For the better part of the nineteenth century, the rank badges for NCOs in the British Army consisted of chevrons (usually from one to four) worn on the sleeve above or below the elbow with points up or down. The chevrons were often augmented by crowns and other special badges according to rank and corps. By the late eighteen-seventies the system appeared to be out of control with little regularity as to who wore what kind of badge along with where or how it was worn. In 1881 it was decided that the whole matter should be overhauled. The creation of Warrant Rank assisted in the simplification. As in most armies and the British in particular there was a difference between rank and appointment and when the system was changed originally only Conductors of Supplies and Conductors of Stores received the designation. Later in the year the rank was to include Regimental Sergeant-Majors, Master-Gunners (RA) and Bandmasters. Next were Staff-Sergeants which for cavalry included Quartermaster-Sergeants and Troop Sergeant-Majors, then Sergeants, Corporals and Privates (which included Lance-Corporals) and finally Boys. The appointments within these ranks included Farriers, Saddlers, Riding Instructors (roughriders) and other specialist trades. 

The actual badges related to ranks did not appear until 1882. All rank badges were henceforth to be on the right sleeve only. For Regimental Sergeant-Majors it was a crown worn below the elbow and above the cuff decoration. For Regimental Quartermasters, it was a four bar chevron points up, also below the elbow. Above the chevrons there was an eight-pointed star. Quartermaster Farrier, Saddler and Riding Instructor badges were worn above the four bar chevrons instead of the star. Troop Sergeant–Majors (Later Squadron-Sergeant Majors) wore a three bar chevron points down with a crown above while Sergeants, Corporals and Lance-Corporals wore three, two and a single chevron points down respectively. The chevrons for all scarlet coated regiments were gold lace (Bias & stand pattern) on a scarlet backing. The 6th Dragoon Guards gold chevrons were on a blue backing. All crowns were in proper colours.

There was one anomaly in that there is photographic evidence (taken at York in 1883) that the 2nd Dragoon Guards wore a crown above their chevrons for all ranks from 1881-1891. Since this included sergeants the TSM is shown with four chevrons with crown above as worn before 1881. Also, it appears that lance-corporals of the Bays wore two chevrons instead of one, a practice that continued until 1961. The 1881 regulations also made changes to the ranks of Trumpet-Majors and Drum-Majors which will be discussed in the section on Musicians.


The oldest trade badge which was worn by many armies is the crossed axes of the pioneer or sapper which appeared on the arms of these robust gentlemen as early as the Seven Years War.
In the British cavalry the Farrier’s badge, at first worn on the caps was being worn on the arms of some regiments in the 1830s. Badges for proficiency and skill-at-arms first appeared after the Crimean War to promote efficiency with the weaponry and equipment that the army was using. The badge of crossed muskets was the first, authorized by Royal Warrant in 1856 and originally intended as a prize badge. By 1881 these badges, like rank badges were worn somewhat indiscriminately and regulations for their wear was addressed.

For the period 1881-1902 trade, proficiency and skill-at-arms badges worn by cavalry were as follows:


Crossed Rifles: Authorized in 1856. In 1881 was to be worn in yellow worsted by every qualified marksman under the rank of sergeant on the left sleeve below the elbow. By Sergeants and above it was worn above the chevrons on the right sleeve. It was worn in gold wire by the best shot in the troop (later squadron) and when worn with a crown above, it was the best shot in the regiment or depot. Sergeants wore the crowned badge on the lower left sleeve. Sergeants of the best shooting troop/squadron/depot wore the crowned gold badge on their right sleeve below the elbow. The crossed muskets were changed to more modernized rifles with magazines sometime after 1890 presumably after the introduction of the Lee-Metford.

Crossed Swords: Authorized 1881. Worn in the same manner as the crossed rifles and for the same reason (swordsmanship) except there does not appear to have been an award for the sergeant of the best squadron. There are some examples of a “Mameluke” style sword (without guard) being worn by some cavalry regiments but not Dragoon Guards or Dragoons.

Crossed Lances: Authorized 1881: Not worn by Dragoon Guards and Dragoons until after 1895 (when front ranks were ordered to be armed with lances) and in the same manner.

Crossed Signal Flags: Authorized 1881: A proficiency badge to be worn by all qualified signallers on the lower left sleeve and by instructors above chevrons on the right sleeve. Although it was also presented a Prize Badge in 1887, it was never worn with a crown above except for instructors who were also T/SSMs.


Horseshoe: No official Authorization date. Worn by all trained Farriers and Shoe Smiths on the right upper arm and above chevrons if applicable ad on the lower arm above chevrons for the QM Farrier SM. It appears to have been in gold wire whatever the rank.

Bit: No official Authorization date. Worn by all trained Collar Makers and Saddlers in the same manner as the horseshoe.

Spur: Authorized 1865: Worn neck upwards by Riding Instructors and Rough Riders (horse breakers) in the same manner as the horseshoe. There have always been two different versions of the badge (shown in the illustration) and they are worn indiscriminately, often within the same unit!


