ JPS Card nos. 27, 52, 56
  2. ^ JPS card No. 95
  3. ^ JPS card no. 27
  4. ^ JPS card no. 33
  5. ^ JPS card no. 81
  6. ^ a b JPS card no. 78
  7. ^ JPS card no. 92
  8. ^ a b JPS card no. 29
  9. ^ JPS card no. 53
  10. ^ JPS card no. 61
  11. ^ JPS card no. 96
  12. ^ JPS card no. 38
  13. ^ JPS card no. 70
  14. ^ JPS card no. 87
  15. ^ JPS card no. 56
  16. ^ JPS card no. 3
  17. ^ JPS card no. 74
  18. ^ JPS card no. 22
  19. ^ JPS card no. 75
  20. ^ JPS card no. 68
  21. ^ JPS card no. 82
  22. ^ JPS card no. 25
  23. ^ JPS card no. 93
  24. ^ JPS card no. 16
  25. ^ JPS card no. 40
  26. ^ Glyde No. 9
  27. ^ JPS card no. 101
  28. ^ Davis p. 92
  29. ^ Davis pps. 94-95, 97
  30. ^ Cole p. 9
  31. ^ Davis pps. 95, 97
  32. ^ Davis pp. 99-100
  33. ^ a b c d Cole p. 14
  34. ^ a b c Cole p. 60
  35. ^ a b c Cole p. 21
  36. ^ a b c Cole p. 15
  37. ^ a b Cole p. 16
  38. ^ Cole p. 23
  39. ^ a b c Cole p. 24
  40. ^ a b c Cole p. 25
  41. ^ Cole p. 26
  42. ^ Glyde No. 402A
  43. ^ Glyde No. 403
  44. ^ a b c d e Cole p. 75
  45. ^ "HQ Southern Command Order of Battle 23/06/1941". Orders of Battle. Retrieved 30 August 2017.
  46. ^ Cole p. 19
  47. ^ a b c d e Cole p. 17
  48. ^ a b c Cole p. 18
  49. ^ Boulanger p. 388
  50. ^ Boulanger p. 389
  51. ^ a b Cole p. 20
  52. ^ Palmer, Rob. "Map of Corps districts, September 1940" (PDF). britishmilitaryhistory.co.uk. Retrieved 1 September 2017.
  53. ^ Palmer, Rob. "Northern Ireland District History" (PDF). britishmilitaryhistory.co.uk. Retrieved 1 September 2017.
  54. ^ a b c d e f Cole p. 28
  55. ^ Boulanger p. 365
  56. ^ Boulanger p. 382
  57. ^ Boulanger p. 430
  58. ^ Boulanger p. 576
  59. ^ a b c Cole p. 27
  60. ^ a b c d Cole p. 29
  61. ^ a b c Cole p. 30
  62. ^ a b Cole p. 53
  63. ^ Cole p. 54
  64. ^ Dorosh, Michael. "2nd Canadian Corps". canadiansoldiers.com. Retrieved 30 August 2017.
  65. ^ Glyde Nos 633, 635, 1212, 1214
  66. ^ Cole p. 61
  67. ^ Glyde No. 405
  68. ^ Glyde No. 406
  69. ^ Glyde No. 407
  70. ^ Cole p. 76
  71. ^ a b c d e Cole p. 99
  72. ^ Cole pp. 99-105
  73. ^ a b c d e Cole p. 100
  74. ^ a b c d e Cole p. 104
  75. ^ a b Cole p. 103
  76. ^ a b c d Cole p. 102
  77. ^ a b c Cole p. 101
  78. ^ Boulanger p. 446
  79. ^ a b c Cole p. 105
  80. ^ a b c d e Cole p. 119
  81. ^ a b c d Cole p. 118
  82. ^ a b Cole p. 112
  83. ^ Cole p. 113
  84. ^ Cole p. 114
  85. ^ Glyde Nos.1173 - 1204
  86. ^ a b Cole p. 111
  87. ^ Cole p. 120
  88. ^ a b c d Cole p. 116
  89. ^ a b c d e f Cole p. 117
  90. ^ Glyde No. 438
  91. ^ Glyde No. 437
  92. ^ Glyde No. 436
  93. ^ Glyde No. 435
  94. ^ Glyde No. 434
  95. ^ Glyde No. 433
  96. ^ Glyde No. 432
  97. ^ Glyde No. 431
  98. ^ Cole (2) p. 25
  99. ^ Cole (2) p. 12
  100. ^ a b Cole (2) p. 13
  101. ^ Cole (2) p. 14
  102. ^ a b Cole (2) p. 15
  103. ^ Cole (2) p. 52
  104. ^ Cole (2) p. 85
  105. ^ Cole (2) p. 86
  106. ^ Cole (2) p. 38
  107. ^ a b Cole (2) p. 39
  108. ^ a b Cole (2) p. 36
  109. ^ Cole (2) p. 33
  110. ^ Cole (2) p. 35
  111. ^ a b c Cole (2) p. 34
  112. ^ Cole (2) p. 35 addendum
  113. ^ a b Cole p. 37
  114. ^ a b Cole (2) p. 31

Bibliography[edit]

  • Boulanger, Bruno (2015). WW2 British Formation Badges. Collectors Guide (1 ed.). ISBN 9782960180206.
  • Cole, Howard (1973). Formation Badges of World War 2. Britain, Commonwealth and Empire. London: Arms and Armour Press.
  • Cole (2), Howard, N (1953). Badges on Battledress, Post-War Formation Signs; Rank and Regimental Insignia. Aldershot: Gale and Polden.
  • Davis, Brian L (1983). British Army Uniforms & Insignia of World War Two. London: Arms and Armour Press. ISBN 0853686092.
  • Glynde, Keith (1999). Distinguishing Colour Patches of the Australian Military Forces 1915–1951. A Reference Guide. ISBN 0646366408.
  • Jonstone, Mark (2007). The Australian Army in World War II. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 9781846031236.
  • Cigarette card series, Army, Corps and Divisional Signs 1914–1918, John Player and sons, 1920s.