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Examples of WW2 era British paratrooper wings


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Thought I would try and make some sense of the many variations of British paratrooper wings from WW2 and right after. I thought I'd share what I have come across over the years which might help those that are looking to buy one for their collection. If I am wrong about something feel free to speak up as the below information is what I have gathered over the years and may not be 100% correct.

 

This first style paratrooper wing may actually be their first issue cloth wing but I am not 100% certain of this. It is an early style which is getting harder and harder to find. You can spot this style wing by the three layered embroidery of the chute which is hard to see on a used example because of shrinkage and the like after repeated laundering. No other British paratrooper wing has this three layered embroidery. They were made on a course khaki colored wool like material and a khaki felt like material. The rare one is embroidered on black colored felt. This is where I'm not 100% sure of the meaning behind the black coloring. I know that it was used on their paratrooper wings in what they refer to the far east which I believe is similar to our CBI Theater. However some have suggested that black was worn by the British Royal Marines or British Navy who were airborne qualified. It has also been suggested that SOE members who were airborne qualified also wore paratrooper wings with a black background.

 

Course khaki wool

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Here is the different look of mint examples next to worn examples. The mint ones show that they were embroidered on a semicircular piece of material as if they were intended to be sewn on the shoulder before they realized they would be worn in conjunction with the airborne Pegasus SSI. So with used ones you find them mostly trimmed down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Here is the only photo I have of one on a black background which has lightened to a dark gray possibly due to repeated laundering.

 

 

 

 

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This second style wing is one you encounter most often along with the third style wing. However unlike the third style wing the second style wing was a WW2 only issued piece and did not continued to be issued after the war. You can spot a second style wing by the fine separations of the wing feathering of the first four rows from outside edge towards the center just like you see on the first style wing. It would appear that these were embroidered on the same khaki colored felt like material which were either pre-cut or came on as a rectangle for the wearer to trim down.

 

Here are second style wings the top being mint as a rectangle and the lower left being hand trimmed while the one on the lower right came like this cut from the manufacture.

 

 

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Here is a photograph of how they came from the factory pre-trimmed. These are not part of my collection and came from the Flying Tiger Antiques website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Here are two padded examples of the second style wing that appear to have been manufactured like this. One is on black felt so it was meant to be worn in the far east.

 

 

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The third style wing is the most abundant that you come across probably because they continued to issue them after WW2 and into the 1950s. There were two variations amongst the third style wing where one had thin shroud lines with a thin basket looking base which represents the paratrooper while the other had thick shroud lines with a corresponding thick basket.

 

Third style wing with thin shroud lines and basket

 

 

 

 

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So you say to yourself well these look just like the current British paratrooper wings. Well there is a way to spot the WW2 or 50s era third style wing by looking at the position of the threads on the wings. Here are two current British paratrooper wings (see below). See how the threads are diagonally sewn while in all of the third pattern wings the threading is parallel to the ground.

 

 

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Another thing to look for on an original WW2 era British paratrooper wing is blanco. My understanding of blanco is that it was a white paste like substance used by the British military to whiten up their equipment specifically their web gear. Well it was also used by British paratroopers to white up their paratrooper wings that were grungy and could not be removed from their uniforms for cleaning . So if you see blanco there is a good chance that they were worn during WW2 and has some kind of history behind them. Here are two examples.

 

 

 

 

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This fourth style wing which looks like a narrower (stubby) version of the second style wing that you come across every now and then. Like the second style wing you can just make out the same feathering separations in the wings. I would consider this a WW2 era piece as I don't think these were issued in an large numbers after the war.

 

 

 

 

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The fifth style wing was only available during WW2 and you come across them every now and then. They are easy to spot as the wing tips are pointed. I was told one that these came out of the Middle East. I don't know this for sure but I believe these are considered far east wings. The metal snaps on the back is indicative of the harsh laundering methods used in a particular region. In some areas of the world the people laundering your uniforms would take them down to the river's edge and pound them onto rocks which of course would destroy any insignia in a matter of a few washings. So snaps were added so you could remove all insignia prior to washing.

 

 

 

 

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Here is what looks like a fifth style wing on black felt so a far east piece. However it doesn't seem to have the age that the previous wing has but it may just be because it is a mint piece I'm not sure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • Proud Kraut pinned this topic

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