Hungarian Air Force WW2: pilot wings and cap badges

The Hungarian Air Force was built up in secret during the 1930s. Officially this was not allowed based on the Trianon treaty that was a result of World War 1. Also when the war started and they could openly built the Air Force further it remained rather small compared to other forces in the war making all insignia quite rare.

In most countries a pair of wings has become the standard symbol for an aviators qualification. In the Hungarian Air Force this was no different. What makes it a a bit more interesting is that almost the same design was used for cap badges. This leads to many mistakes by collectors, pilots wings are seen as cap badges and vice versa.

The distinction is actually quite easy. For the qualification badge the wings are straight and for the cap badges the wings are curved. Otherwise they are the same.

Pilot wings

There are basically two types of wings that were used in World War 2 by the Hungarian Air Force. One for the pilot and another for the observer (navigator). The only difference between these is that the pilot has a crown above the eagle and the observer not.

The wings are made of cloth with gold bullion stitching. There is no difference in rank visible in the badge – which makes it different from most Hungarian badges like on the cap badges we will discuss next.

The wings were worn (sewn on) on the right breast above the top pocket of the 1930M Air Force officers uniform (that I will discuss in another blog).

thumb_IMG_6448_1024
thumb_IMG_6455_1024

 Worn version of the pilot wings, front and back below

thumb_IMG_6456_1024
thumb_Schermafbeelding 2018-04-07 om 10.38.16_1024

Metal versions of these wings were also officially made but these seem to have only been given to non-Hungarian pilots as “exchange” badges.Metal version awarded to a german pilot (photo from the internet, not my collection)

The observer wings were introduced later in the war and were worn by the officer with this task in the crew of a bomber. These are very rare and also exist in metal for foreign observers but I have not found a photo of one being worn or a confirmed original.

IMG_6450

        Lieutenant with the observer wings (photo from internet)

Cap badges

For the cap badges the story is interesting too as some more variations exist. The basis is again cloth with bullion stitching. Silver for ranks below officer and gold for officers. But more variations exist. A more ornate version on a red cloth background for general officers exists which is very rare. Also a version for officers in training. For use on the side cap for common soldiers a metal version was in use that later became standard for all ranks. All variations of course with the curved wings!

thumb_IMG_6473_1024

NCO cap badge in silver bullion, top is worn, bottom one new old stock

thumb_IMG_6474_1024

The NOS one even has the makers label still attached!

thumb_IMG_6447_1024

Officers ID of an officer in training (zaszlos) with cap badge

Period overview of Air Force badges and ranks:

HUNGUniChart (1)

Wing for Combat Jumps – Speciale Troepen KNIL aktiewing

The Netherlands East Indies Army Special Forces made three combat jumps in 1948 and 1949. A special wing to commemorate this was designed and worn.

Batik from the NMM collection commemorating the action jumps of the Para’s

Djokjakarta

The first and most important combat jump was part of the so called 2nd Politionele Actie. A large scale military action against the Indonesian army. The military aim was to reclaim Djokjakarta that was in Indonesian hands. The action started with a combat jump by the Para Battle Group of the Speciale Troepen on the airfield Magoewo close to Djokjakarta. The action started on December 19th 1948.

The preparations for “Operation Crow” as this large scale airborne operation was called had already started in january of 1948 when the 1st Para Company was combined with the 2nd Para Company of the Korps Speciale Troepen. The unit was renamed in Para Battle Group (para gevechtsgroep) and led by Captain Eekhout. After the airfield was taken from the Indonesian army, planes with the commando’s of the Korps Speciale Troepen and 2 infantry units were flown in to take the whole city of Djokjakarta back.

Museum Bronbeek, inventarisnummer: 2007/06/04-3/1

The Airborne troops were transported in 16 Dakota C-47 planes and a total of 250 para’s made this combat jump. A very extensive description of the further action can be found in the sources (in Dutch).

Djambi

Shortly after this action the men had to make a second combat jump. This was already on December 29th 1948, only 10 days after the first combat jump. This time the action was on the Island of Sumatra to secure the oil fields of Djambi.

Rengat

Soon again a 3rd combat jump would be made during “Operation Mud (Modder)” in Rengat, again protecting oil fields in Sumatra. This time only the 1st Para Company would make the jump.

