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Queen’s Own Rifles – Dress and Insignia of Other Ranks during the Second World War

March 18, 2014

by Graham Humphrey

The Queen’s Own mobilized for the Second World War on 24 May, 1940. The Regiment’s first assignments were the defence of the two strategic airfields of Botwood and Gander, Newfoundland. This was followed by a posting to New Brunswick for additional training, and then, integration into 8th Brigade. Eventually, the Regiment was posted to England in July 1941 as a part of the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade of the 3rd Canadian Division. During the Regiment’s training in the UK, the Colonel-in-Chief, Queen Mary, visited the battalion in Aldershot.

The Queen’s Own’s first action came while forming part of the assault wave of the D-Day invasion, 6 June 1944. The Dalton brothers — Majors Charles O. and H. Elliott– were the assault company commanders in the landing. The Regiment hit the beach at the small Normandy seaside resort of Bernieres-sur-Mer shortly after 0800 hours on 6 June 1944. They fought through Normandy, Northern France, and into Belgium and Holland, where they liberated the crucial channel ports. In capturing the tiny farming hamlet of Mooshof, Germany, Sergeant Aubrey Cosens was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.1

The last action of the war for The Queen’s Own Rifles came at 1200 hours on 4 May when C Company attacked a crossroads just east of Ostersander, Germany. It was taken by 1500 hours. Immediately after the order came to discontinue fire on the enemy unless fired upon. Unfortunately, two members of The Queen’s Own lost their lives on this the last day of the war in Europe. The official cease fire came at 0800 hours on 5 May 1945 followed by VE Day on 8 May. The battalion paraded to a church at Mitte Grossefehn and Major H.E. Dalton, now the acting Commanding Officer, addressed the Regiment. During the war, 463 Queen’s Own were killed in action and were buried in graves in Europe. Almost 900 were wounded, many two or three times. Sixty more QOR personnel were killed serving with other units in Hong Kong, Italy, and Northwest Europe.

Mobilization

29 june 1940 Camp Borden, Canada

During the mobilization of the Regiment in 1940 the regiment was sent straight to Camp Borden (CFB Borden) on June 29th. There, the Regiment got its first issue of uniforms which consisted of; Canadian Khaki Drill shorts, shirt, ammo boots, puttees, knee-high socks, pre-war QOR wedge cap, battledress tunic, battledress trousers, and Wolsley-pattern helmets. The QOR has been using the Rifleman green wedge cap ever since roughly the 1870s. The cap was a green melton wool with a scarlet pom-pom attached to the front as well as two small black buttons. Scarlet piping was added along the top seam of the cap with the QOR cap badge mounted on the left side.

Camp Borden 1940 – QOR Museum’s Photo

Camp Borden 1940 – QOR Museum’s Photo

Regimental Orders by Major MacKendrick E.D. Comd 1st Bn QORofC

Camp Borden, Ontario 12 July 1940

Dress, Officers & Other Ranks

Extract C.A.S.F. R.O.521

  1. The collar of the battle dress may be worn open on all occasions during the summer season.
  2. The regulation Khaki shirt will be worn with battle dress. The wearing of various coloured shirts and collars is not permitted.
  3. Other ranks will not wear ties
  4. The collar of the blouse may be lined to protect the neck.
  5. The ribands of orders, decorations, and medals will be worn in undress, service dress and battle dress in the prescribed manner.
Camp Borden – 1940 Rfn Jim Wilkins Personal Photos

Camp Borden – 1940 Rfn Jim Wilkins Personal Photos

Pre-war QOR wedge cap and 1941-dated field service cap – Graham Humphrey Collection

Pre-war QOR wedge cap and 1941-dated field service cap – Graham Humphrey Collection

