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cwnorma

World War One Weekly Wing #13

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Unlucky 13?

 

We've already covered the American example, this weeks WWOWW is more or less the French-made equivalent version of the "most commonly encountered wing."

 

Of the 11,000 or so WW1 era rated aviators, only about 1200 to 1500 served overseas. Consequently European-made wings are, roughly speaking, approximately 9-10 times less common than their American made counterparts.

 

A practically stereotypical French-made wing, the badge below exhibits the classic; three rows of "horizontal" feathers. Each feather is constructed with the rachis of faceted bullion and the vane of smooth bullion. The shield of the typical French-made wing is usually somewhat straight sided, even boxy in coutenance, and overall will tend to lack the "S" curves of an American-made wing. French-made badges tend to not be as thickly padded as American-made wings. This particular wing is also a bit stubby. The wings are short and the shield is stout. Still, overall its a handsome badge. The border coil around the shield and at the top of the wings is of a slightly higher gauge than some others. Often, the US on the face of the shield consists of a single row of smooth gold bullion as in the example below:

 

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The wing above had been sewn to an officer's jacket in the collection of a friend. In the jacket had a name written (apparently) in ball-point pen. My buddy asked me to help him research the jacket... It didn't take too long to learn that the pilot had indeed been a flyer but had not earned his wings until after January 1919. Given the ball-point penned in name, and the very European wing, it became readily evident that this was a put-together uniform. Perhaps the well-worn jacket had actually belonged to the named aviator, and perhaps a well intentioned someone thought they were "restoring" it by adding a real wing... Unfortunately, the type of wing was quite incongruous to the uniform. The black light was the last nail in the coffin. The threads holding the wing to the chest glowed brightly. The French badge had to come off! Originally my friend kept the jacket intending to find a US made badge to replace the now removed French one, but as collectors here know, a good WW1-1920 badge on the loose is hard to find and you may have to wait quite a while for the right one to come along. Eventually he gave up on finding an appropriate badge and sold the jacket. About a decade later, he called and said hey remember that French wing? Do you want it?

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The back of the badge has a few interesting features. The reverse exhibits the remains of a tissue paper backing. The stiffening cloth appears to be woven cotton canvas. Some fountain pen writing is also visible. You can just make out "1917" at the top middle. Unfortunately, the rest of the writing, except for a few letters is lost to time. What did it once say? Was it a museum accession number? Was it signed by the maker? Unfortunately, we'll never know for sure.

 

So unlucky 13? This wing was no doubt proudly worn overseas, during the war. Unfortunately, the original aviator who owned it is lost to time. Some collector, at some time, inappropriately sewed it to a stateside pilot's jacket. My friend removed it. I ended up with it. Now it's in my collection. A nice example of a stereotypical French-made WW1 wing. I am glad to have it.

 

I would love to see your examples of French-made bullion wings!

 

Chris

 


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I wanted to add a few other French-made wings.

 

If you look at the period photographs, you will find a variety of wing patterns. From my reading, during the industrial revolution, both France and the United Kingdom were very important players in the textile industries, so it isn't surprising that they were making very nice bullion and cloth wings/insignia.

 

This first wing is similar to ones that were worn by various "early arrivals" to France. It is characterized by sequins incorporated into the pattern, with an oversized shield. This wing belonged to Lt A. L. Eibner.

 

I think this is a similar pattern of wing. There are some variations, but an interesting French-made wing.

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This is another French-made wing. This one is seen being worn by members of the 94th AS (IIRC). Here is a picture of Lt Samuel Kaye, of the 94th AS wearing a very similar wing.

 

Interestingly, there is a small sequin sewn between the U and the S. Also, the shield and stars in the wing are highlighted by a gold bullion thread. All in all, it is a very handsome wing.

 

 

 

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This is (probably) a French-made observer badge. The wings are rather stubby, have a "heavier-grade" bullion wire outlining the wing and isnt very padded, like many of the other French-made wings. The backing is a burlap type material that I see on many of the other French-made wings in my collection.

 

It was worn by Lt Morton Adams of the 90th AS. He was a relative early arrival to France.

 

Here is a photo of Lt Adams, wearing the type 2 observer badge.

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This is a wing that is sometimes viewed as a French-made wing. Although I am not so sure about it actually being made in France. This one came off of a Chicago-made uniform and was in tough shape. I think Chris has similar feelings about this pattern of wing. But its worthy of this discussion, I think.

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English or French made wing? It is interesting because the backing is of a red fabric, similar to the dress uniform material of the British. Its an interesting wing, however. I would argue is is NOT US-made at the very least.

 

My own personal feeling is that this is English made.

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This is the last one for now. It is a very interesting two toned wing. The bullion seems to have tarnished at different rates (or maybe it was made this way?). It is sewn onto a very nice French-made uniform with French made patches and insignia. Sadly, it doesn't seem to be named.

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Actually one more wing. I have always felt that this wing is French made. It has some of the general characteristics of a French made badge.

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Actually one more wing. I have always felt that this wing is French made. It has some of the general characteristics of a French made badge.

Patrick,

 

If I found that wing laying about on the loose, I too would guess it is French made. Wonderful wings! Thanks for sharing!

 

Chris


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Thanks to Patrick for adding some very, very nice wings to this discussion!

 

Many of the European wings added above are far scarcer, and encountered much less frequently, than the wing at the top of this thread. Those wings serve nicely for comparison and contrast with this more common badge and show the beautiful variations European badges demonstrate. Almost certainly, WWOWW #13, and many of the badges posted by Patrick, are products of the country of France and likely purchased there by Aviators serving with the AEF overseas.

 

Like the wing at the top, all of the following Overseas pilot wings, which have sold at various internet-based auctions over the last 15 years, share certain distinctive characteristics:

  • Three diagonal rows of (more or less) horizontal feathers in each wing
  • Relatively square-shaped (straight sided) shields
  • Relatively shallow padding (some of this type of French-made wing are more padded than others, though seldom as deeply padded as most US-made wings)
  • Bullion coils surrounding the shield and surmounting the top of each wing

Badge 1: Exhibits fine, smooth, twisted gold bullion US:

 

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Badge 2: Interesting in that the gold, twisted bullion US exhibits serifs on the letters:

 

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Badge 3: Single strand, faceted gold bullion US. Somewhat smaller than the others:

 

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Badge 4: May be from the same maker as badge 1. Exhibits similar construction details:

 

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Badge 5: Yet another example bearing twisted, smooth gold bullion US:

 

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Although no WW1 wing can ever be called common, WWOWW #13 represents the "most commonly encountered European-made variety." While many collectors prefer the fancy sterling silver WW1 pilot badges, those are almost exclusively associated with the Stateside training fields. The popular image of a dashing young Aviator flying over the fields of France, gallantly chasing into daring combat with the wily Hun would have most likely worn a French-made bade such as those presented here. No WW1 US Air Service collection could ever be considered complete without one.

 


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Thank you Chris for your weekly posts. Heres one that has remained in nice shape.

 

Pete

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Pete,

 

Rare to see one with so much original luster. This one must have been kept in a sealed box or envelop for a century!

 

Chris


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