Definitions

CIC Cap Badge

Cap badge

A cap badge, also known as head badge or hat badge, is a badge worn on uniform headgear and distinguishes the wearer's nationality and/or organisation. The wearing of cap badges is a convention commonly found among military and police forces, as well as uniformed civilian groups such as the Boy Scouts, civil defence organizations, paramedical units (e.g. the St. John Ambulance Brigade), customs services, fire services etc.

Cap badges are a modern form of heraldry and the design of same generally incorporates highly symbolic devices.

United States

U.S. Army

In the United States Army, a Distinctive Unit Insignia(DUI) is worn on the flash of a beret. For service caps, a gilt eagle device is worn. For officers, a large eagle device is worn. For enlisted men, a small version of the officer's insignia centered on a disk is worn on the front. Warrant Officers wear a gold eagle device centered on the cap. For garrison caps, generally the rank insignia is worn, but recent regulations call for the wear of the DUI.

U.S. Air Force

For U.S. Air Force service caps, a large, silver eagle device is worn on the service caps. For enlisted men, a smaller version of the officer's insignia is worn, but inclosed in a ring.

United Kingdom

British Army

In the British Army (as well as Commonwealth armies), cap badges are extremely important, with each regiment and corps having its own. In some regiments, officers and other ranks have different cap badges. When a soldier is assigned to a regiment or corps, it is known as being capbadged to that organisation.

Variations of cap badges

British cap badges are commonly made of the following materials:

  • copper
  • bronze
  • brass
  • silver
  • plastic
  • cloth
  • white metal
  • bi-metal
  • staybright
  • blackened brass

Plastic cap badges were normally introduced during a prolonged war (e.g. the Second World War) when metals became strategic materials. Nowadays many cap badges in the British Army are made of a material called "stay-brite" plastic because it is cheap, flexible and does not require as much maintenance as the brass ones.

Regimental cap badges are usually cast as one single piece but in a number of cases they may be cast in different pieces. For instance, the badge of the, now amalgamated, The Highlanders (Seaforth, Gordons and Camerons) was cast in two separate pieces: the Queen's Crown and the thistle in one piece, and the stag's head and scroll with regimental motto in another piece. (see the first picture above)

A regiment or battalion may maintain different variations of the same cap badge for members of different sub-units within the same regiment. Such variations are usually made in terms of the badges' material, size and stylization. In most British and Commonwealth regiments, variations in cap badges are normally made for:

  • Officers: usually three-dimensional in design with more expensive materials such as silver, enamel, gilt etc.
  • Senior Non-Commissioned Officers such as sergeants, Colour Sergeants and Warrant Officers: a more elaborate design compared with those worn by other ranks but usually not as elaborate as those worn by the officers
  • Pagri (turban) badge
  • Members of the regimental band and pipes and drums: usually a larger version of the other ranks' badge for the musicians' pith helmet or the pipers' feather bonnet or glengarry headdress

Some regiments, mainly the infantry ones, maintain a blackened or subdued version of their cap badges as shiny brass cap badges may attract the enemy's (especially snipers') attention on the battlefield. There are also cloth or embroidered versions for officers or for wear on the jungle cap.

Moreover, regimental badges would often be removed during wartime (and indeed by the modern-day Pakistan Army along the disputed Indian-Pakistani border), to prevent the enemy forces from gathering intelligence about troop strengths and movements.

Wearing conventions

The cap badge is positioned differently depending on the form of headdress:

  • Service dress cap: the centre point between the wearer's eyebrows
  • Beret: 1 inch (two fingers) above the left eye
  • Side cap: Between the left eye and the left ear
  • Scottish tam o'shanter: Between the left eye and the left ear
  • Scottish glengarry: Between the left eye and the left ear
  • Feather Bonnet: Slightly off the left ear towards the left eye
  • Fusilier cap or bearskin: Slightly off the left ear towards the left eye
  • Jungle hat or boonie hat: Centre front or between left eye and left ear

Soldiers of the Gloucestershire Regiment and subsequently the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment wore a cap badge on both the front and the rear of their headdress, a tradition maintained by soldiers in The Rifles when in service dress. The back badge is unique in the British Army and was awarded to the 28th Regiment of Foot for their actions at the Battle of Alexandria in 1801. Knowledge of this honour encouraged the soldiers of the Gloucestershire Regiment in the defence of Gloster Hill during the Battle of the Imjin River in April 1951 during the Korean War.

Additional items that reflect a regiment's historical accomplishments, such as backing cloth and hackles, may be worn behind the cap badge. In Scottish regiments, for instance, it is a tradition for soldiers to wear their cap badges on a small square piece of their regimental tartans. Officer Cadets may wear a small white piece of fabric behind their badges. Members of the Adjutant General's Corps who are attached to a Scottish infantry unit may be seen wearing a Scottish tam o'shanter with their corps badge instead of the Scottish regiment's badge. Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers soldiers attached to regiments likewise often wear that regiment's beret or headdress but with their own Corps badge.

The Royal Highland Fusiliers prefer to wear their white hackle instead of their cap badge with the Scottish Tam O'Shanter. Similarly, in the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment), only the pipers and drummers wear the regimental cap badge with their glengarries and feather bonnet, while the rest of the regiment wears the red hackle with their blue balmoral and tam o'shanter.

For a period leading up to Remembrance Day artificial poppies are worn by many people in Britain and Canada to commemorate those killed in war. When worn by service personnel in uniform, the plastic stem of the poppy is discarded and the paper petals are fitted behind the cap badge. (On forage caps the paper petals are fitted under the left hand chin strap button.)

Canada

Canadian Forces

The Canadian Forces utilize a variety of metal and cloth cap badges on their headdress. The use of cap badges on headdress worn exclusively with combat clothing ceased with the introduction of the CADPAT uniform (see Canadian Forces Cap badges).

Police

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, as well as provincial and municipal police forces, utilize forage caps and metal cap badges, though it is not uncommon to see modern police personnel on duty without headdress.

Navies

Cap badges used by navies (and merchant mariners) around the world tend to follow the pattern in use by the British Royal Navy: an anchor, or oaccasionally a cockade, surrounded by golden leaf-shaped embroidery, and often topped by a crown or another symbol. For petty officers the leaves may be absent or replaced by a ring of golden cable. The main exception to this is the United States Navy, which once followed the abovementioned pattern, but changed after the Civil War to the current designs, with crossed anchors behind the eagle and shield for commissioned officers.

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