The Battle of Britain clasp to the 1939/45 Star - copies
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Ian R. Hartley & Paul Firth
The rarest clasp to the WW2 stars and medals is undoubtedly the one issued to aircrew who fought in the Battle of Britain. It was authorised for aircrew members of stipulated squadrons of Fighter Command who flew at least one operational sortie between 00.01 hrs 10th July and 23.59 hrs 31st Oct 1940. This included crew-members of aircraft such as the Defiant & Blenheim, and not just pilots of Spitfires and Hurricanes. The clasp bears the words 'BATTLE OF BRITAIN' in capitals and is sewn to the ribbon of the 1939/45 star via holes at each corner. Clasps are now selling for prices in excess of £500, so it is important to be able to identify the real thing when you see it, and even more important to identify the many copies, both old and new, which are in wide circulation.
This web page provides some pointers to identifying copy clasps. It’s generally straight-forward to identify something as a copy, but it is much more difficult to be certain something is genuine. To start with though, here is a picture of a known genuine issue clasp (Fig. 1), a modern copy (Fig. 2) and an older copy (Fig. 3).
Figure 1. A genuine Battle of Britain clasp. Note the patina colouration, the letter style, and the accurate positioning of the corner holes. Compare with Figure 3.
Figure 2. A modern copy Battle of Britain clasp. Note the difference in lettering, the 'O' and the 'A' in particular, and the more cramped letter spacing. Note where the lettering falls in relation to the semi-circles along the edge fringe - the B starts, and the N ends, below a point in the copy (indicated by line from A), but not on the original. The holes on this copy are accurately positioned in the corners and have been drilled, some burring can be felt on the reverse of the clasp. The metal on this one lacks the dull chocolate colour of the original. Hard to see on these images, but the lettering is also deeper on the original.
Figure 3. An older copy Battle of Britain clasp. This one shows nice patina and well positioned corner holes, like the original. The lettering is different, though, especially noticeable is the more rounded appearance of the letters and the greater space in the central triangular space in the 'A'. The 'N' is also noticeably different (marked C on the figure); it has more space in it than on the original (compare also with the 'N' in the North Africa clasp, below). The alignment of the 'O' is central with the points on the fringe pattern (marked A), whereas on the original it is shifted to the right. The 'F' is also shifted (marked B); on this copy the vertical of the 'F' is just to the left of the nearest fringe point, but on the original it is to the right.
Figure 4. Another copy Battle of Britain clasp. Not a difficult one to spot, with the holes too large and not cornered correctly, the wide ‘O’ in ‘of’, and the rounded ends on all the letters.
For reference, the Figs below show some original clasps.
Fig 5. Original clasp 'North Africa 1942-43' for the Africa Star. The dimensions on this one to the nearest 0.05mm: Length 31.85mm, height in the middle 5.55mm, thickness in the middle 1.10mm.
Fig 6. Original clasp 'France and Germany' for the Air Crew Europe and Atlantic Stars. The dimensions on this one to the nearest 0.05mm: Length 31.85mm, height in the middle 5.65mm, thickness 0.95mm.
Fig 7. Original ‘Air Crew Europe’ clasp for the Atlantic Star. Note the similarity in the letter font with Figs 5 & 6.
Fig 8. Two original ‘Atlantic’ clasps for the ‘Air Crew Europe Star’ and ‘France and Germany Star’.
Fig 9. Original Pacific clasp.
Many thanks to Norman T. for providing some of the images and discussion, to Peter B. and Fred for the images of the Atlantic clasps and to Nick Psarrologos for the picture of the Pacific clasp.
Copyright to Ian Hartley.
My thanks to Ian Hartley for allowing me to use his text and graphics on this page.