The RAF Heraldry Trust - 3 years on...(2001)
The RAF Heraldry Trust was established 3 years ago primarily to raise awareness and funding by public sponsorship for the compilation of the definitive record of RAF Heraldry.
Project founder and official Trust artist, Mary Denton dedicated her efforts for four years previous to the Trusts foundation to raise funding for the project. Her quest to raise money from official sources such as the RAF itself, the National Heritage Memorial Fund and HMSO, was to no avail. Commercial sources with long traditional associations with the RAF, were also very reticent to help, which in turn meant that this would have to be a privately funded project. However, support for the project grew, including that of the Royal Air Force itself through the then Chief of Air Staff, Sir Michael Graydon.
Why should such a project be necessary?
To understand the problem one has to look back at the development and history behind the granting of the Squadron Badge. Prior to the formation of the RAF on 1 April 1918, RFC and RNAS crews would paint unofficial emblems onto their aircraft, a practice which peaked during WWI. The significance of these emblems was soon recognised to be as great as that of the badges assigned to Ships and Regiments of the Royal Navy and British Army. The post of Inspector of RAF badges, responsible for advising the Air Council on matters armorial, was created in 1935. The first officer to hold that post was Sir John Heaton-Armstrong, MVO, and it was he who designed the standard framework of the RAF badge, within which all devices are displayed.
When any heraldic device is created, it must be accompanied by a blazon. This is simply the written description which would enable an heraldic artist to reproduce the device accurately without having an original illustration to copy. An essential component of the blazon is the reference to tinctures (colours) for each part of the badge. For some unknown reason, the Inspector of RAF Badges did not include these tincture references in any of the blazons for RAF badges, which effectively means that, armed with such a blazon, an heraldic artist can only produce a copy of that badge...in black and white!
In consequence a large portion of RAF history remains officially unrecorded. Attempts have been made in the past to produce records, but none have been either accurate or complete.
Only one official painting of the badge was ever produced by the College of Arms once it had been approved which was presented to the unit itself and would usually end up hanging on the wall of the COs office open to all risks such as paint fading through exposure to daylight, discoloration due to cigarette smoke etc., the list is endless.
One perfect example of how the corruption of the original by any of the above factors affects what is regarded as the official version today, is the badge of No3 (F) Squadron, which is shown today as being a Cockatrice on a monolith coloured a bluish grey on the top side of the body and wings and pink on the undersides.
When the painting for No 3 Squadron was originally commissioned by the No 3 (F) Squadron Association, the artist was informed by the Association that the Cockatrice shown on the badge should be coloured red and green, not todays pink and grey. Mary Denton consulted with the MoD Register of Badges and the Associations claim seemed to be confirmed. The painting was done, the transparencies produced and sent out and another part of the record was completed.... or so we thought.
Some time later, however, the Chief Librarian at the MoD Photographic library contacted Mary to raise a new question about the colours of No 3 (F) Sqns Cockatrice.
"Looking at the photograph of the faded painting, why," he asked, "if the underside of the cockatrices body and wings were red as were the comb, wattles and claws, was it that only the underside of the body and wings had faded to this pink colour while the comb, wattles and claws retained their bright red colour?"
As an artist, Mary could not answer that question and so began an investigation into finding the truth about No 3 (F) Squadrons badge. This involved going right back through the College of Arms records to the original correspondence when the badge was first approved in 1937. There we found that the underside of the body and wings were indeed not red as had been first thought, but were more of a "pinkish, reddish, bricky" colour. In addition to this, it was also found that the original assumption of the top side of the body and wings were not the emerald green associated with the heraldic term vert, but were more of a sage green in colour, which would also explain the fading to the bluish grey of the photograph. The new, corrected painting is now being produced and the record retains its claim to absolute accuracy.
The main objective of the project is to research and repaint every badge ever assigned to an RAF unit, re-write all the blazons to include the proper colours and collect them all together into one definitive manuscript which will, upon completion be held under suitable conditions for such a work at the RAF College Library at Cranwell.
The research and repainting is being done by Mary Denton, who works closely with all the relevant authorities to ensure the accuracy of the final record. Details such as all Battle Honours for those Squadrons entitled to emblazon them on their Standard are included on the painting as well as the written details regarding the blazon, an explanation for the design, date of issue, a translation of the motto where applicable and a short note on the formation and disbandment dates and locations. The final entry on the page will be the dedication the sponsor has requested along with our acknowledgement to them.
To date some 200 of the 1500+ badges have been sponsored, the majority by individuals who are either ex- RAF personnel themselves or the families or friends of those who did not return and saw this project as a suitable memorial to them. Squadron Associations make up the second most active group of sponsors with the Second Tactical Air Force Medium Bombers Association deserving a special mention for having sponsored 7 badges. We have also had a surprising response from Air Training Corps units who have dedicated their badges to ex-members of their squadrons. Only five of the current 60+ live RAF Squadrons have chosen to sponsor their own badge.
Corgi Classics Ltd, the famous toy and model manufacturers, also sponsored four badges in conjunction with their recent Dambusters Lancaster model promotion. The first of the 8 full Heraldic Achievements, that of the Central Flying School, has also been sponsored and dedicated to "All who lost their lives during Flying Training".
This year we have decided to concentrate our efforts on completing a very significant chapter of the Record.
The Battle of Britain will be celebrating its 60th Anniversary on 15 September 2000 and it is our intention to have every badge associated with that epic Battle completed by that date. This means not only all the Flying Squadrons and Stations who took part in the Battle, but also all those Training and ground based units who worked so tirelessly to keep the aircraft in the air and the airfields operational. Research is currently being done to identify these unsung units but, as can be imagined, information is hard to track down. We would appreciate any help we can get to make sure we include everyone, so if anyone has any information about these units, we would certainly be grateful if you would let us know. If you would care to sponsor the badge of the unit you have nominated, so much the better!
The cost of sponsorship is currently set at £87. The Trust has charitable status, so those who can claim back tax against charitable donations would find this a very useful route.
The actual process of sponsorship could not be simpler. Go to the Sponsor Form page, print out and complete the form and return to the Trust address, or alternately write to or phone:
|Mr Charles Ross, (Chairman)
The RAF Heraldry Trust,
Chestnut Farm House,
Lincs. LN8 6DR