Author: Laura Stewart, Assistant Curator

Unsurprisingly, the REME cap badge is a staple feature of our quarterly acquisitions panel where staff discuss all items recently offered for donation. What can be unexpected, however, is the variety of forms that these items may take. This article explores just a few examples in the collection from the very beginning of the Corps' history as well as a new entry to the collection!

First Cap Badge

On the Corps' formation in October 1942, this improvised badge was handmade in Quetta, India. The design was produced by an armourer sergeant according to information sent from the UK. There are clear features that are distinctive from the official badge produced shortly afterwards.

The callipers seen in the centre of the badge are depicted the wrong way and the letters 'REME' are not positioned at the cardinal points of the official badge. This example is also a different proportion to the portrait oval of the final design of the first pattern cap badge but there is a clear resemblance.

Two dark metal cap badges side by side, each with similar features of callipers, crown and letters but in different variations.

The improvised cap badge from Quetta (left) and an official first pattern REME cap badge (right). 1958.84 and 1985.2953.

Founder members of REME would have worn examples such as this until the correct details of the badge were received.

This demonstration of ingenuity and improvisation reflects the ambitions of REME from the very beginning.

Marquetry table

This table with marquetry inlay depicts the REME badge in the centre surrounded by the badges of 1 Corps, British Army of the Rhine (BAOR), 4 Infantry Division, 2 Infantry Division and 1 Infantry Division. This object was left anonymously at the museum in November 2000 and, unfortunately, we may not learn any more of its provenance. However, from the skill of the marquetry, it is clear that this was a carefully produced item.

A wooden bean shaped object with embedded wooden patterns.

Marquetry table from the collection. 2000.4364.

Receiving unsolicited items to the collection can often leave us asking many questions. For museums, it is of great importance to obtain as much information as possible at the point of donation. This ensures that the story of an object is recorded to the best of our knowledge and contributes to the history that we represent. We are sometimes fortunate to learn about objects long after they enter the collection.


An embroidered rectangle of cream fabric, with coloured REME first cap badge and words ROYAL ELECTRICAL AND MECHANICAL ENGINEERS.

Embroidered first pattern REME cap badge gifted to Lieutenant Colonel Watson OBE, c 1945. 1971.1112.

The museum holds a variety of examples of the REME badge in embroidered forms. Handkerchiefs, Christmas Cards and framed mementoes all have their own story. Some were available for soldiers to purchase while in service; examples from Egypt are particularly well represented in the collection. They are often personalised with sewn messages.

This particular example was embroidered and gifted to Lieutenant Colonel AJS Watson OBE. It was made by Junior Commander Maxy M Watts of the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) who served in the War Office between 1944 and 1945. Junior Commander Watts noted that the embroidery was created in the correct colours of the Corps' cap badge.

In the spirit of these items, the museum's shop now stocks an up-to-date cross-stitch kit of the REME badge, produced by the museum's Front of House Assistant, Fi!


Often, details that objects alone can't tell bring items in the collection to life and this plaque is a perfect demonstration of this.

A wooden shield shaped plaque with REME cap badge painted on.

Plaque painted with the REME cap badge. 2013.6975.

It was handmade between 1956 and 1958 by individuals from 2nd and 6th Gurkhas in Hong Kong. Our records reveal that the shield itself was carved using a kukri. Those involved in the creation of the plaque didn't have access to brushes at the time, and so made some from their own hair. The detail of the badge is very intricate and the plaque only measures 200mm tall.

Table Centrepiece

Within the museum's collection there are handmade items produced by soldiers of the Corps demonstrating the skills of their trade, such as this statuette.

Made by 37 Base Workshops in Woolwich, this 3-dimensional representation of the cap badge was designed to be a mess centrepiece in candelabra form. The model is cast in metal and dismantles into individual components that simply slot together at the central globe. Donated with the piece itself were the original sketches for its design. As far as we know, this statuette was one-of-a-kind and never used. According to the museum's records, 37 Base Workshop derives from an RAOC workshop that was designated 7 Central Workshop on REME's formation and re-designated in 1953 to 37 Base Workshop before being disbanded in January 1959. From this, we can date the statuette sometime between 1953 and 1959, not long after the introduction of the newly designed 'Horse Forcene' cap badge in 1947.

Two images, on the left a sketch of a horse and candle sticks on four sides, on the right a statuette of a horse with lightning bolts on four sides.

An initial drawing from the collection of the centrepiece (left) and the final object (right). The final piece does not accommodate candles as suggested in the design. 1961.404.

First Pattern REME Window

A wooden filled arch with stained glass REME cap badge in the centre.

Window made for Maj Gen Rowcroft at 39 Command Workshop. 1964.601.

This handmade stained glass piece was produced by two individuals, Corporal Penny and Mr Walters, c 1944. They were based at Mill Hill in 39 Command Workshop. The window was created for presentation to Major General Sir Eric Bertram Rowcroft KBE CB MIMechE MIEE, as the Corps’ first Director (DME).

The window was presented to the museum in 1964 shortly after Major General Rowcroft passed away.

REME Window

A black glass window with gold coloured REME badge.

The newly acquired window. 2023.59.

Staying with the theme of windows, the museum has recently acquired a unique piece to the collection.

It was generously gifted after the donors reluctantly needed to replace a window in their home. It is believed that the previous owner of the property was a member of the Corps and had this commissioned to overlook the staircase.

There is a great sense of esprit de corps with many items in the museum's collection and this window is no exception. This must have been felt by the donors of the window as their care in building a bespoke homemade frame for transportation was outstanding.

The museum carefully assesses all items offered for donation via a committee decision making process. These decisions are also informed by our Collections Development Policy. If you have any items that you might like to offer to the collection, please check our Donate an Item for more information.

Please note that the museum is unable to take receipt of items before the committee have made a decision. We kindly ask that you do not bring anything to the museum without prior agreement.

Published in The Craftsman, February 2024.