QOR cap badge 1940 made of white metal – Graham Humphrey Collection

QOR cap badge 1940 made of white metal – Graham Humphrey Collection

1940

7 August 1940 Botwood and Gander, Newfoundland

6 December 1940 Sessex, New Brunswick

Before leaving Borden in August 1940 the Regiments dress was fresh new stocks of the new Canadian made battle dress uniform. Consisting of ankle boots, ankle gators, wool trousers, suspenders, wool tunic, and wool greatcoat. As well, Canadian-made Pattern 37 webbing which consisted of basic front pouches, web belt, cross straps, canteen and holder, entrenching tool and sheath, bayonet frog, and the chest respirator were included. Additionally, Canadian-made denim working uniforms were adopted for use in training and work around camp.  The headdress was the QOR pre-war Rifleman green field service cap, the Mk1 helmet, or a wool winter toque. Shoulder insignia was a black pin-on QOR title or a worsted black QOR on a wool slip-on worn on the epaulette of the battledress.  The standard rifle was the Short Magazine Lee-Enfield No. 1 Mk. III* with the long bayonet (termed a ‘sword’ in Rifle regiments) which had been in use since the First World War. Transferring from Newfoundland to Sussex, New Brunswick several changes occurred with the exchange of the Mk1 helmet to the new Mk2 helmet, and the adoption of a winter wool cap. This was worn squarely on the head with the Regimental cap badge fixed centre on the front of the front flap of the cap.

Regimental Orders by Major MacKendrick E.D. Comd 1st Bn QORofC

Camp Sussex, N.B 11 mar. 1941

Wearing of Chevrons on Greatcoats; Chevrons will be worn on both arms of greatcoats in the following manner: – above the elbow, the points of the 1 bar chevrons 9 inches, the 2 bar 9 ½ inches, and the 3 bar 10 ½ inches from the top of the sleeve, point downwards.

Regimental Orders by Major MacKendrick E.D. Comd 1st Bn QORofC

Camp Sussex, N.B. 21 dec 1940

Dress – Winter Order

Attention is drawn by the Brigade Major to the following Brigade Orders.

(a) Winter caps will be brought into wear for all purposes with effect from 27 Nov. 1940

(b) Greatcoats and/or overshoes may be worn in camp and on training parades at the discretion of Officers Commanding units.

(c) Until further orders greatcoats and overshoes will be worn on all parades, both training and ceremonia,l at which more than one unit is present.

(d) Greatcoats will be worn on all occasions in “Walking-Out Order” on duty in the town of Sussex and on leave or pass until further orders. Overshoes may be worn at  discretion of Officers Commanding units in “Walking-Out Order”.

Wearing of Winter Caps; Winter caps will be worn squarely on the head. (Bde. Order 176)

image007aQOR in Newfoundland 1940 – QOR Museum Photo

QOR in Newfoundland 1940 – QOR Museum Photo

image009

QOR in Newfoundland 1940 –  Rfn Jim Wilkins Personal Photo

QOR in Newfoundland 1940 – Rfn Jim Wilkins Personal Photo

1941

With the transfer of the Regiment to England in July 1941, a number of changes to the accoutrement of the Regiment occurred. The change from the QOR pin-on or worsted QOR slip-on to a red stitched “QUEEN’S OWN RIFLES” on a rifle green backing occurred. Since the shoulder title didn’t include “CANADA”, the QOR adopted the white-stitched “CANADA” title – either curved or straight – which was stitched below the Regimental shoulder title. Also, we see the addition of a QOR Decal on the Mk II helmet which consisted of a red, green, red, green, and red. At this time, each Regiment in the Canadian military was permitted to adopt a lanyard colour. The QOR retained their red lanyard, which differs from the the black lanyard worn by today’s Rifle regiments. This red lanyard was worn until the end of the war.

