Royal Canadian Engineer WW2 Uniform Badges & Insignia

Discussion in 'Canadian' started by sapperschild, May 14, 2015.

  1. sapperschild

    sapperschild Junior Member

    Hello. My Dad was with the 4th Field Company of Royal Canadian Engineers, and served in Italy from October 1943 until March 1945, then in NW Europe until the end of the war. We would like to create a collage of his medals, pictures, insignias. From his pictures, we have been able to determine that his battle dress uniform had the kaki coloured 'Canada' on each shoulder. I have been told that he would also have worn the red rectangular insignia which denoted the 1st Infantry Division. I also noticed from his picture that he wore a lanyard of sorts on his left shoulder, and I have seen something similar in online searches. I have seen a number of shoulder flashes in my online searches that denote R.C.E. or Royal Canadian Engineers, so it is a little confusing. I would like my collage to reflect the items that my Dad would have worn, and wondered if anyone on this site can help me out. Thanks.
  2. dryan67

    dryan67 Senior Member

    There is a company in Canada that specializes in the Canadian military. The website is:

    They are planning to publish the following book, which may help:

    "Fabric of War - Canadian Army Cloth Shoulder Titles, 1914-1968" Bill Alexander. A scholarly examination of the procurement and use of cloth shoulder titles. Based wholly on archival documents this momentous work finally answers the many questions posed by collectors on this broad field. Estimated at 300 pages with hundreds of colour images. Expect this in 2014.

    You should contact them regarding the publication as it is noted to have been published in 2014.
  3. sapperschild

    sapperschild Junior Member

    I guess it's not as straightforward as I thought it would be. Thanks for the info, will check out the website.
  4. Trux

    Trux 21 AG


    This whole subject can be confusing. There are regulations, but many units managed to circumvent them. In essence though it should be fairly straightforward for Royal Canadian Engineers who did not have the many different regimental traditions of the infantry and cavalry.

    On the battledress sleeve there should normally be:
    A curved shoulder title. In this case red with 'ROYAL CANADIAN ENGINEERS' in Blue.
    'CANADA' on a rectangular khaki patch with light khaki letters.
    A red rectangle for 1 Canadian Division.
    The lanyard was worn on the left shoulder and was of three twisted braids of blue cord. This was worn only for parades and walking out.

    Variations were usually caused in manufacture. Those of Canadian manufacture were embroidered cloth. Those produced for Canadian forces in UK tended to be printed canvas. Some were produced locally in Italy.

    Note the caveats 'should', 'normally', 'tended to be' etc.

  5. sapperschild

    sapperschild Junior Member

    Very much appreciated Mike. I do have two curved red shoulder patches with 'Royal Canadian Engineers' in blue writing, that are printed canvas, so will go with those. I also have two brass coloured metal buttons, one large and one small, with the words 'Royal Canadian Engineers' surrounding the same emblem that appears on the cap badge - denoting King George VI I believe. These buttons were part of a package I purchased that turned out to belong to an officer, so the buttons probably belong to an officer as well, but wondered if they could also have been used on an enlisted man's uniform? I have two smaller, curved cloth badges, red with blue embroidered lettering 'R.C.E.'. From what you have said, am assuming these would have been one of those variations?

    I appreciate the feedback.
  6. Trux

    Trux 21 AG


    Brass buttons were not worn on battledress but Canadian forces had a uniform with brass buttons which could be worn in Canada but not overseas. Greatcoats could also have brass buttons but I am not sure if these would be of regimental pattern. Generally officers and other ranks would have similar brass buttons but officers had gilt buttons on some more formal uniforms.

    Shoulder titles 'RCE' certainly existed but I am not sure who wore them or when.

    I will delve into some reference books.

  7. sapperschild

    sapperschild Junior Member

    Thanks Mike, but I think the information that you have already provided, works for me; the shoulder titles 'Royal Canadian Engineers', the ÇANADA' shoulder title in khaki green, as well as the red rectangular shoulder patch will be enough for me to put together my collage. I will see if I can track down the blue cording - but these things, combined with the cap badge and the pictures that I have, should make for a good representation. I will probably not use the buttons since you have basically confirmed what was suggested in the package when purchased, that the buttons were part of the officer's uniform.

    Thank you very much for your input. I now feel comfortable that the items I have or will acquire, are specific to what my Dad would have worn.

    Many thanks.

  8. sapperschild

    sapperschild Junior Member

    Mike. It appears I spoke too soon, in feeling I had all I needed :biggrin: Can you tell me if my Dad, as a Sapper, would have worn a ribbon bar - and if he did, would it have been matched to his medals? Would the blue lanyard would have been the same blue throughout? I have not seen many of these two items in my online searches, but if they were something he would have worn, will continue looking.

    Any information you can find would be appreciated.

  9. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    The majority of the campaign medals were not instituted until after the war in Europe was over. The Africa Star was an exception as the campaign there finished earlier and ribbons were available to troops from late 1943.

    It may be, if your father was demobbed promptly that he never wore his ribbons or medals. On the other hand, if he sat at a depot in Canada for a year afterwards, he is quite likely to have done so and may well have substituted corps buttons for the GS items on his greatcoat. Anything to stand out when home on leave !

