In May l940 I was given a cap badge by a soldier in the Queen Victoria's Rifles, which left our little village of Kennington, Kent, in the early hours of May 22 1940.
They proceeded to Ashford railway station to travel to Dover and then embark for France. A staff blunder - one of several - instructed them to leave their transport behind, which also meant they would land in France without adequate means of communication. Upon arrival at Dover an officer made the unfortunate remark that most troops were coming back, and the QVRs seemed to be going the wrong way!
Along with his comrades the unknown soldier who gave me the badge had been either killed, wounded or taken prisoner at the Battle of Calais by the time the town was captured by the Germans on the afternoon of May 26.
Some QVRs were taken prisoner and held for five years after only a few days of active service.

I still have that QVR badge, and it's my most treasured possession. It also started me on a hobby which has lasted some 60 years.
The history of the cap badges of the British Army is too vast to go into in this short account, but suffice it to say that it is impossible to get a complete set!

There were too many locally-made badges and regimental variations to ever make this possible, but even as recently as a few weeks ago I came across and bought for a small sum a badge I'd never even seen before, let alone owned.
My second badge, which I still have, was of the Somerset Light Infantry, given to my father by a CSM Andrews who was stationed in our village during the Second World War. It was of particular interest to my father, who came from Somerset.
After volunteering for the British Army in 1943 I wore a variety of badges, but perhaps the one I was the proudest to wear was that of the Army Air Corps while serving in the Glider Pilot Regiment.
Many collectors will say that our hobby is one of the most fascinating and is still probably the cheapest as good badges, some quite old, can still be picked up for a few pounds.
I have learned a lot about the successes and failures in which different regiments and British soldiers have been involved, and when I pick up a badge it really is 'History in the Hand'.

If you want more information or advice about collecting cap badges of the British Army,
please contact me on 01797 363761.

Anthony Webb