In a period spanning less than 3 weeks 3 combat jumps were made by approximately 350 men in total (not all men in all three jumps).

Qualification Wing – with golden laurel for combat jumps

The wing that was used as a qualification wing in 1947 was redesigned in 1949 for those who had particiapted in one or more of these combat jumps.

The 1947 qualification wing in metal (ex Bob Cats collection)

A golden laurel (as in the beret wing) was added to the basic design. As with all badges in the Netherlands East Indies there were metal and cloth versions. The metal versions of the badges were only made and worn in the Netherlands East Indies Army. Of those only around 350 were ever made of which many owners remained in the new Indonesia. This wing is now very rare and highly collectable! There are several versions of this wing of different size and production.

The 1949 Action Wing in metal

The same design in cloth (with some slight alterations over time) could be worn up to 1985 when the last person that had made combat jumps in Indonesia left the army. More recently Dutch Commando’s made combat jumps in Afghanistan and a new (cloth) wing for combat jumps with the same golden laurel design has come into existence.

Reverse of the Action Wing in a very good condition

Below four period photo’s of the metal wing for combat jumps being worn, all taken from internet sources.

Bronbeek has a very similar example in their collection with the same non standard closure on the back! Unfortunately that example has lost all colour.

This Korea veteran is wearing a similarly discoloured version upon his return from Korea in 1951!

Officially the metal variation was for use in the Netherlands East Indies only but as the photo above shows, personal preferences could make an exception.

Oilfields of Djambi after the combat jump (Photo NIMH)

Sources:

https://www.dutchdefencepress.com/vechten-in-een-oorlog-die-zo-niet-mocht-worden-genoemd-%E2%80%93-deel-2/ 

https://www.dutchdefencepress.com/vechten-in-een-oorlog-die-zo-niet-mocht-worden-genoemd-%E2%80%93-deel-3/

Museum Bronbeek, inventarisnummer: 2007/06/04-3/1

ML KNIL Wings – Netherlands East Indies Military Airforce

Recently I was able to acquire a small collection of badges and wings from the Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL) from the 1940s.

Today I will describe two wings of the Airforce (ML KNIL) from this collection:

Bomber Wing
Radio Operator (Telegraphist) Wing

Crew Wings

Both of these models of wings were introduced in 1940. At that moment there was still peace in the Dutch East Indies but the war in the Netherlands already was lost. Wings were still produced locally. This changed after the Indies were lost to the Japanese in 1942. All forces and planes evacuated to Australia as far as possible. Troops left behind ended up as Prisoners of War with the Japanese invaders. During the war the operations in the pacific were continued from Australia. The education of new pilots and aviation crews for the Dutch East Indies Army was mostly done in the USA. This had as a result that wings were produced in both the USA and Australia.

Makers

In the USA one maker was used, Amico. In Australia two makers were used KG Luke and Stokes. All makers have slight differences in the feathers of the wings Colour is the easiest distinction between the USA and Australian versions. Amico used the dark bronze colour that was also the standard before the war. In Australia the colour (and material?) was brass. Most wings produced after 1941 are also marked by the maker but not all.

Pre war style closure
War period style closure

Stokes

Both of these wings are made by Stokes but are from different batches. One is a rare variation with the pre-war style closure in place of the regular pin with safety closure. According to Rob Vis (the foremost Dutch Wing Collector) in 1942 when the KNIL had to evacuate to Australia a rush order was placed for some types of wings and these were ordered with the old (then standard) style closure. Later production batches all had the regular pin backs. The bomber is an even rarer variation as post 1945 these were no longer produced. The bombers were used as strafers in Indonesia so bomb aimers were no longer trained.

Stokes marking on the Radio Operator wing
Example of an Australian made wing being worn (navigator)

Amico

Below an example of an Aviator combined with Navigator (W for Waarnemer) wing made by Amico in the USA. Note the different style of wing/feathers and the darker colour despite being polished to shine in the past.. (This wing not part of the recent additions).

1st Lt Samson wearing the Aviator/Navigator combined wing

Copies

According to Mr. Vis reproductions of the Stokes early batch type of wing also exist but are of lower quality. As all of the ML KNIL wings are relatively rare reproductions have been made to fool collectors so please study before buying!

A great overview of all ML KNIL wings can be found here.