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WW2 Era British Paratrooper Wings


Tonomachi
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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

Front:

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First Style

 

Khaki Felt

Front

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Back

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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.

Fronts

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Backs

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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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Second Style

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.

 

Fronts

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Backs

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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.

 

Fronts

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Backs

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Third Style

This 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; 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 with Thin Shroud Lines and Basket

Fronts

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Backs

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Third Style with Thick Shroud Lines and Basket

Fronts

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Backs

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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.

 

Fronts

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Backs

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Fourth Style

This 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.

 

Front

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Back

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Fifth Style

The 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.

 

Front

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Back

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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.

 

Front

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Back

post-185261-0-94848000-1544483299_thumb.jpg

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Sixth Style

The sixth style wing is similar to the fifth style with the same pointed wing tips, except there are thicker shroud lines which are knotted in four places. I'm not certain that this is a WW2 era wing as it could be a post war piece or both a late war and post war piece.

 

Front

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Back

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Seventh Style

This seventh style is one you come across only every now and then. They are probably late war pieces. They have that distinctive way of feather separation.

 

Front

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Back

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Eighth Style

This eighth style wing is probably late war and you can spot them by their use of heavy thread in the embroidery.

 

Fronts

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Backs

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Ninth Style

This is a ninth style wing that you come across all of the time, but there is debate as to whether it was ever issued during WW2. The bottom wing has a dark blue background for the RAF which is why some say this is a post war piece.

Fronts

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Backs

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Tenth Style

The tenth style wings are the British far east pattern wings which were worn during WW2 by the 44th Airborne Division (India).

Fronts

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Again, you see the metal snaps on the back due to the harsh laundering of the region.

Backs

post-185261-0-56608500-1544485542.jpg

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Similar Commonwealth Styles

Now it can be confusing at times as a number of former commonwealth countries issued similar wings to what was being worn during WW2. It is hard at times to determine if you have a British piece or maybe something made after the war in Australia, India or Pakistan. Here is an example of a post war Australian paratrooper wing below an eighth style British paratrooper wing as it fooled me.

 

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Backs

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Here is another example of a post war Australian paratrooper wing that looks like something that could have been issue by the British during WW2 due to all of the variations that exist.

 

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Here is another controversy piece that I felt was worn by the airborne forces of Ghana. However, recently a black and white photograph has surfaced of an SOE agent by the name of A. Brooks that looks like he is wearing this same wing.

Front

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Back

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Here are a number of possibly WW2 era British theater made paratrooper wings, but the two at the bottom are probably post war Indian or Pakistani.

Fronts

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Backs

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White Paratrooper Wings

Was there ever an all white WW2 era British paratrooper wing? I have never seen one but some say they do exist and are very rare. Mostly when you come across an all white British paratrooper wing it is because the light blue wings on he front have faded to white due to the harsh desert sun.

 

post-185261-0-87624200-1544485266.jpg

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Besides the metal snaps there was also the use of metal plates sewn onto these paratrooper wings for easy removal. This example does not belong to me, and I can't remember where I copied the photograph from.

 

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Here is a bullion version of the tenth style wing.

Front

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Back

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Bullion British paratrooper wings are even harder to determine if they are of WW2 era vintage. Here are three full size bullion wings that I believe are WW2 era pieces.

Fronts

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Backs

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Here are what they refer to as mess dress size (small) British bullion paratrooper wings that might be from WW2 but are most likely just after.

Fronts

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Backs

post-185261-0-29644300-1544486179_thumb.jpg

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Here are a collection of what they refer to as "light-bulbs" or British airborne cuff insignia. These were worn by British airborne qualified soldiers who were not serving with an airborne specific unit. The printed one along the top left is a WW2 era piece. The one next to it on the upper right may also be a WW2 era piece. The others are older pieces but I am not sure if they are of WW2 vintage.

Fronts

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Backs

post-185261-0-34908700-1544487082_thumb.jpg

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These are, supposedly, post war RAF PJI insignia -- however some have said they were actually worn late war. Does anyone know for sure?

Fronts

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Backs

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Fantastic topic, info and pics! I have a large OSS/Jedburgh group that was originally found on Craig's List. There were two SF wings and four Brit wings in the group. Two of the Brit wings are the black versions. One of them is a match for your post #49, although mine has the backing intact. I have been told that the black ones are an earlier style made to look like RAF wings, and were the type issued to many OSS and SOE personnel at Ringway. My guy never served in the far east during WWII, but was one of the first officers in the Jedburgh program...

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Fantastic topic, info and pics! I have a large OSS/Jedburgh group that was originally found on Craig's List. There were two SF wings and four Brit wings in the group. Two of the Brit wings are the black versions. One of them is a match for your post #49, although mine has the backing intact. I have been told that the black ones are an earlier style made to look like RAF wings, and were the type issued to many OSS and SOE personnel at Ringway. My guy never served in the far east during WWII, but was one of the first officers in the Jedburgh program...