Top, Canadian-made, circa 1940. Bottom, British-made, circa 1943.  Graham Humphrey Collection

Top, Canadian-made, circa 1940.
Bottom, British-made, circa 1943. Graham Humphrey Collection

Top, Curved pattern, Canadian-made, circa 1940. Bottom, circa 1941 – Graham Humphrey Collection

Top, Curved pattern, Canadian-made, circa 1940. Bottom, circa 1941 – Graham Humphrey Collection

QOR Helmet Decal seen here in 1942 – QOR Museum Photo

QOR Helmet Decal seen here in 1942 – QOR Museum Photo

22 May 1925 Standing Orders and Instructions

204. WHISTLE CORD shall be of red cord worn around left arm under shoulder strap.

QOR Red Whistle Lanyard – Graham Humphrey Collection

QOR Red Whistle Lanyard – Graham Humphrey Collection

15 Dec.  1942 Standing Orders and Instructions

  1. Dress

Officers

(b) Officers will wear black anklets and boots and black ties with battledress, in field service dress, black shoes and socks, black tie and F.S.Green.

Other ranks

(e) A red whistle cord will be worn on the left shoulder by all officers, warrant officers and sergeants.

(i) Some of the irregularities noticed in the dress of the Cdn. Corps are as follows:

The wearing of canvas shoes when walking out. The battle dress blouse undone at neck, except when marching easy. Men either without F.S. Cap or carrying it under shoulder strap.

(j) Badges – On joining the unit each man will be provided free with regt. Badges, cap, shoulder badges Q.O.R., Canada and Div. Patch also cap F.S. Green. From then on he will be held responsible that he is always in possession of these articles.

(k) The F.S. Cap green will not be worn when on duty with troops, but will be only worn off duty, church parades or when walking out.

(o) Chin straps and regimental flashes will be worn on the left side of the helmet.

(p) Good conduct Stripes are awarded after two years good service and are worn on the left arm below the elbow.

Left, QOR Officer looking over the channel .  Right, QOR Sgt in Holland 1945. QOR Museum Photo

Left, QOR Officer looking over the channel .
Right, QOR Sgt in Holland 1945. QOR Museum Photo

QOR Riflemans 1943 tunic – Graham Humphrey’s Collection

QOR Rifleman’s 1943 tunic – Graham Humphrey Collection

Canadian made 1944 Left, Beret with QOR badge and backing.  Right, British-made Mk III “Turtle shell” helmet with Canadian helmet net, scrim and field dressing. Graham Humphrey Collection

Canadian made 1944 Left, Beret with QOR badge and backing.
Right, British-made Mk III “Turtle shell” helmet
with Canadian helmet net, scrim and field dressing. Graham Humphrey Collection

  1. Order of dress

Uniformity of dress is to be stressed at all times.

(a) Battle Order

  • Battle Dress – anklets
  • Steel Helmet (With of without net as ordered)
  • Web Equipment (braces to be worn)
  • Respirator (slung over right shoulder under waistbelt. Mounted personnel will wear respirator at alert)
  • Water Bottle (on right side)
  • Haversack (with ground sheet or gas cape as ordered)
  • Sword under left arm
  • Gas cape (on shoulder if ordered)
  • Entrenching tool
  • G1098 ammunition.

(b) Marching Order

  • As above except – pack carried in place of haversack.
  • Haversack slung at left side.
  • Respirator at “Alert Position”.

(c) Fatigue Order

  • Battle dress, denim and boots.
  • Other equipment as ordered

(d) Church Parade Order

  • Battle Dress and anklets.
  • F.S. Green Cap.
  • Respirator and helmet (if ordered)

(e) Guard and Picket Order

  • Battle Dress and anklets
  • Steel Helmets
  • Skeleton web
  • Respirator at “alert position”
  • Gase Cape (rolled on shoulder)
  • Detector sleeves

(f) Walking Out Order

  • Battle Dress
  • F.S. Green Cap
  • Anklets – (may or may not be worn).
  • Black shoes and socks may be worn by those in possession of them in lieu of boots.

