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Army Accoutrements

One may have wondered about the significance of various accoutrements and insignia worn by the Army personnel along with their uniform. The accoutrements reveal a lot about the individual. For instance, the regiment, the corps or arm can be known through his cap, badge, shoulder title color of headgear or the lanyard worn over a shoulder. His rank can be known through his badges or insignia of rank and his name can be known though his name tab. The formation or institution can be identified through a formation sign worn on the left upper sleeve. The service profile, various operational stints and decorations of bravery or heroism are reflected through his set of ribbons worn over the left breast pocket. These ribbons also represent various medals since it is impractical to wear heavy medals all the time. Medals are worn only on ceremonial occasions.

All the infantry and armoured regiments have different types of symbolic badges for every regiment, unlike the units of specialised arms and services which have a common badge representing their respective corps. Such metal badges are also worn on the buckles of regimental or corps leather belts. They are not worn on web or cloth belts. Ranks can be identified through badges of rank worn on the shoulder in case of officers and Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) and through stripe (or stripes) worn on the upper sleeve in case of Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs). Metal badges of rank worn on the shoulders of officers were not permitted to be worn during World War II. After the war, metal badges of rank came back into service. Embroidered badges of rank and shoulder titles of the regimental or corps pattern are worn by all officers in operational and field areas, and also during training exercises. The status of senior officers of the rank of Colonel and above can be known through their gorget patches worn on both collars and also through a red tape worn around the headgear, particularly around the peak cap, Gorkha hat or turban. Such officers do not wear a regimental or corps badge on their headgear. Instead, they wear a general cadre embroidered insignia. Senior officer of the rank of Lieutenant General and above can also be identified by his aiguillettes worn over his left shoulder on ceremonial occasions.

The gorget patches or the red tabs, as they are commonly known, are worn on the lapels of the coats and shirts of General Officers, Brigadiers and Colonels. The use of gorget patches on lapels is a recent phenomenon. During the war in South Africa between 1899-1902, a kind of khaki uniform was introduced. To distinguish General Officers, the 'gorget' patches were introduced for the first time. The color of the gorget patches now worn by Colonels and Brigadiers with silk braid and by General Officers with golf braid is red except for medical and veterinary officers who wear them in maroon color. Senior officers in the paramilitary forces and the police wear blue colored gorget patches.

An Armyman's commendation can be known by different badges and emblems worn on breast pockets or shoulder sleeves. These include specific commendation badges like Chief of the Army Staff or Army Commander's Commendation. Parachute symbols or para wings are worn by para-troopers while special insignia are worn by commandos, aviators, marksmen, divers, missile experts and counter-insurgency specialists. Personnel from the Brigade of the Guards, Para Commandos and Rashtriya Rifles wear embroidered distinction titles on upper sleeves.

The color of the headgear of a soldier will reveal his combat arm or service. Infantry personnel wear different shades of green beret (or turban) while the Armoured Corps personnel wear black. The Artillery, Engineers, Signals and all personnel from the Services wear dark blue headgear. The President's Body Guard and the Parachute Regiment adorn maroon headgear while the Corps of Military Police wears a red headgear. Army aviators wear grey colored headgears and those serving in the United Nation Peace-Keeping Operations wear light blue headgear. Incidentally, the troops of 15 Punjab (Patiala) adorn maroon turbans on certain ceremonial occasions. This was the color of turbans worn by the troops of the erstwhile Patiala State. Pompons or feather hackles are also worn with the cap badges on the headgear by certain infantry regiments. Special 'safas' or 'pagrees' and sashes worn with them are allowed on ceremonial occasions only.

The collar badges are worn by officers of many regiments. These are also known as 'collar dogs'. The expression 'collar dogs' has been in general use in the Army for years. These are emblems worn on collar to indicate the regiment or corps of the bearer. Collar badges normally consisting of the regimental badges of a smaller size and made of the metal are worn on normal working service and mess dress. Regimental or corps collar badges are worn by officers of the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and below only. Senior officers wear gorget patches as already mentioned. Noteworthy is the fact that metal badges of rank, insignia, shoulder titles and all other frills are removed by all ranks before going into action in any operational theatre or war for security reasons. In combat dress, only minimal field accoutrements are worn. Metal badges are not worn.

A lanyard is a colored cord worn around shoulder or neck according to regimental customs. Each regiment except that of the Armoured Corps and Mechanised Infantry has its own color and style. Generally it is worn on left shoulder. The only units authorised to wear lanyards on right shoulder are regiments or corps which were designated 'Royal' before 1947 or those battalions of regiments specifically authorised in the post-independence era.

Aiguillette is a gold or silver plaited cord ending in two solid points worn on right shoulder earlier by General Officer. Now it is confined to the ceremonial dress of the Services Staff Officers of the President of India and State Governors, officers of the rank of Lieutenant General and above and the Aides-de-Camp. Aiguillette was introduced in the early part of 16th century and was generally worn by senior officers.

Arm bands are worn on right arm above elbow by officers holding certain appointments or engaged in special duties and also by Personal Staff Officers, Aides-de-Camp and Liaison Officers. The arm band or armlet is a 9 cm-wide cloth. Other ranks from the Movement Control Organisation and Military Police, Regimental Police personnel and Liaison Officers also wear arm bands. Special Staff Officers or Aide-de-Camps to General Officers Commanding wear a replica of the formation sign. Cummarbands are worn by all ranks of all the arms and services during ceremonial parades only. So are spads over boots. Regimental or corps scarves are worn by all ranks on ceremonial occasions. However, officers and JCOs are permitted to wear regimental/corps scarves with normal working dress.

The "lowest" formation in the IA orbat determine the badge the officer will end up wearing. If an officer/jawan belongs to a Division under a Corps which falls under the Central command, the officer will wear the division badge correct. An officer wearing the Central command badge would work directly for the Central Command and not for any of the subordinate unis. This ends with the Divisional Sign patch and in some cases the Independent Brigade Patch. So if someone is with a brigade under a division, he will wear the x division patch. However, someone with an independent armoured brigade directly under a corps or Commnand, would wear the independent brigde patch.

The color coding of the these patches. The background is always

  • Black Red : Army Headquarters
  • Red Black Red : Command HQ
  • Red White Red : Corps HQ
  • Black : Infantry Division or Brigade
  • Yellow with Red border : Armoured Division or Brigade
  • Dark/Navy Blue : Artillery
  • Maroon : Para Brigade [50th Ind]
  • Red : Area or Sub Area
Army Headquarters Command HQ Corps HQ
Infantry Division Armour Division Artillery Division Paratroop



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