UNIFORM On mobilisation in 1939 the Buckinghamshire Battalion had a mixture of Service Dress and Battledress. But by the time it went to France in January 1940 it was clothed entirely in Battledress.
As the early pattern of battledress had no exposed buttons black regimental buttons were only worn on the Field Service (FS) or “side” cap and on the greatcoat. The black buttons being supplied by the battalion.
Later during the war with the introduction of “austerity” or “utility” pattern battledress the battalion once more had the opportunity to display its black buttons.
REGIMENTAL ORDER PART ONE ORDER 102 30th April 1943 669. UTILITY BATTLE DRESS (P.O.) The wearing of Black Buttons on Utility Battle Dress blouses has been under consideration for some time and the following decision has now been reached. (a) Black Buttons will be worn on Utility B.D. blouses by all Officers and W.O.s (b) The type of button will be the small flat greatcoat pattern button. No other type will be worn. (c) Buttons will be purchased from the P.R.I. (d) This order will come into effect immediately. It is regretted that a general issue cannot be made to allow all ranks to wear Black Buttons, but to do so would involve considerable expenditure from Regimental Funds which in the circumstances is not considered to be justified. Therefore as uniformity is essential N.C.O.s and Rank and File will NOT be permitted to wear the Black Buttons."
BADGES OF RANK Inter war the custom had been introduced of Warrant Officers and N.C.O.s wearing badges of rank of Black on a Red background similar to the Kings Royal Rifle Corps. This custom continued throughout the war and beyond.
The Black Buttons and Black and Red badges of rank can be clearly seen on this photo which appeared in the Regimental Journal in 1946
LANYARD A Black lanyard/whistle cord was worn by Officers and Warrant Officers on the Left shoulder.
HEADRESS Between the wars the battalion black maltese cross cap badge had acquired a red cloth backing cut to the outline of the badge showing 1/8th inch and this was worn on the Khaki FS cap.
The Khaki Field Service Cap clearly showing the black buttons and red backing to the cap badge.
REGIMENTAL ORDERS PART ONE 1942 379. BADGES CAP. P.O. The correct position of Badges, cap is 3 ½ inches from the front of the cap to the centre of the badge, and 1 ½ inches from the top of the cap to the centre of the badge. Companies will see that this is corrected forthwith.
The FS cap was worn until the introduction of the General Service (G.S. Cap) on 31st October 1943.
The General Service or G.S. Cap and "plastic" cap badge.
SHOULDER TITLES Blackened Brass shoulder titles were worn consisting of T over BUCKS although these were worn, withdrawn and worn again but the war diary says they were also unobtainable along with cap badges whilst in France so not everyone would have worn them.
Battalion War Diary - 1 Feb 1940: “……All shoulder titles removed from battle dress; they have already been removed from the greatcoats. As there is a great shortage of cap badges, which are unobtainable, the Battalion can only be identified from the black buttons on forage caps and greatcoats as a rifle Battalion.”
Battalion War Diary -25 April 1940: “…….The Bn is still without cap badges, both these and shoulder titles, now reintroduced, are unobtainable. But sufficient black buttons purchased out of private funds, were available to clothe the new draft.”
REGIMENTAL SHOULDER FLASH A regimental shoulder flash was adopted in 1940 in the form of a triangle in the county colours of Red and Black. This only appears to have been worn by the 1st Bucks.
REGIMENTAL ORDERS PART ONE 62 16 August1940 7. DRESS (1) 1400 Regimental Shoulder Flashes have been received and will be issued proportionally to Companies. They will be issued in pairs and sewn one to each sleeve of the battle Dress blouse with the right angle uppermost and 1 ½ inches from the centre seam of the base of the shoulder strap. Care will be taken that the longest side is horizontal. (2) Future Flashes will be received in due course in sufficient numbers to equip the entire Battalion.
