Twelve years ago I made friends with a Canadian detectorist who frequented an English forum. His nom-de-plume was ‘Dean ( Whitby ), but his real name was Dean Owen. I have lost touch with him. The last I heard he was living with his partner in Ajax in the Durham region of Southern Ontario.
Dean probably had the most comprehensive collection of UK and Canadian military badges ever assembled … and I wrote an article about him. At that time he was an ex-military medic, film gopher, heavy duty snow clearance rig driver and metal detectorist from Whitby in Southern Ontario, acknowledged for his expertise in all things ‘army’.
In 2006 Mrs John and I travelled over 3000 miles across the Pond to meet and talk with him, and met up at the ubiquitous Tim Horton coffee shop, somewhere between Guelph and Toronto.
I had expected saying ‘hello’ to a six-foot plus giant of a man, but was pleasantly surprised to find that he was about the same size as myself, but not quite so portly. Isn’t it surprising when that image you build up of somebody turns out to be just the opposite?
I presented him with some English ‘goodies’, including a Canadian badge. In between him regaling Lynda with with stories and pictures of himself with Omar Sharif and other screen icons, I did manage to arrange another meeting when he would bring along some of his collection of artefacts … which he called ‘relics’.
Our next meeting took place about a week later in the parlour or our delightful B&B in Kitchener, Ontario. Dean was unable to bring his whole collection ( small car – long journey ), but had selected a number of items he thought would be of interest. He placed some on the grass and I took pictures for my intended article.
I’m not sure that the badge I had presented to Dean can be regarded as a ‘military’ badge but it does have army connections having been found in a Buckinghamshire field where Canadian soldiers had been assembled during the Second World War. Although it depicts a crown, Canuck experts I consulted reckon it was probably a ‘sweetheart badge’.
I haven’t the space here to reproduce the four-page article, but will bring you two or three of the highlights. It was difficult taking pictures in the makeshift conditions, especially when the wind blew a lone badge into orbit and there was, momentarily, a fear of losing it! Whilst I was busy taking photographs Dean was extolling the virtues of his detector and putting it through its paces for an attentive Mrs John. I wasn’t familiar with his machine. Dean called it the ‘Beanpole”.
The example below was difficult to identify, but Dean tells me that after diligent research it proved to be a Leed’s University Training Corps badge. The item seems to be made of anodised aluminium, otherwise known as ‘Staybrite’, an electro-plating process resulting in lightweight, shiny badge. I understand that Staybrite replaced brass and and white metal as the main material for British Other Ranks military insignia from about 1950 onwards, so making the badge a relatively modern find.
Royal Canadian Dragoons
The cap badge of the Royal Canadian Dragoons was worn by officers showing that the owner had served as infantry with the 1st Canadian Division during 1915, then as cavalry from 1916-18 with the Canadian Cavalry Brigade.
The badge’s origin is particularly interesting and happened when the regiment was on duty in Africa during the Boer War. A sentry reported to his officer that a number of springboks were frequently bounding into the air as though alarmed. The officer ordered an immediate stand-to, just in time to drive off an attack by a large party of Boers who had managed a stealthy approach to the outpost. The Commanding Officer, on hearing of the event, requested authority to take the bounding springbok as the Regimental Badge. The springbok, surmounted on a scroll inscribed CANADIAN ROYAL DRAGOONS, was given Royal approval and has been used ever since.
Dean assured me that the officer’s battalion can be determined just by looking at the angle of the springbok’s tail. I believed him … even though I did think of saying, “pull the other one!”
Can YOU tell us more about the button?
In the original article I mentioned that, occasionally, Dean has difficulty in identifying some of the items in his possession. The button shown on the left is one of them … although by now he’s already sussed it.
At the time we concluded that it was definitely military and, because it is formed from two metals, is probably from an officer’s mess dress. The crown is Victorian, which tells us that this rather interesting item pre-dates 1901.
PROBABLY a BUCKLE
This item is still showing some of its enamel and shows the French and British flags either side with the Turkish above. The clues is INKERMAN, telling us that it’s a relic from the Crimean War of 1854-56, but apart from that, little more is known about this item … unless anyone out there can enlighten us, of course.
Dean ( at the time of writing ) shows his finds at various exhibitions and military displays throughout Canada. He was an active member of the CampX Historical Society, whose motto is Education through the Preservation of History. Learn more by clicking on the link.