The 14th/20th King’s Hussars preserved, longer than any other Cavalry regiment, the wearing of the sterling silver arm badges by full rank NCO’s.
In was in late 1956 or early 1957 that the Sergeant’s of the 14th/20th King’s Hussars decided that silver sterling was too expensive a metal to be used as their arm badges thereby ending the custom that had existed since 1867 and something that had been preserved by the regiment.
The origins and reasons for the arm badges in certain line cavalry regiments are still obscure and unknown but in 1860 sergeants of the 14th Light Dragoons were permitted to wear an embroidered badge above their rank chevrons. This was in the form of a silver eagle though since it was embroidered and worn only until 1867 it would be safe to presume that no example exists today. The embroidered badge was replaced by the sterling silver badge in 1867, it bears the Birmingham hallmark for 1867 and the name of Mark ES and S which denoted the makers, Edward Stillwell and Son of 25 Barbican, London, a firm which appears to have obtained most of the initial contract, but not all.
The 14th Hussars was the only regiment that had a metal arm badge approved, and to be issued by ordinance for the ranks of Lance Sergeants and Corporals. The shield was made from a white metal described as Oxidized German silver. The metal is of most importance since the continual polishing of the badges meant that these two badges were always worn in their basic metals.
In May 1915 the Silver badges were returned to ordnance as they were considered to be public property and discontinued .
The Eagle Cap badge was not restored to the 14th/20th King’s Hussars until 1931 and it is doubtful that the 14th Hussars even wore an arm badge after the 1st January 1915, it is thought that the 14th/20th Hussars were once again wearing the arm badge from as early as 1924. It is thought that these would have been purchased by the regiment and not purchased for issue by ordinance as Ordinance did not issue them until at least 1929.
In 1946 a new badge made by Firmin and Sons Limited. The Corporals badge looks exactly the same in many of the photographs available from the time, however the badge was made entirely of brass, with the Hawk silver plated and oxidized with the edge of the shield having a rope edging. It would therefore seem that the badge became all brass once the owner had polished the badge continuously. Both badges are made from the same mould however it is believed that the original mould was destroyed in the 1939 war and it should be noted that after this period the rope edging disappeared and a plain edge replaced it.
These badges remained in place until 1957 when they were replaced once again. A new die was created with both shields being identical and in white metal. the Eagle on the Sergeants badge is made of white metal and unoxidized and the Eagle for Corporals being lacquered in black. Later the shield returned to being made of Gilt in 1960.
Oxidization of silver is nothing more than a violent tarnish and thus is not durable against wear and polishing. As worn therefore sergeants badges have always been entirely of Silver or a white metal, and Corporals badges started as brass eagles upon a white metal shield, then after almost 100 years once
more have reverted to this combination though made entirely of brass between 1924 –
1957 and 1960 to the present day with KRH.
Later Lance Corporals wore the brass badge with a brass eagle painted black and Corporals up to the rank of WO1 wore the all Silver badge. This changed again to all NCO’s wearing the all silver Hawk on the right arm above their chevrons. Warrant Officers have worn the Hawk badge under their badge of rank.