ARM OF SERVICE STRIP ACI (Army Council Instruction) 1118 of 1940 laid down that to distinguish between services of the army that an “Arm of Service” strip was to be worn by all ranks on battledress and the greatcoat.
The Buckinghamshire Battalion applied as a “Rifle” battalion for the Green Arm of Service strip that had been allocated for Rifle regiments. The ordnance depot having already supplied green on an initial indent decided on the subsequent indent that the battalion being part of the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry should wear the scarlet of the Infantry of the Line. This led to exchanges of letters between the Regimental Honourary Colonel Lord Cottsesloe and the War Office until in a letter dated 15th March 1941 Lord Croft Under-Secretary of State for War 1940-45 wrote:-
“My Dear Lord Cottesloe, When I received your letter of 8th March with reference to the Bucks Battalion I at once took up the matter, I am glad to tell you that the Central Ordnance Depot, Branston, have been informed that the battalion is a Rifle Battalion and should be issued with rifle green stripes.
The battalion had got its Green Strips!
FORMATION BADGES Divisional Signs were reintroduced early in 1940, but instructions were given in December of the following year for them to be described as 'Formation Badges'………..
………It was ruled that the signs were to be worn by all ranks of Command Headquarters, Corps, Divisions, Independent Brigade Groups and Independent Infantry Brigades. Designs were chosen and approved by the commander concerned and the War Office notified. It was not long before the coloured cloth patches and woven badges on battledress sleeves became familiar to the Army and, by sight, to the general public………………
…………….Signs were worn on the sleeves of uniforms except on greatcoats, one inch below the regimental or corps shoulder title on battledress, and immediately above the arm of service strip. These narrow strips, introduced in the autumn of 1940, gave a quick identification of the wearer's arm of the service when wearing the steel helmet with no badges. These distinguishing simple two-inch strips were of coloured cloth: red for infantry, blue and red for Gunners and Sappers, yellow and red for the Royal Armoured Corps, blue and yellow for the R.A.S.C., and so on…………
……………Infantry battalions wore one, two or three red (or green) strips one below the other to indicate the brigade to which they belonged…………. Formation Badges of World War Two – Howard Cole P9-10 1
A Lance Corporal of the 1st Bucks talking to the Honourary Colonel the Duchess of Kent clearly showing the three green arm of service strips (denoting junior brigade (145)) above the regimental flash and below the 48th Division badge. Also visible are his red and black badge of rank.
Photo OBLI Collection B33 10A
The formation badges worn by the 1st Buckinghamshire Battalion were:-
48th (South Midland) Division. 1908-1942
Worn by the 1st Bucks 1940-December 1942
48th (South Midland) Division. The badge adopted by the 48th Division was a blue macaw set on a red diamond within a dark blue oval. This first-line Territorial Army Division was made up of Territorials from Gloucestershire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire. This was the first line T.A. Division to join the B.E.F. in January 1940, and took part in the operations in France and Belgium until the evacuation from Dunkirk in May 1940. The 48th Division did not serve overseas again as a formation. For the remainder of the war it formed part of Home Forces, filling, in the later years, the role of a training formation, which was adopted in 1942.
The Divisional badge was adopted in 1940. At the time the Division's H.Q. was in an old Elizabethan house at Littlecote, on the River Kennet, two miles west of Hungerford. In the hall was a macaw in its cage. When the G.O.C., Major-General (later Lieut.-General Sir) Andrew Thome first entered the house the bird called out 'Good luck—Good Luck'. This was taken as an omen, and, when a formation badge was selected, the macaw was chosen to commemorate the incident. It was set on a red diamond background to link the badge of the Division with that of the 1914-18 War when the sign was a white diamond Formation Badges of World War Two – Howard Cole P43 1
54th (East Anglian) Division.
