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WW2 Special Air Service beret
12/03/2019 - Sold payment received in full
I'm sat here with my laptop open, wondering, where do I start with this? Forgive me for the relatively long description, but it is necessary.
There is not much written or photographed information available on WW2 issued beige SAS berets. However, I intend to put this right. Firstly, it was not an officially approved War Department issued piece and a sealed pattern did not exist during WW2. Secondly, these were not made by the main British beret manufacturers of the war ie Kangol Wear Limited, British Beret Basque etc. To the very best of my knowledge and from the evidence that I have obtained, these were made in Egypt during 1942 and I believe all come from the same batch. Thirdly, the few known examples that exist and have solid provenance all appear to be identical in pattern, construction and materials. I am lucky enough to own two of these berets, and this is the only example I have ever offered for sale.
I will now talk about the pattern, construction and materials used. The external beige cloth section is less circular than say, Kangol made berets of other colours, being more oval in shape. It is made from a relatively coarse light beige wool which was of course prone to shrinkage, fading and wear. This outer part was then stitched to a black cloth lining which has one or two features only encountered on these berets. The lining itself has a fine weave and is made in several sections, stitched together in panels and then sewn using a machine to the beige outer with the addition of a black leather trim with ribbon. This black leather trim is narrow, not particularly supple and, for the avoidance of any doubt, was always made from black leather (please see my Limitations section at the end for further information). There are two painted metal grommets used as air vents similar to berets of other types, but the size and spacing of these is unique to this type of beret. The air vents are backed internally with black leather which is hand stitched to the lining. Other stitching appears around the inside of the lining headband where the piece of hessian type material is sandwiched between the beret outer and lining, and the internal ‘diamond’ which would usually contain the manufacturer’s details, size, date etc (see next paragraph).
One feature unique to these berets (which I am willing to disclose at the risk of better fakes appearing) is the design of the internal ‘diamond’ which appears in the visible part of lining, in the centre. This ‘diamond’ is more of a square on an angle having sides of equal length. It consists of one row of stitching for each side and then a further one row of diagonal stitching. To the best of my knowledge this is the only time where this type of design can be seen.
I have seen examples of these berets with remains of a white ink manufacturer’s stamp which has been poorly applied and difficult to read. On the example I offer for sale below and on the examples I own, this stamp has completely faded from use and wear. I have seen one example with more complete markings which appears to prove these berets were made in Egypt, and more specifically, in Cairo. Of course, there are no WD issue markings present in any of these berets.
The use and life of these berets during WW2 was limited. If they were all made in 1942 and it was only the one (relatively small) batch made, also considering that later in the War and in some cases as early as 1944 these berets were replaced with red berets; any surviving examples encountered today are extremely rare.
Given the fact that these berets were short lived and possibly couldn’t be replaced (except slightly later on with the red beret), it is usual (maybe 50/50) to find them with period repairs or replacement parts. One such example of this was a grouping sold in a UK auction in the last couple of years with provenance. That example had a cloth trim on the headband which had replaced the original black leather trim (this lot fetched well over £5000). Another example of this is the beret for sale here today. Again, the black leather head band trim has been replaced, but this time with brown leather. The internal grommet backing has also been replaced with the same leather. I am confident these repairs are contemporary and of the wartime period given the age and wear they display.
Another minefield we now enter are original WW2 SAS cloth beret badges. Most of these early berets I have handled have either had no cloth beret badge present (either never stitched on or removed) or later beret badges of the ‘1944 pattern’. I am lucky enough to have two such examples sporting their early War Egyptian made badges and the third I have ever owned is for sale here. These badges are heavily faked and are amongst the rarest of the wartime raised unit insignia to find. I have studied these badges for many years and they all have a certain look, feel, smell and construction which is impossible to reproduce. The example I am selling here today on the beige beret is almost identical to one of mine acquired with extensive provenance of the Trooper’s early service in WW2. The badge is of multipiece construction and well made. The black cloth shield shape is over stitched with the Special Air Service insignia using a thin paper template (close inspection of the front of the badge reveals this on both my example and the example here) in the correct colours. The quality and uniformity of this puts the modern Pakistani and Indian made fakes to shame. Put them side by side (which again I can email you images of) and the differences are striking.
I am happy to provide further pictures of this beret and also (upon completion) detailed pictures of my two examples with provenance which will prove their identical design traits etc. However, I am not willing to do reveal this information publicly for fear of very good fakes appearing.
This article relates to WW2 issued SAS beige berets only and does not relate to LRDG, Raiding Support Regiment, Popski’s Private Army etc
I have not given exact measurements or dimensions for obvious reasons