badge, rank, Royal Air Force, officers of Air Rank
A facing pair of shoulder boards to an Royal Air Force Officer of Air rank for wear on the greatcoat, being a RAF blue/grey fabric backing, square cut, in the centre of which, all in gold bullion embroidery, a flying eagle, one looking in each direction, with wings superimposed over an open laurel wreath, above which a Royal crest of a crown with coloured detail surmounted by a lion. At the inner end a brass eyelet for a button, surrounded by a bullion embroidered laurel wreath. From the tip of the inner end of the board to the outer edges, a line of bullion braid. To the reverse a RAF blue/grey fabric backing with a black leather retaining strap with a hole at the inner end for the shank of the button.
Shortly after the RAF was created from the RFC in April 1918 the decision was taken that rank insignia for the new Service would be based on the existing Navy and Army systems. In general terms, the insignia for officers was derived from the Navy and that for other ranks from the Army, specifically on that used by the RFC.
Officers were to wear rank insignia in the form of rings on the jacket cuff, the number of rings being the same as their equivalent Naval rank, except that the Naval loop was not adopted. RAF braid was either gold or, initially, pale blue on grey, depending on the uniform being worn. In 1919 the blue/grey braid was changed to the blue on black configuration that has remained in use since. Gold braid was re-introduced when full dress and mess dress were introduced in 1920. Full dress shoulder straps have a crown and eagle in gold wire in the middle with distinction lace at the bottom and a button at the top. This button, domed with a separate gilded eagle and crown mounted at the apex, was unique to full and mess dress.
The use of composite braid shoulder slides became common for working and operational uniforms. These comprise a fabric slide of RAF blue / grey material onto which the appropriate rank rings are stitched. These slides are often referred to in current RAF slang as "bar codes". On ceremonial occasions shoulder boards are worn, or gold braid shoulder insignia as appropriate.