From the earliest times, mankind has found it both desirable and, at times, advantageous to have some form of image by which to identify the group to which he belongs. In the British Army, it was the practice of placing the Regiment's number on its buttons, cross belts and headdress that identified one from another.
The cap badge of the current Regiment, The Rifles, is shown on the right of this text with a full explanation at the bottom of this page of the website
THE ROYAL BERKSHIRE REGIMENT
The basis for the badge of the Royal Berkshires was the China Dragon, a device originally awarded to the Regiment's predecessor, the 49th (Hertfordshire) Regiment of Foot as a result of its successful campaign in the 1840-43 Chinese Opium War. It was taken into general use at the time of the Cardwell army reforms of 1881 when the 49th (Hertfordshire) amalgamated with the 66th (Berkshire) to form the Berkshire Regiment. The officers' badge consisted of a small metal 'China Dragon', upon a 'pyramidal coil of rope', signifying the 49th Regiment's service as marines under Lord Nelson at the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801. Interestingly, a company of The Rifle Brigade, now also part of The Rifles, was similarly embarked as marines. After World War Two the officers' badge was replaced by a metal design, as shown. The original Other Ranks' badge was a plain 'China Dragon' on a ground with the scroll 'Berkshire' underneath; the 'Royal' title was added in 1885 at the express wish of Queen Victoria after the Battle of Tofrek. In 1958, along with the other five regiments comprising the Wessex Brigade group, the badge was changed to one depicting the Wessex Wyvem.
From the early 1930s a red patch (known as the Brandywine Flash) was worn behind the badge of the Royal Berkshires in recognition of an action in which Company of the 49th were engaged during the American War of Independence. The Light Company of the 49th, in company with other light companies including that of the 46th (later to become 2nd Battalion, The Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry) carried out a daring night attack, using only bayonets, against an American force of 1500 resting in a forest near Paoli, close to Brandywine Creek. The Americans suffered heavily and, as a result, threatened to give no quarter in future to the troops who took part in the attack. To prevent innocent British troops being singled out for such punishment, those who took part decided to dye their green feathers red so that they could be instantly recognised. After the Second World War the Brandywine Flash was changed in shape to a more prominent inverted triangle. It was later also worn behind the badge of both the DERR and the RGBW.
THE WILTSHIRE REGIMENT
In the early 19th century, the 62nd (Wiltshire) Regiment of Foot was authorised, along with eleven other regiments, to adopt the design of the Maltese Cross for its Shako plate with its eight points symbolizing the eight beatitudes of St Matthew's Gospel. Although its use was later discontinued by most other regiments, The Wiltshire Regiment continued to use it, probably because of the Regiment's long association with Malta and Sicily between 1800 and 1813. In 1828, however, when regimental badges became official, the 62nd decided not to introduce a new design but maintain the use of the original.
In 1881 a new badge was introduced, in the shape of a Cross Pattée, as a result of the Cardwell reforms and the amalgamation of the 62nd with the 99th (Duke of Edinburgh's) Regiment, previously the 99th (Lanarkshire) Regiment of Foot. This badge, with its cypher and coronet of the Duke of Edinburgh (a son of Queen Victoria), was to remain the Regiment's badge until 1959 (except that thev original cypher was replaced by that of the present Duke of Edinburgh in 1953).
THE DUKE OF EDINBURGH'S ROYAL REGIMENT (BERKSHIRE AND WILTSHIRE)
The Duke of Edinburgh's Royal Regiment's specific headdress badge was introduced in 1968, some nine years after the Regiment's formation. Until then it had used the Wessex Wyvern, in common with the other Wessex Brigade regiments previously mentioned. Now, authorisation was given to reintroduce regimental badges. For expediency the Regiment decided to use its collar badge, which, although small, would sit prominently on the red triangular Brandywine Flash.
In shape the badge was the same as the cross pattée of the Wiltshire Regiment but with a right facing China Dragon within a double Naval coil of rope replacing the Duke of Edinburgh's cypher. A ducal coronet sat above the Naval rope. The Brandywine Flash triangle was wom only with the beret. In other forms of headdress a square red patch was worn behind the extremities of the badge.
THE ROYAL GLOUCESTERSHIRE, BERKSHIRE AND WILTSHIRE REGIMENT
A new badge was introduced for the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment on the Regiment's formation in 1994. Again it followed the cross pattée shape and again backed by a Brandywine Flash (as appropriate to style of headdress), but now much larger (later reduced) and with a 'Gloster' Sphinx at its centre. From the outset the Gloucestershire Regiment's unique Back Badge was worn. There were no changes to badges when the Regiment became Light Infantry in 2006, the only difference being the discontinuance of the dark blue beret in favour of the Light Infantry green.
A moth-eaten rag, on a worm-eaten pole,
It does not look likely to stir a man's sole,
'Tis the deeds that were done 'neath the moth-eaten rag,
When the pole was a staff, and the rag was a flag.
The word 'Colours' is often used to cover not only the Colours of infantry battalions but also the Standards of the House hold Cavalry and Dragoon Guards and the Guidons of Dragoons, Hussars and Lancers, Rifle Regiments do not carry Colours. All three types of Colours are direct descendants of the banners of the knights and barons whose followers made up the armies of Crecy and Agincourt. Originally the distinguishing marks of the leaders, they gradually became the means of identifying the units themselves. Thus they came to be regarded as symbolic of the spirit of those who fought under them, and the practice of consecrating them grew up.
During the 17th century Colours were carried by each company, but by the beginning of the 18th century they had been reduced to three in each infantry regiment. These were carried in battle by the three divisions of the regiment – musketeers on the flanks and pike men in the centre. With the abolition of the pike in 1707 the colours were reduced to two the Queens Colour and the Regimental Colour, which are carried by most Infantry regiments to this day.
In earlier days the colours were trooped through the ranks of their respective regiments prior to an engagement, so that they could be recognised as a rallying point during the course of the battle. Although the Colours are no longer carried in battle as the tangible incentive in the attack or as a rallying point in defence, they constitute the sacred symbol of the Regiments honour and devotion to duty and depict, in the Battle Honours emblazoned on them, the courage, sacrifice and steadfastness of out forbears.
A stand of colours normally comprises
A Queens Colour, usually with the design of the Union Flag with a gold circle in the centre, within which the regiments/’s name (and sometimes initials or number) are inscribed; and
A Regimental Colour, usually a plain flag in the colour of the regiment's "facings" (traditionally the colour of the lining of the redcoat jacket) or the Cross of St George, with the regiment's insignia in the centre.
Now, however, for the soldiers of Berkshire and Wiltshire things have changed, for traditionally, Rifle Regiments do not carry Colours and as such the privilege of carrying them on parades throughout the counties will no longer be available. Those of our predecessor Regiments are now only to be seen where they have been laid up.
The museum has several examples; the two shown here on the right both belonged to the Duke of Edinburgh's Royal Regiment; the top one is the Queen's Colour and the bottom one the Regimental Colour.