Worn by the 1st Bucks December 1942-April 1943 (and possibly continued to be worn after the battalion left 54 Division) 54th (East Anglian) Division. A first-line Territorial Division made up of T.A. units from Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Herts and Essex. The formation did not serve overseas as a Division, although it was absorbed into the Lines of Communication of 21st Army Group. The Divisional badge was a small red circle, the monogram 'JP' in blue in the centre. These were the initials of the Divisional Commander (Major-General J.H.T. Priestman, C.B.E. D.S.O., M.C.). One brigade of the formation (the 162nd) remained as an independent infantry brigade within 21st Army Group and retained the former Divisional sign as their badge'. Formation Badges of World War Two – Howard Cole P46 1
No 6 Beach Group 101st Beach Sub Area attached to 3rd Infantry Division "The 3rd British Division was anxious that the battalion and group should feel part of the division and authority was given on the 28th November 1943 or all to wear the divisional flash. This was worn until shortly before the invasion, when a special beach group flash (a red anchor on a pale-blue field) was introduced." The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry War Chronicle Vol 3 July 1942-May 44 2
Worn by the 1st Bucks November 1943-May 1944 3rd British Infantry Division Another Regular Army division which served with the B.E.F. and took part in the heavy fighting in holding the Dunkirk perimeter during the evacuation in May 1940. The Assault Division of Second Army, the 3rd Division landed on the Normandy beaches on the Gth of June 1944. As part of 1 Corps it took part in the establishment of and the subsequent break out of the beachhead and the operations in North-Wcstcrn Europe culminating in V.E. Day in May 1945. In the autumn of that year the Division was withdrawn from the British Army of the Rhine arid embarked for the Middle East.
3rd Division's badge was a red triangle surrounded by three black ones, the whole forming an equilateral triangle. Formation Badges of World War Two – Howard Cole P36 1
Number 6 Beach Group.
Worn by the !st Bucks May 1944 - August 1944
Beach Groups. The fouled anchor in red on a pale blue background within a red circle was the badge of the Beach Groups. These groups were composed of specialist units of the Army, Navy, and R.A.K. formed in a complete amphibious formation. The naval element was made up of R.N. Signals and R.N. Commandos; the R.A.F. provided a balloon barrage section for the defence of the beaches and specialists who prepared the way for the R.A. F.'s airstrips; the Army provided an infantry battalion for the seizing of the beach and the defence of the beachhead perimeter, Royal Engineer Field Companies, Mechanical F.quipment Platoons, a Stores Section and Transportation units, R.A.S.C. general transport companies with D.U.K.W.'s, a D.I.D. and Petrol supply unit, an R.A.M.C. unit, C.M.P. traffic control, and an R.E.M.E. Recovery Section and Pioneer Companies.
Beach groups first operated in the landings in Sicily. On 6th June 1944, D Day, on the Normandy beaches beach-group troops landed with the assault troops and distinguished themselves in the establishment and maintenance of the beachhead. Formation Badges of World War Two – Howard Cole P93 1
Headquarters Lines of Communications 21st Army Group
Worn by 1st Bucks September 1944-1945 Headquarters Lines of Communications 21st Army Group. H.Q. Lines of Communication 21st Army Group and the L. of C. and Base Sub-Area H.Qs. This was a dark blue crusader's cross on a yellow shield and was worn by all ranks, and stencilled on the vehicles of the H.Qs. of the L. of C. and certain formations and units under direct command of those Headquarters—i.e., Chief Engineers (Works) and Cs.R.E. (Works), etc. Formation Badges of World War Two – Howard Cole P1111
H.Q. British Troops in the Low Countries. Formerly H.Q. lines of communication 2lst Army Group, this Headquarters continued to wear its former badge; a dark blue cross on a yellow shield. With its Headquarters in Brussels it was the Administrative H.Q. for all British troops located in Belgium and Holland after the cessation of hostilities in North-Western Europe. Formation Badges of World War Two – Howard Cole P108 1
