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Muerrisch

regimental buttons

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I have read that some regiments [or battalions within regiments] allowed/ issued non-GS pattern buttons for the SD Jacket.

I have no idea how widespread this was, or if it was sanctioned by regulation, or by custom.

Please does anyone have any specifics ...... for example, was this exception only for senior NCOs, was it only in peacetime, or what? Which regiments did it?

I have a Great War period GS button sitting in front of me, mocking my ignorance!

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In the book "Four Years On The Western front" by Aubrey Smith aka "A Rifleman", he mentions buying a replacement set of battalion buttons from the Regiment's Tailor's when he was on leave. He was with the London Rifle Brigade. Many of the London Regiment battalions had their own buttons available by private purchase. The London Irish Rifles did - I have seen pictures of LIR groups with some wearing purchased buttons and some GS.

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Thank you very much.

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Here are some extracts from an article by Howard Ripley from the Bulletin of The Military Historical Society, August 1986.

OTHER RANKS BUTTONS 1915.

"It is well known that regimental buttons were discontinued for other ranks in 1871. The now familiar General Service [Royal Arms] button was introduced for wear by most units and remained in use until regimental buttons were re-introduced for other ranks in 1928.

Some units escaped and continued to wear regimental buttons throughout".

The list of other ranks buttons is taken from the catalogue produced by the War Office in 1915.

PRICED VOCABULARY

of

CLOTHING AND NECESSARIES

War Office

1915

Part 1

Pimlico - Section 27

Buttons, Buckles, Hooks and Eyes, Rings &c.

LIFEGUARDS

1st.

2nd.

ROYAL HORSE GUARDS

DRAGOON GUARDS

1st.

2nd.

3rd.

4th.

5th.

6th.

7th.

DRAGOONS

1st.

2nd.

6th.

HUSSARS, plain ball buttons.

LANCERS

5th.

9th.

12th.

16th.

17th

21st.

PEKIN POLICE

ROYAL HORSE ARTILLERY

ROYAL ARTILLERY

ROYAL ENGINEERS

ROYAL FLYING CORPS

ROYAL MARINE ARTILLERY

ROYAL MARINE LIGHT INFANTRY

ROYAL MARINES

GRENADIER GUARDS

COLDSTREAM GUARDS

SCOTS GUARDS

IRISH GUARDS

RIFLES

ROYAL ARMS

WEST INDIA REGIMENT.

David.

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Officially all other ranks apart from rifle regiments wore GS buttons. However, it is quite common to find Corps buttons on Great War jackets; less so for infantry units, but buttons of both officer and o/r quality were available for all regiments and some soldiers undoubtedly smartened up their uniforms with them, both after and during hostilities. The majority of all units however wore GS buttons.

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I have a HAC tunic with HAC infantry buttons - echoing the view that London territorials wore them. I have seen other Great War OR infantry tunics with regimental pattern buttons; there is on on display in the IWM, as well as, strangely enough, in that rather odd house owned by the National Trust in Worksop - in that case buttoned to the Border Regiment.

The MGC wore regimental buttons, as did several of the 'Corps', as mentioned above.

Peter

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Hello all,

I have always understood this to be the jealously guarded privilege of Sergeants and above in Infantry Regiments. I have seen very few genuine exceptions to this either in period photos or on actual jackets. As Wainfleet has pointed out this was quite common among the London Regiment TF units and some corps, especially up to the mid war period, but most unusual in Line Infantry Regiments.

A veteran once told me that when he joined the Rifle Brigade from a Training Reserve Regiment, it was suggested forcibly that he and his fellow recruits purchase, at their own expense, Rifles buttons from the Regimental Canteen. If not, they would have to chemically blacken their GS buttons. Not wanting to feel second class soldiers all of them meekly complied.

Regards

Tocemma

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The MGC wore regimental buttons...

A misleading generalization. Some units of the MGC wore Corps pattern buttons, by no means all, during the war. 100 Company did, 33 Battalion did - but this was down to the... individualistic company/battalion commander, Graham Seton-Hutchison. Post-war (1919) MGC buttons did spread across the rapidly disbanding Corps for all ranks.

Also, the majority of Corps soldiers - particularly Gunners, my area - wore GS buttons.

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Something tells me that Grumpy isn't going to be a lot the wiser at this point than when he originally posed the question.

