One of the most extensive collections of Australian military badges was amassed by Bob Gray from 1927 and donated to the Army Museum of South Australia in the 1980s. This collection contained several genuine King’s Colonials and later King Edward’s Horse headdress and collar badges, a shoulder title and buttons (Figure 166). A number of collections of King's Colonials and King Edward's Horse headdress and collar badges have been sold at auction in the UK including a fine set by Dix Noonan Webb in 2011 shown in Figure 167. Figure 166: The Bob Gray collection of King’s Colonials and King Edward’s Horse headdress and collar badges, shoulder titles and buttons (Photograph courtesy of a Sydney collector). Figure 167: A collection of King’s Colonials and King Edward’s Horse headdress and collar badges (Courtesy of Dix Noonan Webb auctioneers, UK).
The determination that a King’s Colonials headdress badge is genuine example requires a thorough examination of the badge. The characteristics that can be used to help determine if a King’s Colonials headdress badge is genuine or a copy are the metal finish of the badge; the sharpness of the badge details; the type and position of the fastening loops; the appearance of the solder used to braze the loops to the rear of the badge; and the size and weight of the badge. The key characteristic is the relative sharpness of the finely detailed features on the badge. The sizes and weights of badges are not stated in this analysis as to retain key information which may otherwise allow for more accurate copying of badges. It should not be understated that these characteristics are only a guide and are by no means definitive or exhaustive.
The headdress and collar badges of the King’s Colonials were manufactured by either die-striking sheet brass using male (rear side) and female (front side) dies or by die-casting with a single female die. Die-struck badges have detail present on both the front and rear surfaces of the badge whereas die-cast badges have detail only on the front of the badge with a semi-flat or flat back.
Copies of the headdress badges of the King’s Colonials have been made using the genuine manufacturing dies or copies of them. A female die for the Australasian Squadron headdress badge (see later section) was noted as having sold on an electronic auction site and this die was marked with the badge maker’s name of Lambourne & Co Birmingham and 'Trial'. Lambourne's are known to have made badges for the War Department from 1915 onwards and only a single Imperial Yeomanry shoulder title bearing their makers mark has been identified as a pre-war badge hence it is very unlikely that this die was original for a badge made from 1902 onwards.Figure 168: Copy of an Australasian Squadron badge (left) produced from a copy of a female manufacturing die marked Lambourne & Co Birmingham (right) sold on an electronic auction site.
This is a spurious mark as badge making dies were not maker marked. Over time the surface of the dies becomes worn through continued striking and so copy badge have less well-defined lines and blurred edges to the detailed features on the badges on both die-struck and die-cast copies. Some die-struck copies lack the voids present on genuine badges to the extent that some of the poorest copies have no voids at all.
As was the practice with many other Regiments, Officer’s badges and buttons of the King’s Colonials have a gilt (gold wash) finish whereas Other Ranks were manufactured in brass or gilding metal. Other Rank’s headdress and collar badges of the King’s Colonials were initially made using yellow-brass replaced over time with gilding metal. Yellow-brass is the term used to describe badges made with 67% copper and 33% zinc. Gilding metal was defined in the British Army Dress Regulations of 1904 as being eight parts copper to one part zinc (War Office: Dress Regulations for the Officers of the Army (Including the Militia)
. London: HMSO, 1904. Gilt badges are a rich golden colour whereas gilding metal badges are a duller brass colour.
The identification of headdress badges is based upon the use of Arthur L. Kipling and Hugh L. King’s ‘Headdress Badges of the British Army. Volume I; up to the end of the Great War
’ (Frederick Muller Ltd., London, 1978) and follows the numbering system commonly attributed to them for example as KK xxxx. Collar badges are referenced against Colin Churchill and Ray Westlake’s ‘British Army Collar Badges
’ (London: Arms & Armour Press Limited, 1986) and similarly follows their numbering system as Churchill and Westlake Ref No xxx. Shoulder titles are referenced against Ray Westlake’s ‘Collecting Metal Shoulder Titles
’ (London: Leo Cooper, 1969) as Westlake Ref No xxx. Buttons are referenced against Howard Ripley’s ‘Buttons of the British Army, 1855-1970: An illustrated guide for collectors
’ (London: Arms & Armour Press, 1979) and Howard Ripley's and Denis Darmanin’s ‘Yeomanry Buttons 1830-2000
’ (The Military History Society
Special Number 2005) as Ripley and Darmanin Ref No xxx.
As a unit, the King’s Colonials did not see service in the Second Boer War, however, most references on military badge dealer sites refer to their headdress badges as being Boer War slouch hat badges. The Colonial unit links to the Boer War provide a misleading connotation.