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Air Offices

Yes and no - both the War Office and the Admiralty objected to the use of their rank titles and insignia, although thanks to Henry Wilson givng the first demonstration of 'how not to campaign to kill the crustaceans' and a spot of intervention from HM King George V (strangely, when he intervened, various senior Army and RN officers decided that the issue wasn't so important that they'd have to disagree with him and miss out of the possible peerage...) we ended up with what we have now.

To overcome the objections of both services, the RAF first came up with a weird and wonderful array of ranks which didn't draw upon either the army or the RN (bar the ranks of Ensign and Lieutenant and Air Marshal [which was the 4* rank under this naming system]) in a bid to overcome this opposition.

They also went for the barcode rank insignia, with a crowned eagle above the tapes (in lieu of the loop in the RN insignia). A Pilot Officer had just the crowned eagle as his rank, with a single bar below crowned eagle for a Flying Officer, and so on. These were in gold braid.

However... the weird and wonderful ranks (for example, an RAF station commander would today hold the rank of Reeve [instead of Group Captain] if they'd come in) were seen to be ludicrously contrived, and after a fairly high-powered meeting in which Field Marshal Wilson's objection to the use of the rank of 'Marshal' in any way shape or form proved to have been badly thought out and got a stiff ridiculing from Trenchard, opposition began to wane.

The RN were less bothered by this point, their biggest concern being the use of gold rank braid, which was 'theirs', while Wilson's objections looked petty. And to top it all, George V thought the new contrived ranks were quite stupid and that his - kindly remember that important point, gentlemen... - new service wasn't going to mucked about over ranks by various generals and admirals for apparently silly reasons. So...

The RAF got its current rank structure, although the barcodes were changed so that the crowned eagle disappeared from the scene and the rank braid was changed from gold (think current Canadian Air Component rank braid here) to the far less easy to make out black with central light blue stripe so as to avoid upsetting the RN - thus condemning generations of people to being quite unable to accurately discern RAF officer rank unless close up...

The end result was that the RAF thus ended up with something very similar to the RN shoulder boards, but not quite.
So why do air officers actually wear shoulder boards then considering I'm watching a select committee with two air vice marshals sitting with no rank on the boards. Why have them?am I right in thinking that only admirals wear anything on theirs and only in posh dress?
Our Rear Admiral sometimes wears his shoulder boards on his white shirt. Very bling they are too. I think he does it just to wind up the brown jobs.
AVMs and above have plain shoulder boards as part of No 1 Service Dress and embellished shoulder boards as part of No 1A Day Ceremonial Dress. It's just part of the design.
All RAF officers wear shoulder boards with barcode, crown and eagle on No 6A warm climate full ceremonial dress and No 8 warm climate mess kit.
AP1358 is your guide. http://www.raf.mod.uk/organisation/uniforms.cfm

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