Hi Guys, for many years these badges were scorned by collectors. Cheap, nasty things that did not shine... Unpopular with most soliders at the time too. They could be found for a few quid. But the last ten years or so has seen a big change, these are now very collectable to the extent that, surprise, surprise, some of the rarer and ever popular Airborne ones are now being faked.
The historical background to these badges goes back to the dark days of May 1941. Britain was still fighting alone and all materials were in short supply. The Ministry of Supply, who controlled the production of British Industry, was contacted by a plastic moulding company, Alfred Stanly & Co. of Wallsal, who suggested that cap badges could be made from cellulose acetate. They even sent a prototype plastic RAOC cap badge with their letter. The Ministry was interested by their idea and the project was looked into in great detail over the following months. A report from July 1941 estimated that by producing these cap badges in plastic for the following corps; RA, RE, RASC, RS, RAOC, RAMC and ATS a staggering 19.25 tons of brass could be saved in six months!
Several other moulding firms were brought in and consulted on the project over the next months. By Dec 1941 the Army was satisfied with the idea and gave the go ahead, under "Army Council Instruction 2594/41" to produce badges for:
Royal Corps of Signals
Royal Army Service Corps
Corps of Military Police
Royal Army Pay Corps
Army Educational Corps (not actually produced in quantity until May 1945; 900 badges made)
Army Dental Corps (Never actually produced)
Army Catering Corps
Army Physical Training Corps (Rarer to find: Not actually produced until November 1944)
As can be seen from the above list, the Army and MoS were initially interested only in producing badges for larger Corps units as these had more men under the colours.
The introduction of these plastic badges was on a "maintainance only" basis. In other words stocks of metal badges were to be used up first, then plastic would henceforth be issued. Both metal and plastic badges would be worn within a unit and orders given that "change overs" just to ensure uniformity were prohibited. I suspect many an RSM hated this!
By June 1942 a further Army Council Instruction was issued, ACI 1337/42, which detailed that in order to save on metals ALL caps badges, both of Regiments and Corps would now be made from plastic. The only exception being would be if the badge could not be made due to technical problem due to the cap badges design. It was also decided that officers rank badges, both "pips" and crowns, would also be made of the same materials.
Here is a list of the makers involved with plastic badge production in WW2.
Alfred Stanley & Sons Ltd. 10/2/42 to 11/12/45
Fraser & Glass 21/3/42 to 28/11/43
Plastic Fashions 9/4/42 to 30/5/45
Jarret, Rainsford & Laughton Ltd 18/4/42 to 5/8/45
Hopf Products Ltd 28/10/42 to 4/6/46
Combined Opital Industries 26/2/43 to 26/2/45
WH Hassler Ltd 16/7/43 to ???????
Roanoid Plastics (Birmingham) Ltd 20/8/43 to 5/9/45
Mentmore Manufacturing Co. Ltd 15/11/43 to 4/6/46
London Association for the Blind 7/11/44 to 5/9/45
Not all badges were maker marked. The most common marks to find are:
A Stanley & Sons Wallsal
F&G (Within in oval)
JRL ltd BHAM
Not only British badges were produced in plastic. Free Polish Forces in the UK were also supplied with their cap badges in plastic. Examples of these can be seen within the Polish sub forum.