I would agree with TM that it was unusual for infantry to wear regimental buttons. However, as with so many aspects of the kit of the Great War, it is unwise to be categoric as someone will then pop up with indisputable evidence that you were wrong. As with the MGC example just mentioned, much would have depended on a soldier's inclination and the latitude granted by his superior.

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A veteran once told me that when he joined the Rifle Brigade from a Training Reserve Regiment, it was suggested forcibly that he and his fellow recruits purchase, at their own expense, Rifles buttons from the Regimental Canteen. If not, they would have to chemically blacken their GS buttons. Not wanting to feel second class soldiers all of them meekly complied.

Someone I know told me he once had access to some spare buttons accumulated by a Rifle Brigade museum - apparently they included a number of GS buttons that had been deliberately blackened.

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In the book "Four Years On The Western front" by Aubrey Smith aka "A Rifleman", he mentions buying a replacement set of battalion buttons from the Regiment's Tailor's when he was on leave. He was with the London Rifle Brigade. Many of the London Regiment battalions had their own buttons available by private purchase. The London Irish Rifles did - I have seen pictures of LIR groups with some wearing purchased buttons and some GS.

David,

I've been working on this too as the buttons are one of the ways you can differentiate London Regiment men from KRRC and RB men when the cap badge is unclear.

So far I have ...

7th Londons, (Shiney Seventh) "7" on grenade, "City of London" in scroll, wreathed

9th Londons, (Queen Victoria's Rifles) St.George & dragon below crown

13th Londons, (Kensington Rifles) Name around shield, crown

14th Londons, (London Scottish) Name around crown on star & St.Andrew's cross

15th Londons, (Civil Service Rifles) Standard rifles strung bugle under crown

16th Londons, (Queen's Westminster Rifles) Shield, portcullis, chains & crown

18th Londons, (London Irish Rifles) Name in scroll below shamrocks, harp & crown

19th Londons, (St. Pancras) Name around crown & "XIX"

20th Londons, (Queen's Own) "Invicta" in scroll below rearing horse

28th Londons, (Artists' Rifles) "Artists" then "Artists Rifles" in scroll below classical heads

I'm still trying to determine which of the above were always blackened, sometimes blackened, or never blackened!

I also have pictures of some of the above wearing what look like the standard rifles strung hunting horn blackened button, so the regimental variant was not always worn.

The King's Royal Rifle Corps used the standard blackened strung bugle with crown button.

The Rifle Brigade variant has the bugle inside a wreath, and sometimes included the regiment name, but I have also seen the standard KRRC button described as "Rifle Brigade" - but that might just be ignorance or confusion!

I also have some Scottish Rifles photos with blackened buttons which do not quite look like the standard strung bugle rifle button. I think it's a smaller strung bugle below a crown with a thistle? wreath. They're a little too indistinct to be certain though.

As far as I have ascertained, the Royal Irish Rifles wore the same style button as the London Irish ... with the name changed obviously!

Lastly I'm assuming that some of the other TF rifles battalions - Leeds Rifles, Robin Hood Rifles, Isle of Wight Rifles etc. - probably also used rifles buttons, but as yet I've got nothing conclusive on that.

All-in-all the exact usage of rifles buttons in WW1 seems to have been rather inconsistent, confused and unpredictable! Every time I think I have something definitive, I seem to find a photo that contradicts it! Wainfleet's point about it being "unwise to be categoric" is very well made!

As you can see, this is all very much "work in progress" still, I'm afraid!

HTH

Cheers,

Mark

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I reckon you are right Mark - again a case of what the regulations say and what was done being at odds. Especailly if it was down to individual units and individuals within those units wearing what they chose to wear.

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Mark

The 16th London, QWR, wore their own buttons in both black and white metal. I can say this as I've had in my possession over the years two khaki jackets to other ranks of this unit, one patched to the 30th Div as reconstituted in 1918, so 2/16 Bn, and one with no 30th Div sign, so probably 1/16 Bn. Both had the "active service" look, ie. not in immaculate demob / home wear condition.

Regards,

W.

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Never seen a blackened Artists' Rifles button. Brass or white metal.

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Hi,

My ASC tunic has corps buttons. As it has ASC ink stampings inside, I have no reason to have any doubts about them beinig original to the tunic. When I bought it, two buttons were missing. I replaced these using white thread so that no-one in the future will feel that anyone had tampered with the tunic.

Cheers

Owain.

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wouldn't you know it! Many thanks to all, and indeed I am a bit wiser.

