Originally Posted by Croix de Guerre
Does any one know what the regulations were regarding wearing collar insignia of past regimental affiliation on RFC/RAF uniforms? You see so many pilots and observers wearing the collar dogs of their old units, I wondered what the regs were regarding this practice if there was one.
I had hoped someone who actually had the regs was going to answer as I think that is what you really want, but since they haven't, I can at least give you some insight on the practice. The key is your characterization of the insignia as being of "past regimental affiliation". That is not quite correct. Unlike today's military, you didn't just sign up for the Army at large and get assigned and reassigned to a variety of random units during your career. Rather, the regiments typically each had their own recruiting stations in their various regions. It was an all volunteer force and a regiment was often a source of local pride, history, and emotional attachment. (Hence the various Highland, Welsh and Scots regiments, with the same sort of thing being done in England as well.) When the regiment's battalions or companies weren't posted overseas, they would return to their barracks in that region. For an individual soldier or even an officer, you could sign up to enter a given regiment and, if so inclined, spend your entire military career in that regiment.
The demands of WW1 necessarily required many changes in this regard. Even so, when someone transferred to the RFC during the war, they typically didn't end their affiliation with their original regiment. Rather, they were seconded or attached to the RFC, but they were still subject to being recalled to their original regiment if needed or if the RFC released them. That is why, when a potential pilot or observer washed out of training, they went back to their former regiment (if they had one) rather than going into a general assignment pool. Likewise, as to those airmen who were found to be "unsuited" for flying duties after they arrived at the front (it happened), they were then returned to their original regiment to finish their enlistment or their commitment. Understanding this explains why some men wore their previous regimental insignia. They were authorized (as I understand the regs) to wear the insignia of either
their current assignment or of their permanent
regiment. Part of this was out of a sense of pride in their regiment and a reminder that you would likely be returning to that regiment eventually, and part of this was to let the more experienced hands show themselves as such. Unlike a man whose first assignment was to the RFC, and who could accordingly wear only RFC collar dogs, the man who had already served in another regiment could show that off by wearing his original unit's collar dogs. My understanding is that this was not just tolerated, but was expressly permitted under the British regs, but I have not seen that regulation myself.
The US Army has a similar practice even today. On one shoulder you wear your divisional patch and on the other is the US Army patch. If you have previously been in combat with another division, however, you are permitted to wear that division's patch in place of the US Army patch. That was also the practice, though I doubt it was an official one back then, in the AAF during WW2. Guys who had flown combat before being reassigned to training units stateside would wear the 8th, 15th, or 5th (etc.) AF patches in place of the AAF patch.
Sorry I cannot cite the specific regs for you. Maybe someone else here will have those for you.