    The ribbon bar should indeed match the medals awarded and of course be in the correct order of precedence. Ribbons are still available, mounted on bars - presumably in Canada also. If not, there are numerous suppliers in the UK. Collins Medals are very good to deal with -

    Unless you're basing everything on pure photographic evidence, there is always going to be a bit of supposition and all you can really do is to make a collection of items that were correct for his corps at the time...and even then, things will have changed over the period.
  10. Trux

    Trux 21 AG


    As I threatened last week I have delved into some reference books. (What I like about these questions is that it prompts me to revisit long neglected sources).

    Rich of course is correct but I have found some snippets of interest.

    While the Canadian Army followed the British in most things there were some differences. Regimental buttons on greatcoats were discontinued but Corps (including RCE) were allowed to keep theirs.

    There were two medal ribbons which could be worn on battledress. Any Canadian soldier volunteering for overseas service could wear the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal with maple leaf. This was green/red/blue/red/green with a silver maple leaf on the blue. During the war only the ribbon was issued and it appears on many photographs of troops in Europe. In fact until January 1945 all Canadian troops overseas were volunteers. Also I have an odd reference which says that from 1943 the 1939/45 Star (ribbon only) could be worn by Canadian troops who had been in an operational sector for 18 days or more. Divisional engineers would surely qualify.

    The regulations state that the 'Canada' patch was only worn if the word Canada did not appear in the unit title. Photos show that RCA and RCE did wear it however.

    Rich Payne likes this.
  11. sapperschild

    sapperschild Junior Member

    Thank you both Rich and Mike. I appreciate any and all information. Like many other soldiers, my Dad never spoke of the war, and as children, we got the very distinct impression that it was not something he wanted to remember, let alone talk about. He died in 1962 at the age of 45 from massive heart failure, and so the things we were reluctant to ask about as children, was lost to us as adults. It is hard to describe, but we were always reluctant to delve into his war experience, feeling to a certain degree that we were intruding into an area of his life that he wanted left alone, forgotten. However, when our own son began doing his own research a few years ago, we realized that we owed it to ourselves and family, to learn what we could. That journey, starting with his service records from Library and Archives Canada, and has led us on an amazing journey for both my Dad, and father-in-law. We now know SO much more about their respective journeys, something we can pass on to future generations with pride.

    Sorry to go on - I guess I just wanted to try to explain why we are only putting this collage together now - so late in life. We do have Dad's original medals c/w ribbons and his regimental picture which shows the 'CANADA' shoulder insignia, as well as the lanyard on his left shoulder. Because the picture is in black and white, we cannot tell what the colour is - blue on blue or blue on red. There is an entry in that reads: "R.C.E. None (that they did not wear one). However, archival documentation does list the Officers and Other Rank of 2nd Fortress (E&M) Company RCE wearing a red and blue lanyard)". Mike - you have indicated that the lanyard was three twisted braids of blue cord, so if you are getting that from a reliable source, I will go with that..

    So all in all; based on what you have told me, I will keep and use; the brass buttons as representative of the R.C.E. as they were allowed to keep them as well as the Royal Canadian Engineers shoulder flashes. I will try to track down; a Volunteer Service Clasp for his Volunteer Service Medal, a 1st Canadian Division red rectangular patch, a blue shoulder lanyard, and medal bar to match his 5 medals.

    Thank you, once again, for your help. Much appreciated.

  12. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Janie, in my opinion, your choices are exactly right. I'm lucky as my Dad is 91 and he's been sewing his Royal Corps of Signals badge on to his blazer for a trip back to Normandy in a few weeks. It's only recently though that I've begun to learn more details. Not because he was traumatized but with the modesty typical of his generation, he had always thought that no-one would be interested. Even if there is the odd descendant not fascinated by this period of history, I'm sure that what you're doing will be appreciated by generations yet to come !

    Personally, I wouldn't worry too much about obtaining a 'period' medal ribbon bar. Any modern supplier should be able to make one up for you for a reasonable charge. The medals were to keep but ribbons were consumables.
  13. sapperschild

    sapperschild Junior Member

    MUCH respect to your Dad Rich. It is simply wonderful that you still have him with you, and that he is able to make that trip. How I envy you having him in your life, in SO many way. Best wishes to him on his journey back. My husband and I travelled to Europe in 2012 to try and follow my father-in-law's path with the 4th Canadian Armoured Division, 22nd Armoured Regiment (CGG) from Normandy through Belgium, Holland, Germany (the CGG's landed at Courseulles-sur-mer in July/44). We learned so much about his experience that we are now able to share with family - but equally important, found the journey to have a profound impact on my husband and I, in terms of how we view the war and the actions of all the brave men and women who sacrificed so much. We are forever changed by the experience. Just walking the sands of those beaches, where so many were wounded or killed, was a profoundly moving experience, one we will never forget.

    Thanks for the information about my Dad's medals & insignia, and for the confirmation that I am on the right track. I found an excellent site this a.m. in Montreal, Quebec, that seems to be exactly what you mentioned as one from which I can acquire the bar that I am looking for, and who will also be able to clean and mount my medals. Looking forward to putting everything together in a beautiful collage that we can look at each day - and remember.

    Best regards,


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