(Login Rodusek) Forum Member from IP address 22.214.171.124
Hello I'm searching for either an original or new reproduction gold caterpillar. They were unoficially issued by the Irvine Parachute Company for succesfully jumping out of a damaged aircraft. As I have been told the caterpillar had ruby eyes if you jumped over enemy territory and emereald eyes for friendl territory.
Thank you for the sites but I'm not going for originals as the price is very high, I'm going for a reproduction of one though but has to have ruby eyes. There was a guy on ebay selling reproduction ones they were on a black material with gold wire. That is not what I want.
I am trying to put together a reproduction set of medals and badges that my great grandfather would have had. They were donated to the Trenton RCAF Memorial Museum.
The "emerald eyes for non-combat" - type award is an urban myth. The awards were and still are issued with ruby eyes. They are also very easy to research and provenance by contatcing the Caterpillar archive at Irvine Airchute. The other award was made by GQ which consists of a pin-back badge depicting a man descending under a winged parachute canopy and the letters "GQ" under the chaps feet. This too is still awarded. Most modern awardees also receive a Martin-Baker tie, awarded by the said company for successfuly using their product (ejector seat) in order to bail-out. One of my former fellow Captains at BA was shot down over Aden in a Hunter, ejected and was awarded a caterpillar, Martin-Baker tie and a goldfish club badge (his second, both post-WW2!).
Well my grandfather told me emerald eyes were for jumping out of a wrecked aircraft over frienmdly territory and ruby eyes over enemy territory. On ebay a man was selling repro ones on material with bullion wire and one had emereald eyes the other ruby eyes. But my grandfather could be wrong.
As someone who has researched his subject well, (and indeed many others here have also done their homework) it is terribly unwise to call into question the answers you are given on this (or indeed any other) forum, without FIRST checking yourself that the answer you have been given is wrong!
Simply stating that someone is wrong because your grandfather said this or that, isn't what I would call "doing your research".
During "MY" research (which incidentally took some time to complete!) I have heard so many myths and legends about the Caterpillar badges, such as RED EYES for evacuating a burning aircraft, BLUE EYES for landing in the sea, GREEN EYES for baling out over friendly territory, YELLOW EYES for godonlyknows what, WHITE EYES for landing in snow. BLACK EYES for a replacement badge etc etc.
I can tell you for sure, that the ONLY caterpillar badges that were EVER issued by the IRVIN Parachute Company in recognition of a crew member evacuating an aircraft & saving his life by parachute, were fitted with a pair of RED RUBY eyes!
As an RAF Living Historian, I am sometimes seen wearing a caterpillar badge on my uniform. I wear the badge (as indeed the uniform) with pride, and yes, I have actually jumped with a parachute.
I'm not implying my grandfather is wrong or right, I know there are people out there who know a lot more than I do on this subject. So what did emerald eyes mean, anything in particular. I was just told this by my grandfather, I'm not saying anyone is wrong about anything.
Ian do you know where I can get caterpillar club badges for cheap but not cheap quality, I am assembling reproductions of medals and other various insignia that my great grandfather would have had. All his stuff was donated to the Trenton RCAF museum. My great grandfather according to his son bought his caterpillar club badge after the war or something like that.
Those entitled to the Caterpillar club badge, may contact Irvin GQ and ask for a replacement.
There WILL be a charge for this, but I don't know how much.
As for green eyes - There was no such thing, unless, someone LOST the original eyes & replaced them with emeralds themselves.
I believe I saw that site for replacing the badges they were I think 40pounds for them, not bad considering one of the sites posted in one of the threads was selling repros for 70 pounds. Norman Binnie's original badge was lost when his items were donated to the RCAF museum in Trenton.
Chris, I suggest that you contact the gift shop at the Trenton Museum. They did sell repos some time ago and still might have some.They were not expensive.
As to the blue-green stones, there were some produced but talking to some of the Irvine people they said that they thought that the red stone stock had run out during the War so they used what they could find for a very short time.
If a person on record has lost them Irvine will replaced them but I don't believe they will be engraved.
Mess and bar talk have claimed that the red eye ones mean that the plane went down in flames.
After a bunch of drinks anything makes sense.
On the subject of badges and replacements, I contacted Irvin about ten years ago about a badge that had never been awarded. The airman in question was involved in about the most famous RAF raid but had never received a badge, even though another in the same crew had (both had become POWs). I was going out with his Granddaughter at the time and wanted it for the family.
Irvin checked the records and were still able to confirm that he had indeed used an Irvin chute and duly sent me the engraved badge. Sadly it was damaged and in the course of trying to get it repaired was lost. I wrote again and was told a replacement (about 5 years ago) would cost £30, and would again be engraved, so I got another.
You should be able to get a replacement although Irvin might ask for proof of relationship.
There is a difference between the original badges and the modern ones and is contrary to an answer given above.
The original badges had red glass or ruby eyes, whereas the modern replacements have red ENAMEL eyes, an easy way to spot a modern one.
I have both a modern replacement and a WW2 one, both named. If someone can tell me how to get photos on this site easily and that are not too large I'll post photos.
I forgot to say, that there are (or were) two sources of information for caterpillar badges. One is the Caterpillar Club itself, run on a voluntary basis as far as I know, while the other is the records held by Irvin Aerospace Ltd.
The interesting thing is that of my WW2 Caterpillar, the former gave the details as a bail out in 1944 over the UK, the latter gave the same details and date but had the YEAR of bail out as 1947!
The two clubs are the Caterpillar Club and the Caterpillar Club Association. I presume the former is just the records held by Irvin (without the 'e' on the end). Although called the Caterpillar Club, and had a membership card it was never a true club as we would know it, IE reunions, committee and the like. I guess this is where the Caterpillar Club Association comes in.
Irvin would not have allowed a badge to be made for anyone, or more accurately engraved for anyone, unless they could verify the details. The procedure was to apply via the CO and then enquiries would begin. If they could verify the circumstances and that it was an Irvin chute being used a member he would become (it might instead have been a GQ or other chute used).
I applied for one as mentioned and 50 odd years later they were able to confirm details. The other man from the same crew got his in 1945 after his CO at the time applied on his behalf.
Payment would normally only be for a replacement badge indicating your Great Grandfather got one and then lost it. He applied for a replacement and as such had the associated costs.
Not wanting to tread on any one's toes, especially those who know a whole lot more about the subject than me, please allow me to add my tuppence worth to this debate. I have a copy of a letter that was sent to a friend of mine a long while ago on this subject. A part of it is quoted in full below:
"The caterpillar pins have red eyes-there is no truth in the story that it was red eyes for bailing from a burning aircraft and green eyes for landing in the sea. It is my understanding (although I have never seen one or known anyone who wears one) that a very small number of pins with green eyes were sent out when apparently 'green' stones were unavailable. I believe in the early days that the red 'stones' were rubies-they are now garnets!!!
Secretary Caterpillar Club Letchworth
29th October 1990"
I think that the secretary may have confused herself when she stated that "a very small number of pins were sent out with green eyes when green stones were unavailable." Surely she meant to say 'when RED stones were unavailable." I hope this information is of some use.