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The RAF “1942” Badge

One of the most attractive RAF-related items from World War II is the “1942 Badge” that is so popular with militaria collectors. The badge is often inaccurately referenced as an “Eagle Squadron Badge” because of its general association with the American pilots who flew for the RAF but the official name of the badge was the “American RAF Foreign Volunteer Badge.” The badge was awarded not just to Eagle Squadron pilots but to any American officer who served in any capacity with the RAF prior to 1942. American officers awarded the badge were permitted to wear it on the pocket fold of their uniform below the flap on the right hand side of their US Army Air Force uniforms.

The sterling silver badges were presented at a ceremony held at Debden on September 29, 1942. Despite wartime shortages, the badge is finely manufactured and well-marked with a series of hallmarks; there is an anchor to signify its place of manufacture, “Birmingham,” a lion to represent .925 silver content as well as an “S” to denote the date “1942.” In addition, the letters “JRG & S” are struck to credit the manufacturer, J.R. Gaunt & Son. The badge features the RAF spread winged eagle with a stylized “RAF” above and “1942” below set against a surrounding laurel wreath. There have been several different examples of attachment devices used on the reverse side of the badge with both a lug and cotter pin design as well as the more traditional pin and catch style typical of U.S. manufactured military insignia. Original bullion types have been encountered but most of those offered for sale on internet sites seem to be poorly made reproductions.

The sterling badges are a brilliant design and number among the rarest badges issued during World War II. At the time of their award, one historian suggests that there were about 500 American officers eligible to receive them, so there are probably very few surviving today. As a cautionary note to collectors, the rarity of this badge has inspired replicas. Examples produced in cast metal as well as some marked “sterling” are widely available online with both clutch back fasteners and the lug and cotter pin design. The detail of these crude examples bears little similarity to the detail found in the original illustrated here but collectors do need to be cautious.

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