After World War One broke out in 1914 the need was not only for men to fight in the trenches but also for others to create the munitions for them to fight with. Yet early on, single young men who did not volunteer for military service could be presented with a white feather – a sign of cowardice.
Eventually it was realised that men creating munitions were obviously as vital to the war effort as those using what they produced, and so “on war service” badges were made to indicate those who were doing their bit through munitions work. Pictured are badges that form part of the Wardown House Museum collection.
Such badges were also worn by female shift workers, like the one at the top of the illustration that has a pin to affix it rather than having a man's buttonhole stud. Although women were active at the Front, primarily as nurses, the badge for those at home could give fare concessions and priority when using public transport. And it indicated there was nothing disreputable about them if travelling alone at night.
Badges were produced by the Government's Ministry of Munitions and also by local firms, an example being the Bagshawe & Co Ltd badge for workers at the Dunstable firm (bottom right).
The Imperial War Museum offers more information about war badges. Click here.