What intrigues me is that nobody has added collateral to the [widespread?] belief about SNCOs wearing regimental buttons [infantry, that is]. Any examples known please where NCOs ONLY had such buttons? I don't even know about RWF!!!!!!!!!

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post-20062-1265911841.jpg

This sergeant in the Notts and Derby has regimental buttons, they can be seen better on the postcard.

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post-20062-1265912500.jpg

Close up of the N/Derby sergeant

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Mark

The 16th London, QWR, wore their own buttons in both black and white metal. I can say this as I've had in my possession over the years two khaki jackets to other ranks of this unit, one patched to the 30th Div as reconstituted in 1918, so 2/16 Bn, and one with no 30th Div sign, so probably 1/16 Bn. Both had the "active service" look, ie. not in immaculate demob / home wear condition.

Regards,

W.

... and right on cue here's a QWR man wearing rifles buttons! ...

post-20192-1265913011.jpg

[picture courtesy of Pal Grovetown]

... and possibly the 1911 Coronation Medal ribbon, so probably a pre-War terrier. His choice to not wear the QWR buttons was presumably therefore not on the grounds of wartime shortage etc.

Here are some zoom-ins of the "proper" QWR buttons:

post-20192-1265913525.jpg

[sgt JW Scott - picture courtesy of Pal Tocemma]

post-20192-1265913537.jpg

[picture courtesy of Pal AN Other (forgot to record it!)]

[Edit 12 Feb: in the full photo, this chap is definitely not an NCO]

Everytime I think I've found a rule that holds true, I seem to then find an exception that breaks that rule!! :blink:

Cheers,

Mark

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Never seen a blackened Artists' Rifles button. Brass or white metal.

I agree - I've only got pictures of brass or WM ... so far!!

post-20192-1265914087.jpg

[due to the SAS connection, this is a much faked badge, so I make no claims these ones are pukka!!]

Also, I'd be very surprised to see a blackened 7th Londons button.

Cheers,

Mark

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Also, I'd be very surprised to see a blackened 7th Londons button.

Cheers,

Mark

In the book of Len Smith's diary, Drawing Fire, he mentions, on a number of occasions, the "Shiny 7th's" "habit of polishing buttons and badges on every occasion when out of the line. No mention of blackened buttons at all.

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MBrockway.

Great, that saved me a job! I have several photos of NCOs from QWRs in 1916 all are wearing the Regimental buttons. I doubt once casualties began to occur that this custom was universal later in the war. There must have been a lot of replacements who didn't wear these buttons.

I have a tunic worn by Sgt G W Silk, 2nd Royal Fusiliers, and not worn later than January 1918 when he was commissioned, that has RF buttons. It seems he may have been issued with this tunic at the latter stages of the Battle of the Somme. Unusually he mentions it in his diary (I have four years of his diaries covering Gallipoli to 1918/19 when he was in Egypt as an RWK Officer) I presume that he was wearing a simplified jacket up until then as he states he had acquired ' a jacket of the regular pattern. I feel a proper soldier now' It is heavily used and is also recognisable in a photo taken on home leave in late 1917 as the same jacket.

So add 2nd RF as a Battalion where NCOs wore Regtl. Buttons.

In general, and note in my previous posts I was careful in my use of language, I would say that this was largely confined to NCOs and as I said a jealously guarded privilege. For instance most of the bodged up MGC OR tunics I have seen in the last 30 odd years have had MGC buttons added to give credibilty to the bodged piece. These are often mismatched and badly attached. Photographic evidence seems to suggest that such use of MGC buttons was fairly rare, Guards MG and 33rd peacocks excepted of course!

I think we are all agreed that in the vast Army we had at the time, individuality would now and again flourish. Nobody can be categoric about who wore what, there was simply too much variation. The nice thing about the forum is all the interesting photographs posted that show just what a rich period of British miltary history we are dealing with here.

Tocemma

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another rich vein of fact, supported by photographic evidence. this Forum is absolutely outstanding in the breadth and depth of expertise lurking out there. Thanks everybody.

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MBrockway.

Photographic evidence seems to suggest that such use of MGC buttons was fairly rare, Guards MG and 33rd peacocks excepted of course!

Yes, the GMGR wore their own buttons, but they are disappointingly plain; a crown over GMGR in a script. To think they were nearly the Sixth Regiment of Foot Guards too.

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In a day or so I will trawl back thro' this and produce a list as a Reply.

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