History of the Winged Boot

Some call it the “Flying Boot” or the “Winged Boot”, but the Royal Air Force which issued this badge in the Western Desert, June 1941, named it the ”Winged Boot.” The following is an extract from the book, Customs and Traditions of the Royal Air Force, by Squadron Leader P.G. Hering, published in 1961 by Gale & Polden:

“The exploits of aircrew who walked back to their bases after bailing out of their aircraft, being shot down or having force-landed while operating over enemy held territory during the Desert campaigns in the Middle East, were responsible for the initiation of  another highly respected war-time badge. Because their return to their: squadrons was of necessity much later than that of their more fortunate comrades, they were heralded as a new “corps d’lite” and became known as “later arrivals”. As their numbers increased their experiences became legend and eventually a mythical Late Arrivals “Club” came into being and with it a badge.

A winged boot was designed by Wing Commander (later Group Captain) George W. Houghton, who was at the time the Senior RAF Public Relations Officer in the Middle East. He obtained the permission of Lord Tedder (then Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Middle East) to issue each late arrival with the badge to wear on his flying suit or uniform. The innovation captured the imagination of the war correspondents, who enthusiastically reported the origin of the badge and the experiences of its wearers. In addition to his badge, each late arrival was given a “‘club” membership certificate on which was recorded the circumstances making him eligible for membership and the words: It is never too late to come back.”

According to the Royal Air Forces Escaping Society Press Officer, Bryan Morgan, “The membership of this Society was exclusive to the Middle East. It was never available in this country (England) and it doesn’t exist anymore.

In 1943 when American airmen of the U. S. 8th Air Force started to return to England after having been shot down over enemy occupied territory some unknown American evader started to use the Royal Air Force “Winged Boot” as a symbol of his having evaded capture and having “walked home.” This symbol of evasion was never authorized to be worn on U. S. uniforms in the ETO; therefore evaders wore it under the left hand lapel on their tunic or battle jacket. One of the first stops an evader made after being released by Air Force Intelligence in London was usually a visit to Hobson and Sons in London to have them make a “wire badge” “Winged Boot”.

When the Air Forces Escape and Evasion Society was formed in June 1964, it was decided to use the “Winged Boot” as the centerpiece of the AFEES logo. As an extension of this, we approached Hobson and Sons in London to make several items with the original ”Winged Boot” in metallic thread from the original l dies. There is no official Winged Boot organization or club therefore eligibility for wearing it is ill defined. AFEES is the only known organization that uses the “Winged Boot” as a logo or symbol.

Written By Claude C. Murray and Ralph K. Patton.

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