1 British Corps.
Worn by 1st Bucks 1945-1946
1 British Corps. A white spearhead on a scarlet diamond was the badge of 1 Corps; The design of the badge was adopted because in prewar days the 1st Corps at Aldershot was the only British Corps permanently in existence, and as such was the spearhead of the British Expeditionary Force, as it had been in 1914, and was indeed again in 1939. The Corps formed part of the B.E.F., going abroad in September 1939, to France. It was among the formations withdrawn from Dunkirk in May 1940. The Corps badge was adopted whilst the formation was part of the B.E.F., and was symbolic of the selection of this Corps as an assault formation. 1 Corps landed in Normandy on D Day, 6th June 1944, and fought across France, Belgium and Southern Holland. The formation formed the first static district of occupied Germany, (1st Corps District) taking over the control and administration of the Rhine Province and Westphalia in the final stages of the campaign. Formation Badges of World War Two – Howard Cole P27 1
1st Bucks in Germany, Christmas 1945. The 1st British Corps "spearhead" badge can clearly be seen
The formation badge worn by the 2nd Buckinghamshire Battalion was that of the:-
61st Division. This was the duplicate (second-line) Territorial Army Division of the 48th (South Midland) Division. Raised in 1939 to 1945, it formed part of Home Forces. Its badge was a red diamond on a blue background. The Division moved to Northern Ireland in July 1940, being distributed over the counties of Londonderry and Antrim. It later moved to Armagh, Tyrone and Fermanagh. It returned to England in 1943 was mobilized for service in North-Western Europe, but it was subsequently stood down and became a training and drafting Division in Home Forces. The Division was then earmarked for service in the Far East, but due to the collapse of Japan it was not required and was disbanded in 1946 Formation Badges of World War Two – Howard Cole P47 1
2nd Bucks 1943 being inspected by the Duchess of Kent. Once again the three AOS strips can be seen this time denoting 184 Brigade underneath the 61st Division badge and above red and black badges of rank. However the regimental flash as worn by 1st Bucks does not appear to be worn by this battalion. Also of note on the steel helmet is the OBLI flash. OBLI COLLECTION B33 I11 13-3-P-2
1st Bucks The Battalion used throughout the war the Mk1 and later the MK2 “Tommy” helmets.
REGIMENTAL ORDERS PART ONE 1940
6. STEEL HELMETS.
The battalion colours will be painted on all steel helmets. Companies will purchase the nessacary paint and send receipted bills to P.R.I. for repayment.
The colours will be worn on the side of the helmet and consist of a band of Black 1 ½” long by 1/2 “ deep surmounting a band of Scarlet of the same dimensions. The lower edge of the colour band will be 3/4 “above the brim of the helmet.
When the battalion converted to a Beach Group battalion the steel helmet had a white band painted around it.
NUMBER 6 BEACH GROUP ORDERS 20 April 1944
266. STEEL HELMETS-CAMOUFLAGE. Camouflage nets will be worn on steel helmets at all times after White band has been painted on helmet.
Three members of 1st Bucks on Sword Beach.
The White helmet band under the cammo net can be seen along with the Beach Group sign and Regimental Flash on the battledress blouse.
2nd Bucks The Battalion used throughout the war the Mk1 and later the MK2 “Tommy” helmets. On the left side of the helmet was worn the Oxf & Bucks regimental flash of Blue/Red/Buff/Blue with a diagnol line through it as can be seen on the photograph above under 61st Division.
On the right side of the helmet was worn what appears to be a different flash of colours that I have not as yet been able to confirm.
2nd Bucks Bn being inspected by Princess marina in 1942. Detail of the flash of so far unknown colours worn on the right side of the helmet. OBLI COLLECTION B33 I11 13-3-P-2A
1. FORMATION BADGES OF WORLD WAR TWO by Howard Cole, 1985 Arms & Armour Press, ISBN 0-85368-078-7
2. The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry Chronicle, Vol 3: July 1942 -May 1944 J. E. H Neville,.Aldershot: Gale and Polden, 1951