(g) Drill Order with Pouches

  • Steel Helmet
  • Web braces, belts & pouches
  • Sword at left side of the belt
  • Battledress and anklets

(h) Piquet Order

  • F.S. Khaki cap
  • Waistbelt and sidearm
  • Battledress and anklet

With the formation of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, the QOR was place in its 8th Brigade with Le Regiment de la Chaudiere and the North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment. The Divisional formation patch was of French Grey Melton wool fabric which measured 3 inches by 2 inches. A number of shades of this French Grey were seen throughout the war.

Starting in 1941, the headdress of the Canadians changed from the pre-war QOR Rifleman Green Wedge to a Khaki wool “Field Service Cap”. This was worn with a slight angle to the right and centred on the head. The location in which the QOR cap badge was mounted was on the left side similar to the QOR rifle green wedge cap.

1943 In mid 1943, the headdress of the Canadians changed once again with the adoption of the beret. In keeping with rifleman tradition, the wearing of a rifle green backing behind the cap badge was authorized. The backing was of Melton Rifle Green wool and roughly measured 25cm by 25 cm with the Cap Badge centred within the patch. The wearer would have the leather band of the beret two fingers over the eye brows with the cCap badge over the middle of the left eye. The excess material was draped over the right side and pulled back.

1944 With the coming invasion of France, the 3rd Division was issue additional kit and equipment. The most noticeable was the Mk III “turtle shell” helmet which offered more protection for the wearer than the Mk II helmet.

The second most noticeable change was the adoption of the high-top buckle boots which were tried in Italy and widely issued to the 3rd Division. This lead to the term “3rd Div boots” or “Invasion boots”. Constructed with 9 eyelets and a buckle at the top of the boot, these boots put on a more modern look and were sought-after boots.

Rfn Jim Wilkins “Invasion boots” - Rfn Jim Wilkins Collection

Rfn Jim Wilkins “Invasion boots” – Rfn Jim Wilkins Collection

Introduced around mid-1944 was the British-made canvas insignia. Examples of this come in the 3rd Division French Grey flashes, Canada titles, and “QUEEN’S OWN RIFLES” shoulder titles. These had a tendency to fade and fray.  This characteristic was not desireable.

QORofC canvas insignia – Graham Humphrey Collection

QORofC canvas insignia – Graham Humphrey Collection

1945 With the war coming to a close, the QOR was put onto occupation duty in 1945-46. To demonstrate that they were part of the occupation force, a single 2 cm wide bar was added at the base of the 3rd Division patch. With the QOR being the senior Regiment in this Brigade, a green occupation bar was added on top of the 3rd Division patch as well. The order to blacken ones P37 Web belt and Acklets was introduced with the coming of the end of the war in Europe.

QOR Holland 1945 – QOR Museum Photo

QOR Holland 1945, clearly showing the blackened Pattern 1937 web belts – QOR Museum Photo

A 1945-46 occupation tunic. Notice the addition of the occupation stripe and the tailored collar with black cloth.

A 1945-46 occupation tunic. Notice the addition of the occupation stripe and the tailored collar with black cloth.

Battledress of the Commanding Officer of the Occupation force, Lt. Col.  J. N. Medhurst OBE ED 4th Bn, QOR of C (CAOF) 8 June 1945 – 25 December 1945.

Battledress of the Commanding Officer of the Occupation force, Lt. Col. J. N. Medhurst OBE ED 4th Bn, QOR of C (CAOF) 8 June 1945 – 25 December 1945.

In 1945, a different QOR cap badge was introduced. Mainly seen on replacements of this time period, the cap badge contains less detail and the Arabic number “2” less defined. As well, a new QOR shoulder title was introduced with a more foliage green backing and hand-embroidered “QUEEN’S-OWN-RIFLES”.

1945 QOR cap badge – Graham Humphrey Collection

1945 QOR cap badge – Graham Humphrey Collection

1945 British-made QOR title and Canada title – Graham Humphrey Collection

1945 British-made QOR title and Canada title – Graham Humphrey Collection

Notes

1. See also Rifleman J. William (Bill) Ross’ Memoirs for one man’s story of the war.

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