Octopus Arms & Explosive Charges

In the world of military memorabilia, the discovery of unique items often leads to fascinating historical insights. Such is the case with a recent find: a pair of British-made cloth insignia, beautifully crafted with silk detailing on cotton felt, and dating back to the World War II era. The use of silk, a material that provides durability and vibrant color retention, is particularly suited for insignia that would be exposed to harsh conditions or needed to be easily recognizable. They feature a six-legged squid or octopus whose tentacles form the letters “SO” representing a small, specialized unit of Italian torpedo and mine divers, known as “sommozzatori.”

The intriguing design of these patches includes a chained sea mine and hammer above the creature, symbols typically associated with torpedo and mine workers in the Italian Navy. This detail was crucial in identifying the insignia’s purpose and origin. These elements are not merely decorative; they signify the skilled and dangerous work undertaken by these divers during the war, particularly against British naval forces.

Made during a period between 1943 and 1945, these patches likely served an educational purpose for the British forces. Following several successful attacks on British shipping by a small group of six Italian torpedo divers, there was an evident need to understand and possibly replicate the techniques and strategies employed by this formidable unit. The creation of these patches in Britain suggests a deep level of intrigue and respect for the specialized skills of the Italian divers.

These rare formation signs are not commonly seen and represent a unique chapter in the shared history of British and Italian military operations during WWII. They underscore the complexities of wartime strategy and the lengths to which nations went to study and learn from each other.

Big Cat Formation Patches

The ferocity and power of big cats have an obvious appeal as a choice for formation signs and the first lot of three tiger heads was worn by members of the South Eastern UK Aldershot Command. Its HQ was in Reigate and its principal job was to oversee regional domestic defence in the event of invasion. It was disbanded in 1944 when the operational areas were changed and the prospect of invasion was remote.

The two other sets are (locally made) Singapore district patches showing a lion under a palm tree. Also used by British forces in Sierra Leone, they remained part of the Singapore district outfit until 1947.