Good conduct badges were awarded in the form of chevrons, points upwards, worn by all ranks below corporal in worsted on the lower left sleeve above the cuff decoration and below trade and prize badges. The Chevrons were yellow for all regiments except the 2nd Dragoon Guards where they were white. They were conferred as follows:

2 Years Service: One Chevron
6 Years Service: Two Chevrons
12 Years Service: Three Chevrons
18 Years Service: Four Chevrons
23 Years Service: Five Chevrons
28 Years Service: Six Chevrons



If the Imperial German Army had authorized an arm badge for NCOs of cavalry regiments, it would have been of a very distinct design, issued within three months, and would have been in wear within weeks. However, this is of course the British Army and nothing is straightforward about the issuance, design and wear of these badges either before or after this period.

The first evidence of a regimental badge in wear is in a Denis Dighton illustration during the Peninsula War showing a corporal of the 10th Hussars with a Prince of Wales’s plume above his two chevrons. In the eighteen thirties some regiments, especially Hussars wore crowns above their chevrons and, after 1837 they were more often of the Albert variety. The Household Cavalry wore and still wear crowns above their chevrons in orders other than full dress. The first heavy cavalry regiment to wear a badge was the Royal Dragoons with the Royal Crest in 1831. The 3rd Dragoon Guards had the Prince of Wales’s plumes sometime before 1860 when it was approved, soon followed by the Inniskillings with the Castle.

Regimental arm badges are generally worn above the chevrons on the right arm and below the Crowns as well as those worn by Regimental Sergeant-Majors. They are listed below with details of authorization and use.

1st Dragoon Guards: When the Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary awarded the regiment the use of his Royal Arms as a regimental badge in 1896 an embroidered version of it seems to have been worn by NCOs in stable dress. A silver version was authorized in 1898 to be worn on full dress by ranks above Lance-Sergeant. Warrant officers did not wear the badge before 1902. 

2nd Dragoon Guards: No arm badge was worn by this regiment until 1910

3rd Dragoon Guards: The Prince of Wales’s Feathers. First approved in 1860 as an embroidered badge until 1867 when a silver version was authorized. The embroidered badge was only worn on the stable jacket and frock afterwards. The badge was worn by all NCOs above the chevrons and below crowns. Lance-corporals and trumpeters wore a smaller version of the badge.

4th Dragoon Guards: This regiment wore the Star of the Order of St. Patrick in silver as an arm badge since 1868 but it was not approved till 1887. It was worn by sergeants and above including W/Os.

5th Dragoon Guards: The White Horse of Hanover in silver was worn by NCOs above corporal after the commanding officer, R. Baden-Powell supposedly got official permission. There was apparently no written authorization before 1902. The badge was always worn on the chevrons. Bandmasters did not wear this badge.

6th Dragoon Guards: No arm badge was worn by this regiment until 1920

7th Dragoon Guards: The arms and motto of the Earl of Ligonierfor which permission was granted in 1898. It was first worn in 1899 (although sealed patterns had not been issued) by all ranks above Lance-Sergeant.

1st Royal Dragoons: The Embroidered Royal Crest. Worn since 1831 and approved in 1867. It was worn by all NCOs on all orders of dress. A silver version was authorized in 1898 although it could have been worn earlier. It had a black felt backing.

2nd Dragoons: The Waterloo Eagle in silver. Authorized in 1891 but worn since 1886. Worn above chevrons for NCOs and below for W/Os. Not worn by ranks below sergeant.

6th Inniskilling Dragoons: The Castle of Inniskilling in silver. First authorized in 1867 it was worn above the chevrons and below crowns by ranks above corporal. (This was changed in 1910). The badge may have been worn on the chevrons between 1884 and 1891 as evidenced by a photograph of the band during this period.

There is much more to the story of these arm badges and for those interested in such things I refer them to the excellent publication "Cavalry Warrant Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers Arm Badges" by David Linaker and Gordon Dine published by the Military Historical Society in 1997. 


British cavalry officers had been authorized to wear collar badges since 1898 and photos show that they had been worn, especially on frocks and other undress items well before that. They were introduced for other ranks the same year but many don’t appear to have been worn much till 1900 and after. Because most of the army was involved in the South African war, many soldiers returned to find they had not yet been issued or that only depot troops wore them. Collar badges for the other ranks followed the pattern of the officers only in brass and white metal and those illustrated below show how pairs were worn when animals or flags were involved.


The illustration below shows how the various badges were worn on the tunic. Note that, as has been mentioned before, this shows these badges in wear in about 1900, the end of the Victorian period. It is certain that not all regiments would have yet been issued collar badges and in some cases NCO arm badges by this time.

From Left to Right:

Top – 1 DG SGT Signalling Instructor, 2 DG Lance-Corporal Saddler, 3 DG Musketry Instructor, 4 DG RQMS, 5DG SSM Swordsmanship Prize & Best Musketry Sqn, 6DG Farrier, 7DG Sgt Roughrider.
Bottom – 1D RSM, 2D Farrier QMS, 6D SSM Riding Instructor, / 2D Best Shot in Rgt, 6D Marksman 2 yrs GC, 5 DG Signaller 6 Yrs GC, 3DG Sword & Lance Proficient, 2 DG Marksman 2 yrs GC