Thanks for sharing this as you are now the second source that says that this para wing is specific to the OSS or SOE during WW2. I haven't been able to find my photograph of an early Ghanaian paratrooper wing but the colors are different however the embroidery is the same.

 

 

Well done, thank you for taking the time to post these, a good reference.

Jack

Hopefully this will prevent novice collectors from getting ripped off as I have over the years while collecting British paratrooper wings.

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This is another set attributed to an OSS officer that served in SF Det 3rd Army and also in China with Det 202. I acquired his group a number of years ago from the son. He was also a Ringway-trained jumper. These are on a grayish/black backing...

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post-185107-0-04527200-1544572254_thumb.jpg

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For reference, here are the wings in my group...

Yup the exact same wing and here is a poor photograph of SOE Agent Lt Col Tony Brooks, DSO, MC, Legion d'Honneur, Croiz de Guerre, supposedly wearing this exact same wing. There is another photograph which I can't seem to find right now that is in better focus showing a better resemblance of this wing.

post-185261-0-97469200-1544595532.jpg

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Excellent thread and examples. Here are some early Malaysian Parachute wings that I personally obtained while in Malaysia. All of these were considered obsolete designs when I was there (1988), but the British influence was quite evident in many of their customs and procedures. Some of these wings are illustrated in the 1985 publication PARACHUTE WINGS by Bragg and Turner as B&T 1480 - 1483. The lower right badge is B&T 1484 and is an example of the Malaysian Special Service Regiment and is also obsolete as newer designs are in use today.

post-185301-0-04708700-1545240783_thumb.jpg

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  • 4 months later...
On 12/10/2018 at 7:05 PM, Tonomachi said:

Here is another controversy piece that I felt was worn by the airborne forces of Ghana. However recently a black and white photograph has surfaced of an SOE agent by the name of A. Brooks that looks like he is wearing this same wing.

 

 

This just sold on eBay and is the one I spoke of which has been identified in the past as a paratrooper qualification wing from Ghana. With the exception of the background color this is pretty close if not identical to the SOE paratrooper wing pictured in Post 49 & 50.

 

post-185261-0-89470000-1556293235_thumb.jpg


post-185261-0-77558700-1556293314_thumb.jpg

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There has been an influx of copies of WW2 British paratrooper wings that have come out of the UK so beware. Here are photos of these fake WW2 era British paratrooper wings.

 

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Here is the scariest copy of a WW2 era far east 44th Airborne Division (India) paratrooper wing an original of which is pictured (bottom wing) in Post 37 & 38. If you were to sew this copy on a piece of cloth and weather it for a while and once removed I don't think I could not tell it apart from a real one.

 

 

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  • 8 months later...

Hello,

 

Excellent thread and well presented information.

 

 

Especially nice was the locally made wings in Post 48.

 

 

Attached are a few locally made examples.

 

 

Paul

 

 

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post-193547-0-23651100-1578679171.jpg

 

post-193547-0-19022200-1578679194.jpg

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  • 2 months later...

Hi guys just browsing through this topic and I may help with an I.d. Of a wing or two

 

The wings below are 1960s Rhodesian Army (less the normal padding and stuck on a brass backing plate for easy removal from uniform). This is on battle dress material.

post-197115-0-25882600-1586143145.jpeg

 

Below are 1970s era on green felt and on drill green for the camp shirt

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post-197115-0-46602600-1586143516.jpeg

 

Royal New Zealand Air Force 1960s probably rarer than W.W.II wings.

post-197115-0-63248900-1586144963.jpeg

 

post-197115-0-52027000-1586145004.jpeg

 

Late WWII, sometimes sewn on reversed, this wing came from a para serving 1954

post-197115-0-01163800-1586145399.jpeg

 

post-197115-0-83525900-1586145452.jpeg

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  • 7 months later...

Here is a British paratrooper wing that I did a double take on as it was described as being of WW2 vintage.

It does look old, however, the key to determining if you have a WW2 era British paratrooper wing (or early Post War 1950s) rather than one of the current British paratrooper wings is the direction of the threads in the wings.  If you look at the photos of the three British paratrooper wings below, the thread direction are inward at a diagonal for the one that sold on eBay out of the UK and a current mint British paratrooper wing.  The third wing is of WW2 vintage and the threads are parallel to the ground which is what you look for.

    

Brit Sneaky Current (2).jpg

 

Brit Sneaky Current (1).jpg

 

Brit4.jpg

 

Brit3.jpg

 

s-l1600.jpg

 

s-l1600 (3).jpg

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