The Story Of The AA Badge

The sign that is known throughout the world - by Michael Passmore:

AA badges have existed for longer than people sometimes think - since March 1906.  In fact, nine months after the AA was founded.  The AA was originally formed to warn members of Police speed traps, and so it was necessary to have some means of identifying them.  The first prototype badge was shown to the AA Committee on the 13th of March 1906 and, after requesting it be made an inch bigger and with a longer shank, they approved it.  Members were charged a higher fee of five shillings for a brass badge and seven for a nickel plated one.  The first 500 or so were hand cut, the design being circle surrounding crossed A's with a fixing shank below.

The Merger:

Badge number one was issued in April 1906 to the AA's first chairman Col. W J Bosworth, and number two to the vice-chairman.  A small motorcycle version was issued in 1907, of which only about 2000 were made - beginning with the number 10001.

In 1911, the AA merged with another motoring organization, the Motor Union.  As a result - the wings on the top of the MU badge, and a slightly expanded surround, were carried over to a new design of the AA badge - registered on the 2nd of February 1911 - the basic form of which lasted until 1965, when the square modern logo was introduced.

The winged badge was registered as a trademark in 1914.  At the time of the merger, some AA members cut off the wings from MU badges and riveted them on to the first design AA badges.  The first official winged AA badge occurred sometime between number 25414 and 29438, these being the last and first numbers of the respective types seen so far.

Interestingly, in April 1911, following the merger, the AA had 31851 members - indicating that the vast majority had badges.  A nickel plated version was available from October 1912.  The first winged motorcycle badge arrived in 1911.  A pentagonal light-car version was introduced in May 1914 but this category of membership was phased out in 1920.  These badges ran from 150000 to 218999.

For two years, during World War I, a special heart shaped badge was issued for attachment to motorcycle badges.  These indicated membership renewal - blue to March 1915 and red to the 1st of March 1916.  It is rumoured that there is a yellow one too.  The system was to be extended.  In 1911, an industrial vehicle badge was designed, a brass hexagonal design with red painted background.  It may not actually have been issued until 1922.  The early 1930's saw it redesigned in chrome with a basket weave background, and issued in large and small versions in this style right up until 1966.

The Variations:

Backing plates were available for car badges during the late 1920's and 1930's when the badges came in several minor variations, such as right-angled shanks, radiator and bumper fittings, large and small sizes, yellow - or even black - backing plates.  Nickel and then chrome plated badges became more popular in the 1920's, mainly because of the increased use of chrome on car bodies.

The last brass badge issues recorded were the 691000 - 691999 series of June to August 1931, but there exists a brass badge in the M series of 1937 - 1947.  Committee members were issued with a special badge of the first design, but with a small flag added to the top.  An example exists where the flag is removable, being held in place with a small padlock, but normally they are brazed on.  There is no pattern to the way the flag faces, left or right seems to have been at the whim of the man who did the brazing.  Until World War II, these committee badges were all original first pattern badges with added flags, thus a committee member of 1939 could be issued with a badge 30 years old.

Badges were consecutively numbered up to 999999, which was issued in October 1930.  That same year the numbers started again with a letter O prefix, to O9999, but then each 100000 had a suffix letter A up to T which lasted until 1952.  The letters M, N and P were used during the wartime years.  The R to Z series were issued post-war and were allocated to small motorcycle badges.

In 1945,the badge was redesigned again, always having a yellow backing plate, being slightly bulged and having the legs of the two A's merged with the surround.  The first was issued on the 8th of October 1945, and a smaller size was introduced for motorcycles in 1952.  These badges started at 010000 to 0999999 and then each 100000 series was prefixed with a letter O, followed, after the first series, by the letters OA, OB and so on up to OZ in September 1957.

The Traditional Badge:

The OC series, however, was reserved for committee badges - new copies of the original design.  They were available in large and small versions.  Then came the 1A to 9A series - October 1957 to 1959;  1B to 9B - 1960 to 1961; 1C to 9C - 1962 to 1963; 1D to 9D - 1964 to 1965, finally 1E to 8E - 1966 to 1967, which was the last of the traditional badges before the introduction of the modern one.

The traditional badge, in both pre and post-war styles, was adapted by other commonwealth automobile associations, which usually added the post-war badge that was issued in 1945.  The name of the country concerned was displayed in an oval above the wings.  Variations thus exist for countries such as Canada, Malaya, Australia, New-Zealand, Kenya, South Africa Etc.  There are also similar versions for the United Kingdom islands of Jersey and Guernsey.

From the 1920's, nearly all the winged badges bare the inscription Property of the AA.  Fees paid by members in respect of winged badges have always been a hirer fee, not a purchase price - theoretically the AA still owns all of these badges.  The new-look square badge was approved in 1966 and first issued in February 1967 by sale, not a hire fee.  A number of overseas clubs have adopted the design which, like its predecessor, is now known world-wide.

Thanks to Michael Passmore - the AA's archivist - for allowing me to use this article.